Success Stories

I love reading success stories.  Even when I was a teenager searching for which direction my life might take, I sought out success stories: the meaning in other people’s lives, how they got to where they were at that moment in time.  In a previous blog, I had a collection of Etsy’s Quit Your Day Job stories, unfortunately they were lost when I neglected the blog too long.  With this new blog, I decided to recreate the topic and went on a search for stories to include along with my truncated stories from Etsy.

TED Talks – What Makes You Happy 
What I found in my new research is disheartening.  Many stories focus on how to break into a particular field, and while it’s possible to take the advice of a pet photographer and apply it to photographing children, the advice isn’t applicable to other ventures.  Taking dog training classes is irrelevant if you’re baking cupcakes or designing pillows.  I found suggestions that involve investors, mentors, attending seminars… Having been involved in the handmade community for 15 years, I know first hand that much of this advice is out of reach for most artisans and crafters who want to take the next step with their hobbies.  Taking a cross-country road trip for inspiration (yes, someone gave this as advice in their interview) is also out of the question.  As micro-business owners, we are B-U-S-Y.  We are juggling more hats than we can handle as it is, so there is no time in the schedule to go for a long drive, other than our drive to succeed with our dreams.
Here are some of the tips I collected that are relevant and applicable to many handmade businesses:
  • Research, learn, study…  All the information you need is free online, it just takes time to track it down.  When you’ve exhausted this resource, you still might want to take classes to continue growing (ie metal working, sewing)
  • When looking for inspiration, step out of your comfort zone and see what else is going on in the world.
  • Start now. Don’t wait for your dreams to come to you.  Whether you start small are take a giant leap of faith, just get started.
  • Ask for help when you need it.  If you now someone who can build a website, ask if they’ll give some tips.  Have a bookkeeper in your network?  Hit her up for some advice.  If you’d feel better paying for assistance but lack the funds, barter skills.  Not sure what to trade – ask if they need a babysitter or you could run a few errands for them.
  • Believe in yourself.  If you don’t, then who else will?
  • Use criticism to your advantage.  Sometimes another person’s opinion can help improve your technique or steer you in a direction you hadn’t thought about.

Advice I wouldn’t give:

  • Go all in.  This is doesn’t work for everyone, so don’t feel you have to go down this path.  Most “makers” would love to quit their day job and devote every moment of their day to creating, but in today’s economy, it can be foolish to take this chance.  Some things take time to learn, so taking things slow can be the right decision.
  • Chase every opportunity.  You could end up down a road paved in gold that you wouldn’t have found on your own, but chances are greater that you’ll end up wasting time and resources that would have been better spent if you had stayed focused.  Think long and hard before heading in a different direction.
  • Don’t be afraid to share your dreams with your loved ones.  Sometimes, it’s better to keep your crazy ideas to yourself than to have someone smash them to bits.  Be selective who you talk to and make sure they will be supportive and encouraging.  If the creator of the Pet Rock had told the wrong person what he was thinking…. (It actually started as a joke made to friends, but you get the idea.)

In the end, you’ll never know unless you try it so take a cleansing breath and jump in.