What I have learnt | Failure

Failure is a funny one. It is something that we all feel and as humans who want to succeed at all we do it is natural to feel like a ‘failure’ when things don't go to plan. Four years ago I felt like a total failure. In every sense of the word. I couldn’t figure out how to go about doing what I wanted to do, failure. I wasn’t very happy, failure. I wasn’t doing anything to utilise the degree I had spent 3 years getting, failure…a degree in which I had only got a 2:2 in, failure. I had changed what I wanted to do with my life a million times, failure. I had spent all my savings, failure. You can see where I am going with this…basically I felt like a huge failure. Anyway…over the past couple of years running Oh Wonder has truly opened my eyes and given me a lot of perspective and I like to think some wisdom (LOL) on things like failure. Overall I no longer feel like one and I no longer feel like that list of things above are failures. They are lessons. Without all those things happening I would not be where I am today (literally sitting in a cabin on a pond after teaching in Wiltshire) and I wouldn't be the person that I am today. 

I think that me coming to this conclusion has been through maturing (again…LOL) and also through running my own business. It sounds so cliche but I feel like I have learnt SO much the past couple of years and although I have SO much more to learn I really feel happy with where I am in in terms of confidence in myself and my belief in what I can do. However there is one defining lesson that really REALLY changed how I felt about failing. So get yourself comfy because I am going to tell you a story…

In September 2016 I was exhibiting at The Handmade Fair at Hampton Court. It was my first show, I was a total newbie, I had only been running Oh Wonder for 8 months and I went there selling letterpress cards, notecards and gift tags. I had spent WEEKS printing these all myself in various different colours - shipping the kiddo off for the weekend multiple times throughout the summer and spending two days solid printing/fighting with the letterpress. To say that I was stressed would be a slight understatement. I was kinda manic. There was stuff everywhere and we would spend the evening packaging up cards and tying bows around packs of notecards. 

That weekend was one of the worst weekends of my life. No lie. I spent so much money, not only on the stand but also on kitting the stand out and getting all these products ready and I took £200 the whole weekend. On the first day I took £30. And that ain’t profit. OVERALL TAKINGS. The rest of the money I took that weekend was from my FAMILY who all came and felt horrendously sorry for me so bought all my cards. I spent most of the weekend trying not to cry. Thankfully I was surrounded by wonderful women who kept me boosted up but inside I was devastated. The loss financially was HUGE to me at that point in my business and I spent the whole journey home each evening crying. All I felt was that this was a HUGE FAILURE and it knocked me for six.

Flash forward a couple of months and I heard from Teach Us who were at the fair as well and had approached me about doing a workshop with them for charity. We arranged to get together and I did a calligraphy workshop for them in my lounge at home. It was so much fun and I really enjoyed it. Matts, one of the guys who runs Teach Us, girlfriend Meg worked for Brand Events the event company that runs The Handmade Fair and she then got in contact with me to see if I wanted to teach at The Handmade Fair at Ragley in May 2017. I would be an expert at the show and teaching an hour long workshop every day to up to 100 people. Yeh sure I said….panicking inwardly (You can read a bit more about my intense feelings of fear surrounding this event here) and my details were popped up on The Handmade Fairs website as an expert. AN EXPERT.

A couple of weeks before the fair I got an email from a lady called Joanne. She works for a publishing house called Haynes and she wanted to talk to me about writing a book for them. I am going to go into more detail about this in a full post about my book process, but when I asked her how she had found me she said….wait for it….through The Handmade Fair.

Fast forward to June 2018 when I am writing this post (although it wont be published until I have told ya’ll about my book so probably August time or the end of September ha!) and I am sat on the porch of an Air BnB having finished teaching at my second Handmade Fair of 2018, with one more to come in September, and my book - Modern Calligraphy and Hand Lettering went to print a few days ago. None of this would have happened if it wasn't for that ‘failure’ of a weekend in September 2016. Well it might of in the end but in this version of my life that is where it started. 

So that is why I (try to) no longer see things as failures. Yes it is still heart wrenchingly gutting when things go wrong (and trust me I still have pangs of disappointment when I think of that weekend) - especially when you lose a tonne of money - but I am trying to see them instead as lessons, and ways in which different doors open in life. You never know where your ‘failure’ is going to lead you…it might just end up taking you somewhere pretty amazing.

L x  

Edit - Between writing this post in June and posting it now I have exhibited again at The Handmade Fair at Hampton Court and I tripled what my goal for the weekend was. Well and truly kicked 2016 in the arse.

Photo 14-09-2018, 16 34 14.jpg

What I Have Learnt | In My First Year Of business

Today is the beginning of a little regular feature that I am planning on bringing to the blog - the 'What I have learnt' series. I know, so professional. I do not fancy myself as an expert on anything (apart from nail varnish - which I am pretty expert on, to be honest) least of all running a business, but when I first had this little sparkle of a dream that I wanted to run my own business I was so bowled over by all the decisions, options and information that the overwhelm was too much and it put me off doing it for years. So if I can give some advice that might stop someone feeling like that and make them take the step to starting up then I will dish it out until the cows come home.

The first of this series is the What I have learnt in my first year of business post. As you will know if you are a regular reader (do I have any regular readers?! If I do...I love you) or follow me on Instagram/facebook, Oh Wonder had its first birthday on the 5th of January (and there was no cake or bubbles, so sad, next year there will be) which is crazy because it feels like its only been a few months. I have learnt ALOT in my first year of business, so I am going to attempt to break it down into little wise nuggets of information that hopefully someone out there will find helpful.

COMMUNITY

COMMUNITY IS SO SO SO IMPORTANT. Build a tribe of like-minded people because they will help you out, give you insanely good advice (my tribe are uber intelligent), listen to you whine/moan/cry/swear/gush, make you feel less lonely and probably at some point talk you down from a ledge. YOU CANNOT SURVIVE WITHOUT THEM. I have a community of wedding suppliers who I am 100% certain I would not be where I am today without and I have a community of stationers who are superstars and collectively I am pretty sure know everything. They help me out with 'argh how the hell do I do this' moments to advice about my sons eczema (mum squad for life), it is truly wonderful. They are awesome and I would be hella lonely without them. I am lucky enough to have met calligraphers who instead of calling competitors I call friends and share jobs and advice with them. It is like living in a world full of wedding and stationery unicorns and rainbows. These people are the first to celebrate my wins alongside me and pick me up after my losses. Remember community over competition always.

NETWORKING

This is following on from the community section. Networking is key. It is so easy when you work for yourself from home to hide behind your computer and never actually meet anyone. Attending industry events and meetups is so essential as you meet other suppliers you can collaborate with and can even bring you work. Plus others may have valuable insight into the industry that you are yet to learn about. In 2016 I attended The Hub which was fabulous and also a networking event at Bloved Hive. Networking on social media is also great - I have made some great connections through Instagram and facebook with people who have turned into clients, referrers and friends. Never be afraid to send the first message and introduce yourself it might just be the start of something wonderful.

BE YOURSELF

One of the biggest lessons I have learnt this year is that in an industry like the wedding industry it is really important to be yourself and not just a faceless brand. Your clients are buying into you as a person as they are trusting you with a part of what will hopefully be the most amazing and important day of their lives. They need to know that they gel with you and relate to you to build that trust. When I first started my website I tried to make myself sound bigger than I was - a whole business as oppose to just me. It was unrelatable and I very quickly changed it. Being honest and authentic, and saying this is me and it's just me but that doesn't matter because I love what I do and I will do whatever is in my power to make you exactly what you want and need (I might be fighting a toddler and sausage dog at the same time but I WILL do it!) brings me so many more enquiries and clients. 

VALUE

Valuing yourself is so important. In those first few months (ahem year) it is so easy to doubt your prices and wonder constantly is this too much? But always know that your work has a worth and you need to recognise your value. If you can't value yourself then it is much harder for others to value you too. We all do bits for free and at the beginning, it can be tempting to do work for free in return for exposure...but only do these jobs if you REALLY KNOW that it aligns with your brand and your vision and that what you are putting in your getting back out of the deal. 

SYSTEMS AND ORGANISATION

Having good systems in place and being organised is key...I can't really comment on how easy it will make your life as I am yet to feel totally organised, but the parts of my work that I have managed to organised save me so much time flapping around. I use a paper planner and trello which I have on my phone and laptop so I can keep up to date with work and deadlines. I also have a notebook (s) that I put all my workings out etc in so they are all in one place should I need to come back to them. I am currently working on getting my accounts together in one hell of a spreadsheet which I know will save me so much time in the long run too. My business advisor said to me recently that if I get hit by a bus (cheers - lovely thought) then someone should be able to pick up my books and know exactly what my business is doing and where it is at.

NOT EVERYONE IS GOING TO LIKE YOU AND YOUR WORK

This was a hard lesson for me to learn as I am a people pleaser and I want to make everyone happy but everyone has their own tastes and preferences and these aren't always going to align with yours. It isn't personal and you just have to get on with it. Do not let it affect the bigger picture or to knock your confidence. There are plenty of people that are going to LOVE your work and there are plenty of people that are going to go with other people over you...concentrate on the wins not the losses as in the long run they really don't matter. 

LEARN TO SAY NO

As mentioned above I am a people pleaser. Saying no to things does not come easily to me but I have learnt that I NEED to sometimes. I wish I could say yes to all the things and do everything but at the end of the day there are only so many hours in the day and I cannot do everything. So learning to recognise which jobs/favours/shoots/events are in line with your brand and realising when maybe they aren't is really key to making sure that your precious, precious time is spent wisely doing the best for you and your business and that you don't miss out on too many bath times or glasses of bubbles.

NOTHING IS SET IN STONE

You can change your business description/website/bio/name/branding if it becomes irrelevant or what you do changes. In the first year of business, you will do SO much self and business discovery. Something you do as a test to see if it works might turn out to be your biggest love and there is nothing wrong with that. Although I don't suggest rebranding every month changes and tweaks to websites and job descriptions can be done whenever, it is all about business growth. I must tweak my website at least once a fortnight. Sometimes it's just a word, sometimes it's adding in a whole new page, it is all part of the process and one of the reasons I LOVE Squarespace and having control over my website myself. Never be afraid to explore a new avenue...it can all be added into your business model (within reason if you're a calligrapher and want to also add farming then separate brands might be an idea). It does not have to be perfect before you launch, it is so easy to get caught up in the details but this will change as you grow so there really is no such thing as perfect to begin with.

JUST DO IT

For me, it took having my son to really give me a kick up the a*** and set up Oh Wonder. He is my drive and my inspiration and I thank him for that every day (mind you he has no idea what I am saying - his new favourite word is poopies #mumlife and that is his response to everything so my emotional words are pretty lost on him). After years of being ruled by fear and overwhelm, I suddenly realised that I was bigger than that and I didn't want to be ruled by it anymore. Plus I had given birth (which did not go to plan) and kept a tiny person alive for 8 months...things don't get much scarier than that and I felt unstoppable. So if you take anything away from this, if you haven't done already then do it. Just do it. I promise you it won't be half as scary as you think it will. You are capable of great, great things if you just start.

I feel like I have gone on and on and I could probably continue but I will stop here before my post turns into a book. My first year in business was a rollercoaster but it was more than I could ever have imagined. I am not a business expert and everything I have written here might be seen as total twaddle (what a fab word) but it is completely truthful and things that I wish that maybe someone had told me 3 years ago so I could have set my business up then.

I have lots of posts planned for the WIHL (yes I even decided to give it an acronym) including Instagram, balance (LOL - that one is planned for much later in the year hopefully once I have worked it out), SEO, fairs, branding, marketing and lots more. I hope that you have found at least one nugget of interest in there and if you have then PLEASE let me know that I am not just waffling on to myself.

Much Love
L x

Photography by Frances Carlisle Photography

Photography by Frances Carlisle Photography