Happy Holidays! Whew! I apologize for my radio silence for the majority of this year. I promise 2014 will be back on track around here!
I think I had a pretty good excuse for my distraction. You see, in 2013, we had a little baby owlette! Being pregnant and having a newborn kept me pretty busy!
baby girl hazel
Now, I know this isn’t meant to be a lifestyle blog, so I will keep my gripes about being preggo and gushing about our new little hazelnut to a minimum. I’m now running Lazy Owl Boutique (the business and the blog) as a full-time stay-at-home-mom of a 3-month old (that was a lot of hyphens).
Business aside, 2013 was a great year for Lazy Owl, and I hope it was a record year for your creative business as well. I’ve revisited my blog posts from the end of last year, Planning for Positivity and a Year in Reflection. The lessons from these articles can easily be re-applied to this year. First, let’s review what we’ve accomplished in 2013!
Positive notes for me and my creative venture in 2013:
Continued to generate new content for this blog over the first quarter of the year, gaining new followers and ever-increasing stats (even without updates, the hits keep coming! make a website yall!)
Maintained steady sales orders and revenue over on Etsy
Became a vendor at a new local shop in Houston for handcrafted goods, The Tinderbox
Sold for the first time at Pop Shop Houston, a handmade holiday market, and it was AMAZING!
Got a new camera, learned to (sort of) use it, and upped my listing photography skills
Continued to re-do my branding and imagery (I updated my banner, Facebook look, and business cards so far), and learned how to use Photoshop to do so on my own
Experimented with some new product line ideas, and figured out what did and did not work (like I am never going to be good at calligraphy haha)
That was the good stuff. Considering all that happened for me personally in 2013 (mostly baby stuff), I’m glad I was able to accomplish anything business-wise. I will admit that my sales did not increase nearly as much as I had hoped for this year, but the limiting factor in that equation was myself. I just did not have the time or energy to put as much effort into Lazy Owl as I had planned, and without constant effort, you’re not going to get the bigger payoff. However, I think that’s what’s so great about being a creative entrepreneur…you’re in charge of your destiny. The business is here when you need it, and if you need to step back for a while to focus on other things, you have the flexibility to do so.
I’m re-posting the same free printable I posted last year, but with a few new tweaks to really get you thinking about what you accomplished this year and ramp up your planning for the next. I added the “Personal” section, along with a capstone question – What did you learn this year about your business and yourself as an entrepreneur? If you had to sum up 2013 as one big lesson to lend toward your success next year, what would you say? For me, I’d say that in 2013 I learned that Lazy Owl can only be as successful as I’m willing to make it. I can only make so much money and generate a certain level of success by letting it (and myself) coast along. It really is important for me to do a little something to benefit my business everyday if I truly want to reach the goals I have in the near future.
Here’s the downloadable printable in all its glory. Click to download and dig deep into what you’ve accomplished this year. Even if you’re just starting out, it’s important to give yourself a pat on the back for what you’ve gotten done thus far!
SIDE NOTE! I just have to use this venue as my free plug for shopping Lazy Owl for the holidays. There’s still a few days left to order some fun handcrafted jewelry in time for Christmas! If you use code OWLBLOG you can get $5 off any order $15 or more!
I was inspired by this post to reflect on the year 2012 and what I’ve accomplished. I agree that it’s all too easy to think back on the year and focus on all the things left undone, all those goals I didn’t reach or things I didn’t achieve. Sure, we can always do better, but that’s what planning for 2013 is for right? Let’s take some time to focus on all the things we did achieve this year.
Quit my day job and switched to a new part-time teaching job to have more time to spend on my own business!
It’s important to boost yourself up with positive thinking every now and then (or all the time really, haha). Take some time to reflect on the year and all the great things you accomplished. Feel free to use the printable worksheet below.
Because I feel really strongly about doing everything you can to live out your dreams and have your dream job happen for you! At the end of the day, after all the excuses, the only thing holding you back is you.
Last year I read an amazing, life-changing book called The Art of Nonconformity. If you’re contemplating making a life change, job change, or just have this gut-deep feeling that sticking out your 9-5 day job for the next 30 years is not going to work for you, I highly, highly recommend this book. Really, I recommend this book to anyone and everyone.
I can already tell this is going to be a long and wandering blog post. I stayed up late last night catching up on an old friend’s blog; she has some very emotionally raw, vulnerable entries. While that’s not necessarily the style or purpose of my blog, I think a little opening up by myself has been called for. Why should you want to listen to what I have to say when you know so very little about me or what kind of person I am? So now I’ve been inspired to have a little bit of “share time”.
I went to college for six years. School has always been something I’ve been really good at for some reason. I think I’m good at memorizing, so that helps. I’m a rule-follower and I rarely missed a class for those six years. I started out as an Electronic Media major; my dream was to be a film editor some day. I loved filming my friends just goofing off, then creating fun musical montages from the footage. That was my thing. I interned as a copy editor for a tool and gas company, I took journalism, advertising, and PR classes, and I went to the UK for a semester and studied film. It was all very nice and easy until about 2.5 years into the program I realized it would be very, very difficult for me to ever find a job utilizing my Electronic Media degree. I never quit at it (by the time I decided to change I only had a handful of classes left to fulfill the degree’s requirements), but I decided to go into something much more practical, accounting.
This is why I am often talking about how I am such a weird mix of left brain and right brain. My logical, practical, numbers-crunching side is always at war with my creative, dreamy side. Looking back, I can see that my adult life thus far has been a continuous struggle between being practical and making “sensible” decisions and taking leaps and jumps and trying to express my creativity. It’s a constant tug-of-war!
I made straight A’s throughout all my accounting classes, even the grad-level ones. The summer after I got my Masters, I sat for the CPA exam and passed all four parts on my first attempt. I interned for two summers at a prestigious public accounting firm, and started there full time soon after I got married in 2009. I set myself up on the road for long-term corporate success. I’m not trying to toot my own horn or anything, I’m just establishing that I invested a lot of energy into creating this “corporate” life for myself…and that I thought this was the path I “should” be on.
I had already heard how awful and soul-crushing public accounting was supposed to be, but I told myself I was ready for it. This was where the cream of the crop was supposed to end up. This was where the lucky top-of-the-class students with their freshly printed CPA licenses are supposed to go and soak up learning and knowledge and make a name for themselves. I dutifully wore my heels and my ironed skirts and blouses to work everyday for exactly one year and six months before I admitted defeat.
I wanted to quit within six months of being in the workplace. I worked in an environment where people regularly went into the bathroom to cry. There was a lot of yelling, phones being hung up, late hours, long hours, weekend hours…the saying “sh** rolls downhill” was repeated a lot. The goal was to get to the top of said hill. But it was just not a good place to be. I knew that, but I also thought that I was really lucky to be there, right? I felt guilty for not feeling grateful for the “privilege” of working there. I wanted to leave, but I doubted myself for a long time…what was wrong with me? Why couldn’t I just stick it out like everybody else? Was this just what being an adult meant? Was this just how working full-time was? Were all jobs like this? Doing something you didn’t really like everyday to make ends meet?
I finally gathered up the courage to quit. Happiness is a choice, and if I didn’t choose it for myself, then who would? I took a job in corporate accounting. My new job was such a breath of fresh air. The people were nice! There was smiling in the workplace! I only worked 40 hours a week. I began to develop hobbies. I had time to explore my long-dormant creative side. I started Lazy Owl Boutique. I trained for a half marathon. I became an active member of my local community. Life was better, but after a few months I still had that nagging feeling in the back of my head that this was not what I was meant to “do” for the long term. I had so many ideas and outlets I wanted to explore and delve into as a new entrepreneur. I just didn’t have the time or motivation. Reporting to my cubical for 8 hours a day and staring at spreadsheets began to seem like a waste of my time when I had so much else on my list. I sat in front of a computer all day, but at the end of the week, I couldn’t really explain to you what I’d done, what I’d accomplished or created, or how I’d contributed any good to the world.
Quitting my corporate job was more difficult than quitting my first horrible job in public accounting. I knew I had a well-paying, stable job in a great environment. Was I totally crazy for wanting to leave that all behind? I spent 6 years in school and had a CPA license. Wouldn’t I just be flushing all that hard work down the drain if I quit to pursue a JEWELRY business? How do I tell my family that I’m quitting to sell things online and write a blog? What would people say? Again, isn’t this what adults were supposed to do? Sacrifice free time and work hard to rise up the corporate ranks? Live for the weekends? Why were my priorities so seemingly screwed up?
Well, as you may have guessed, I did it. I quit my day job and took the plunge into the scary, mysterious world of working for myself. I struggle everyday with making this work, and getting this baby off the ground, but I haven’t looked back for a second. And I’m loving it. I make my own schedule, I am my own boss. I have the flexibility to work when, where, and how I want to. At the end of the day if I fail, I have no one but myself to blame. I KNOW what I accomplish and create each and every day. I can create things with my own hands and put them out into the world and feel like I am contributing. I work with purpose and feeling instead of in zombie cubical mode.
I will admit… I am still working on growing confidence in myself and my abilities. When people ask what I’m doing with all my free time, I sheepishly attempt to explain that I’m working on providing bookkeeping and other business materials for creative small business owners. It’s a marathon, not a sprint.
I honestly do not know yet if I made the right decision to quit a stable job and pursue this dream of being an entrepreneur. But I will tell you something, if I don’t try, then I will never know. So now’s my time to give it all I’ve got. We owe ourselves that, don’t you think?
Coming full circle now, this is why I brought up The Art of Nonconformity. Perhaps as a creative entrepreneur, you can relate to my story. Maybe you’ve been there in the past or maybe you are there right now. Why are so many of us afraid to take the plunge? What is holding you back? Money? Guilt? Self-doubt? Fear of being different? Fear of what other people will say? All of the above?
inspirational quote – free printable
It’s easy for us to buy into the concept that “good” or “smart” people work hard for thirty years at an okay job, play hard on the weekends, and save up for retirement. This is just how life is supposed to be, right? That is what you’re supposed to do. Well you know what, this is YOUR life. At the end of your time here, are you going to say, “Gee, I’m really proud of all those awesome spreadsheets I made for my manager?” or are you going to say, “I wish I had spent more time doing the things that made me feel alive, I wish I had spent more time with my friends and family, I wish I had done something that really contributed to my community and made the world a better, happier place”?
Maybe you are saying, Janet, that’s nice and happy-feeling and all, but it’s really not practical. I have to have a steady income to support myself and my family. And maybe you are right, you’ve got to do what’s right for you and your own. But don’t sell yourself short. You don’t know what you are capable of until you try. And if you never get rid of your safety net, you might never really work as hard to make your creative business work for you as you would otherwise.
One thing that really helped encourage me to take the plunge was asking myself the question, “What’s the worst that could happen?”. I quit my steady job, I try to make my business work, and I fail. I lose money. I make an ass out of myself. Everyone tells me “I told you so”. You know what? If it doesn’t work, it doesn’t work. I will go back to full-time work as an accountant. At least I will be able to say I tried. Is it really the end of existence as you know it if you quit your job? If you fail? We convince ourselves that we can’t handle these changes and we become paralyzed with fear. But really take some time to think it all the way through. If you quit your job and later fail at making your own gig work, what would happen to you? Would you have to live in a cardboard box by a dumpster? I doubt it.
Staying in a job you aren’t 100% passionate about isn’t being fair to yourself…it’s taking the easy way out. It’s hard to break away from the world, to go against the grain, to pour your blood, sweat, and tears into making your job and your life something completely authentic and completely your own. The people that stay in their “okay” jobs are really the ones who are taking the easy path, the path to mediocrity. Is that what you want for yourself?
I have seen too many people sit and sit and sit in jobs they hate, or even jobs that are just mediocre. You will eventually become numb…you will spend your mediocre days doing mediocre, soul-numbing work until you don’t even realize that you aren’t truly LIVING, you’re just coasting. Life’s too short for that. And more importantly YOU are worth more than that. No one is going to swoop in and make your life fabulous for you, you have to do it yourself. So stop doubting yourself, stop wondering if you are crazy, and just give yourself a chance. Give yourself a chance to follow your dreams and make your business work. What’s the worst that can happen? More importantly, what’s the BEST that can happen?
I will step off my soapbox now. It is just important to me for anyone out there doubting yourself to know that you should TRY. You are worth it! Happiness is worth it!
Remember that post about planning out our goals for 2013? Well, we need to get some specific, measurable goals laid out. Just like with the creative business plan, I like to start thinking about things from a big picture point of view, then slowly zoom in to the nitty gritty details.
Before I come up with my specific 2013 goals, I’m going to brainstorm what my ideal work day looks like. Then I can work backwards to see what exactly I need to accomplish with my business to be able to have that “ideal work day” every work day! Make sense?
8:30 – 9:30 – Wake up, have morning coffee and (healthy) breakfast whilst reading daily blogroll, taking notes on any business ideas or inspiration that interests me. Commenting on my favorite blogs and doing some social networking!
9:30 – 11:00 – Fill and package outstanding Etsy orders. Respond to customer emails and questions. Work on updating inventory and sales records. Evaluate supply and inventory levels. Re-order supplies if necessary. Do other Etsy admin tasks as needed.
11:00 – 1:30 – Run to post office, run other errands. Take the dogs for a walk. Have lunch. Take a break or go to the gym (hey, I said ideal day right).
1:30 – 4:00 – Work on website & blog. Draft and post new article(s). Brainstorm new topics and series ideas. Social media marketing and networking.
4:00 – 5:30 – Photograph new Etsy listings, list online.
5:30 – 9:00 – Break time! Do household chores, eat dinner, spend time with husband, etc.
9:00 – 10:30 – Crafting time! Work on new jewelry items or whatever else I’m crafting up.
Bedtime at midnight.
Ok, so it was actually quite weird for me to write all that out on an hour-by-hour basis. It made me feel like there’s so much time in a day, but in reality I am always scrambling to fit all these things in. I don’t know if that schedule is actually livable for me, but my goal is that during my ideal day I would love to be able to squeeze in:
Time to research what’s going on in the blogosphere, on Etsy, and with other Etsy businesses (this is my biggest problem, I find content I want to delve into, open it in a new Firefox tab, but then end up with 60 open tabs that I never seem to have time to go back and truly read)
Write for the blog
Generate meaningful content for my website, market and connect with other businesses and potential customers, promote Lazy Owl to my target audience
Create new products, photograph and list them
Take time for myself and for my family – be outside, exercise, be healthy, have some fun!
Run errands and do household chores without falling behind
Support local businesses and connect with my local community
Realistically, I can probably not do all of these things in one day. But now I know what I would like to do with my time, and what is most important to me. That is half the battle. I can make goals to get closer to be able to have this ideal day now!
Slightly off-topic for today, we’re going to talk about animal rescue! Since moving to Houston, I’ve become painfully aware of the plight of abused, stray, and neglected animals. Hardly a day goes by where I don’t see a sad stray dog wandering through the busy streets of this city. There are many rescue organizations here trying desperately to make a difference, and they all rely on finding good homes for these defenseless animals.
Over the past three years, we have adopted two rescued dogs. They have truly changed our lives for the better. I honestly can’t imagine life without them at this point! Every time I look at our little doggies, I can’t imagine what could have happened for them to end up living on the street, and I can’t fathom how scared and alone they must have felt trying to survive. Adopting our mutts Leo and Penny is one of the best decisions my husband and I have made.
I’ve united with a local dog rescue organization, Pup Squad, as part of their Holiday Heroes program this December. We are trying to find homes for some of their long-term rescues, dogs who have been up for adoption for quite a while. These guys are ready to find homes for the holidays!
Today I’d like to tell you about Kaycee. I chose Kaycee because she reminds me a little bit of one of our dogs, Penny; she also sounds like an AMAZING dog because she’s very adoptable and easy-going!
Kaycee was found as a puppy wandering the rough streets of Houston near an apartment complex. She looks like some sort of shepherd mix, weights about 45 pounds, and is about one year old. Kaycee is already crate-trained, lease-trained, and housebroken! That is like, the miracle of miracles people (take it from someone who has had to pottytrain a 3 month old puppy)! She loves to play with other dogs and gets along well with all dogs and humans. She is already spayed and fully vaccinated.
Kaycee would make a great addition to any home. She is already all trained and ready to go! Will you consider giving this sweet dog a home for the holidays? If you’re interested, please email Kathy at Pup Squad: KathyPupSquad@aol.com
Even if you aren’t ready to adopt a dog right now, please consider sharing, liking, emailing, or tweeting this post (check out the little buttons below!). The more we can share Kaycee’s story, the more likely we can find her a loving home!
Everybody in the blogosphere lately has been talking about prepping your business for 2013, listing goals, making plans, filling out timelines, etc… It’s hard for me to think about beginning a new year with my Christmas goggles on, but there’s no use denying the inevitable (unless of course, the Mayans were right, then I’ve got nothing to worry about).
So, I agree. In the next couple weeks, I’ll be sitting down with pen in hand to think about my plans for next year, and more importantly, specific, attainable, and measurable goals for Lazy Owl. For me, 2011 was all about just starting. 2012 was about figuring things out, what worked and what didn’t work. My overall theme for 2013 will be to grow.
Are you ready for your creative venture to grow? Then come join me! Via our Crafting a Business series, we’ll explore both meaty detailed business concepts and motivational thoughts, giving you the research, tools, and inspiration you need to grow your business in 2013.
My goal is to grow Lazy Owl a little bit every month, every week, even every day. You can do it too with your Etsy shop or whatever your creative business may be. Small steps leading to big changes. Let’s talk about pricing methods, let’s really research SEO and tagging, let’s improve our photography skills and our customer service offerings, let’s explore our target market, let’s have more fun! You’ve already taken the plunge to going into business for yourself…now let’s really make it work! A creative entrepreneur should be willing to be constantly growing, learning, and improving.
I made myself the above print to hang in my crafting studio to remind me to do just a little something to help my business (and myself) grow a little bit each and every day! It’s a marathon, not a sprint, right?
Stay tuned for more articles, tidbits, worksheets, and printables for the rest of this year and throughout 2013. I welcome you to join us by subscribing to the Lazy Owl newsletter to get updates directly to your inbox! Just enter your email address in the little box to the right.
So I’m thinking as a budding (attempting) creative business blogger, I should be reading and diligently following a handful of applicable, interesting, and successful blogs about related topics. I’m trying to narrow down my list, because right now I’ve got list of about 40 blogs on Etsy, social media, online marketing, small business issues, creative entrepreneuring (is that a word?), small business financing, and on and on and on…I’m not sure if it’s possible for me to check 40 blogs everyday!
Come visit me next Saturday in Katy at a local bridal jewelry trunk show hosted by The Loken Group. Only a select handful of local jewelry artists will be present, including Lazy Owl Boutique. This is a great time to browse and order customized jewelry for your big day or for your bridal party.
FREE Bridal Jewelry Trunk Show Nov 10 from 2 to 4 featuring local custom and fashion jewelers, raffle prizes, wine & snacks. Brides, bring your mom, mom-in-law to be, sisters, friends – as many as you like!
Well then! First of all, welcome to my updated website. I’ve transferred the blog over to wordpress and finally gotten my own domain, lazyowlboutique.com. I’ve worked a while getting everything over here prepped and I’m ready to release the site to the world! It’s pretty bare bones right now, but updates will be steady over the next few weeks. Check out my About page to learn more about my big plans!
Things on my end have been crazy for the past few weeks. Long story short, I’m taking a dive off the diving board of stability (and sanity) into the deep end of riskiness…on a whim, I applied for a part-time accounting instructor job at a local technical college. I had planned on staying at my current full-time accounting job for the foreseeable future, but for some reason teaching at the college-level has always called out to me. I originally looked for a teaching position when I quit public accounting, but it seemed impossible to find something that didn’t require previous teaching experience.
The decision to take a part-time job was both exhilarating and excruciating. I don’t have kids…I have no seemingly “legitimate” reason to not work full-time. Sure, I’ve always said if I had more time I’d pursue this, I’d put this idea to work, I’d spend more time making Lazy Owl a more successful brand and business. But you don’t quit a stable good job to sell things on the internet. CPAs don’t go to school for 5+ years to make jewelry and sell at craft shows and write blogs…that’s just crazy. That just doesn’t make sense. It’s honestly been one of the hardest decisions I’ve made in my life. And I’m still not sure if it’s the right one…but I’ll never know if I don’t try, right?
So here I am. Last full week at work before I begin working 2 days a week teaching and 5 days a week trying to make Lazy Owl a success. I know a lot of people think I’m crazy or irresponsible. And I can’t really blame them. I can’t help but feel guilty that I am doing this. It feels selfish. Luckily I have an amazing, supportive husband who fully believes in me chasing my dreams.
I do feel a little unanchored…I won’t have an office to report to 5 days a week, I won’t have monthly responsibilities at the office and I won’t have someone managing over me. I’m just floating out in space. The only person responsible for my schedule and for getting things done and accomplishing goals is ME. I will have time to work towards the goals I’ve set aside for months. If I fail, there are no more excuses. I can’t say “there’s not enough time” anymore. It’s an incredibly freeing yet scary feeling. But I’m ready! I’m ready to come out fighting. I’m ready to make this work, to prove to myself and to everyone else that I can do this. Bring it on!
To celebrate, I’ve been dabbling in the land of creating printables. My goal is to begin offering printable worksheets and other items related to small business planning and operations. So stay tuned! For now, I just made a more “artsy” printable (I am an accountant, so please bear with me here) with a quote that has really inspired me lately. It’s actually a Jason Mraz lyric, “Leap and the net will appear”. I think that’s exactly what I’m doing (or hoping for!) right now in my life. So please, feel free to click the download link below and have your very own free inspirational printable! Please note that the downloadable file below is slightly different than the one pictured on my bulletin board shown above. Frame it and hang it in an area where you need a little kick in the pants! Let me know how you like it!
So, I know I keep alluding to this new shop in Houston I’ve been a part of lately. It’s time I finally formally introduce you to Roundtable Goods, Houston’s new 100% handcrafted 100% local artisan marketplace in a homey little neighborhood we call the Houston Heights.
It all started when I was at a slightly less-than-fun craft fair in late April. Some random woman from Etsy named Juanita came and found me while I was quietly manning my lonesome booth (located in a primo spot across from the men’s bathroom of course). I had briefly traded a few messages with Juanita through Etsy over the past few weeks, but didn’t really expect anything to come of it. Maybe I have an underlying belief that everyone that sells things on Etsy is slightly crazy (including myself?), so when a very normal, happy-looking woman introduced herself as Juanita I was pleasantly surprised she had taken the time to seek me out at the show.
Juanita started talking about craft shows, Houston, new groups, and even the possibility of opening some sort of storefront. Then, she said the magic words, “19th street“, and I think that’s when I fell in love. To me, W. 19th Street is the perfect little Main Street USA of Houston. One of the only spots in this ginormous city where, for a few lovely blocks, pedestrian shopping is still practiced. Not only that, but there’s not a single national chain or department store to be found. Smack dab in the center of a neighborhood that clings tooth and nail to its roots and history, it’s a small mish mash of funky and eclectic, trendy and modern, vintage and antique small local businesses. And Juanita had her eye on a space for lease right on this very street! I had never even really dreamed of selling Lazy Owl products in a storefront, let alone being part of one, but when I got the opportunity to be part of this I knew I couldn’t pass it up.
This is the Lazy Owl Boutique area at Roundtable
I can’t exactly describe what followed. Somehow, in the space of just two months, we went from a group of eager strangers with a totally raw, unfinished space to a collaboration of artists with a painted, fully-stocked handcrafted boutique open to the public.
Juanita found a group of local artists with all sorts of talents. We fine-tuned our business pitch and met with these ladies in late May, hoping that 2 or 3 would be willing to come on this adventure with us; I was totally astounded when over 13 of them jumped on board! Our leased space was formerly a storage room for antiques – unpainted, old ceilings, concrete floors…the list goes on. But with a lot of elbow grease (and only a small amount of yelling) we turned that space around in a matter of weeks.
Just a small selection of all the amazing goodies we have in the shop
We are a team of artists from very different backgrounds and even different cultures, some of us work full-time day jobs, some of us have children, and something different drives us all. But our passion for our creative art and our drive to offer Houston something new and different really motivated us to bring this vision to life. We are starting out slow – only open on the weekends for now – but we definitely have big plans and big dreams!
I am so proud of what we have all accomplished together! I hope if you are ever in Houston you stop by Roundtable Goods on W. 19th Street. You might even see me working behind the counter; regardless, you will see some wonderfully unique heartfelt and handcrafted treasures.