Being an entrepreneur in 2021 has been…. challenging. It was tough in years previous to this. I’ve been running my own business since 2016 and it’s both become easier and more difficult as time has gone on. Social media has changed SO much in the past few years. It’s all about algorithms, engagement, story views and reel views now. It wasn’t always as hard as it is today. Social media for any business is basically a full time job in itself. Add to that, the actual job of running a business, sourcing and creating products plus the ever increasing costs of running a business (oh and throw in a global pandemic) and the last couple of years have been tough if not crippling for many small businesses.
I was one of the lucky ones. So many small businesses thrived in a world that suddenly seemed to only exist online. My business has seen enormous growth during the past year for which I am very grateful. BUT…this has not come without an enormous impact to my family, finances and sanity. With growth comes big decisions and considering our youngest child Mila hasn’t been a fan of sleep I have struggled with making some of these big decisions the past year.
There was a crucial point earlier this year when I really questioned what I wanted to do with my business. I had a range of six books, flash cards and a new range of puzzles and memory cards in production. The money was steady and allowed me to stay at home with my kids and with my older two now at school it’s really only Mila that relies on me during the day. Flexibility has always been so important to me after working for years in an industry that, although tried to be accommodating and flexible, in the end simply wasn’t.
There came a point where I had to really decide if this was enough for me. Was it enough to just keep selling the same range of products and be happy that it made us a good income and allowed me to stay at home? Was it enough to simply run the business rather then grow it? Since starting this business I have thrived on being able to enjoy the creativity it allows me and was worried I would miss that if I stopped producing new products. I’m also in the process of writing a novel (or novels, I started a total of four last year and finished precisely zero) and thought that writing may be enough of a creative outlet for me.
After sitting with the idea of enjoying, rather then growing the business I realised it wouldn’t be enough. There is certainly something to be said for enjoying a business you have built from nothing but that’s simply not for me. I need to constantly be moving rather then standing still. More than anything I need to be creating. I realised I wouldn’t be happy unless I continued to create new products. The biggest issue then became time - where did I fit in the time to create and grow if I simply didn’t have any?
It didn’t take me long to realise the answer was outsourcing. I had already outsourced the packing of my orders when I was pregnant with Mila but I was still very much tied up with the admin side of my business. I knew the next step would be to outsource my advertising but after trying multiple marketing agencies I was quite deflated about who to outsource this to. I’m incredibly lucky to now work with a very talented Facebook and Google ads manager who has been instrumental in the growth of my business. The result of outsourcing all these parts of my business has funnily enough been revenue growth, reduced stress levels and just an overall increase in the level of enjoyment in my life. Because those are the parts of the business that I didn’t enjoy. By removing what I didn’t enjoy, I was suddenly able to enjoy my business - how strange!?
Another result of outsourcing has been gaining the unattainable - time. I have finally had time to be creative again which has resulted in two new product lines for this year. I am currently working with my artists and graphic designer to bring to life new products and books that have reignited my passion for the business.
The path to get this particular point though has been anything but easy. I haven’t slept properly in what feels like five years (thanks Mila) and trying to navigate all of the above on minimum sleep is not conductive to happiness. I pushed and pushed, worked when I shouldn’t have, cried more than I should have but am now finally in a place where I feel like it all makes sense.
The next year for Adored Illustrations is going to be incredible. There is an entirely new product range due out in the middle of 2022 and a new book series at the end of 2022 which I am beyond excited for. And then guess what? I already have product ideas for 2023! And that’s the key. Creativity breeds creativity. I have discovered that the only way for me to come up with new ideas for my business is to make the time to be creative. I have only been able to do this though because I have outsourced all the things that I didn’t want to, and couldn’t, do myself.
At some point during all of our careers (entrepreneurial or not) we feel stuck. We feel uninspired. We wonder what the next steps are and even if we know what they are we wonder if we should take them. My advice - take them. Money was a big part of why I didn’t want to outsource parts of my business but I now consider paying the invoices from my marketing manager as essential to my business as the website hosting fees I pay. Growth and outsourcing go hand in hand. The past year has taught me that if I want to grow then I need to be ok with letting go of parts of the business I used to hold on tightly to. The amazing thing about that though is that instead I now get to focus on my creativity. Because I can hire someone to work on my Facebook ads. But I can’t hire someone to be me.