Guest Post: Kari Joy Hodgen
Hi, friends! I'm so honored to be a guest over here at Stationery Academy today! I'm Kari Joy Hodgen, owner and designer over at Kari Joy AND a "loyal 'til I die" Stationery Academy graduate. A little about me: Raised on a farm in California, I now live smack-dab in the middle of Manhattan with my handsome husband. The two of us are avid travelers who love experiencing food and wine, throwing cocktail parties in our pre-war apartment, and escaping to the country from time to time to get back to our roots. I have a background in Interior Design, a love of all things fashion, and an addiction to vintage glassware. All of these passions contribute to the overall "feel" of my designs which are based on my original illustrations.
While I am not new to the stationery/paper/design world, I recently launched my very first online shop, a process that has taught me a whole new layer of being a small business owner. Today, I'll be chatting a bit about that process of creating a collection with the goal of launching an online retail space.
I have been talking about opening an online shop for a very long time. My business, in the past, had been all custom work. Until I attended Stationery Academy, my business was run in a very "fly by the seat of my pants" manner. I would consider myself an artist first and foremost and I let the details of running a business fall very low on my priority list. Attending Stationery Academy really helped me organize my business and see that opening an online shop would be a helpful revenue stream for me.
One of the most helpful tools for setting up my online shop was to haul out my worksheets from Stationery Academy and do thorough research of costs so I could establish my pricing. Ugh, pricing. Do any of you out there struggle with this? I have always had a difficult time charging enough for my work. I cringe when I think of how many projects I sent out the door with a smile on my face and defeat in my heart because I knew that I lost money in my attempts to make a client happy. The worksheets and information from Stationery Academy were so important in my coming to terms with this habit of mine. Attending Stationery Academy really made me see that I needed to treat my business like a business and not a hobby---and that meant revisiting pricing. So, before I even designed one thing for my online shop, I tackled pricing. This included understanding shipping costs (including the packaging I'd need to accompany my products). I'll admit that this was my least favorite part of launching my online shop, but I knew it to be the most important. I have a feeling I'm not alone when it comes to wanting to put off dealing with pricing and costs and money. If you are a creative, chances are you're reluctant, too, when it comes to the less-than-fun aspects of running a business. But, it's a BUSINESS and you've got to handle your money, honey! Do you know exactly how much you are making on your current projects? If not, it may be time to get back to the basics when it comes to your business.
Okay, so I finally had a grasp on pricing and shipping and all that fun stuff. I had a website and a shop platform. Now I needed products. How was I going to design things that felt cohesive and part of a collection? Luckily, as an illustrator, most everything I draw has a cohesive feel to it because it's done in my specific style. Once I stopped overthinking it and just started putting paint brush to paper, things went much more smoothly. In order to stop overthinking it, though, I had to get out my planner and block out specific days that would be dedicated only to creating. This was more difficult than I anticipated! Life is busy and I could always find something that felt more pressing than sitting down to be creative. However, when I didn't sit down to be creative, nothing was happening when it came to product development for my shop. It really did take me scheduling dedicated time to doodle and paint in order to get some illustrations that I felt would work for the shop. In this process, I learned a lot about how I use my time. I have seen that I need to do a better job of being intentional in scheduling time dedicated solely to creating. This is good for the soul, too! I decided to be a small business owner so that I could enjoy my creativity, but enjoying that creativity often takes intentional scheduling for me. It also takes me reminding myself that my ability to create is not frivolous. Rather, it is the lifeblood of my business! If you are struggling to find time to do the creative thing that you love most, get out your calendar and make a hard and fast appointment for yourself. Keep that appointment the same way you would keep a client appointment or a doctor's appointment. Having time and space to be creative is essential in a creative business!
A third thing that helped in getting my online shop launched was to do a daily "brain dump." In the process of getting the shop launched, it seemed there were a million little details that would pop into my head. I would want to tweak something on the website, or I'd have an idea for a holiday card while out riding the subway, or I'd think that I really needed to look into a better packaging item for my art prints. I would carry a small notebook with me and jot these thoughts down so they wouldn't be forgotten. Then, at the end of the day, I'd take out the notebook and jot down anything that was weighing on my mind regarding my business. Then, I'd close the notebook and not worry about it again for the rest of the evening. The next morning, the first thing I did was open the notebook and see which of my thoughts really needed to be added to my to-do list. Many times, it just helped to get the thought on paper and then revisit it to see that it wasn't really something I needed to worry about. The stuff that I did need to worry about was added to an actionable to-do list. (This actually took the worry out of it!) Even now that the shop has launched, I use this system as a way of staying organized and less crazy in my business. How do you clear your head and stay organized in your creative business? Do you have a system to "brain dump" and then turn those ideas into actions?
Lastly, I had to tackle the most difficult part (for me) of opening an online shop: I just had to DO it. There are all sorts of personalities in the creative world. I call my creative personality the Paralyzed Perfectionist. I have a great fear of doing something that isn't good enough. If it's not perfect, I don't want to put it out there. I am paralyzed by this desire for perfection because, quite frankly, perfection doesn't exist. Waiting for perfection means doing nothing. I will probably always be fighting against the Paralyzed Perfectionist in me, but when it came to launching my shop, it took two big things. First, it took accountability. I had a couple of great friends (fellow Stationery Academy grads, in fact!) in the creative biz realm who would not let me off the hook. This was what I needed: people who loved me and held me accountable by holding my feet to the fire. Secondly, I needed to choose a date on the calendar for my launch and hold fast to it no matter what. I chose the date and then, before I could change my mind, I shared that date on my instagram and on my blog. The cat was out of the bag, and now there was no going back! I had to launch on the date that I promised. I know that launching an online shop might not be a difficult thing for some, but consider what you have going on in your creative business. What is something that you are putting off? Get an accountability partner and give yourself a hard and fast deadline on the calendar. Those two things can be very powerful for moving your business forward!
Now that my online shop is up and running, it's fun to see which products are favorites with customers! It has also been fun to begin dreaming up some new products that will be added in time for holiday shopping, including custom illustrations of families, homes, and pets---perfect for holiday cards or for gift-giving. And, one of my favorite things about the process of setting up my online shop is that it taught me new things about how I need to be running my business. I think that is one of my favorite things about being a creative business owner: there is always a way to improve, always something new to learn, and always a way to keep things fresh and fun!
A big thanks to Stationery Academy for letting me share here today! (If you are a creative business owner who would like to learn more about the ins and outs of running your business, I cannot recommend Stationery Academy highly enough. Attend a workshop and you'll see your business change!) Also, I'd love to meet some of you and see what you're up to! Let's connect via instagram (@KariJoyHodgen) or via my blog: www.Kari-Joy.com.
Kari Joy Hodgen