Blogger Series Day 8: Start Small, Dream Big

Day 8: Start Small, Dream Big

We're halfway into week 2 of our blog collaboration Creative Business Series, and we're so happy that it's finally our turn! We've had such a great response to the series and we really hope you've all found it be something useful and applicable to your own dreams. Yesterday, Phillipa from Coffey and Cake spoke about the importance of networking and how it could help your business grow. Today we're talking about starting your company while you're still working. How do you juggle both, how do you make sure you don't burn out and more importantly, how you can work towards turning your business into something you can do full time? We've got some tips for you from our very own experiences in growing Ruby+Swallow - we're giving you advice for every day, as well as looking at the bigger picture.
"Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life." ~ Confucius

The Daily Grind

1. Start small, dream big
Rome wasn't built in a day. It's been almost two years since we started Ruby+Swallow and while we've grown immensely, we've come to realise that businesses take time to grow. You need to start small. Start a blog and get your name and branding out there. Test the waters, and see what type of client base you can get. Eventually, work will start coming to you! We still have so many dreams that we want to accomplish, but you have to do the work to get to the top. Ruby+Swallow started out as a conversation in a car; from that dream, we started small and have eventually grown into what we are today.

2. Be respectful of the job you have
As much you might want to work on your new creative business full time and give it all the attention it deserves, it’s important to remember that your day job is your current livelihood and shouldn't be neglected. Plan ahead so that most of your creative business work is done after hours (see tip 4!). Be attentive at your day job and give it one hundred percent, so that you don't slip up.

3. Make lists 
We cannot stress this more, and all you A-type personalities out there will be nodding your heads in agreement! Making lists helps you to visually see what you need to get done and helps you to prioritise your tasks. As soon as either one of us is feeling overwhelmed, we write lists out for each other and email them so we know exactly what has to get done and are both on the same page. This helps us gather our thoughts and becomes a point of reference as to where we are at in certain parts of our business. Begin with tasks that are quick and easy to accomplish. Starting with the smaller ones will make you feel better when you get them done and give you confidence to tackle the larger jobs.

4. Plan your time well
Decide if you prefer to do the majority of your work for your creative business on the weekend or during the week. This is an important one and will depend a lot on the kind of lifestyle you lead. If you have kids, you may find it easier to work during the weekend when you have more time. If you have busy weekends, you might prefer doing a little bit each night of the week. Once you have decided which you prefer, choose a day of the week that you do not work on the business at all. It’s important to set boundaries; otherwise you could be working on your business all the time and feel burnt out! Believe us because we've been there, and it isn't an easy pattern to get out of.

Planning your time also includes making sure your personal creative business and your 'day job' are separate, and don't affect each other negatively. If you absolutely must attend to your personal business emails during your work hours, then set aside your lunch hour or a ten minutes every two hours to do so. It’s important to maintain boundaries for both so be strict with yourself.

5. Use social media to power your business
We have done no other marketing for our own business besides using the powerful tool that is social media. It can reach a lot of people very quickly, and the most important part of all is that it’s free. This was, and remains, a huge marketing tool for us and is invaluable for new businesses who don't have huge capital to begin with. Social media allows potential clients to really engage with you and it puts a face to your business. Kelly from Sunflowers and Spears wrote about this topic last week in detail, so check out her advice here.

6. Do not commit to deadlines that you cannot reach 
Depending on what type of work you do full time, you will have to realise that your deadlines for your business have to be flexible - or at least realistic. With creative businesses, your 'product' often takes a lot longer to do/make than you anticipate. When we started Ruby+Swallow, we tried to please clients by getting things done as soon as possible, regardless of the cost to our business or our own time. After a year of burning ourselves out, we decided to change our business work ethos: speedy service is great, but accurate and beautiful service is better! 

7. Be disciplined
While your friends are watching series and socialising, you'll be using a lot of your spare time to run your creative business, such as writing blog posts and replying to client emails. Prepare for this! This is not to say that you must get rid of your social life, but what we are saying is that any successful business doesn't just fall into your lap, and you have to be prepared, as well as determined to work for it. The more you put in, the more you get out. And it will be worth it when you see what you start achieving.

The Big Picture

8. Time is money
This is quite a difficult topic to discuss, but we thought it was worth mentioning. Learn to charge for your time so that you are not doing things for free. The core of many or most creative businesses is that your time IS your business. Our business not only includes producing great wedding and event stationery, but also it involves a lot of our time - whether it be designing invites, meeting with clients, collecting things from suppliers, answering emails or hand-crafting each and every item. Because of this, we try and factor that into our costing structure so that we are paying ourselves for all the hard work we're doing!

9. Stay inspired
Working at both your day job and your creative business in your spare time can spread yourself thin. You may start finding that you aren't 'inspired' anymore, and this is because you don't spend any of your time getting inspired! For people who own creative businesses, inspiration is a key factor in staying motivated, as well as producing beautiful things that are unique. Take at least an hour or two a week to read other blogs, websites and to play on Pinterest. These things keep you on trend and inspired.

10. Taking the jump
There will almost always be a way to get your dream started – even while you are working. You need to think of ways to get yourself in the position to make the leap. Sometimes you just need to jump and put yourself in a place where you’ve got no other option but to work your butt off to make your dream come true. Do it NOW when your priorities and commitments will be a lot less than in ten years time. Saying this, everyone has their own journey and no one else's will look like yours.

11. Hustle
This is our favourite word here at Ruby+Swallow. Starting a business on the side while working a day job is not easy. Take that from us! You will make so many mistakes. But through all of that, you will learn discipline, time management and dedication, and those are priceless skills. See tips 4, 6 and 7 about planning your time and being disciplined.

12. Breathe
All the hustling is exhausting, and if you are made up of A-type personalities like we are, you will know that that the search for perfection only leads to stress. A lot of it. After our first year of building up our Ruby+Swallow brand, both as a blog and a business, we had to take a step back and breathe (see tip 6). We gained perspective and realised that we couldn't sweat the small stuff. If the stress of your creative business is taking it out of you, step back and look at the bigger picture. Remind yourself WHY you started the business and WHERE you want to go from here, and brainstorm HOW you will get there.

We started Ruby+Swallow because we needed an outlet for our creativity. Yes, we had day jobs as graphic designers in the ad industry; but just because you have the skills and can do a job, doesn't mean it gives you fulfilment. What are your stats?... How much of your life is dedicated to growing someone else's business, to sleep and rest, and spent with your loved ones and friends? You need to weigh it all up, and decide where you are (or aren't) getting the fulfilment you crave. And then, take that jump! We are still learning so much every single day about how to run a successful business, and we are still far from there yet. We hope that our practical tips will help you in some way to start small, but dream big.

If you are loving this series but have missed out on the topics from last week, see this list below for a round-up! Tomorrow Nicola from Loving Mondays will be chatting about "who is driving your business venture" - so head over there tomorrow!

Day 1 : The most important question to ask when starting your business - Caitlyn de Beer
Day 2: Should I combine all my passions or just choose one? - Megan Galloway
Day 3: The importance of professionalism - Ilze  from Ilze Louw Photography
Day 4: Blogging - where to begin - Roxy from CityGirl Searching
Day 5: How to use social media to promote your business - Kelly from Sunflowers and Spears
Day 6: Creating an Online Store - Fathima from Happiness Is
Day 7: The Importance of Networking - Phillipa from Coffey and Cake

*This post is part of a blog series where 9 creative women are sharing tips on ‘How to start your own creative business’. If you’ve missed a day or two, then don’t waste another minute, click here to read about the series and get the links to all the other AMAZING blog posts.

Quote pics found here and here

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