Five Things I’ve Learnt in Starting a Jewellery Business
Updated: Jul 29, 2020
I’ve only been setting this business up for a few months, but already I think I’ve learned more than I did in the last several years in my previous jobs in big banks. I’ve learned things at a pace that I thought would be impossible for someone who has put one entire career behind them. So here are five of the most important things that I've learnt since I started Halo. What surprises me is that none of them have anything to do with jewellery. They're crucial to any type of new business.
1. It’s a Marathon not a Sprint
Setting up a business takes time. There are a zillion things to do, and if you’re like me, you’ll have limited resources to do them with. Should I be making jewellery, photographing it, designing it, creating a website, selling it, marketing it or just giving up with overwhelm and having a little lie down? Often, the last option seems tempting.
And then I have to remind myself that almost every phenomenal success story I read about started at least ten years ago. And if I have to pace things out over ten years, then I need to be a Paula Radcliffe, not an Usain Bolt. In other words, it’s a marathon, not a sprint.
Having come from a work environment where priorities changed almost daily, results were expected in minutes, and reactions to what we’d done were given even faster, it’s been a real struggle for me to slow down, recognise that I can’t do everything at once, and if I try, I‘ll burn out and give up. Now I pace myself, and accept that there will be things that I will not get done today, tomorrow or even in a month’s time. And that’s okay, because I will get to them eventually.
2. You Need to be the Master of Self Motivation
This is perhaps even more important than the previous one. Starting this fledgling business has given me a newfound respect for anyone who tries to start a business from scratch. I’d never realised how motivated you need to be just to keep going. You have nobody telling you what to do, when to do it, or even that anything needs to be done at all. You have no one guiding you through the order in which things need to be done, how much time should be spent on each one, or which things are optional and which ones aren’t.
To want to learn these things and to want to keep going despite hard knocks needs self-motivation. And in learning all these things, there will inevitably be mistake after mistake after mistake. I know. I’ve been there already. C’est la vie. Mistakes make excellent teachers.
3. Discipline is King
Motivation is great, but what about the day to day? That needs discipline.
I’m not a terribly disciplined person by nature. I’ve learnt that consistent results need consistent actions, and being consistent requires discipline. And by discipline, I mean showing up and doing something for the business regularly, and most importantly, working to a plan. I’ve experienced the fruits of doing this, and the perils of not doing it in the short time that I’ve been at this game.
I have what is known as shiny object syndrome. This is particularly common amongst people who design and make things. Virtually every day I come up with some “brilliant new idea” for a piece or a range of jewellery. All previous planning and ideas are forgotten, and this new idea becomes an obsession, the “shiny object” that I must pursue. For business, this kind of indisciplined behaviour is disastrous, and can derail a plan quite spectacularly. So now, I’ve built an “experimentation day” into my plan. It’s every Friday, so I never have to wait too long to explore my newest brainwave, when I usually discover that it wasn’t quite the stroke of genius I thought it was going to be.
Although I’m not naturally disciplined, I love being busy, and this has helped me a lot. I love getting up early and having a routine. But imagine if I wasn’t like that; imagine if I was the type to say “Never do today what you can put off until tomorrow.” Before I know it, I’d be ten years down the line, still putting off until tomorrow.
4. It won’t all be Fun
Nothing can ever all be fun. Even cotton candy leaves you with sticky hands and a stick that you need to throw away. And certainly the same is true of running a business. I started doing this because I love designing and making jewellery. But what I do right now is less jewellery making and more of everything else. That’s exactly how it should be, particularly at these early stages when I've laid the foundation and am building things up.
Even if you enjoy the other stuff, there’s bound to be something that you dislike. In my case it’s photography. For an online business, it’s soooo important, it comes second only to having a decent product. I dislike it because I’m not good at it, and I’m not good at it because I don’t practice and I try to get it over with in a hurry. I’m trying to change, and I think I’m improving, but I’ve accepted that for me, it will never be an enjoyable part of the business.
So if anyone thinks that they can turn a hobby into a business and love every bit of it, then I would encourage them to think again. I’m really lucky; there aren’t many things that I have to do that I genuinely dislike. But it’s early days, and tax time hasn’t come round yet.
5. Customer, Customer, Customer - It's no Longer About Me
This is always tricky. If you’re turning your hobby into a business, it’s likely that you loved what you made, and decided to start selling it to spread the love. It all sounds peachy so far, but not everyone is you. Not everyone likes exactly what you like. And now you’re no longer making for yourself, you need to make what others like. But then you don’t enjoy making it as much as you used to, because you no longer absolutely love what you make.
This little conundrum is one that pretty much every hobbyist-turned-business person will face. And the cycle needs to be broken. So I do this; I identify every single thing I make as either part of my business, or part of my hobby.
If it’s part of my hobby, I can do as I please, but it needs to be done in my own time. With a hobbyist turned business person, work and hobby look suspiciously similar. But just because something looks like work, doesn’t mean it is work. So I save my little flights of fancy for weekends or evenings.
If it’s part of my business, what my customer wants is more important. The business isn’t about me, it’s about my customers. If I'm not enjoying making something that I promised a customer, that's just tough. If I don’t accept that, I won’t have a business.
This post is way longer than my usual ones, but you can see why. Each lesson I’ve learnt could be a post in its own right. These lessons are important, but they are not painful. In fact they are incredibly rewarding. One day I’ll do a post about five reasons why I love doing what I do. But for today, I’ve chatted long enough.
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