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20 Things I've Learned in 20 Years-Part 2

Moving on the 4 more things I have learned being in business for 20 years.  A couple of these are super "relevant" as you will read!

5.  Schedule vacation time and days off-Oh yeah!  This is so important!  We had such a wonderful bunch of jobs to keep us super busy last year.  For the first couple of years when Bob and I worked together full time, it was more challenging to commit to a vacation, because we didn't know how the seasons would run.  Especially our wedding season!  

No matter how busy we feel though, we must schedule ourselves vacation in our down times so we can avoid getting burned out.  I do all of the customer service interaction, and really try to give my best to everyone.  In order to do this, it's so important to take time off.  We love taking a day off here and there and going for drives during the fall and spring...and taking beach days in the summer.  Just yesterday, we took the day off and had brunch with good friends.  We don't need to make big, elaborate plans for the day off.  We need to just commit to getting out together.

We had a wonderful trip to Martha's Vineyard last fall.  And we look forward to a trip to sit in the sun in our not too far future!!  Taking some time off keeps me refreshed and positive...and keeps the ideas going strong!

Chappaquiddick Island

6.  Say YES to fun opportunities when they come up!  Whether it is a styled shoot with some other wedding vendors, or attending a workshop to learn more about business-I love to say YES to these things.  Meeting new people and being open to learning is how my life is so enriched.

Recently, I had a couple of chances to say yes!! Michelle Brochu-Baker of Rockin' Chalk and I "met" thorough a mutual friend on Facebook a few years ago (thanks Deb!!)! Michelle is a fellow artist in NH and recently started a group called Mad Hat Creatives.  It's a forum for artists in my area to learn about each other and a nice give and take with our experiences in our artistic lives. 

Michelle launched a podcast called Hat Chats recently and I was honored when she asked me to be one of her guests!!  You can listen to it here. The podcast is created with the idea of hearing stories of creative people and different aspects of what they do, from many topics such as dealing with challenging customers, to goal setting, to mine-focusing on our 20 years in business!  I can't wait to listen to some of the other artists while at my easel painting.  

Another recent chance to say YES!  Meg Simone and Brea McDonald head up a workshop for wedding professionals called the Relevant Workshop. This is the fourth year they have done it, and the fourth year I am excited to attend.  This day is such a great opportunity to meet some new people, see some old friends, and learn some new things.  I look forward to this event every year!  Below, you can see the stunning venue at the Viewpoint Hotel last year.  Photos of Relevant below by Brea McDonald Photography.

Relevant Workshop 2018

One thing that is so important for me to remember when I attend such an event that involves networking.  I try to focus on "what can I bring" vs. "what can I take"?  It helps me focus on the people I meet as the day goes on, and what I can learn from others.  When I approach a big event with a lot of people, it helps me to shift my mindset, making the day so much more enjoyable!  Many people get nervous in big groups, so I need to remember that in these types of situations.  When I can try to be of service to others at a big event, I always feel better at the end of the day.

Incidentally, I noticed on the Relevant website just now when I was on there that there are still a few spots open!  If you are in the wedding industry and are interested, it's really a great event!

Relevant Workshop

7.  Stay humble in the face of perceived success-It's so exciting to see how far El's Cards has come since the early days. We have had a few large wholesale orders from a couple of large Maine stores-L.L. Bean and Sherman's Books.  We also do a lot of business with many, small local shops-Whims and Whatnots in Greenland, and Visibility in Portland-just to name a couple.  We are appreciative of all such orders!  We love working with our wholesale accounts-large or small.  

It has been fun when I receive a tag on Facebook from a friend when they see our cards, maps, or calendars out at a local shop!  It really gives a nice feeling of community and we love when people share their El's Cards "sightings"!!

The big orders are great, but our business wasn't built on big orders. It was really built one order at a time for many years.  The feeling of saying "we have arrived" can be tempting sometimes!  But I try to keep all jobs in perspective and be grateful for every opportunity to do what I love-no matter what size the job.

8. Creativity includes brain work-  I have always done custom work as part of El's Cards.  We are doing less and less of this now and have limited our custom options exclusively to weddings. We just get so many inquiries for this type of work, that if I took on all of these projects, there would not be enough time to create all of our every day products.  By every day, I mean our cards, notes, tags, maps, calendars...our popular items that we sell at the shows and on our retail site. We love doing the weddings, but this part of the business is just as important to me. 

There is a lot of thought that goes into every project I do.  Usually, I am mulling over ideas for at least a couple of days before I actually sit down and start painting.  When out and about, sometimes I even jot down painting ideas or a good quote I see somewhere if I think it could be good to use down the road.  On the drives mentioned above, and on vacation...those are other places where I gather inspiration.

When doing custom work, this process is even more challenging. The client inevitably has something in mind, and hopefully we are on the same page.  If we have a short timeline for turnaround, it can be super challenging if the ideas aren't just popping into my head easily.


Photo by Melissa Mullen

Sometimes, the best approach is just to pick up a pencil and get started.  I like to draw everything out before painting, and this also gives me an opportunity to show the design to the client before working on adding all the paint details.

For many years, I didn't recognize the importance of this part of the creative process for me. My approach was to just sit down and do it, and expect the ideas would just come to me.  But over time, I have learned the importance of having a good idea of my direction before I get started. And also that it does not have to come out perfectly on the first try!  Sometimes I will repaint the same flower 3 (or more) times to get it how I want it to look!    

In the beginning I always put pressure on myself to be "creative on the spot". I didn't consider how much time I was actually putting into all of my custom work-and naturally was afraid to charge for all of my time spent...not just the time with paintbrush in hand.  After many years, I have realized that the time I spend figuring out my approach to what I will be painting is just as important as the painting itself.  I've also found that my clients who want custom work do understand what goes into it and do not balk at the pricing.

Looking forward to a nice vacation!!
Did you miss Part 1 of the series? If so, here it is!!  Our next installment is here! See part 3 now!
AND don't miss some special posts from Bob also in the pipeline.

El & Bob