“I’m a great believer in luck and I find the harder I work, the more I have of it.”—Thomas Jefferson
“You have to put in many, many, many tiny efforts that nobody sees or appreciates before you achieve anything worthwhile.”—Brian Tracy
“Opportunity is missed by most because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.”—Thomas Alva Edison
You are finally fulfilling your dreams. You are making jewelry or providing a valuable service. You are the boss, following your passion and making money at it (or well on your way).
Maybe you never thought about working for or by yourself and suddenly it’s a reality.
In the early stages of most businesses, the owners are often working independently in the basement, garage, or at the kitchen table. If the mood strikes, they can wear their pajamas or bunny slippers for an entire day (because who will ever know?).
This is good and bad news.
It means the workday can end at 3:00 a.m. or start at 3:00 a.m. They can exercise at noon and have a cat, dog, or hamster by their side all day long. The music can be as loud as they want or they can listen to heart-wrenching romance novels on cd, have Ben and Jerry’s for lunch and no one is there to say “no.” This is exhilarating, heady stuff.
They also get to wear all the hats for running a business. My friend, jewelry designer Patricia Tschetter, nailed it when she listed her title as “CEO and Janitor”!
Running your own business means spending more time going to the post office, Staples, and FedEx, answering the phone, cleaning up dirty coffee mugs, sending out invoices, sorting through details of insurance and inventory, ordering supplies, answering emails, packaging, keeping up with social media and customer relations, filling out show applications. Oh, yes, all this and more. Then they get to do what they started out wanting to do: practice their craft.
As I stated in one of my earlier blog posts, you not only get to be the “maker” but also the “manager” and the “marketer.” All of which should be done (in a perfect world) in equal parts. If you’re a jewelry designer, you are not getting much time to design. If you are a beader, creating wonderful pieces may have to wait. If you’re a gemologist, you want to work directly with wonderful gemstones all the time. Instead, you’re trying to remember why a Twitter account is a business necessity.
Some people thrive on the solitude of working alone. Others begin to go a little stir crazy and find themselves having long conversations with a telephone solicitor who is trying to sell them aluminum siding and realizing he is not mesmerized, as most fellow jewelers would be, with how ancient Mayan cultures have influenced the contemporary jewelry design movement. However, there are things you can do to make working for yourself more fun and profitable.
Try to find other artists/craftspeople/businesspeople with whom you might share an inexpensive studio space. And if not that, then…
- Set aside time everyday to get out of the workspace, even if it is to buy a t-shirt at Target. Join a class, work out at a local gym, go for a walk, have lunch with a friend, go to a movie, volunteer for a couple hours. Anything. Make a list of out-of-the-studio activities and put it on your bulletin board, computer desktop or somewhere it can be easily viewed.
- Hire someone to come in for a couple hours a week to keep up with social media, bookkeeping, cleaning jewelry, or answering customer calls.
- Get dressed every morning and go into the studio as if it were the same as going to a job. It will set the tone for the day and make you feel more professional.
- Don’t allow friends and family to take advantage of your time since you are “only” working from home. Working from home does not equate to having nothing to do. You are the CEO of a business. Set limits.
- Stay focused. It’s easy to get sidetracked when no one is monitoring your every move. If self-motivation is an issue, running a business can be a challenge. It takes a lot of discipline to get up in the morning and go to work, especially if work is in the next room.
- Have a separate phone line from the household. Nothing is quite so unprofessional as a six-year-old talking to a potential client.
- Remember you’re dealing with expensive materials and supplies. When working from home I recommend getting a post office box for company mail to increase your personal security and privacy.
- Find a business mentor. This can be someone in the same field as you or a business person from outside the jewelry industry. Many of the most valuable suggestions I have heard were from small business owners in unrelated fields. One of my favorite business mentors/peers is my brother who builds wooden boats; we can share experiences and talk for hours about running a business. Keep in mind, small businesses are more similar than different.
- Before starting a business, discuss all of the above with your family and friends so they understand the challenges and rewards you are going to experience.
There are many rewards that come from working for yourself: independence, being as creative as you want to be, learning all sorts of new skills. And best of all, the satisfaction of knowing you own a business that reflects your dreams and passions. You are the boss. You are creating something—where nothing existed before—that is uniquely you. And that’s worth all the hard work!