Today I shall write about the unique challenges of being a one woman micro business in the creative sector. Note how I did not say ‘being in charge of a one woman micro business’ because I am the business and the business is me (as implied by the one woman part of the sentence).
Small Versus Micro
I used to call my business a small business. Then I realised that the term small business can apply to businesses with 500 employees making millions of dollars a year in receipts. I’m a lot smaller than that. Of course a locally owned coffee shop with eight employees is also a small business. I’m also a lot smaller than that. And I don’t have a brick and mortar shop, which changes the nature of my work hugely (more about that later). I’m a solidly one woman band. I’m not sure whether I will remain a one woman band. All I know is that right now it doesn’t make financial sense for me to have any permanent employees. Every summer I employ a couple of teachers and some interns for my summer camp, but the rest of the year it is just me and my plants in my studio.
The biggest challenge of being a one woman band is that, I haven’t learnt to play all the instruments well yet. Uh oh. This means that…
I have to do a lot of things that I am not very good at EVERY DAY.
Things I am good at: design, printmaking, drawing, making in general. I’m great at teaching, no lie. Things I am not so good at: accounting, self promotion, cold calling people, talking to banks, troubleshooting my website, parking in DC. All the adult stuff.
Do I get to avoid doing these?
Unfortunately not (well… sometimes I can rope members of my family into doing them).
Does it take me longer than necessary to get these things done, because I need to hype myself up beforehand?
I do wish I could just do the creative stuff and have someone else do the rest. I also wish that rainbow unicorns were real. Not going to happen. So – I often find myself outside my comfort zone, which CAN mean that I do things slower than a business that is um not-Micro.
Introverts and Self Promotion
And then there is the issue of self promotion. A hard prospect for someone who has had to train herself to stop saying “are you sure?” every time someone wants to buy a product at her markets.
Back to those brick and mortar shops; I think that it is easier for customers to put their trust in you if you have a physical shop front. It makes you look more legit. Without a brick and mortar presence, or a larger more established entity working with you, it is really hard to get people to trust you. Especially if you are in a place you moved to as an adult and don’t have deep rooted connections in.
I understand that we micro businesses are less visible, less known and more Stranger Danger than small businesses. However, we still have to build trust and sell things. What does this mean? This means putting yourself out there. Handing out flyers, posting on local Facebook groups, asking friends to spread the word. Sooo hard and embarrassing for an introvert. Every time I post about an event to a Facebook group, I instantly become that dorky twelve year old wondering if any friends will come to her party. I still manage to post, but not as often as I should.
I’m still working on this and would love some advice. In the meantime, here are some things I think are important for micro businesses:
Do a good job with your brand identity. I used this resource. Make sure your branding is consistent across all your products. Photograph your products well, and have a working website. It’s important for creative micro businesses to put out a professional image and counteract those pervasive stereotypes of the struggling hobbyist working for nothing.
Find your Hype people. There will always be those few people who genuinely love and support what you do. Turn to them for reassurance when you are unsure of yourself and ask them to spread the word for you.
Find and make friends with other like minded micro business owners and meet up to share ideas, compare notes and stay fresh. I have a few maker friends that I talk to regularly and sometimes collaborate with to remind myself that I’m not alone in this.
Put things in writing, ask for dates, be specific. Enough of this wishy washy nonsense. If someone asks you to provide a service, ask for ALL the information in advance and get a contract or some form of written agreement. Ask about payment early on too, especially if it is a larger, more established organization. Just because you are micro, it doesn’t mean your time and resources are less important.
Plan the hell out of your days so they don’t turn soupy. Use your planner/phone and make sure you schedule time for breaks and don’t feel guilty about them. People in larger businesses have lunch breaks and waste time in between meetings. Take your break and go for that walk. Remind yourself that there is a larger world out there. It might give you ideas about how to better reach out to your community. And it’s okay to work weird hours. It’s one of the perks of working for yourself.
Say no to things that don’t feel right for your business’s ethos. Choose the right jobs for you and the right people to work with and speak out if you don’t like the way a job is going. It sounds so straightforward, but I have ignored my gut instinct so much in pursuit of always seeming pleasant. It is better to just be honest about everything.
Lastly, when you have to do non-creative tasks, take it to the library. Something about the quiet, studious atmosphere of a library motivates me to get mundane things done faster. Bonus: you get to see other humans, and check out a fun book… or twelve!
To everyone who knows, trusts and likes a micro business owner – shout about them to your community! Thank you.
Amazing and so true on all fronts! Kudos to you for knowing thyself!🙌🏾 Self-care is hard without the structure of an office or more formal setting. More kudos for the things you’ve learned and are sharing with others.❤️