I'm continuing my 5 year celebration and picking up where I left off on Wednesday...
#4) Be thrifty. When you work for yourself ever dollar you spend on your business is a dollar that comes directly out of your pay. It's simple really. The less money you spend, the more money you have... to pay your student loan, keep the lights on, and eat! The only problem with that is, it takes money to make money. Dang. It. It's quite the conundrum I tell you! So the trick is to propel your business forward while spending as very little as possible. This takes some creativity, but you'd be amazed at what you can accomplish.
In the beginning, I spent hours on the internet searching out the very best prices on paper, frames, packaging, etc. You get the best deals by buying in bulk, but at first it was hard to come up with that much money all at once, so sometimes I had to bite the bullet. Purchasing close to home can help too. Robert found a company that sold display systems out of Memphis so we saved a bundle by going to pick it up rather than having to pay the massive shipping fees on an over-sized item. To squeeze the most profit possible out of my trips to arts and crafts fests, I only attend ones that are close enough to drive to and from in a day, or ones where I have a relative close by resulting in a free place to stay! Speaking of free, now that's how to save money! Facebook lets you set up a business page for free, and after a couple years of paying fees for so-so service, I found a great company offering free website creation (weebly.com, check 'em out!) Vistaprint.com will even give you free business cards and squareup.com will give you a free debit/credit card reader for your smartphone. And of course, then there's the biggest savings of all- I started my business out of my home. I still work from home. It's not always ideal but it's waaaaaaaay less expensive than renting an actual office or storefront. Plus, you can deduct part of your rent and utility bills on your taxes at the end of the year. I realize that not all businesses can be run from home so I'm very grateful that mine can be. It's been a real blessing!
#5) When people try to help you, let them. It was sort of hard at first, accepting so much help from my family and my friends. Every time someone in my family would try to buy something from me I'd say, "Oh, you can just have that." Because I did want them to have it, and it felt weird taking their money. But they were so eager to help me out, happy to really, and very persistent. It's a good thing I finally got over myself because I wouldn't have been able to keep my head above water in the beginning otherwise. I swear my brother would call me and say he really needed a new painting for his living room right about the time my checking account was one trip to Walmart away from being overdrawn. When my car was running on fumes, I'd find a check in the mail from my grandma with a note saying she'd like to order note cards for her entire staff at school. My aunt would actually buy my paintings so she could turn around and donate them to a charity auction. I'm not sure how many Saturdays my sister gave up to come work art festivals with me. She was even willing to miss Ole Miss football games to help me out. My mom probably made more "pity" purchases than anyone, and every single time my dad loaned me his van for a trek to an art festival, the gas tank just happened to be full already. And then there's Robert. What didn't he do? Haul all my stuff around from one art fest to the next? Check. Take a part time job on top of his full time graduate school schedule? Check. Stay up with me all night helping me finish a big wholesale order? Check. Eat Hamburger Helper and a slice of Wonder bread for dinner practically every night for the first two years of our marriage? Check. I may technically only claim one employee on my taxes (myself) but I've certainly been blessed with a lot of help!
#6) Trust in the Lord with all your heart. Proverbs 3: 5. This is the most important thing of all. And really what got me through a million times of doubt and worry. No matter how uncertain things seemed or how unsure I was of my choices I could always pray about it until I'd fully reminded myself that God was in control and everything was going to be all right. Like it'd all work out, you know? I remember once, way back in the very beginning I had a bunch of my paintings hanging in a bar in Oxford. One day I got a phone call from the bar owner saying someone had just come in an purchased all of my paintings. All of them. He had a check waiting for me for over $500. I hung up the phone and started to cry. It was exactly the amount I needed to pay the rent that was due in 2 days. I guess I'll never know who that person was that bought all those paintings, but for me, on that day, it had to have been an angel sent from heaven.
So there you have it. A sort of synopsis of how I got this whole gig started and what I've been doing these past 5 years. If there's something you've been thinking about doing- running a marathon, starting a business, going to Paris, becoming an artist!, learning to sail, whatever- I hope you go for it! I'm a firm believer in where there's a will, there's a way. Personally, I plan on continuing down this same road and seeing what mistakes I can make and things I can learn over the next 5 years. There's no telling...