November 11 crept up on me this year. This site is technically two years old now! That sounds like a long time, seeing as how this all still feels new to me.
It’s crazy how much has changed in my life during these past two years. This site is, in a way, a representation of that change. I wasn’t sure what I expected it to be when I started it, and I thought I had a clearer idea of what I wanted it to be a year ago. But it’s always evolving. Now at the two year mark, I am just grateful I can still be working on this, seeing it grow, and getting to decide where to take it next.
Some thoughts on lessons learned from this site process, so far:
- We live in amazing times. Technology and the internets are awesome. As just one person I can build this website with a template, take decent pictures with my iPhone, process everything on my laptop, connect with people online and ship from my home or a fulfillment service. If I can, anyone can (if they want to)! And I’m just barely scratching the surface compared to what many others have achieved. *Maybe I should add a disclaimer here that I also work really long hours… but it doesn’t feel like work in the traditional sense.
- People will surprise you. It was totally terrifying when I started this. You want to tell yourself you don’t care how it does. But you do. You start thinking, maybe no one would want anything. Maybe it’d die after a few months. But I’ve learned that people want to support you, and at some point how you fare is a testament to whether or not you’re making good things. Some of the absolute nicest things that have ever been said to me are by strangers through this site or social media. People I’ll probably never meet in “real life.” I find that really bittersweet and endearing in this process.
- You don’t have to have it all figured out. I have been keeping a separate personal journal on my learnings in this process. It’s always funny (and rewarding in an embarrassing way) to read back to an entry from the beginning, or even just a few months ago, where I didn’t know something that seems so obvious now. Or was struggling with something that is no longer an issue. I am a preparer by nature, and research exhaustingly, but still no one really knows exactly what they’re doing. Honestly, I think you just need to be ready to work hard (for a sustained and extended period of time), face disappointment, and…
- Be flexible and just keep going. I’ve put out a lot of things that didn’t work, and some that did. My style has evolved a lot. I still have a LOT to learn. But I try not to beat myself up over not having perfect skills yet, changing style direction, or having a product that didn’t do well. I accept it as part of the process and try to improve from there.
- Good things happen unexpectedly. Some success is planned for and the result of good execution. Other times good things happen in ways you just never expected. I never expected to be able to draw for other people. It was certainly not an intention or goal when I started this site. I just wanted to sell some donuts to people who wanted them lol. But having this site and accompanying social media posts led directly to my first commissioned work. At first I thought it was a fluke or one time thing, but it became more and more consistent. That eventually gave me the courage to think maybe I could actually be a freelance illustrator. And that’s what’s led me to where I am today (well, that along with a loT of thought, support from key friends, and just seemingly endless leaps of faith). My illustration work is now a bigger part of what I do than my work for this site. What is life.
So if there’s something you really want to do or make, I would say just go for it. Maybe it’ll exceed your wildest dreams. Maybe it will not. But it seems true that doing earnest work, making yourself vulnerable, and putting yourself out there will likely lead to good things in your life, directly or indirectly.
- Trust yourself. In whatever you do, you will face internal conflict on how to best move forward. I quickly learned I don’t like to be sales-y, and had to adapt from there. I have always been firm on wanting the site to reflect who I am at the time, even if that means turning away from a style that I know will “sell” better. I find myself attracted to other people’s styles and have to be focused and honest with myself on what is and is not me. I face many moments of doubt and spend a lot of time self-reflecting, but ultimately I have not regretted a decision based on that gut/”feels right” feeling.
- You don’t have to do it alone. Although this site and project has been a personal endeavor, it’s been priceless to have a few friends who are doing similar things that I can commiserate with. They motivate me through conversation, example, and just general positive energy. Support each other, cheer on the success of good people. It’s really never a competition.
- Enjoy the ride. No matter where this goes, it’s already something I’d never regret. It’s been challenging, time-consuming, and an easy generator of self-doubt. But ultimately it’s really rewarding and exciting. And has honestly saved me in difficult personal moments. I could not be more grateful to live in these times.
There’s more to it than that, but I’ve already written more than anyone will ever read lol so think I will save it for next year 🙂 Man, already getting excited about 2016.
Finally, I just want to express how much every single visitor and purchase means to me. Or even a kind thought had while browsing. It means a lot, to put it mildly. Along with other things people might think are silly, such as social media likes and comments, they are small but significant encouragements on this otherwise sometimes isolated journey down an unknown path.
So thank you and thank you again. A sale really doesn’t do it justice, but I try to celebrate things even if just in a small way.