I hate to start this post on a downer, but I've got to admit: I've been in a weird business funk the past year, which I think only now I’m starting to come out of. For the past 5 years, I've put all my energy and time into my business. When I started, it was a means to share my creativity and build a community, but it quickly turned into a way of saving up for my first house and creating my own independence, something I craved desperately while living with parents for so long after uni.
When that goal finally became a reality last October, I think, unknowingly, I hit burnout. The excitement of finally achieving such a monumental achievement completely wiped all motivation and foresight for my business. At first, I told myself I deserved a few weeks off as a reward; however, weeks soon turned into months, and before you know it, I just started posting random things every now and then with no real thought behind any of it. Dipping in and out of social media (my main marketing tool) and getting somewhat addicted to TikTok, which when told by my fiancé to stop, I’d make the excuse that it was solely for research purposes. Lol, who am I kidding? With my FYP made up entirely of "Mock the Week" clips and house transformations.
I kind of lost the purpose behind what I was doing but felt so guilty about it. When talking to friends, I started to feel embarrassed about what I did for a living, which I don’t think I ever felt when I first started all those years ago. I mean, I know I wouldn’t have got this far if I had. But for some unknown reason, I carried a little depressive cloud over my head, comparing myself to others: friends with great careers, other businesses, other artists, and it all just became severely overwhelming.
I had business mentors through Prince's Trust, who I just stopped getting in touch with as I didn’t know what to say. Every time I told them my well-thought-out plans and ideas, I’d never follow through with them, which ultimately became embarrassing. Halfway through designing collections, I’d get intense imposter syndrome, secretly uploading new listings to my website with no mention of it on social media or emails as I thought it would be a bother to people or worse go unnoticed.
I’ve never been the best with time management; in fact, I’ve been in talks with my doctor on and off about the possibility of having ADHD, which I won’t go into too much as I know it can be a sensitive topic, especially as I have no diagnosis as of yet. But looking back, I felt like I’d hyper-fixated on my business for all those years, and I grew fearful that I’d lost that addiction for it. I went from spending every weekend drawing new travel prints on my iPad and working through SEO workbooks to having no free weekends left from all the social plans and house renovating. Everything felt like it had to be all in or all out, no middle ground, and having no boss to tell me to stop and reflect, I just beat myself up for my lack of dedication to the business.
Now, I really don’t want this post to come off as a "woe is me" kind of post as I’m extremely grateful for my life and the business I’ve built. I acknowledge I’m so lucky to be able to do what I love for a living and live comfortably with it. However, I’d just like to share this as part of my business journey as I know I won’t be the only one that goes through this. I follow so many other artists/small business journeys online, those of whom I look up to and feel genuine happiness for that they’re succeeding in their dreams. But this is for those of you who have perhaps just started and look up to where those ‘more successful/bigger’ businesses are, or even those of you with the bigger businesses, to realise that if you’re going through a rough patch, you’re not an anomaly. It’s completely normal and expected to feel like that at some part of this process.
Building a business isn’t for everyone, and there may be some days where you have doubts that you have what it takes, but I think you should always give yourself plenty of time to reflect. I bet you’re far more capable than you give yourself credit for; all you’re missing is a little kindness and understanding.
Some things I’ve started to implement which have helped:
- I’ve found networking with local business women’s groups so beneficial for the lack of social interactions I was struggling with.
- Exhibiting at craft markets has also provided that social aspect along with pushing me out of my comfort zone and adding more structure to my business.
- Quality over quantity- planning collections of products rather than drawing/designing on impulse has helped give me a little more structure in my business. Something I’ve only just started to do, so keeping everything crossed that I’ll stick to this new strategy.
- Trying my best not to overwhelm myself, writing ideas down, and not feeling like I have to do every idea ever thought of at the drop of the hat.
- I recently got Patreon to follow some of my favourite creators. I found this helpful as it’s less overwhelming than other social media platforms. I only follow two people at the moment, but I’ve felt more connected, more inspired, and less overwhelmed watching my favourites on there. They offer so much valuable advice/rawness that other platforms can lack a lot of the time.
- My social media engagement doesn't equate to talent as an artist.
- Working on my ego- every new product/artwork is an opportunity to learn something new. By not sharing something purely because I'm scared no-one on Instagram will like it is standing in my own way.
- Self-love and patience. We’re all on our own journey.
To conclude, I’d just like to say I love my business, I love creating art, and I really love that I’ve created my own little art empire all on my own, but I’ve finally come to terms with the fact that this past year, although it’s felt really rough at times, is only a temporary part of my journey. It will improve, and I will achieve everything I set out to achieve with a little more kindness and patience from myself. Although things can feel overwhelming and scary at times, there’s always another day, and sometimes taking yourself out of a situation can be so beneficial to your growth. Getting a part-time job to take the pressure off financially does not mean you’re failing; using Chat GPT to write an Insta caption every now and then does not make you lazy. Just stay kind to yourself, and I promise the rest will follow.
All my love, Hannah X