2017 Round Up
Happy New Year, readers!
To say that 2017 was a year of change is an understatement. It was a whirlwind: we hired an assistant, launched products, got into the community market business, and kept the custom hustle going. If you've been following me/our PfK instagram account for some time (Thank you!), you may have noticed the degree in which we've grown, changed courses, and so forth. If you haven't, here's a quick timeline:
With each event, project, and milestone, there were always lessons learned. Some lessons are harder than others, but all are valuable. Here are a few things that I've learned:
1. Find the balance between the creative department and the sales department
If I were to tell you that every idea that I've had has made it into production, and every painting has made it into a product, I'd be lying. Soon after we launched our first four greeting cards for Valentine's Day, I made a list of ideas of future products, projects, collaborations, etc. If you know me in real life, you know that once I have an idea, I don't just run - I sprint. Sometimes sprinting gets me into trouble; the idea may be really cool and the end product may also be neat, but they won't do very well in terms of sales.
Here's an example: A few days after Valentine's, Spotify flooded my feed with '00-era Greenday, Bowling for Soup, and more. It took me back to high school days, riding the bus with my best friend, sharing headphones so that we can both listen to the new Dashboard Confessional CD. Then I thought, these would make cool postcards! Better yet, what if they were a series of black-paper postcards with white stamped song lyrics? I sprinted - gathered up black paper, bought white ink pads, and spent the next few days stamping words on paper.
Two days later, I looked at my stack of ink-stamped song lyrics and realized - this won't sell. While it's great to have creative bursts like these, sometimes you need to step back and ask yourself: does this fit with the brand? The answer to this was no. As interesting as the outcome may be, the aesthetic and the content of the product doesn't fit the brand aesthetic - and truth be told, if I did release these products, it would hurt the brand rather than boost it.
Today, some of these of ink-stamped song lyrics live in my office. Some have made it into the homes and offices of friends. I don't think you'll see them as they are in our shop in the near future - but perhaps in other modes.
2. Structure is key
While it's fun to make art, having a structure is, in my humble opinion, what differentiates art from a hobby to a business. While many of us who made the jump into creative hustles from corporate environments did so to leave the structured, type-A atmosphere, I've learned that some of the most successful creative businesses have rigid structures in place that ensures that the creative aspects actually become the most valuable portion of the business. Let me explain.
Have you ever liked a brand, or a product, but you've sought for an alternative to said brand/product because their customer service is less-than-pleasant? Supporting parts of a creative business consist of building relationships, client communication/customer service, budgeting, perfecting logistics, and ensuring quality production. These supporting parts do just that - support. Support is just as important, and often times, they can be more important than the final product itself. Simply put - even when your product is the best thing since sliced bread, if your supporting parts are weak, the whole thing falls apart.
Having a schedule, making sure that you respond to email, meeting deadlines, and having a humble and generally good attitude are these structural components that will separate you from the competition. As technology advances, we are becoming more transparent, and businesses (especially small ones) are judged not only on their final products - but who, what, where, why, and how these products are made. Be sure your supporting parts are just as top-notch as your final products - your art deserves it.
3. Friends, Waffles, Work
At the risk of sounding like a cliché, I truly do believe in Leslie Knope's "Friends, waffles, work" philosophy. At the end of the day, work is work. It's nice to do what you love for work, but it's even nicer to have friends and family with whom I can spend time. People are always more important than work, and time is more valuable than money. Money can always be found, but time can't be replaced. There's times when I over-schedule my days and week, and my one resolution this year is to work smarter, not harder. I'm planning several big trips this year (fingers-crossed!), which means I'll be taking on less weddings and commission work.
The way I see it, taking breaks and traveling is a chance to hit the refresh button. In 2017, I took two vacations (which I know, compared to a lot of people, that's plenty), but I also pulled 80-hr weeks, most weeks. As a result, I ended up with a lot of work, but only a few that I'm proud to show. I'd like to not do that this year, and refresh frequently - so that my work becomes more valuable, and just generally, of better quality.
So tell me, what's your resolution for this year? Whether it be personal or professional, feel free to share them below!