Walk with me, every step of the way as i try to grow my teeny craft business into something sustainable… watch this space!

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A Tidy Studio, A Tidy Mind

As I mentioned last week, it took me quite a while to settle back into my routine. I think a lot of getting ‘back into it’ was a big old fashioned tidy up. Over the last couple of months my studio has really turned from ‘craft room’ into ‘working space’, I am in it every day, & the supplies I need to survive in my day to day business have been increasing (and it’s always cheaper to buy in bulk) so I have been buying more and using more without changing the look or storage capabilities of the room. The lack of shelving was really getting to me, making me feel claustrophobic, especially as I save boxes as packaging for wholesale shop orders… they were starting to creep up the walls, and I was using the floor more and more for storage… and don’t even get me started on the crap that has lived under my desk for the past two years. As they say- Out of sight, out of mind.

Before and After shots under my desk. Now there is room for the things that are supposed to go there: Feet.

Before & after shots under my desk. Now there is room for the things that are supposed to go there, like feet.

Enter my new shelving, and a solid week of organisation. Just what the doctor ordered. I went through everything in my studio with a fine tooth comb. If it wasn’t going to be useful it had to go. If I was going to keep it, it had to be accessible, which was my last storage solution‘s problem. Yes it looked great, and technically fitted everything I needed… but each time I used something from it I pulled it out and put it down on my desk, where it would stay, until the desk was full (two deep usually) and then I’d use the nearest chair, floor, or balance it on my knee. Not a good way to do business really…

Before and After shots of my ex 'Wall of Doom' transformed into 'Wall of organisation and labelling'...

Before and after shots of my ex ‘Wall of doom’ transformed into ‘Wall of organisation and labelling’…

To the casual observer my new shelving might look as ugly, busy and messy as my previous disaster wall. However I know where everything is, it is all easy to pull out and put back (not like the previous set up which needed an excavation team to get into and out of again). I know what you’re thinking- It’s so big! It’s so tall! Why are there so many boxes on the top? Well reader, those are empty, and for packaging up wholesale orders; they don’t seem so bad now do they?


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Letting go of the Holidays- The slow beginning to 2014

When I decided to quit my job and become self-employed full-time it was a whirlwind of busy. I quit, got married, went on honeymoon then got home and threw myself into it 100% from day one. I was originally worried about self motivation, time management, and most importantly… getting up in the morning. I was worried I would sleep the day away, surf the net, be lazy, go shopping, see friends… and not do the necessary knuckling down to get stuff done. To my delight the opposite was true. Last year I worked harder than I ever have, I worked long days, I pushed myself and I worked – longer hours than I imagined, structured days, timetabled weeks. I learnt HEAPS, made new connections, got stocked at new shops, launched two new brands and… as you can imagine, was a bit exhausted.

When my husband and I decided to go away for a week over Christmas I thought it would be stressful preparing, December is the busiest month of the year after all, was it a good idea in my first year of self employment going away? I wrote lists, I filled orders, I made sure all the brick and mortar shops I stock were full. Multiple customer orders (via Etsy, Felt, email and Facebook) came in every day, and I was able to fill them easily as I was busy through winter making stock for just this reason. The closer it got to Christmas, the week I was worried about taking off, the calmer everything became and I had a lovely time. Totally the opposite of what I was expecting. I had never thought about it that hard, and of course shop wholesale orders slow down closer to the big day, as stuff needs to be in store well beforehand in order to sell, and online customer orders slow down as shipping time is an important factor. Imagine my surprise that my busiest Christmas to date, my first as a self-employed maker, was also my most relaxing, my calmest.

Open Book by Elizabeth Mayville

Open Book by Elizabeth Mayville

The week before Christmas I put my online shops on ‘holiday mode’ and tidied my studio. My plan of attack for 2014 slowly formed in my head and new collections, ideas and promotions slowly swirled and came slowly into focus.

Then we flew North, for a week of reading in the sun, drinking beer and sleeping in. It was bliss. I took my workbook with me, and some printed out calendar months, thinking I would start writing down my plan of attack for 2014 while there… but instead, I didn’t. I relaxed, truly relaxed, for the first time in over a year. No work talk, no work planning. No making of any kind. I love my job, I love what I do… but it was WONDERFUL. Thanks to Facebook’s new ‘scheduling’ function I didn’t go online for the better part of the week either, which was a new kind of bliss I never could have imagined.

When we got back I decided to give myself one more week off, as my husband still had a week of leave left. We relaxed a bit more, caught up on some chores replied to pressing emails and pottered in my studio when I felt like it…

A week into January Lindsay (my husband) went back to work, so I decided I would too. I had a handful of customer and shop orders in my inbox so attended to them first. I used some of the $$ made from holiday sales to buy in bulk all the necessary packaging and findings to see me through till (hopefully) mid year, then when I was finished with all of that, I treated myself to a half day and read in the sun.

Every day that week went a little like that. Sleep in, a bit of work, a bit of play, a bit more work, finish early. It had gotten to the point where I was getting worried that I may have lost my momentum from last year. My productivity was out the window… even though I was filling orders I wasn’t moving forward with anything new… paper work had gone completely by the way side too. Till late last week. It took a whole month of chipping away at it, but finally I’m back to some kind of routine. Who knew it would be such a relief, almost better than the holiday… knowing I’ve pulled it together. Must try harder next year…


Fake It Till You Make It

The week before last I talked about how, what I wear and when I get up affects how I work. The gist was; it doesn’t. In my three months of self employment I have never had a problem with motivation, keeping busy or keeping focussed. Yet by writing that simple blog post I seem to have jinxed myself in some horrible way.

It's all or nothing...

It’s all or nothing…

To be fair, a couple of things happened simultaneously, not just the bad luck that comes with professing your own awesomeness publicly. I completed my To Do List. A mental list which, along the way, has taken at least 50 physical paper states and just as many digital. A list I started this time last year, that’s right a year long list… because that’s how I roll, apparently. Since the inception of this list I have been flat out, luckily for me I’ve never been particularly good at sitting still anyway, especially when there is a lot to do. Last June/ July I started wedding planning, which continued on through till October when the Christmas rush started and took over most of my focus (at both my full time day job and my Jewellery business) – this went on, as you’d imagine, till late December. Then there was actual Christmas, New Years, wedding planning was of course still ticking away in the background while all this was happening. January was full of the stress involved in deciding to, and then actually, quitting my 9-5 job. February was making sure all the shops I deal with had enough stock as I was about to go away, finishing up my day job, and jumping head first into the idea of self employment… but first I decided to add a huge dollop of stress to the equation of doing so by spending all my savings on… March, the wedding and all the related stress and good times that go along with such an occasion, then a two month honeymoon in Asia. While (don’t get me wrong) the honeymoon was great fun and relaxing for the most part we did it more like backpackers than normal honeymooners, so there were many logistics to organise, travelling, culture shock, new food, even when it was good… there was always something going on to think about and keep us busy. In May when we got back I started on the Jewellery related list that had been niggling un-resolved since August when I stopped having time for such things, contacting shops, taking new product shots, starting on some new lines, re-opening my Etsy shop, new packaging & logo design, getting a Facebook routine, opening a Pinterest account, starting a Blog, doing tax, getting a handle on accounting.. the list was endless… and I chipped away at it in some way every waking hour, every day of the week.

Two Thursdays ago I got up and realised I had nothing ‘To Do’. Don’t get me wrong, there is ALWAYS something to do in a business like this, and I still have many ideas sketched out, or things on the back burner. But for the first time since this time last year I felt like I deserved a day off, so I went back to bed.

It was a great day! I read, relaxed and stayed warm. I met a friend for a drink in the afternoon and then another for a big catch up in the evening (many beers followed).

The next day I was hungover, I slept in a wee bit. When I got up I had no direction… no purpose… I procrastinated finding something useful to do. Then the doubt set in, the ‘can I really do this’ moment we all have from time to time. It’s winter, it’s a slow time of year… nothing much sells in winter, bank levels dip as does confidence. What to do in the quiet months is an endless battle with your internal voice- ‘Make more stock, you’ll need it come the busy season when you’ll have no time to make it’ fights with ‘I have so much stock, no one will ever buy it all’. Being able to quell that inner voice, to busy it with next season’s products, getting a handle on accounts, a new project… is key. Fake it till you make it they say… I say let’s make another ‘To Do list’!

Hmmm, they might be on to something!

Hmmm, they might be on to something!

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The Kitchen Conundrum

Time management is hard for everyone, especially if you are self employed and working from home. So many distractions at your fingertips, be them “work” related like Pinterest *ahem*, computers, TV’s or kitchens to tempt us…

We’ve all been there, when we’re at home for too long, we inevitably will end up in the kitchen. You ALL know what I am talking about.

It could be because you’re bored or maybe procrastinating. You get up from what you’re doing and before you know it you are standing in front of the fridge, you aren’t really hungry but it’s there… so you open the door. You stare for a while, close the door. Maybe you open it again, convincing yourself you are hungry, maybe you actually pull something out to eat (even though you aren’t hungry). Maybe you actually ARE hungry and you’re there for a purpose… but when you are home for long periods of time you always end up at the fridge, it just seems to be human nature.

When I became self employed the prospect of working from home (literally from home as that is where my studio is located) worried me far more than working for myself. Of the many fears I had the one I couldn’t shake was the fear of ending up in front of the fridge, every day. I have always loved food, food and I have a good relationship… I like to eat it and it likes me to be eaten by me- win, win.  I mean food! What’s not to love? As long as I can remember I had been as beholden to random trips to the fridge as the next person… so what would it be like being home, just me and the fridge, all the time. Would I need a poking stick by the end of the first month?

"The fingers you have used to dial are too fat. To obtain a special dialing wand please mash the key pad with your palm now"

“The fingers you have used to dial are too fat. To obtain a special dialing wand please mash the key pad with your palm now”

Luckily for me all the little bits and pieces whizzing through my head as a newly self employed person makes my mind wander, which (so far) has taken the power my stomach had over my feet away. Instead I find myself standing in the kitchen not knowing why I am there. Our kitchen and lounge are connected and open plan style so I will often go to the lounge to get something I have left there and find myself standing in the kitchen with no idea why I’m there. I’ll notice the bench needs a wipe and before you know it the kitchen is clean, or I’ve started the dishes and lost half an hour. Not once have a stood in front of the fridge though… staring blankly into space… not yet…

What is it about the kitchen that draws us in? We know the contents of the fridge have not changed in the last hour… and yet we go back, again and again…

For now, I am thankful that my full, forgetful brain seems to be giving me a break from eating everything in sight… or maybe it’s that as a newbie to self employed life I don’t have that much money to buy food so I can list the contents of my fridge on one hand, subconsciously, and know without getting up that if I succumbed to the above ‘kitchen conundrum’ I would end up eating mustard off a spoon… not a snack I relish*… yeah, that must be it…

Not what i had in mind when i got married, or started working from home... also luckily not at all what i look like cleaning... or ever...

Not what i had in mind when i got married, or started working from home… also luckily not at all what i look like cleaning… or ever…

*Or relish off a spoon. This is a no condiment off a spoon house. Yuck.