January 2018 Guest Post: Ashley from Gatsby & Ink
I'm not exactly sure when I started following Ashley from Gatsby & Ink on Instagram, but I AM sure it was either because 1) her A.DOR.A.BLE. pup 2) her hand lettered goods are so beautifully done or (the most likely option here) 3) both 1 & 2! I was really excited when Ashley pitched doing a guest blog post about her business and what she's learned because we have not had any guests use a similar topic yet! One of the reasons I started doing monthly guests was to bring diverse topics and views to my audience! So I'm really pumped to have Ashley as the FIRST guest of 2018, and the first guest to talk about her hustle!! From the sounds of it, Ashley has some really great insights on owning and operating her own business, and has some real-life, honest, and to-the-point advice to share! Even though my blog isn't technically a "business", I still felt like a lot of what Ashley had to say applied to me and my first year of blogging (and still today, too!) I hope you enjoy Ashley's post, and make sure to follow her on Instagram and "favorite" her Etsy shop!! Thanks again Ashley for being so flexible and for writing a wonderful guest post for letters from a Good friend!!! -Alix
Hello readers I have hijacked Letters from a Good Friend! I’m Ashley, owner of Gatsby and Ink, a lettered goods and apparel shop. I live in Wisconsin with my husband and adorable but grumpy corgi-mix. Yes it is cold here and you should definitely feel sorry for me.
I started following Alix because dogs + RV adventures = life goals. When she posted looking for guest writers I jumped at the opportunity because I suck at starting my own blog (coming soon, I swear…) And also because I’d love to help other women who are interested in starting a side business -- or even your own full-time business for those of you that are overachievers.
I won’t be telling you practical things like how to navigate SEO or do your taxes and all that wonderful stuff. What I am going to share are a few things I wish I had known when first taking lettering from a fun hobby to a side gig that actually generates income.
Huge disclaimer: I am in no way an expert at starting a side gig. In fact, I am probably an expert in how “not” to go about starting a new business. Lucky for you that means I’ve learned many lessons so that you don’t have to… which leads me to my first and most important piece of advice:
You’re going to make mistakes
This seems obvious, but hey, no one took me by the hand and explicitly told me that I was going to screw up. When I first started designing mugs I didn’t have a good grasp of the printing process, and instead of ordering a sample mug from my drop shipper, I had it shipped right to a customer (without ever seeing the product myself.) The print sucked, and I refunded the customer right away. I thought this is it, I failed! But much to my surprise the customer wanted to reorder the mug when I fixed the print. So it wasn’t exactly the end of the world. (Until my next mistake.)
No matter what you’re selling -- products, crafts, or services, something is going to go wrong. Don’t let it discourage you, it’s part of the process. Fix it, make it right, and move on.
Just do SOMETHING
The hardest part is starting. And then after that the hardest part is to keep going. Some days you won’t have any idea where you’re going with this -- is it a hobby? Is it a legitimate business? Am I just trying to justify all the hours I spend on instagram by having a business account?
The best piece of advice I’ve heard is “just do SOMETHING.” Whether that means taking product photos, researching your target market, or playing around with your website content, just pick something and do it. If you don’t know what to do there’s plenty of women you can follow that will inspire you...and speaking of…
Stalk other business owners
@JennaKutcher is full of resources, has extremely informative webinars and hosts the Goal Digger Podcast that will make you get off your butt and do SOMETHING.
@ChalkfullofLove not only has an amazing shop of her own, but she created a Shop Guide to help other people start their own hand lettering/creative shops. She is also constantly interacting with her followers and is overall just a great brand to follow.
No matter what you’re interested in, there’s people out there paving the way and sharing their journey. And by the way…
It’s going to be a rollercoaster
One of the most relatable things I’ve ever seen is this gem by @JennaKutcher.
This is literally my everyday life. I can go from “yay I’m actually doing this” to “oh my god what was I thinking, I’m questioning my entire existence” in about 20 seconds flat. And it just cycles over and over again. I haven’t figured this one out, but judging by the comments on this image it’s entirely normal. So you’re not alone, there’s a bunch of other people out there who feel just as crazy as you do.
Scaling your business takes time
I have grown my business s-l-o-w-l-y. The first month I opened my shop I had two products and I got maybe three orders. I shipped them out in expensive boxes I bought from Target (rookie mistake) and then added a few more designs. With minimal effort on my part a few more orders sporadically came in over the next few months.
I finally got my act together and just as I figured out how to get my designs on products like apparel, the Christmas rush happened. Nothing is more motivating in sales than that November to December time period where everyone is maxing out their credit cards. Since then I have spent a lot of time learning how to scale my business, and one thing I’ve learned is that in order to deliver a product/service you’re proud of you may have to move slower than you’d like. And once you’re ready to commit for the long haul…
You can start a business with very minimal upfront costs (which is what I did.) But eventually I hit a point where I needed to invest some of the profit I was making in order to grow. Shipping supplies in bulk, branded packaging and @Chalkfulloflove’s Shop Guide are some of the investments that I’ve made. Yes, it’s hard to sink your profits right back into your business instead of buying the entire Hearth & Hand line at Target. But you won’t have to do it every month, and it will help you in the long run.
Whether you’re thinking about starting a side gig, or staring at your computer wondering what you got yourself into, I hope these little nuggets from my experience can help you along the way!