2014 has been the best year so far for Sweet Oxen with a big increase in overall sales and new customers, designs and challenges. It hasn’t been easy but I’ve enjoyed learning more about my business, visual style and myself.
Not following the same path as everyone else is ok
It is very easy to look at other people’s blogs, shops and social media and think…oh my god should I be doing that? But you are one person, and you can only focus on a few key ideas and projects at a time. Always ask yourself whether an idea is relevant to your business, and is it realistic?
Making mistakes is part of the process
If you aren’t making any mistakes it’s probably because you aren’t doing anything at all. It can very disheartening to realise a product hasn’t sold as well as expected, or to spend a whole day photographing products to realise they are not coming out right! Take a breath, and learn from it, and push on.
Make the most of free resources
Here I am referring to valuable online resources such as Codecademy, Youtube tutorials and online forums, where you can learn new skills and techniques for no monthly fee. There are also a huge number of free apps. For photo editing I use Afterlight, and productivity apps such as GTasks and Evernote make it easy to keep organised across many devices. I’ve found these have really helped keep my outgoings down which in the early stages of establishing a business is crucial.
Know when to outsource (if you can)
I have spent numerous hours on my product photos and I just wasn’t 100% happy with the results, and so I felt it was time to outsource to a professional! Enter Holly Booth, a fellow Derby Uni Graduate who has done an amazing job of my product styling and photography (a more detailed post on this to follow). They say that time equals money and if possible, it is better to pay to outsource to a professional, than spend so much time trying to get something to look how you want (and failing, in my case!). Those were hours I needed to spend on dealing with orders, developing my new website and I will now feel much more confident now I know my products have been photographed professionally, and look the way I want them to. Thank you Holly!
(Try to) focus on what you enjoy
There are aspects of all jobs that aren’t 100% enjoyable (accounts, I’m referring to you) but if you hate something and you’re only doing it because thats what you think you should be doing – re think it. I’ve realised recently I’m personally not enthused about celebrating Valentine’s Day, yet I feel a pressure to scrabble around developing more Valentine’s cards and gift products and sending press releases….because that’s what I think I should be doing. This year I’m going to focus on rushing less, and have more fun developing cards and products organically and ‘accidentally’ rather than forcing it.
As a notoriously disorganised person, I’ve had to really pull myself together with regards to keeping my receipts filed, sales logged and supplies well-stocked. There’s still more I can do (a big re-organise session is something I like to do once a month in the studio so I know exactly where everything is) but I’ve come a long way from the ocean of receipts floating in the bottom of my handbag.
I’ve been known to have little blips every few months where I get impatient, consider going back to full time work and generally freak out, yet each time I think it the thought fills me with dread. I just couldn’t give this up now, and when I look back on my few first sales and products and see how far I’ve come I just know I have to keep on at it.
What have your lessons been from 2014? Let me know in the comments below!