What a whirlwind 2020 has been?! On a personal note its been one of my toughest personally learning so much about myself.
At the start of 2020 I set myself a few business goals of course none of them factored in lockdown, I don't think any of us factored in lockdown?
I designed and created the new Love and Luck store back in early December 2019 which genuinely feels like a life time ago now, I chose not to share it on my social media channels due to my illustration day job. I spent most of the new year collecting new products for the store.
My boyfriend in early December was shipped out to the Falklands for what would of been 4 months but it turned out to be 6 months away due to corona virus so this gave me 6 months of solid work ahead of me, so when lockdown hit I was pretty much use to working and spending my time alone so I feel like I have slight knowledge on how to navigate a business in lockdown.
I set my first business up when I was 12 designing t-shirts to sell via myspace, very retro almost 18 years ago which is crazy so much has changed.
As lockdown hit I set up the Positive Postcard Club a simple website built for free on shopify, where my customers could order postcards to be delivered to family remembers during lockdown. I learnt so much by just throwing myself in. When the restriction of self isolation were slightly lifted at the start of June the Positive postcard club had surpassed 10,000 postcards sold in 3 months far more then I could ever imagine when I started the Club on 23rd March.
Learning to work from home -I've worked from home for the last 10 years so for my it wasn't to overwhelming to set up the studio in my bedroom, I have one desk for my illustration job and one for Love and Luck, its not been the easiest sorting space for the soldering and restoring of jewellery but I made it work. The best advice I can give is
- to try and be as neat as you can, I'm a messy desk kinda girl so I try every night before going to bed to make me desk workable straight away the next day.
- Surround yourself with inspiring pictures, images make your workspace you.
- Doesn't matter if its in your kitchen, shed, or even your own studio space having natural light is important in a work environment.
- Make it a place with no distractions, I check emails in the morning, avoid Instagram and Facebook until tasks are done, I put podcasts on whilst I work helping to reduce distractions
Be honest with yourself - I couldn't hire staff during this time and its the first time in my business that I could of done with a few extra hands, replying to emails, posting, writing postcards but I allowed myself the time to create strong and loved products by making people aware that it was JUST ME picking, writing and packaging everything people do understand and I found with the business in lockdown people were kind and understand, grand scheme of things there was so much else going on.
I learnt to keep the workload manageable - the first day I opened my postcard shop 843 postcards were ordered, i was super overwhelmed but I printed each order out, piled up the orders that needed hand written text on the back and then I piled up the postcards that were to be sent out plain.
Prepare your packaging before hand - Looking back I would of saved a lot of my time if I had maybe gone to a packaging supplier like no issue and bought my tissue paper pre stamped but I decided to lower the cost and hand stamp tissue paper and envelopes every morning before work, I learnt quickly that having all my packaging on Hand made me less stressed. I also did the packaging myself because this allowed me to be able to sell my postcards at an affordable rate for my customers.
Take sometime and get outside - Lockdown has been pretty scary when you have an underlying health condition like Asthma or lupus (I have both) so having to isolate myself was a priority so when we were told that we could only do one form of exercise a day I opted for a walk and combined finding a postbox on my walk gave me a target to hit a day. I'd fill my tote bag and walk, this was great for my mental health. I found it allowed me to reset the second half of my day.
Getting people to buy - when it comes to running a small business during lockdown I felt so much overwhelming pressure to get orders in, make money and feel like my businesses were successful I guess this feeling is an everyday feeling when you work for yourself. I decided and I am still actively working this way, setting myself weekly goals, simple goals like - gaining 10 new Instagram followers a week, having 5 new newsletter subscribers and reaching around 20 orders a week. These are doable targets given the current financial situation.
Fully aware that a lot of people around the country and the world are worrying about their incomes, I've tried to make sure that products are affordable for people to treat themselves or others. I decided recently to create Gift cards in the shop because what with lockdown still happening for a lot of people its the easiest and simplest way to give a gift
Learning to adapt - If something isn't working, try and figure out if you can how to make things work. Offer free shipping, a discount and incentive that will cheer your customers up. I am currently giving a free Lucky victorian penny in every order, sounds like it could be expensive and it they cost money but I felt that everyone needs a little luck at the moment and its a nice thing to do. So why not.
Work with what you have - There are obviously places like amazon where you can purchase next day deliveries of packaging supplies, but I felt during Lockdown I didn't want to go crazy on supplies as I wasn't sure if items would sell, and I would have hundreds of envelopes and packaging to store, so I made a point of working with the packaging that I had already accumulated in my studio. A lot people I know that run businesses re use old packaging this is environmentally friendlier, some customers may not approve but you can opt in or out. I found myself hunting through my stationery supplies to use up years worth of collecting envelopes once these were all used up then I ordered in bulk. It saved me money which also meant that my customers could purchase jewellery cheaper and postcards cheaper.
Take the time to connect with other business owners - I found myself chatting on Instagram more with other like minded businesses during Lockdown it did make me feel far less alone, and I felt part of a community that were all working together to get through. When you work for yourself from home it can be isolating, things pop up and you have to deal with them on your own, you have be motivated so many things can overwhelming but having a few people that understand online, over the phone or via social distancing is vital not just to help your brain but to support you.
I think the main thing I've learnt during lockdown and running a small business or small businesses is to be kind to myself, be organised and get outside.