Small Business Series Part One: Figuring Out Your Business

Welcome to part one in my small business series! These first few posts will be all about figuring out what it is you want to do, how you can go about turning those ideas into something real, and the ways in which we can grow and develop as small businesses using resources that are accessible to most of us reading this blog here today. If you have your idea and a semi solid plan sorted, then skip ahead to the next post in this series as we’re about to go on a little adventure to discover what the rest of us should do for our own small businesses.

Before we begin I’ll do a super quick intro for those of you that are new to the blog. First and foremost I am not an expert in business, but what I do have are my own experiences! I’m Beth, I’m primarily a digital illustrator, and Bethanie’s Place is my business. I started this blog at the beginning of the lockdown after a few days of not working led me to open up Procreate and spend some time drawing, something I hadn’t really done as much as I’d been wanting to in the months prior. I found myself on a roll and I was producing pieces that were requested as prints by a couple of friends and family members. That was all the push I needed to start turning Bethanie’s Place into something more. I’d been doing hand drawn pet portraits casually, but more people started to show interest and that was when I realised I needed to get serious about this small business thing and get myself organised.

After setting up my Twitter, reorganising my other social media pages, and creating my blog and Big Cartel, I started to sell. My art, since starting up in April, has been sold and sent out to 6 different countries, I’ve made over 60 sales, and my social media accounts continue to grow and flourish everyday. I had a couple of artsy friends reach out to me and ask how I’ve done it and could I give them some advice, and the answer to questions like that has always been yes of course! If there’s something I’ve always loved, it’s been helping people. I figured if my advice was wanted and useful to a coupe of people, it might prove to be just as useful to a handful more, which is why I decided to start this series! These first few posts will go over what I did when I started out in April, and the kinds of questions you should be asking yourself at these starting points of your own small business.

Let’s get into it! So, you want to start a small business! That’s amazing. I’ve known so many people over my life that have wanted to be their own boss, but the hardest part for some people can be figuring out what it is they would do. The basic answer to this question is often, do something you love. The reality is that whatever it is that you love doing might not be something that you even want to turn into a job or that people want to buy, so it’s at this pivotal point in starting out that we have to ask ourselves a couple of important questions. I’m going to list the first three questions I think are helpful to ask ourselves below, and I’ll offer a mix of answers specific to my business as an example, and also some hints and tips to help you answer for yourself.

QUESTION ONE: What do you love to do?

I love to crochet, to read, to write, and of course I love to draw amongst other things. Being creative and active is so important for my mental wellbeing, but when thinking about what loves of mine to turn into a job I had to think very carefully. It is so important that we leave ourselves with something that’s just ours, which is what I’ve made sure to do with pretty much all of my hobbies bar writing and drawing. You want to make sure that in a few months when you’ve created and sold however many whatevers you can sit back and take some time to declutter your mind and enjoy creating for the love of it.

Be careful not to turn something that’s good for you into something you have to do all of the time, as you may end up turning a much loved hobby into a stress ridden obligation.

QUESTION TWO: What do you want to do?

This is a very different question to the first as it’s far less abstract, if you will, and it gets to core of what we need to figure out to get going. Do you want to draw peoples’ pets? Do you want to make a website for someone? Do you want to create art, poetry, useful things, apps, solutions, edits or anything else at all for people? If the thought of doing anything for other people, for payment of course, excites you and you believe that it’s something you could do for a long period of time then you might’ve just figured out what your business should be.

This takes the answers to your first question, what do you love, and it asks you to consider what it would mean to turn those loves into a job. Doing the things you love for the love of it is very different to doing it for people or a specific person if it’s commissioned work. I still take pleasure in drawing for myself, but I get to do it far less often than before, but that’s okay with me because I still have my other loves, and the thought of creating art for people to have in their homes or to gift to their friends and family excites me and makes me want to keep creating!

QUESTION THREE: What are you good at, or willing to become a pro at?

This is an important question, and it’s important to be honest with yourself at this point. I love racing games, but I’m terrible at them. It would be an awful idea for me to attempt to somehow offer my e-racing abilities for commercial purposes. It’s something I will continue to do in my own time, but I know it’s not my place career/business wise. That’s probably a terrible analogy, but the point stands. It’s important that whatever you love and want to do is also something that you are good at if you want to turn it into a business.

Now don’t get me wrong, we can start all of the new hobbies and crafts that we want, maybe even with the goal in mind that we’ll sell the products of those hobbies or crafts. But, and it’s a big one, sometimes I see people who are beginners in various crafts attempting to sell their creations and often being left disappointed when people don’t buy or begrudge paying what they’re asking. If you’re starting a business, and one that you want to become your full time job it’s important that what you’re selling or offering is something that you can do well. It might sound obvious but in today’s small business climate there are lots of people trying to do lots of things, and by doing everything only moderately well they’re massively cutting themselves short and harming their chances of actually making a thriving business doing something they love to do, want to do, and can do really well.

You need to be committed to becoming really good, some may even call you a pro, at whatever it is you want to sell. Friends and family may buy those first attempts and genuinely love them, but the wider world will ask more of you. If you’re just starting out a craft now for the purpose of selling, give yourself some time to grow and to start creating products that’ll be valued and sought out. Something great to do before trying to sell new crafts would be to start positing about the crafts and your progress across your social media pages, be it your personal pages or maybe even set up one specifically for your new skill! That way both you and your potential future customers can watch you progress and get excited when you create something amazing.

So, there we have it. Our first three questions to help us on our way to starting up a small business. We need to find something that we love to do, want to do, and can do well. It can be difficult to figure out the balance, but starting with these questions might just help you to figure out exactly what you want to do and where you want to go.

Thank you so much for joining me today for part one in my small business series. Next week we’ll be looking at the first steps after deciding what you want to do, thinking about names, setting up social media pages, what to do when you’ve got your fresh accounts, and the give and take required to build up a strong following. I’d love to hear your thoughts on today’s post, and if you’ve worked through the questions with me today and want to share we’d all love to listen.

Stay safe and I’ll see you in the next one!

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