There’s a lot to be said for the analogy ‘What my friends think I do.’ We’ve all seen it. There’s one for every industry and every walk of life. And they are horribly accurate for those in the know.
People pin a lot of expectation on you when you start a business. Your parents think all their hard work has paid off and you’re going to do something to put yourself on the world map. At the very least, you will be a millionaire.
Your friends envy you because you don’t have to be at work for 9am. But anyone you live with resents you for still being in bed when they’re on their way out the door in the morning.
Getting established takes time. You won’t make enough money to live on at the start. Having access to usable funds is imperative if you don’t have a regular second.
You don’t realise until you cut out the 9-5 how much of your social life exists because of it. When the working day is done, most of us like to go home, slump in front of the TV and put the insane office banter behind us.
In typical creative style I am not particularly a people person. At work I am a one man band. So cutting out the ‘seeing people on a regular basis 8 hours a day 5 days a week thing’, means I spend a lot more time on my own than I used to. I spend less than one week out of every four collaborating with other people face to face.
If you have an established friend circle that’s okay. But for many of us, particularly if you’ve relocated, it takes time to rebuild those relationships without the work environment there to nudge you in the right direction.
People don’t realise how hard it is to get paid gigs. When you are a small business you are always being approached for freebies. The barrier that exists between customers and large businesses – which is that you will pay for the goods before you leave the shop – isn’t so evident when you are small. And that is a problem between you and your customers and you and your b2b interactions.
You will spend a lot of your time saying no. Because not all publicity is good publicity and you develop a nose for what free projects are going to be a waste of your resources.
If I work on free shoots (which happens a fair amount in the creative industry) I expect a standard that means I can use the final images, and am confident promoting them with my business name and the other people involved. In the early days you’ll work with a lot of people on a promise. But that’s okay because your standards do change. And that’s largely because you develop a reputation which means better people want to work with you. Social climbing in business ranks is important.
Many Hours Are Worked For Nothing
Working for yourself, particularly when you are producing a product to sell, is very different to working for someone else. In other jobs where you go to work you do your job, you come home. You get paid. In my world you do a lot of work essentially for nothing. You produce product for zero income until you sell that product. It’s like working on a commission basis, but without the basic pay to keep you there. So if you don’t sell, you don’t get paid anything.
I work on my own from initial idea to final product. I can, at a push, produce two garments per day. And you might be doing that for weeks on end before things start to sell.
On top of that you are responsible for all the backroom work that a company would employ someone else to do – social media, accounts, advertising, responding to inquiries etc, the runaround that potential customers give you and then don’t buy.
Although I do some of my internet based work at the studio, I do end up taking a lot home. The nature of the beast is that a lot of people I work with do still have day job so many of them are responding to messages and organising dates with you in the evening and you need to keep up with it.
Additionally social media is busier in the evening because potential customers are also home from work and sifting through the days internet activity. So making sure you are putting your updates online at the right times, so it isn’t swamped by everyone else’s, is important.
No matter what you might think as an individual, surveying your competitors on the internet is a brain drain. Everyone looks amazing, everyone is doing so well. Look at that sale or that glitzy event so and so went to.
The reality is, social media is a fake up. The busiest people tend to be the ones you don’t hear from often. They are not the ones posting up inspirational memes (my pet hate). The ones who are always posting about how amazing everything is are the ones trying to make ends meet. But with social media you can present a successful exterior that everyone else will be wowed by. It probably works, but don’t sit there thinking you are the only one struggling. You are not.