…Building a Business: Vision

As in life, authenticiy is the greatest gift you can give yourself. I have more respect for people if they are who they are without shame or trying to cover up their person. I may not like every style I see out there, but I can respect it if it’s genuine. This is true of your business. I have said it before, it will show if you are not being true to your vision & style. You will be unhappy working extra hard to create a look that is not your own and people will notice that you are full of hot air if you can't back up the look you are displaying or discussing.

Wiltshire cottage front door

At a very young age I had dreams of living in a cottage somewhere in England filled with textiles, old books, lanterns and other interesting objects. (Of course I also thought I wanted to be one of the Bronte sisters as well.) My dad and I used to shop at antique shops in New Hampshire during the summertime and I loved finding objects that were old and had a story behind them. He also showed me the love of design & creating things by hand as I used to watch him make hand-made jewelry as his dad did before him.

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(This is actually my oldest daughter designing with Papa)

I hadn't really developed my style or had the money to really develop it, but I knew what I liked.When I started Blue Egg Brown Nest, I loved that cozy, European feel, the vintage style like I was seeing in certain magazines, homes & shops. There were colors that I loved and as I started down the path of decorating my own home, I honed in on what I loved & wanted to create.

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(This demi was my first piece of inspiration.)

If you are going to have a creative business, you need to spend every day working on it and thinking about it. If you are going to spend all that time & energy you need to know your vision and almost make a mental mission statement. Don't divert from it. Be consistent. Start as you plan to go because as you get traction, clients will associate you with a certain style and aesthetic. They will recommend you to friends looking for that look. They will think of you when they want a particular item that suits their needs. If you are all over the place, it will seem confusing and people will not hold the same type of loyality to your shop & work.

Ask yourself these question:

What is my style?

What do I know?

What do I appreciate?

What do I gravitate towards?

What is my history?

What am I good at?

These will be very easy questions if you are attune to yourself and possibly difficult questions if you are still developing who you are. A creative business is so personal. It has to just fit together. Kind of like Fiona in a vintage dough bowl.

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Your vision and your style need to be integrated into who you are and what you yourself love. If I went out and sold, say, contemporary ceramics I would not be any good at it. I don't really gravitate towards that look; I don't have it in my home & frankly it just doesn't excite me. Now, if you put me in an old bookstore and told me I could pick anything I wanted I think I would have to take a few deep breaths out of excitment. That is me and I know what I like.

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Your vision will come through your business. I you haven't developed your style yet, keep experimenting until you find what suites you. You will know when you find it because you will be good at it, you will study it and educate yourself.  The adventure of your own creative business will endure as long as you so stay true & consistent.

 

…Building a Buisiness: Custom Orders

I think there are a few steps to get through before you even think about doing custom orders. If you have a great product and people hear about you, they are going to eventually want to use your services and not simply buy what you have in stock. It can be a good problem because that means that what you are doing is valuable and people are willing to trust you and pay you to create something specialized.

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BUT and yes, it's in a caps - you need to make sure that you know your craft. That means practice and be comfortable with every step. Start by selling your wares and get feedback from those customers. Secondly, pay attention to your craftsmanship. These things are so important because once you take on doing a custom piece you want to a)have the confidence that you will be able to complete it well b)not mess up the piece because you now have someone you are accountable to.

Once you start your custom orders you are really no longer the boss. You now have a boss and that person is your client. That means that you need to make sure they are happy at the end of the day. Where it gets tricky is making sure you set expectations.

1. Cost Estimate

2. Time frame

3. Style

4. Options (if applicable)

Cost Estimate & Time frame. I think it's important for everyone involved if you give an estimate on cost and time. This takes some number crunching on your end as you come up with the appropriate cost for the size project you are delivering. The bigger and more time intensive piece, the greater the cost. Of course when dealing with furniture, that's not straight forward either because you must consider any detail work (example: painting an interior a different color, etc).

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Then there is YOUR TIME SPENT. I must admit that I am not diligent in charging for my time. When starting your creative business I think you need to put in the hours necessary. Then as you gain momentum you can really start to charge for your time. I'm still of a mindset that I want to be really nice and fair. My DT (Dear Therapist) would then ask me if I was being "nice and fair" to myself. Ah, we all have things to work on, don't we? 🙂

Style & Options. Another important thing to consider is not giving your client too many choices. Offer what is do-able in your time-frame and what you are comfortable accomplishing. Do not try anything new or fancy! It's too much pressure and you may not be able to deliver and everyone will feel badly in the end.

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Stay true to what you do. For example, I am not a girl that loves the color orange. If I'm asked to paint in a color that really doesn't fit who I am or what my brand is I don't really feel it's wise to accept the project. You need to maintain the integrity of what your business is and that may be turning down business sometimes if it just doesn't fit with your image. It's okay and it's the right decision.

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Pitfalls. There always are pitfalls along the way. If something goes wrong as things tend to do sometimes the answer is communication. For example, the secretary above had some sort of stain on the wood tainting it a bit red. I had no control over this. It sometimes happens with certain pieces and certainly a lighter color like the Old White will make this bleed through a bit. It was not in my control, but what was was me communicating to my client and make sure she knew what was going on. Do not simply wait for the delivery and then explain. Keep the client in the process and that will make a happy relationship and hopefully repeat business for you.

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You should feel honored that someone trusts you enough to pay you to do something specialized. Think about yourself though and make sure you want to before you offer it. Custom orders can almost double your time because of the interaction with the client and the extra care you will want to spend with the project. Good luck!