SHOP | Lessons Learned

I've been thinking lately about lessons learned over the last almost 4 years of running DFD.  Gosh, I've learned so much.  About myself and about what kind of business I want to have.  Whether you've been in the handmade business for a while or are just starting out, I think these are good tips and reminders.

1. It's ok to say no.  This one is hard, especially when you're starting out, but I've learned that if I'm not excited about something or if it just doesn't feel right, it's ok to turn work down.  Another opportunity will come along.  When I'm presented with something new, I try to take some time to think about whether or not it's really a good fit for me and my business.  And if it's not, I'm ok saying no.  Along those same lines, if you're currently offering something that you don't enjoy or aren't excited about, stop selling it!  When I started DFD, I offered pillowcase dresses for little girls.  But you know what?  I hated making them!  They sold well, but I dreaded getting an order for them and always waited until the last minute to make them.  I decided that there were lots of other people out there that did enjoy making them so I would let them do it!  I've never looked back!

2. Keep your business to yourself.  I'm always shocked when someone asks me how much money I make.  And believe me, it has happened more than I would expect.  I don't know if people feel like it's ok to ask me that question because I'm self-employed or if they just don't have good manners, but I doubt they are asking their friends who are teachers or doctors or engineers or in any other profession how much they make.  I always feel like a deer caught in the headlines when it happens.  I get that people are curious, but just like I would never share how much my husband makes (and he's the breadwinner!), it's none of their business how much I make.  After being caught in a few awkward moments, I've decided that the best answer is "enough to make it worthwhile."  If they persist, give them a taste of their own medicine.  :)

3. Don't air your dirty laundry.  We all need to vent sometimes.  I get that.  Just be careful where you do it.  Believe me, "high maintenance" customers can drive me crazy, but I try to never complain about that on Facebook or Instagram, even on my personal accounts to "friends".  Your friends are your customers, too, so don't think that just because you're sharing how annoying your customer is on your personal account doesn't mean that customers aren't seeing that and questioning your professionalism.  I have a couple of close friends that I trust that I can go to when I'm at my wits end with a customer issue so that everyone one Facebook doesn't know.

4. Take a breath.  Whether it be with a new request or a customer service issue, it's ok to not reply immediately.  This is one that I struggle with.  If I find out from a customer that they're not happy for whatever reason or that I've made a mistake, it makes me feel sick to my stomach and I want to remedy it immediately.  I've learned that taking a couple of hours before replying is usually the best thing to do.  The first idea that I have isn't always the best and it's good to take a step back and look a the situation with a little less emotion.  Also see #1.  Take a little time to think about whether or not a project or collaboration or customer request is really right for you before saying yes or no.  If you want to reply immediately like I do, it's also ok to acknowledge the complaint or request and let them know that you're going to give it some thought and get back to them shortly.

5. Take time for yourself.  What is it that you're doing?  Why did you start your business?  Probably because you found a hobby that you loved.  I love sewing and creating, but I sometimes go MONTHS without making anything for myself or my family.  But you know, when I do take the time, even if it means staying up late one night, I'm always so glad that I did.  I've been taking time to sew more clothing for myself lately, and I love it!  Not only does it help keep me excited about sewing and the orders that I need to process, but it's been a great source of inspiration for my work as well!  I've started budgeting in a little time for myself into my shop production time and I'm so glad that I have!

As I read back over these, I think that most of these tips not only apply to handmade business owners, but to life in general.  Do you struggle with any of these?  What tips would you add?