When it comes to running a business, mistakes are inevitable. They’re also one of the best tools to show us what not to do moving forward.
Today, we each bring our 3 biggest business mistakes and chat about the lessons we learned from them. We also share our best advice on how to make sound business decisions, spot red flags, and manage your cash flow as a new business.
The Highly Sensitive Person by Elaine N. Aron
R.L. Stine on Armchair Expert
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Hello, and welcome to Seriously Creative. I’m Jess.
And I’m Gwen.
And today is our very first episode of this podcast. So thank you so much for being here.
So some episodes will be interviews with women who inspire us, but others like this one will be us just chatting about things, something we’ve been thinking about or learning about or working on…
Or just something that we think people don’t talk about enough.
So today we’re gonna be going through our biggest mistakes and lessons that we learned in our business. So this one’s a juicy one.
So without further ado, enjoy our first episode of seriously creative.
Okay. So today we are going to talk about the biggest mistakes that we’ve made in our business and what we’ve learned from them. Because mistakes are only valuable if you learn from them, not if you keep making them over and over, which is what we try to do.
We try to learn from them or we try to keep making them?
We try to learn from them, but we usually keep making them over and over.
Running a business is hard.
I feel like every once in a while, I’m just like, we have to learn this mistake every month, don’t we?
Yeah. Yeah. It’s cuz running a business is really hard.
Running a business is really hard.
So we have separately in our heads come up with our own three biggest mistakes and we have not shared them. And we wanna see if they match up.
Yeah. I’ve come up with one in my head. More will come as we talk. So less prepared than you.
I’ve come up with two in my head. I feel like they’re probably gonna be the same. So you start with yours.
And just for some context, since I think we’re gonna use this as our first podcast episode… we run a branding and website design studio. It’s just the two of us.
Truly just the two of us.
Just the two of us.
No one wants to hear me sing.
Louder, louder, louder… the crowd roars.
And we take on mostly custom clients, that’s our main source of income. But we also have two courses that we’ve created and we have several products. So while we love doing custom client work and we don’t think that will stop doing client work at any point, we really wanna have a bigger part of our business be passive income, so that we can take on the projects that we’re really excited about and devote more time to each.
Yes. And it’s super important to us to stay at a certain price point because the person that we wanna work with is usually like a solo entrepreneur or running a small business, and we wanna still be affordable in that range.
Otherwise you end up working for big corporations and we’ve done that.
No we don’t wanna do that again.
No, we don’t.
Okay. So one of the biggest mistakes that we’ve made is making one client too much of our business.
Oh, yeah, that’s a good one. And that was not one of mine.
So it is really amazing to have a steady client and have recurring revenue coming in. And especially when somebody trusts you and wants you to do a lot of work for them.
Like that feels so great. And it is a sense of security that you can’t often offer in a service based business because often people are coming in. It’s like you have to get new clients every month. And so it can really feel great to. A retainer client, but the problem with that, and this is really true with anything, not just clients, but like when all of your revenue is coming from one place and you wanna change anything about your business or you wanna change focus, or you wanna just change the way that things are feeling, you are really sort of still reporting to someone almost as if you’re still in corporate.
And so, we say this too, when it comes to marketing, like it’s really important that all of your customers don’t come from one platform. Because it’s the same thing. If that platform changes, if just like the client, if the business changes, if personalities change, like anything can change and you don’t want your whole business to be reliant on one person, one thing, one platform. It can be really scary and dangerous and it takes a bit to refocus and pivot and build up a new client base.
Yeah. But I will say the positive about all of that was, it was a really great way for us to get our business going, because it gave us the consistency, and it wasn’t as scary because we were coming from full-time corporate jobs where we didn’t have as much of a side clientele base that a lot of other service-based providers have when they leave their corporate job.
Like, we kind of took like a huge leap of faith on ourselves. So having that retainer client is what allowed us to. And supportive partners as well.
Yes. Yes, totally. Okay. What’s yours?
Okay. So my biggest mistake is making decisions out of fear. Ooh, that’s a good one. Which there have been. It’s really hard because like, I see it as a mistake, but we’ve made a lot of really good decisions because we were scared to, would you say is because we’re scared or despite being scared.
Okay. That’s the positive, but, okay. Yeah. Making decisions out of fear, I think has been one of the biggest things that has held us back at periods of time. So when we might have client not coming in as quickly, or like there’s a slow period, which happens with every service based business. You’re not, I mean, I shouldn’t say for anyone, a lot of people have, you know, consistent clients, but there’s usually a lull and that’s when it’s scary.
Cause you’re like, when’s the next client gonna come in? Especially because we chose not to have retainer clients. Therefore it means we need to bring in new clients every month. Yes. Yes. And because we work in a world where you’re doing custom client work, time equals money.
So when you don’t have the people to pay the hours, there isn’t any money.
That’s how math works.
That math equation is real clear.
So, there’s been times where we’re like, okay, we have this slow period. And maybe it’s because it was both of us and not just like one of us and being like, okay, what am I gonna do to like make money? It was both of us being scared that we weren’t gonna be able to support the other person that were like, okay, what, what are we gonna do when we’re like running around like chickens with our heads cut off and making some decisions and taking on sometimes some jobs that didn’t feel aligned, but that.
You say yes. Yes. And I mean, and it’s stuff that we know, like if anyone else was to come and tell us this, we’d be like, don’t take the client. Be like, Hey, red flags, red flags, red flags, everywhere, super red flags. We’re just like burying the red flags, like pouring dirt, catching them on fire, the red flags go away.
We need the money. Well, it’s also because. Wait, I think I just came up with another mistake. Okay. Do you wanna just, just roll into it, just roll into it? Yeah. Okay. Let’s go. Mistake. Number two of mine is that we’re too much of people pleasers. Ooh. Yeah. yeah. Someone saying no to anything. It’s very sad for me.
Yeah. It’s easier for me to say no. To some things, because it’s the two of us. And so I feel like I’m saying no for you, because I have an easier time, like standing up for you than I do for myself. That’s funny cuz sometimes yeah, if I’m like writing an email and I’ll be like, can you look at this? If it’s like, like I’m like putting my foot down and you’re like, Nope, take up that word and that word and that word, you gotta be, put your foot down harder.
You gotta that’s because it’s it’s because it’s not just me like, OK, okay, I’ll do it, sir. Sorry, but I can’t do it myself. Otherwise. I’m like, okay. I, I just have to do all of these, all of these things. I just have to. I think that like probably rolls right in with being a perfectionist. So like again, service based business, actually, not even just a service based business.
The fact that we produce courses and products and we create brands for people. Like, of course we want them be the highest of quality, but there’s like high quality. There’s like 100%. And then there’s like 150%. And then there’s us. Like, we go so far overboard to the point when like we can like lose money on a job because we’re like, it’s not good enough.
It’s not good. And the fact is it is good enough is just… we know we can do better. We know it could be a little bit better, even though it’s gonna take us twice as long. And like, instead of just stopping when it’s like, no, this is what the person asked for. We don’t have to put 74 bells and whistles on top just because we know we can.
Yeah. So I feel like that’s kind of with people pleasing that’s 100% with people pleasing. It that’s a, it is a real problem that we do that. And also it holds us back from when we have sometimes when we have product. We may have a shelf. That’s getting dusty, a metaphorical shelf. That’s getting dusty with some products that have never seen the light of day outside of our little studio.
That’s true. We do have many, a product that’s like 84% done. It’s really hard because we’re just like, it could be better, but I don’t have the time right now. To figure out what the thing is that it needs, but I know it needs something else. There’s always something else. It needs probably as part of this exercise, we should try to flip it and say, okay, what?
Instead of just being like, this is how we are forever. So maybe knowing that. What we always are trying then to improve on is one saying no. So if I am feeling really uneasy about saying no to something or that someone’s gonna be upset and then you can come back and go, okay. But two months from now, when we’re working on this project, that.
you know, we’re really dreading, like, how are you gonna feel like helping with that? So I think just saying no is the big one. And then being able to make something and not go back and fix it, not go back and make it like to really try to step outside. I know for me and myself and like evaluate, like, is it really broken?
Like mm-hmm if I, if I just take this product off the website, is it because I feel like I could make something better today? Or is it because I really feel like somebody is gonna like, be disappointed with their purchase and that’s like, never the. . Yeah. I mean, there’s always something we can make it a little bit better, make an improvement, but that can be like version 2.0 later when we have a ton of passive income coming in who just has so much shy to make new things.
As you can tell passive income is not supporting our business yet. Yes. Especially like, because the custom client work keeps us busy. So finding the time and then getting that stuff running. And figuring out how to do it. And we see a lot of other creatives talking about passive income. Like I really wanna create some stuff in my business.
Like I already created it for this client. And like, it’s such a waste that I haven’t also put it up in a shop or something, but the reality is it like takes a while to get something created and get it up, like live and ready to sell. And so if you don’t have like times set aside to do that, or like, you need to.
Again, if your hours equal money and you need to be working your whole month, then like to set several weeks aside to like, get something up and running is really hard. So don’t be hard on yourself if you haven’t gotten anything passive income set up yet, if that’s like one of your goals. Yes. I think quite a few people that we end up talking to think that we have that all figured out because we talk about it, but we’re still working on it, work in progress forever.
Okay. Here’s my next one. So in personal life, it’s really. Frowned upon to have any sort of debt. I mean, it’s really frowned upon any, any time to have any type of debt, but when you’re first starting a business, you need to be able to take on some amount of debt, unless you have a whole bunch of money to pour into it from day one, just to be able to get yourself up and running, to be able to, if you do wanna pay yourself a salary and there’s.
For instance, this is something that happens for a lot of people who are service providers. You’re not gonna always bill everything up front. You’re gonna bill a 50% deposit and then you’re gonna build the 50% balance once the project is done. And so sometimes you’re doing work before you’re getting paid for it.
And that creates like a cash flow problem. So I think when we first got started, we were like, oh, we don’t wanna take on any debt. So we’re just gonna like, make sure that all the debt’s paid off, even if it means like no money in the checking account. And really we had to flip it and be like, it’s better to carry a small amount of debt when you’re getting started and have enough cash in the bank to be able to cover things that come up.
Or if, you know, you need to pay out something you didn’t expect, like not having cash in the bank is just a situation. You never wanna get stuck. Yes. I mean, and I think part of it is we do have a little bit more overhead than some other people starting out, because we did choose to have a physical studio because of where we each decided to live.
It’s too far to, to drive better studios, like halfway in between. And we love working together. Yes. So we could work a hundred percent remote, but to do creative work and like not be together would be a, yeah, I. I don’t ever wanna do that. And we’ll also, I think this will go into probably like the next mistake is that we thought that growth meant growing our team.
So that meant more people, which. Isn’t what we wanted to do. So we, early on, when we talked about, like, we talked about that retainer client, they needed a lot of work, so we’re like, okay, great. We have, we have a ton of money coming in and now we’ll hire designers. That’s that we’re growing. Like, this is amazing.
And so we hired on a couple designers and we hired on an operations manager and a VA and a project manager. And. And, and, and, and a lot of people. So you know, which is great for some people, but for us, it ended up turning into this thing where we weren’t really getting to create the work that we wanted to create.
And instead we were managing other people. And I know I, I’m pretty sure other people figure it out in a way that it works for them, but we found that, like, it just didn’t work for us. So we had to reframe what growth meant. Yeah. And like for us, we are happiest when it is just the two of us. Like we really don’t wanna be managers.
I mean, I could see outsourcing, we do outsource some things like, especially when it comes to like our accounting, our bookkeeping, our, at some point we wanna be able to outsource more of our production work, that kind of thing. But I think to have like employees that you responsible for every month whose livelihood is dependent on you is just like, just don’t wanna do that.
Yeah. It’s not for if I have a good reason why I just, no, it’s just not for us. And I think it’s we have found that like, we want to just outsource things that are in our area of expertise. Mm-hmm like we, like, some people wanna grow and they wanna have other people to learn from them or do things that like, like them.
And that’s just not in the cars for us. I don’t wanna say forever, but probably, I definitely think when we had a team of like nine, that was way too many. And I can’t believe that we had, it was hard to like come up with any sense of creativity when like so many people constantly needed stuff from you.
And you’re like a task master. And I think just being like really creative people, we wanna be in the work. And so yes, to have a client come in and then other people are doing their work and you’re just looking over it. And then if they’re not happy, Even if they are like, just none of it necessarily feels great.
So for someone who’s listening, who wants to work with us, guess what you work with just, oh, I thought you might work for us. No, no, no. Like if you wanna hire us, you wanna design for you. It’s us. There’s nobody else in here doing any design. You’re not, you’re not gonna have us give the creative vision and we’re gonna hand it off to a junior designer.
It is us. It is us. Just the two, just the two I’m not singing that time. I meant him. When I saying that was embarrassing. I feel abandoned.
no one wants to hear me sing. I do. I love hearing you sing, especially when it’s a duet with me. Would you mind doing us a super quick and helpful favor? Can you pull out your phone, open the apple podcast app search for seriously creative and leave us a review for this show. It helps us to reach more people and it honestly just makes us feel super loved.
Thank you. You’re the best.
I think another mistake and mistake is probably too strong over word, but believing that you have to work eight hours every day. Ooh, that is a good one. So we used to come in like bright and early in the morning and we would sit at our computers and then all of our energy would be gone at three o’clock, but we would continue to sit at our computers until five, because that’s what you do when you work is you work eight to five.
I think that’s still PTSD from working in corporate for so long. Well, and like, especially like with some of the like old school people who were in management and this was not the case for everyone. But there was like a butts in seat mentality where like, if you are missing for a certain amount of time, it’s like, oh, they’re not doing their work or whatever.
And I heard this really great. Interview with RL Stein the other day, the author goosebumps, if you don’t remember, you don’t need to remind me I grew up in the nineties but it was on the armchair expert podcast and he said that he works. He starts at 10 every day and he is done by, I don’t know if he’s like one or two or three or something.
So he was basically like four hours a day. I go hard. I give like all my creativity and that’s like, all I’ve got and then I stop. And one of the hosts said, I think that creative output is different. So like if you’re at work and you’re going to all these meetings and you’re, you’re chatting by the water cooler and you’re, you know, entering Excel stuff or whatever, it’s like can be a different thing.
But like, if we’re sitting down and we’re like creating magic from scratch and we’re like pulling from our inspiration in our brain and we have to have energy to do that when you run out of that, it’s kind of like over it. Like, and so she said like, maybe it’s two X, like maybe creative output. Two X of some other type of output, not saying like creative over everything, but I think just like giving yourself permission or respecting that, like, it takes more to give creatively than it does to give maybe some like task based parts of yourselves.
And if that’s what you’re putting in that you’re not gonna be able to like do that for eight hours. And also it doesn’t like arrive on demand. Well, but there’s also the thing of some days you may be able to do it for eight hours. Amazing. Just like let it ride. Maybe that’s just like. Maybe there’s something different about my brain that sometimes I can do it for eight hours.
are you referring to the. Ad have added the, the fact that I think I may have ADHD. I am every time Gwen finds a checklist on ADHD. She’s like, I have all these 100%, I’m getting an, a plus on the test of, do you have ADHD? I probably should go to some sort of provider and be like, do I have it? Or do I just think that I do, but it does make a lot of things make sense in my life.
I’m like, So that’s why I do . Yeah, seriously though. When you, like, I even feel like that when I, somebody first was like, this was a really long time ago, but talking about anxiety and like, oh no, not everybody feels like that. Okay. Perhaps I should work on that or take some medication I sent. So now I’m gonna go on to a little tangent about it, but like I sent a list to Jess the other day about.
ADHD things. And then I sent like three different ones to my husband. I was like, do you feel any of these things, like, are these normal, like, are these just lists that they’re saying it’s ADHD because I’m like, okay. I like have all of these, so this can’t be, and he is like only like that one thing I was like, oh, okay.
Oh, ding, ding. I felt like that one. I first find found out about the highly sensitive person. So there’s a book called highly sensitive person that there’s a quiz that you can take. And there’s like 21, 22 questions, something like that. I might get that number wrong, cause it’s been a long time.
But I basically went through and was like, it’s like, you’re like over sensitive to sounds. And like you. Take on another person’s emotion. If they’re in a bad mood, it’s like, yes. Like I feel like other people’s emotions are, I have Velcro and they just like latch onto me. And I’m just like walking by, but one of them was you have a rich internal life and I showed it to my husband Jonas and he was like, I don’t even know what that means.
And I was like, oh, okay. I think I’m this. I think I am this thing. Well, but I’ve like convinced myself. I’m like, I don’t have ADHD. Like I keep telling my husband like, oh, I just have like a D D cuz I don’t have the hyperactive. Like, but then I read something recently cuz I. Basically, I file down rabbit hole and now Instagram serves me a bunch of ads and I’m like, oh, maybe I should read this too, but it can be like internal.
So like can’t shut your brain off about things. And I was like, oh yep. That’s that’s the one that’s where I’m. Yep. So next week on Jessica and Gwen’s medical podcast, where we diagnose ourselves from the internet. from ads on the internet and not go to professionals to get how to get actual diagnosis diagnosises.
Do you have a third one? I did, but it’s not coming to my head right now. Me forgetting things. That’s another sign. So I have another one that I think might be the one you were thinking of. Okay. Which. Trusting our God or trusting our emotions. Oh, okay. Yep. So this is a catch 22. Or like a what’s it called when it’s like a double sided coin, double, double edge sword, double edged sword.
Also a double sided coin , which is like, you should leave all of this in. And also most coins are double sided. gosh, all those single-sided coins. Yeah. All coins are double sided. So. I think that you’re taught that there are like business decisions and they’re based on like dollars and cents and then there’s emotional decisions.
And those are like not necessarily good for business. And both, I feel like can be true at different times. So we’ve definitely made emotional decisions. We’ve made decisions to keep people on who we love and wanna work with when it didn’t make business sense. We’ve made decisions to, you know, do work for clients again, when it doesn.
Business sense, but it’s somebody who we really love working with that can have like negative outcome. So the bottom line, but we also made a decision to not work with a client anymore and like totally shift. And that was an emotional decision. Right. So I do feel like that’s the other side is that we do trust our gut on things and.
Follow the joy. Like if something isn’t bringing us joy anymore, if something is feeling really heavy and hard, it’s like, okay, that’s the reason why we started this because we have control over what we do. So if we’re being made miserable by something that we’re doing, then something has to shift. And it’s not meaning like every task that we don’t really like doing, we should just throw out the window.
But it’s like, if we’re really spending a lot of our time doing something, that’s making us unhappy. Then, like, we need to trust our gut. We need to like follow that emotion. Yes. And I think we’ve established time and time again, that our guts always say that the decisions that we make together are the ones that stick.
Like I don’t wanna ever work with anyone else. I don’t wanna work with anyone else either. I do. I mean, that was like a marriage. Oh, I see what you’re doing now. I was like, what do you, it was a marriage. I know it was very confusing. I thought you were like arguing you with yourself. Like, oh, I do wanna work with someone else.
I was like, what is happening? Do you also split personalities? should we open up, up MD and check it out? Let’s see. Yeah, because like, we. Even when we like, sort of disagree on something, we just like talk about it. And it actually turns out most of the time we’re saying the same things. We’re just saying it differently, but we’re like, we’re, we’re always on the same page.
We’re good at decision making. I think we like kick the tires together too. And I’ll be like, but devil’s advocate and you’ll be like, but devil’s devil’s advocate. we just go back and forth. But then like, yeah. Once. And I think this is the thing we have in common too. Like once we’ve made a decision that something we’re going to do something, we are just doing it and we’re moving on.
Yes. It’s like, we’re gonna figure it out. And then like, we don’t like let things linger and dwell because again, creativity is your job. You have to like deliver every day. There’s not like a week or two. You can sit on something that’s making you uncomfortable and just like then produce Subpart work that people are paying you.
Yeah, I wanna point, like, I love that as a strength for us. Like I know sometimes it seems really scary, but I think it’s a really positive thing that we’re like, Nope, this is, this is what I want. I’m just gonna go forward. Yep. We can rename this mistakes and strengths. Did we talk enough about strengths?
Do we have any other strengths? We’re pretty good designers. We are pretty good designers. I’m really proud of like what we’ve done. You know, we’re also strength. Just being able to be like, I wanna do that thing and figuring out how to. Teaching ourselves. Mm-hmm we learned a lot of shit on the internet.
I mean, a lot of designers do nowadays, but I think. You don’t you fall behind real fast. Yeah, but like, I, we both came from like the typical, like higher education structure and I think for me, and I think it was because it was just like, so drilled into me as a kid that like, You have to, like what you learn in school is really important and you have to do it a certain way.
And so I had myself so convinced that my professional career would be a certain thing. Like what. Like just, it would be the things that I learned in school. Like that’s how I would do stuff. And I remember when drawing giant letters all the time and stuff. Yes. I thought that things had to be a certain way.
So when I started having to like teach myself how to do things, I kind of felt like I was imposter because I was teaching myself versus, oh, I took a class for this. Like, that’s a good being able to say. Like we both have done stuff with UX and UI and I knew stuff, but then I was like, I need to take a course in user experience before I can say, I know user experience, which is so silly.
Yeah. I mean, now looking back, it’s becoming less and less of a thing that you like need to have learned. I mean, I almost feel like what I learned in school was outdated because there was like a bunch of professors that had tenure that like, yeah, didn’t ever work in the digital age trying to teach just Photoshop.
And so I felt like there was some great like basics that I learned, but really once I got out, it was like, okay, now I have to like really figure out how to use these programs efficiently. And oh, by the way, learned how to. Do invoicing and hire, like they really should freelancers, like there’s so many things that have nothing to do with art that you have to know to be like just a functioning designer.
And especially if you’re trying to be a freelancer or like a business owner, how to do marketing, how to market yourself on the internet or off the internet. Like you learn it on the job where you’re just. I don’t know. I know how to do it. I mean, it’s also changing so fast. So like, if you learned how to make a marketing plan in college and like now you have to do it today, 10 years ago.
They weren’t like, well, when TikTok comes along, here’s how you’re gonna run it on that. That’s TikTok. Okay. So in summary, I like that we are always. Talking about things. And I, I think we don’t even use the word mistake as much, but like lessons like, oh, well, okay. We learned that lesson again today and paying attention to our wins.
And every once in a while we’ll get hard on ourselves. And then one of us will be like, but wait a minute, like how many clients did we hope last week? Or how much money do we bring? And it’s like, you do have to remind yourself, especially like, we’ll finish one thing and just immediately go on to the next.
So I think stopping and being like, okay, what have we learned? What are we always working to improve on? And what are we really F and good at? So a tip for solopreneurs, if you are just obviously solo anding, take time regularly to focus on like what you’ve accomplished, what good things you’ve done, because.
If you focus on the negative. Yes. All you’re gonna see is the negative. So focus on the positive, cuz we have gotten into ruts where we’ve been like too focused on, what’s not working with things and that we forget to focus on what is working.
So, and that’s an Easter egg for upcoming episode with Morgan Scott of the Good Space Co.
But yeah, we used to have a really good habit of doing our Wins of the Week. And we, I think we’ve kind of in the past, like, just this year… it was probably since I went off and had a baby, and then I don’t think we ever got back into like our good habits.
Again, so a reminder for other people, and for ourselves, to reflect regularly on what’s going well, so that you start seeing more of good stuff and more good stuff comes to you.
Agree. I love it.
All right. Is that it?
That wraps it up. Love you guys.
Love you. Bye bye.