The nature of running a business is being a bit like a gambler I imagine in many ways. I've done so many craft fairs over the years and each time I set out I'm thinking 'this will be great, I'll make lots of sales and get my name out there'.Over time, I've honed my selection of fairs quite well so I'm generally pretty happy heading home, but that wasn't always the case. There were so many where I sold practically nothing and barely covered the cost of the stall - and that's not even counting time and energy and petrol and food. It's completely soul destroying and yet you pick yourself up and head to the next one with the same optimism. I suppose it's a hope and belief in what you are doing that keeps you going.
For me that has been the case anyway. I'm very passionate about what I do and the ethos and quality of my candles is something I'm very proud of but when that doesn't translate to sales, it's hard to keep the energy going. I started the year well and in my head I know that it balances out over the whole year but having a month of zero sales has really dampened my enthusiasm. Current thoughts in my head are:
'There are a million other candle makers. I just can't compete.'
'People just don't like my candles particularly.'
'I don't have what it takes.'
'Why am I putting so much work into something that isn't working?'
I know that all that thinking could change in a flash. I could get a shop order or an online sale that would pick me right up but just in this moment, it's a struggle. I realised a long time ago that I want to keep my business small, I'm not hugely interested in becoming a manufacturer. I want to be able to offer the quality and customer service that I like to get from other businesses and for me, that means keeping things to a certain level and I'm happy with that. On the other hand, having customers is pretty essential :)
I guess that it's also the amount of work involved and feeling that it has to be validated with making some money. My candles are all hand poured in small batches and require a good few hours to complete a small batch. They then have to be packaged and labelled and left to cure. Then they have to be photographed and photos edited and added to shop and social media. Social media in itself is a daily task for me. I try to make my photos as good as I can and I'm currently doing a photography course with a view to improving the quality even more. So I spend a lot of time trying to get photos right and it's also important to me to interact with others on social media because I like to support other small businesses.
I do it because I love it and it gives me a focus and an outlet for my talents that I wouldn't otherwise have but it's a business, not a hobby.
That's where the problem lies, I guess. It's that feeling of 'how can I justify all this time and work if I'm not getting a return?'
But even as I write this I'm starting to feel better, the wonderful thing about writing is putting all the negative thoughts outside your head instead of having them swirling around doing damage in there.
I know that things will turn around, this is always a quiet time of year for me and I have to remember all the lovely customers who have connected with me online or in person, the people who 'get' what I do and give me a reason to keep doing it.
Does anyone else feel like this from time to time? I'd love to hear your thoughts if you have a small business. How do you deal with the 'down' times?
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