Learn from My Mistakes! 5 Tips for Small Creative Businesses.

I am celebrating just over 2 years since I posted my first Studio Vlog on Youtube and began documenting my journey in building an illustration business.

Now 2 years on, I've decided to sit down and make a list of the mistakes I think I've made on my short journey. Things that I wish I could go back and implement, or maybe I could go back and NOT do.

I've put together 5 tips, based on these mistakes, in the hope that it can help you. Whether you've been in business 5 years, 5 months or 5 minutes. So lets go...

Label saying What do you want?
A notepad featuring a Fairy Godmother character by Emily Harvey Art
One of my new notepads featuring my character.

All of us have an idea of what we want to do when starting a small creative business. I knew I wanted to be an illustrator and eventually open an online shop selling products with my drawings on.

Along the way, I found myself getting distracted on social media, looking at trends and ultimately going off course to follow what works for other.

I absolutely love drawing characters however over time I changed to producing more text based products. I can only put this down to following amazing creators online who were doing the same. Although I love those products and still have them in my shop, it's definitely not what I originally dreamed of doing.

So my advice is, write down your dreams and goals. Stick it on your wall and work towards it and try not to be influenced too much by what others are doing. Focus on what YOU want! I'm now creating products with my characters on and I am so happy to be doing it!

Label saying Learn to Say No.
Emily holding a rubber saying the word Nope.

One of my favourite sayings is, 'You can be a kind person, and still say no.'

It is so so true. A big mistake I've made over the years is not putting myself and my mental health first. For a long time I really didn't like doing illustrated family portraits. It used to fill me with dread and I wouldn't sleep. Instead of saying no when a request came in, the people pleaser in me would say, Yes of course! Why did I do that?

The day I decided to say no, was like a weight was lifted. If you don't enjoy doing something and if it takes you away from things you love, don't do it.

Over the past 2 years I have really grown a community on Instagram. I've gone from 1.5k followers to over 15k. Its been insanely wonderful and Im so grateful for that platform.

One mistake I have made though is relying too much on that one app. If Instagram would have disappeared last year, or my account was deleted for any reason, my business would have come crashing down.

When I realised this, I instantly started to come up with ways to have a back up plan. Now I'm not saying use every app out there, that wont work. But start to think of ways you can interact with your customers. One example I have put in place is growing a mailing list!

It can be so easy to implement and just means if any app goes down, you still have customers there to update and share with!

If you want to join my mailing list, you can! Click below :)

Emily drawing Tiana from Princess and the Frog on her Huion tablet.

Okay so we all want to get better, develop our skills and master our craft. But how many of us actually block time in our diary to do it. I never did. I had a list of things I wanted to learn and told myself, one day I will actually work on it. Again, I never did.

I've actually spent lots of £££ on different courses in SEO, photography, Pinterest and just not put the work in. It's almost like by buying the course I think Im solving the problem.

Start to block out time in your diary every week to working on your skills. It is as important as everything else in your business. This is one Im definitely still trying to work on.

No matter where you are on your business journey I really recommend you start putting money aside when income comes in. I fell into the trap of thinking, what's the point, when first starting out.

In the first year I was making little to no money, and told myself I wont need to pay tax so why save any money. The problem with that thinking is, you keep thinking that way as your business starts to grow.

I've just completed a tax return, and for the first time I have made a decent profit. Its so exciting for me and my business. Because of how tax payments work in the UK, I have to pay tax for last year and I have to pay half of next years. So that is one big bill I have. Sadly, last year I didn't put any money aside because I still had the same mindset.

Its such a huge mistake that I am now paying for!

A screenshot of my tax pot.

Start small, maybe put 5-10% in a separate account when money comes in. It will add up and be really helpful! Even if you don't need to pay tax at the end of the year, you could treat yourself with that little bit of savings.

If your business does take off quickly, which I hope it does, you have this habit in place!

I now have a Monzo business account which puts 20% of my income in a tax pot which is so handy!

I hope these 5 tips have been helpful to you and I hope you can learn from the mistakes I have made!

I'm sure I have many more mistakes to come and I will make sure to share them.

Speak soon!

E x

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