A little note on copying

The plan is for this post to be short and sweet but if you saw my Instagram stories the other day (now highlighted under Copying) then you will know that short and sweet really isn't my jam but I will try I promise!

I like to help people I really really do, it has been the most surprising part of setting up Oh Wonder - the teaching and mentoring of others who want to start calligraphy as a hobby or sometimes as a business is not something I expected and yet one of the most enjoyable parts. It is the reason I teach workshops and why I loved writing a book. I put pretty much every part of my knowledge into that book (I mean I had to to reach that many pages!) so I really really don't mind sharing knowledge. 

However I get a lot of messages asking me outright - where did you get this, where did you get that and a lot of the time it isn't even sweetened with a hello how are you?! and that kinda upsets me. Firstly because I spent A LOT of time researching materials and tools at the beginning and I still do. I do not have all the answers and sometimes I get a client come to me with a wild and amazing idea that I have no idea how to do, so I sit on my laptop and research everything I can and then I try a load of different pens or inks or whatever out until I find the answer, it is kinda part of the fun! And secondly a lot of the time these people have their own businesses doing the same thing that I do and it seems like they are just trying to copy me which hurts a lot because as anyone who is creative knows…our ideas, services and products are our babies. It is important to not think just because there is someone out there doing the thing that you want to you and you follow them on the internet, that you get to skip the trial and error stage of making something.

I have only been outright copied once before (although there have been a couple of a bit close for comfort moments) and it was with my baubles. Someone started doing ceramic personalised baubles, which is annoying but fine - I do not own the idea, lots of people do them, but the kick in the teeth was that i spent AGES choosing colours and making mine different and she just went and did them in EXACTLY the same colours that I had. I mean come on. At least pick different colours. A friend of mine pointed them out to me and I knew that I had been following this person but suddenly I couldn't find her….oh because she blocked me. Funny that. Thankfully I have the most amazing industry friends who have my back and let me know about the copying. I then let her know (through my other secret squirrel Instagram account / the one where I post all the pics of my kid) I knew and whilst I had no way of really stopping her I hoped that she would rethink her offering in a way that made in unique.

The thing we live in a world where EVERYTHING is on the internet. We are influenced by so many things (the gorgeous Zoe from The Golden Letter wrote an excellent post on this here) and it sometimes gets a bit foggy knowing where your inspiration came from, but there is a difference between using something as an inspiration and full on copying (and yes just changing the colour does still mean you copied it). It is important to sit back and ask yourself the question, do you really want your business to be a copy of someone elses? Or do you want to take things slowly, take a step back and go through the learning and exploration stage that we all did to create a unique business that fits you like a glove? I promise you the latter will bring you a lot more happiness, satisfaction and clients that are perfect for you. 

L x

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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.

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Book Club | Work Smarter : Live Better by Cyril Peupion

Hello and happy Tuesday! Today marks a new little section I am adding to the blog, book club! If you follow me on Instagram you will see that I recently finished Work Smarter : Live Better by Cyril Peupion and I wanted to share what I learnt from it in a mini review and as I am planning to do more reading and devote more time to self-learning this year hopefully I will be reading a lot more that I can share and make this an ongoing feature. 

Title | Work Smarter : Live Better by Cyril Peupion

Synopsis | Written by Australian business coach Cyril Peupion this book teaches practical tools to help you control your time and workload and organise your work so that you are not left stressed and feeling like you never get anything done. The teachings in this book are really interesting and for the most part quite simple. Putting them into practice that is the hard bit, but will leave you working much more effectively. The book will challenges how you think about work and time and aims to equip you to work smarter and live better.

What I thought | I found this book really interesting and read it in under a week (admittedly half of it was read on the journey back from Paris something that does not happen often enough). Although it was largely aimed at people that work in offices and in a corporate world the basic lessons can definitely be applied to a self-employed creative like myself. There were a few parts that I originally thought didn't apply to me (he talks about microsoft outlook a lot) but when I actually thought about it I saw how I could relate them to the way I run my business and spend my time. It definitely made me question the value I put on my time and made me think about my 'big rocks' the things that are most important to my business and my life. Whilst I haven't had a chance to fully put everything I learnt into practice I am already using some of the lessons in my day to day.

Biggest lessons / Email management. My inbox is very organised with loads of folders and subfolders, one thing that Cyril recommends. However, I have my email open all the time on my laptop and on my phone and it is such a big distraction. I now have twice daily designated to checking my emails and things that can be replied to in under 5 minutes I do then and there and those that can't be I schedule in my diary for the next time I have space. It is definitely going to take some getting used to - I feel quite on edge not checking it but I think it will bring some control to my email procrastination. Planning. I again am a bit of a planner but I have all good intentions invariably end up flapping my way through the days and weeks without much direction. This book has some great examples of how to plan an effective week with lots of breathing space so that I feel more in control of your time. I am trying to assign times to everything I do now so that I can actually see what I can fit into my day as opposed to just having a never-ending to-do list that I can never finish. It is important to fill your diary with your big rocks first and then fit the other smaller things around them. Big rocks are things that are important and high impact on your business. We want to try and spend more time in a proactive mind frame working on high impact long-term activities as oppose to reactive activities that are urgent but low impact. Say No. The key to being more proactive is to say no to low impact work, many successful business owners and managers say no to a lot of things that they don't deem important. It is okay to say no sometimes. Evaluate what the impact of the work is before saying yes. There is a difference between important work and urgent matters. Value time. We place so much more value on money than time - we are always hustling away to make money yet it is time that can be taken away from us at any given moment. Cyril opens the book with such a great example of this that really makes you think.

Favourite Quote | 'Think progress not perfection'

Rating | 5/5

Buy It | I have the Kikki K edition which you can buy here or the original edition is available on amazon here.

Have you read this book? Let me know what you thought if you have and leave me suggestions for my next read!

L x

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What I Have Learnt | The Fear

Today I am putting out a post that will probably touch on personal but through many of the conversations I have with new and old friends, I think it is something worth talking (writing/waffling) about. Fear is a tiny word that can have a huge affect on people and when you are launching/running your own business it can be debilitating. 

N.B. I am talking about the kind of internal fear that affects your confidence and ability to make yourself visible - not the kind that engulfs you if you come face to face with a shark or lion so PLEASE GOD do not try and fight that fear - run for your lives (or whatever else Bear Grylls types recommend for these kinds of incidents.)

Three (ish) years ago I packed in my job as a supervisor at a high-end fashion store in Notting Hill wanting to set up a stationery business. And I choked. Big time. I spent a year ‘freelancing’ on the surface but inside I was freaking the eff out frequently. I spent days sleeping and crying with frustrating not knowing what I wanted to do or how to get where I wanted to be… Over this time I slowly went through my savings and basically did nothing, and it was embarrassing. I was embarrassed that I wasn't supporting myself and living off my boyfriend and I was embarrassed that I had no drive at all left in me, the drive that had got me through school, college and university had disappeared and I had no idea how to get it back.

The overwhelm took over me and the fear was uncontrollable. I didn't think I was good enough, I didn't think anyone else would think I was good enough and I certainly had no clue where to start. Even stuff like who to use for printing and on what paper - sent me into a total panic because it was so just too overwhelming. My natural response to feeling any kind of stressful emotion - sadness, anxiety, overwhelm - is to sleep soooooo as you can imagine not much gets done. I pushed away everyone that was trying to help me because I was ashamed and scared of how I was feeling. Yep, that's right - scared of the fear. HOW DOES THAT EVEN WORK GODDAMN. Way too many emotions.

As I am writing this I am sat on a train going up to the midlands to teach at The Handmade Fair for three days. Over the past year, I have taught over 100 people in groups of 10-20 and I love it, I get such a buzz from it, something that shocked me as I am naturally quite shy with people that I don't know. However this weekend I am teaching 100 people IN ONE GO, on three occasions, and I am absolutely terrified. It hasn't been helped by an overly stressful week but I have the hugest knot in my stomach and I am so so so scared that I am going to get up there in front of all these people and freeze. So how do I deal with this? By just doing it, at this point I don't really have a choice anyway I can't back out, but I have to trust my knowledge and my experience and just get up there and teach like I would any other time.

Fear is an emotion that happens to everyone, it's scary but what it does is release the hormone adrenaline which induces the ‘Fight or Flight’ instinct in us so we have options - we can either run away from it (for me this includes curling in a ball and going to sleep) OR we can fight it. Take that fear by the balls and say NO you will not control me I am going to kick your butt (please refer to my note above and please don't do this to an angry shark…swim for your life my friend SWIM). 

It has taken me a really really long time to get to the latter - but after I had my son I had this new found determination, I didn't want or need to do this just for me I needed to do it for him too and it clicked. That is not to say that the fear went away - putting myself out there was still excruciatingly terrifying but I knew that I just had to do it, so I took that fear by the balls put a website out there and released my baby into the world (business baby not real baby that would be terrible parenting). When it comes to business in my opinion and small amount of experience things are rarely as terrible as you think, and my website and brand was greeted by waves of enthusiasm from friends, industry peoples and potential clients. No one laughed at me, no one said are you being serious, no one asked me if it was a joke and no one turned around and said that I was awful and would never make it. All the things I was terrified about didn't happen, and why? Because generally the stuff we get ‘the fear’ about is usually made up in our heads.

Fear will always play a huge part in my life, I know that, especially the kind of anxiety led fear that I get which can stop me wanting to leave the house. But I have realised that when it comes to my business I cannot let it rule me and my decisions because I would never do anything. I get pangs of fear when someone asks me to do something I haven't done before, but then I ask myself why? They are asking me to do something related to my job i.e./ calligraphy not to lead open heart surgery. So WHY am I scared? I have always been able to work things out before and if I can’t I am part of an amazing community and usually at least one superstar in there can help me figure it out.

It’s the unknown that gets the fear amped up but we have to believe that we are a lot more capable than we give ourselves credit for. Whether you have run a business before or not (I haven’t) you will have a wealth of experience to draw on just from doing life. For me I worked in a designer store for four years - I have a huge amount of experience in client communication and giving clients an amazing sales experience, going from a store supervisor to calligrapher might not seem like the most related jump but I draw on this experience daily and I fully believe that it makes me better at my job. 

So to tie this up - as these posts get so long and I really don't want to bore you all to death….

  • Fear is a natural response to the unknown and we don't have to be scared/ashamed of the fact we are feeling it. 
  • Fear can be run away from or faced head on. Do the latter in business, the first if faced with a man-eating beast.
  • The things we are scared of very rarely happen because we have built them up in our heads.
  • Ask yourself WHY your scared…if the answer is ‘because people might hate it’ slap yourself and get on with it. People WON’T hate it and if they do then they are dicks and aren't your market.
  • We are much more capable than we give ourselves credit for.
  • YOU are enough and what you do is amazing so say F you to the fear and get yourself out there.

I hope that maybe this post is in the least bit helpful!

Chat soon! 

L x

Note - I am posting this after the handmade fair which was GREAT! After I got over the horrendous nerves it was absolutely fine and nothing awful happened like I had imagined and I just got on with doing the same thing I do every time I teach. The sense of achievement afterwards was amazing and I felt so proud of myself for doing it. So the proof is in the pudding - the reward for facing the fear can be so rewarding! 

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