5 years in business: highlights and lessons

This week, it’s officially five years since I launched my first website and become self-employed.

Five years!

It’s been quick and slow and easy and hard and expected and unexpected.

Plus, I’m on maternity leave, so celebrating being in business is a little bit weird, to be honest.

But I thought I’d share some highlights and some things I’m pondering at the five year mark.

Highlight 1: Clients

I have worked with the most amazing clients over the last five years! It has been such an honour to be a trusted ear and voice for so many wonderful creative people. I’ve learnt so much from them and been inspired by them.

There is no better feeling than getting to know someone, how they work, what’s holding them back, and to see how they could move forward.

We’ve laughed a lot, my clients and I. We’ve been through disappointments and confusion and surprises and successes. There have been tears and hard moments. There have been big celebrations, and quiet moments of clarity.

Highlight 2: Creative Business Retreats

Starting just nine months after I launched my business, my Creative Business Retreats have been annual (and, one year, twice) delights of deeper business planning work.

They’ve shown me, over and over again, how I want to show up, how I want to support people, and how I can best do that.

I’ve known since I started that I don’t just want to look at the business numbers or the marketing plan. It’s about a holistic business practice, where the business owner is central to the success of the whole. And that has only developed and deepened over time.

The best bit? These retreats have resonated with attendees. They’ve been described as “life-changing”. They’ve forged friendships and business relationships. And they have expanded my heart.

(My next retreat is March 2020, and there are two spots left.)

Highlight 3: Expanding my business vision

With a very big caveat that not everything in the last five years has played out (more on that below), I am incredibly proud of the courage I discovered in myself to expand my business vision.

In 2016, I created Copper Boom Studio as a solution for small creative businesses to get professional content for their products. While it’s changed massively since then, it has taught me so much about the challenges of small business, and how I (well, we) can support them (well, you).

I’ve been incredibly lucky to work with my sister, my friends and the incredibly talented Cat, who now photographs and partners with me on the running of the studio. It’s still a thrill to see the latest shots for our clients!

(Cat is running the show over at Copper Boom Studio right now, and you can book our product photography services here.)

 

Things I’ve learned (and perhaps I’m still learning…)

There are business trends and fads

I don’t just mean trends like flamingos and cacti and hand-lettering – features of product and brand design.

What I’ve noticed is there’s a kind of collective consciousness when it comes to business tools and strategy. Some of it is natural and helpful. Some of it needs to be taken with a pinch of salt.

Examples I’ve seen include a sudden move to Facebook advertising, or affiliate schemes, or using specific tools or apps to schedule content.

Of course, the wise business owner looks out for helpful ways to market and run their business. But none of the things I’ve seen in the last five years have been right for everyone. There have been no golden ticket strategies or tools that I’d blanket recommend.

Patience

This is probably one of the big lessons of my life! But patience is something it turns out I really needed in business as well as life.

I’m really good at patience in some areas. I’m good at staying in certain types of vulnerability, not knowing what’s going to happen. I can talk myself through options and scary patches like a pro (because I kind of am one?).

But when it came to Copper Boom, I rushed in. I tried to get too much done too quickly, and ultimately that meant scaling back pretty quickly too.

So we keep learning the lessons we need to learn. Patience is something I now expect to need.

Trusted people are the best

Even when we work alone, we don’t work in a vacuum. It makes such a huge difference to work with people you trust, who trust you, and who share your vision.

This is a lesson learned the hard way – there have been let downs and things that didn’t work out.

But I’m grateful because it has helped me to honour the relationships that support me and nurture my business.

A few people I’d like to thank:

Kelly Harcus – the greatest friend and business support

Evan Quinn – my most amazing brand and web designer

Cat Ashenden – an incredibly talented photographer (and much more!)

Helen Bottrill – the kindred spirit I needed, currently taking care of my Progress not Perfection group

 

There’s more to learn, and more to envisage

When I started my business, I had a whole load of enthusiasm and confidence! There have definitely been times in the last five years when I’ve felt more bruised and naive than I did then.

Fortunately, I’ve been able to learn as I go, and after the bruising I’ve been able to commit to learning.

While I’ve learnt a lot, what I love the most is that I know that it’ll keep on going. I’ll learn more about supporting business owners, about running my own business, about recovering from challenges. Business will change, and I’ll expand my knowledge.

As I take a break to birth a babe, I’m also excited to see the potential in the future, to envisage more and better for myself and for my clients.

There are futures out there that we haven’t even dreamed of yet. And I’m thrilled to be able to imagine them.

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