Starting a new business is hard.
It’s hard for all the obvious reasons- finding the time to realize your dreams, adapting & growing to find your niche in an already overcrowded market, budgeting, scheduling & all the multitude of other tasks you never even dreamed of, but what the books don’t tell you is: running a new business is harder!
After the initial shock of realizing that your business is (small eep of excitement!) growing & actually looking successful, you have to settle down to simply making it work & keeping it working. This is undoubtedly where you will run into the biggest problems you have had to date.
There were & are mine…
Time management… quite simply put until recently the utter bane of my life! I have been made miserable because there were not enough hours in the day to get everything done, which resulted towards the end of 2012 in my falling quite ridiculously ill as a direct result of the stress I was putting myself under. I was unhappy, my customers were unhappy & I was in torment as to what to do. Then I got fired from my day job. Oh no I hear you cry, quel horreur! But to my utter shock- & after many hours with the calculator- & amazement I found that with a little more support from the adorable Fella I was fine & that this might possibly turn out to be for the best. Taking Laura After Midnight in to the daylight hours & not having to make orders after and 8-hour Barista shift will be a learning curve however; after clearing the back orders, & a couple favors, I think I should be able to manage my time much more effectively now.
Space… I am completely aware that even if Midnight Heights was run from a 2000 sq ft office space, I would still have this on the list! Over the coming weeks- thanks to my newly freed up schedule- I intend to completely renovate my workshop. I hope this will enable me to respond to orders a lot quicker, as it will certainly make it easier to create pieces & work. It’s a huge task as I want to organize myself as I go, & this involves removing a lot of baggage from my life. My major goal this year is to rent space, but more on that later- wish me luck!
Response Times & The Royal Mail… unfortunately this is one of the most frustrating areas of running an online business. I am completely beholden to the postal service, both here & in other countries. And they have often let me down. Even paying the exorbitant tracking charges (often twice the price of 1st Class) does not mean things will arrive by a certain date. I have recently changed the listings in my online shop to reflect longer postage times in an effort to maintain my customers expectations- even though it now looks like I need 2 weeks to make a pair of Spats!!- & it is an area I am constantly monitoring. I think that, if the growth in my business is consistent, I may look at alternative forms of postage like courier services.
Customers… the backbone of any business. Until I ran my own business I had though I had exceptional customer service skills, then I got my first ‘difficult customer’ which left me floundering, nervous & with a slightly bitter aftertaste in my mouth. I have always been shocked at the way some customers talk to the people serving them & I have come to realize that you simply take it much more to heart when it is your work they are complaining about. So with a little reflection & study I implemented my first shop policies… which I promptly forgot about & in going the extra mile for another customer managed to get myself tangled up & they quickly turned in to my 2nd difficult customer!! All of this experience has taught me the following: write your shop/business policies, implement them & stick to them. It’s no different than if when you are shopping in Sainsburys and wonder back weeks after you bought an something complaining it is now unusable & asking what they intend to do about it. If you have firm, well though out policies in place you are more able to deal with this sort of issue. I panicked & made another item free of charge (which made the whole process longer)… what I should have done is apologized & explained that when sold it fit all requirements & that whilst I was sorry all I could offer was a refund upon return of the goods. You will probably find, as I am finding, that this is an area in which you are constantly adapting and changing. It may sound like I am moaning about my clients however; I am just trying to implement some policies, targets & ground rules in which to serve them better. It may at first feel counter productive to be firm with a customer but in the long run it will make me/you feel more business like & able to cope with demand, & any issues. Wise words, right?! Now to follow them…
So, what will I do with all the aforementioned free time?
As I have said I have a couple back orders to finish, I need to write a couple lesson plans for my Beginners Sewing, Introduction to Sewing & Pattern Cutting courses, & I desperately need to attack that work space but I do have some goals set in place as I come in to the second year of trading for Laura After Midnight. Having some clearly defined goals really worked for me last year, & I have a month or so to set mine in place. So, as I filter through my life as a creative so far & decide what to throw & what to keep, I shall be thinking long & hard about what I want to achieve this year (& secretly dreaming of what colour I’d paint my studio tee hee!!)