How’re you? I’m back from my mini sabbatical week this week and have lots to share with you!
For those of you who are new to my blog, welcome! 🙂 I take every 7th week off from my regular work to step back and do things I don’t normally get to do, like learning new skills and pursue my other creative passions. (You can learn more about where the idea came from here.) I write a blog post about my sabbatical week afterwards to share what I did with you. It’s helpful for me to reflect on my sabbatical, and it also helps me to hold myself accountable to actually take the regular time off!
Since I’d just taken a few days off over the holidays, I wasn’t too much in need of relaxation/vegging out time. Instead, I focused my time and energy on learning, business planning, and organizing.
Here is a few highlights of what I’ve done!
1) Future Planning & Refocusing My Business Goals
It’s been almost 6 months since I quit my day job (hooray!), and I’m now beginning to realize I need to tweak my strategy for my art business, Honeyberry Studios. My strategies have been to work hard, do more of what I’m good at, and put myself out there consistently and see what sticks. Yes, I’ve been getting exciting opportunities by doing these things, and my business is growing for sure. But I knew I needed a clear focus to take my business to the next level.
I had a privilege of having a mini coaching session with Cassie from Modern Thrive (and Maker Mentors) the previous week. By the way, both organizations offer very practical professional development resources for creative people, and I’ve taken a few of their workshops before. I’m currently signed up for their One Year to Build a Better Business free training and Cassie had offered limited number of coaching sessions to the training participants. (FYI – She normally doesn’t do individual coaching, so you won’t see it offered on her sites.)
Anyway, during our coaching session, she went right in to the heart of the matter: my business lacks focus. I sell physical products. I do commission work. I write a self-help blog. And now I’m starting a coaching practice! It was definitely an elephant in the room I was trying to ignore for a while.
She suggested I pick one thing and focus on that first. And once that one thing starts to bring in enough income, then I can start to expand.
I’d heard that message over and over from different sources before, but I was so close to everything I was doing and was in denial about it until then. But as I was hearing that from Cassie, it finally clicked with me. I was in the right place to really listen and understand that I needed to niche down to be more successful.
Of course I had a mini panic to think I had to just pick one thing and go with it. The reason why I’ve been doing many things is because I’m good at them and like doing them!
I’m sure many of you can understand the fear of just focusing on one thing as most creative people have more than one passion and talent… Am I gonna be bored? What if I choose a wrong thing to focus on? But then people won’t know I’m good at other things, too! Ahhhhh!!
Whenever I’m faced with difficult situations, I usually freak out a little bit. Then I calm down and start processing more logically about what’s going on and figure out the next steps.
For this situation, I freaked out thinking I needed to do a major course correction for my business, pre-mourning the loss of things I don’t get to pursue, and then began to feel hopeful that having a clear focus is going to help me be more successful.
Cassie asked what I wanted to focus on. I thought for a minute. If I had to choose one thing, what would it be? I answered, it’d be working on my illustrated products.
If I’m truly being honest with myself, commission/client work is not my first choice even though it helps with the cash flow the most. There is often a lot of back and forth with the client, and it takes a lot of energy to create something that meets their goals while accomplishing my vision for the project. It can be really stressful. I think part of the problem is that I’m not charging enough… But that’s another story!
Going back to my preference to focus on products – although it’ll take longer to make a profit from selling products compared to doing commission work, and there is a lot of work involved in having a successful product based business, I’d much rather be directing my own creative vision and how my voice and values are reflected on what I provide for my customers.
Just to clarify, and I was happy to hear this from Cassie, too, it doesn’t mean that I’ll quit everything else I’m doing now (i.g. blog, teaching, coaching etc). I’ll still keep my other ventures going on the side to continue to build a community and to bring in supplemental income. I just need to put most of my time and resources into building a successful product business this year. And when I say product business, I’m talking about growing my Etsy shop (e.g. greeting cards, art prints, and stationery), mostly!
I’ll also be shifting the focus of this blog a little bit. I’ve been focused so much on providing contents to help other artists with creativity and motivation this past year. AND I’ll definitely continue to provide the same, helpful contents because that’s my passion, and I won’t be fulfilled if I let that go completely.
The future of my blog is actually very exciting! I’m envisioning my blog to become a channel to bring you even more creative inspirations in the coming year! You’ll definitely be seeing my posts more often, and I’ll be sharing more behind the scenes creative process, new products and services to inspire a creative lifestyle, and things I learn along the way!
Though unknowns are always a bit uncomfortable, I’m feeling grateful to have a clearer direction for my creative business. I hope you’ll enjoy learning different aspects of my creative life on my future blog! 🙂
2) Learning Opportunities
Another thing I did during my sabbatical week is to learn! I participated in a few really great learning opportunities.
- I participated in the Money Management for Creative Types webinar with Melanie Lockert of Dear Debt. I’m not bad with money and am generally frugal, but I’m not super comfortable with money, either. Numbers just don’t excite me. But this is one of the things I needed to have a better grasp on in order for me to grow my business, and the workshop was awesome! Melanie shared a ton of practical tips and tools on how to manage your finances and increase your income. I feel more confident about my money management skills now!
- As I mentioned earlier, I’d signed up for the Building a Better Business free one-year training with Maker Mentors. We receive one email every week for a year with assignments and challenges to help our creative business grow. I worked on the challenge from the first week, which was to create a business plan! The timing was perfect as I was recalibrating my business focus, so I spent quite a bit of time working on that. I still need to refine it, but it gave me a good place to start.
- OK, the universe does send you messages and nudge you in the right direction, doesn’t she? As soon as I had my conversation with Cassie about shifting my focus to product-based business, I saw a Facebook ad about this free video training about how to build a successful handmade business with Renae Christine. I immediately signed up and devoured her contents as I received her videos in 3 parts. The videos were short and sweet and packed full of helpful information!! I took a bunch of notes but need to go back many times for sure.
I always feel energized and pumped after great trainings and webinars. Now off to put into practice what I’ve learned!!
3) Office Purge
I confess. I’m not a very organized person. My physical space that is. Like crunching numbers, I’m just not excited about organizing stuff. I organize my working space every once in a while but it doesn’t stay clean for very long. I like to have things around where I can see, and it gets cluttered pretty quickly.
I’m often envious of other people’s beautiful minimalist studio spaces I see on the internet. I kinda like having a little bit of clutter though (I get inspired by the little things I have!) and don’t think I’ll ever have a super clean studio. But my space had become less functional over time, and I recruited my husband Dave to help me with an office purge. Dave, unlike me, grew up in a very OCD household and gets energized about organizing things! Talk about a perfect match 🙂 So we scheduled a purge date during my sabbatical week and got to work.
My ultimate goal was to organize my “art shelf” that is right by my desk in our shared home office. It was so packed, and things were kept in random places, and I often couldn’t find what I needed. We had stuff piled in front of the shelf, too, so it was very hard to get to things on the bottom two shelves. It was definitely not helping me to be creative!
On Monday, we spent several hours going through everything on the shelf. Dave helped me to assess what I need to have on the shelf vs. what could be stored elsewhere. We reorganized our storage room to make room for extra supplies, threw some things away, and took the rest to Goodwill.
Here is my before and after photo!
OK, maybe it still doesn’t look totally organized :D, but believe me, it’s 100 times more functional! I want to get nicer bins and boxes for my tools and products eventually, but for now, this will do! Things are much more organized and easy to access, and I feel spacious. Breathe.
We only tackled this one area in the office in one day and talked about scheduling a regular purge session to tackle other parts of our house. Sounds good to me! I like taking baby steps 🙂
There you have it! That’s what I did on my sabbatical week. As you can see, I did a lot of planning, learning, and organizing, which was just what I needed. Even though it may not seem like a relaxing week off, I’m really fired up and energized about the direction my business is taking this year!
Looking forward to sharing more with you as things progress! Thanks for being on this ride with me 🙂