Lessons Learned // Reflecting on 2016
My word for 2016 was intention.
I had spent the first year post-boutique feeling a little lost, lacking solid direction and craving that more than anything. Looking back, I know I needed that. I needed to wander a little in order to explore potential opportunities, to find myself creatively and discover where it was this business of mine might be headed. I learned to be ok with that and to embrace the unknown. But last year, I went into it knowing that I needed a little more structure, and that if I was going to continue building this business, I needed to do it with intention.
And I did.
A couple of weeks ago, I spent an afternoon planning for the new year. There were lots of post-it notes (surprise, surprise), and the purpose was to set my focus on what was to come and align myself so that I would enter into the new year ready to work on the right things.
Even though I was already bursting with ideas and eager to dive into the dreaming and planning stages, we started by looking back on the past year to identify what Studio Bicyclette had accomplished, using that as a jumping off point to then start brainstorm action items, goals and next steps for this coming year. There was a natural progression between what had been accomplished in 2016 and what I had started to lay out for my 2017, which is always a good sign that I’m on the right track.
But it felt like there was one thing that was missing — a more personal introspection piece about what I learned, which is why we’re here today — to summarize what I learned about myself as a creative and as Studio Bicyclette as a business.
So these are a few of my lessons:
I’M ALL ABOUT ABOUT THE LITTLE GUYS — WORKING WITH SMALL, CREATIVE BUSINESSES
I was always pretty adamant about this during my boutique days, supporting other local businesses and urging others to shop small, but of course operating as a creative studio looks a little different since I’m essentially business-to-business now.
Here’s the thing — I think I first came into this thinking that the bigger the client, the better the opportunity. Bigger budgets, access to more resources, and more potential for outside recognition.
But I was wrong. My favourite clients and projects have been small businesses or solopreneurs that might be small but are living big dreams. They’re passionate about what they do, and my job is to help them find their magic and tell their story, whatever that might look like.
We get to spend time one-on-one really diving into what their brand is all about and how we can bring that to life through the details. We build a lasting relationship that often doesn’t end when the project is over, leading to more opportunities to work together and often a close friendship as well.
Those are my dream clients.
Community is something that I’ll continue to crave, and it’s become essential as a creative business owner
This year, I really learned the importance of who you surround yourself, of spending the time to create a community of your own, both online and in-person. There can be a lot of lonely days in front of the computer, so building those relationship and nurturing them is a necessity.
I struggled with feelings of loneliness at times, often leading to more negative thought patterns of jealousy, inadequacy and comparison. By sharing those darker times with others — whether that meant through my email community or with a good friend over a glass of wine — I was able to deal with them head on instead of internalizing them, while also helping others through their own negativity.
Sometimes, all you have to do is step outside of your comfort zone and ask for what you want
There can often be this expectation that opportunities should land in our laps without us having to land a finger, especially when we “deserve” it, whatever that means. But this year, I made a point to reach out to people I wanted to collaborate with, brands I wanted to form partnerships with, sites I wanted to create content for and friends I wanted to build relationships with.
It means going outside of your comfort zone a little, sure — but let’s be honest, that’s usually where the real magic happens.
Ask for what you want, explain why you’re the perfect fit, and deliver what you promise.
What’s right for someone else may not be right for me — remember to stay in your own lane
Though I’m not sure where I first heard it, I love the line “Stay in your own lane.” Everyone’s path is different and there is no point to comparing yours to someone who is on a completely different journey, or who is further along in theirs.
This past year I feel like I was finally able to turn a corner with this, owning my own skillset and style without trying to conform with what I thought it should be or what I assumed others wanted. By doing so, I started to attract the right clients and collaborators, and am finally on the path to designing my own dream business and life, not a version of someone else’s.
take a moment to step back and Pay attention to what people need and how I can help them
Instead of rushing into creating my services and packages when I relaunched (which was my initial tendency), I spend most of the year really narrowing in on what my brand was all about and creating content that showcased that. By doing so, I started attracting clients who were looking to do with their own brand what I had done for mine — create compelling visual content, and develop a cohesive brand presence and social strategy.
This led to more teaching, through the Visual Strategy Masterclass and the Get Social Workshop, as well as the development of specific packages — the Instagram Visual Strategy package, custom content creation, and a creative direction/brand strategy package that tends to still have a custom element to it but which I’m currently building into a more concrete unit. And trust me, this is just the beginning.
If I had simply put together a list of services out of what I thought people wanted, it would have looked very different, and I’ve instead had the chance to continue to refine these offerings based on what my clients need. Win-win, I’d say.
So do I have it all figured out yet? Absolutely not. But I’m learning, and that’s what makes running your own business especially fun. No day is ever the same, and it’s a constant journey. But if we take the time to step back and reflect on our accomplishments and our takeaways, it at least lets us know that we’re heading in the right direction.