I’m a nerd, and one of my favorite things to do when I’m faced with a big project or a big goal is to map out a plan and work that plan until I accomplish it. I know, that’s some serious nerd alert there. So when it was finally time to re-record my entire online course, The InDesign Field Guide, I knew I needed a good plan.
Ok, that title was maybe a litttttttle click baity, but I couldn’t help it. Because it’s true — I’ve been needing to write this blog post, to kick off the new year with a solid blogging game, and yet there’s only one thing I seem to be doing instead: procrastinating. I’m like really, really good at it.
My word in 2018 has been hone. I wanted to hone my business as well as my lifestyle. Refine it, simplify it, get super clear and intentional on what I wanted both to look like. This past year was less about growing my business, and more about stripping out what wasn’t working so I could focus on and improve what was working.
I think every business owner's story is an underdog story. Most of us worked for someone else, spent our days dreaming of working for ourselves, and usually through a significant change in their life – either forced or voluntary – they finally take real steps towards that dream being a reality. It’s rarely a smooth road, it’s usually a bumpy, curvy, pothole-laden road that can take a long time to get down. Lots of people have asked me about my own journey, so I thought I’d share it in a fun, timeline-style post – showing you that the big transition from day job to self-employed is not a quick or easy one. It takes time, work, and a whole lot of patience.
This year had tons of traveling, tons of momming, and tons of work on keeping this business chugging along. I started new projects that I’ve been putting off, and I cut old strategies that weren’t working anymore. This year was a season of pivoting and simplifying and getting real clear on what I do and don’t want to do in my business.
Your personality spills into everything you do, that’s no secret. From the clothes you wear, to the food you eat, to the people you hang out with, to the place you go. So it must spill into your business, too, right? Have you noticed this with other businesses you follow? Someone with a big personality probably has evidence of this in their vibrant branding, their confident messaging, and even in the ways they choose to promote their products + services. Likewise, someone who is more reserved probably has a softer brand, more neutral messaging, and promotes themselves in more subtle ways. Some may call this introversion and extroversion, but we’ll get to that later… wink wink.
Last week I posted a picture on Instagram of my computer as I was planning out aaalllll my 2017 tasks in just a few days. Yes, that’s right, an entire year’s worth of projects in about one week. And people freaked out. Rightfully so! I know how crazy it sounds, 12 months of work scheduled out on a calendar is a little control-freak-ish right?! It’s okay, you can say it. But this method helps me brain dump all my ideas + plans for the coming year in an organized way so I can actually accomplish the things I set out to do on January 1.
Wow, I have derailed on the blogging train the last few months. Sorry about that. Honestly, I was running low on content ideas and just wasn’t feelin’ it. At first I felt guilty for not keeping up with it, and then I sat down and wrote this quick year-in-review, quickly got over the guilt, and just decided I’d recommit to the blog in the new year. And that felt much better 😃
I’ll be honest, 2016 has gotten off to a rough start. I try to be transparent in my corner of the Internet, not to glamorize anything I do (because trust me, it is rarely glamorous), but to be totally honest about what the life of a single mompreneur actually looks like. And so far this year it’s looked like a strong-willed toddler, an unexpected breakup, and one very worn out mama. Post-divorce dating is a whole blog in itself, #amiright?! Someday. As much as I’ve tried to be prepared for this new year, I’ve had a lot of other things on my mind and frankly haven’t had the energy to poor into elaborate business goals and strategies to reach them.
The end of the year is obviously a time for reflection and planning for the next year, so I’m sure you’re reading a plethora of other blog posts lately about people’s goals and plans for 2016. At the risk of doing what’s expected, I do think it’s important to take time to pat yourself on the back at the end of the year and remind yourself that all your hard work is worth something. Plus, it can be pretty motivating to see how much can change in a year.
Babies. Babies are hard. Babies are sweet and precious and cuddly and a blessing, but babies are really really hard. Add maintaining a business, and babies get even harder. BUT, the cool thing about babies is they give you some lead time before they get here. My pregnancy, albeit an emotional one, was an instrumental period of time for my business. I knew I had nine months to build P+O into something that could help sustain a life for my daughter and me.
As a creative business owner, I’m guessing you have a million ideas shooting through your brain at all hours of the day. Don’t worry, you’re not alone :) I can't seem to get my brain to shut off either, and I recently found myself feeling scatterbrained and unable to move forward with business ideas or decisions because there was so. much. stuff up there. Google Drive was overflowing with random, unorganized notes and lists, and my desk was overrun with scraps of paper and post-its. Enter Evernote.
The last 7 days have been a whirlwind for me. A few days after following my filled-to-the-edge Uhaul all the way from Missouri to Nashville, I had 3 amazing opportunities to meet some big names in the world of entrepreneurship + blogging. One was planned months ago. One was planned weeks ago. And the third was planned almost day-of. All 3 have changed my perspective on this industry and motivated me to dream big for Paper + Oats.
I’m going to keep this short and sweet. I have one piece of advice for any aspiring creative entrepreneur or even a burnt-out pro. If you’ve been following along with Paper + Oats for very long, you’ve probably heard me say it, tweet it, post about it, and shout it from the rooftops. When I get stuck or feel burnt out, I use this simple philosophy to push through, and it has served me well in the last couple years of business.
Today is a big day for Paper + Oats! Today is the day I scrap all my previous design services and packages, and shift focus to a new, more specific niche. If you follow me on Instagram, you saw some sneak peeks of the new design services all last week, but today is the official “switch over,” with a couple new pages on my site. This decision came with lots of thought, research, advice from other entrepreneurs, and just a gut feeling that I needed to pivot.
There’s no question Etsy is a powerful platform to sell handmade products to a hungry audience. Setting up a shop can be done in an afternoon, and you can hear the “cha-ching” go off on your phone by dinner time. Etsy is where Paper + Oats started in 2011, and I definitely wouldn’t be able to work full-time for myself if it weren’t for this platform. But with all the bad rap Etsy has been getting lately since they’ve revised some of their policies, many shop owners are looking to build their brands elsewhere. I had a light-bulb moment last year after nearly 3 years of being exclusively on Etsy. As my brand began to gain momentum, I realized that I was building my entire business on rented property.
On my to do list today is write a blog post. I’m quickly finding that writing is becoming a creative outlet for me to get thoughts, feelings, and ideas out of my head. It’s like a therapy of sorts. For the last hour and a half, I’ve been struggling to get Poppy to sleep for her morning nap. I’m at the point where if she starts crying one more time, I’m just throwing in the towel on the morning nap and hoping for the best this afternoon. Any other mamas reached this point lately?! I find that I easily get frustrated by her fussiness and lack of sleeping because it means time away from my work. Next comes the guilt for feeling this way. And then the reminder, usually from a fellow mama’s Instagram post about a similar struggle, that my daughter should come first, and my business second.
I don’t know about you, but as a creative entrepreneur, my mind is always planning and dreaming about the next project for Paper + Oats. I lay in bed at night thinking of ideas to make existing products / services better, ways to collaborate with other business owners, and lofty dreams I have for this little business of mine. To be sure I don’t let a single task slip my mind, I use two tools every single day to keep my projects, ideas, and tasks organized.
If you’ve been following Paper + Oats anytime in the last month or so, you’ve probably heard of Batch Day – it’s a quick little idea I had to create community around productivity. In a nutshell, Batch Day is a one-day productivity challenge for creative entrepreneurs. Here's the plan: you’ll dedicate an entire day's work to one topic, eliminating all distractions so you can make the most of this hyper-focused time. Hold yourself accountable, learn from your peers, and get a healthy dose of motivation throughout the day with other creative business owners using #POBatchDay on social media.