We have come to the end of this blog series. This post is going up much later than I had planned. Here are the final of our list of helpful things I have learned over the past 20 years....
17. Protect your work-A few years ago, Bob and I were at a craft show in Ogunquit, Maine. We were excited to be there. It was our first time doing that show and we had been looking forward to it.
At the beginning of the second day, the crafter who had a table next to us mentioned that the day before he had seen a couple of people distracting us when another person took photos of our card designs. This was our first experience with something like this. The following week, I promptly made an appointment with a copyright lawyer and found out how we should be protecting my artwork, original fonts, and designs.
We met with our attorney, and learned how to copyright artwork with the Library of Congress and have taken steps to do that with many of our designs. It is not an inexpensive venture, but for peace of mind and knowing that it would hold up in a court of law, it is worth the effort and investment.
Did you know that when an artist puts artwork on paper, that work is immediately copyrighted? It's true. Bob did a lot of research about this and the information was all very eye opening. As quoted from ArtBusiness.com: Art is considered copyright protected from "the moment it is created and fixed in a tangible form that it is perceptible either directly or with the aid of a machine or device."
Nowadays with the internet being what it is and artwork just being "out there" for all to see, I don't think people necessarily understand what copyright means. Just because you can download something and print it out yourself from your computer does not mean it is legal to do so. .
18. DIY is great-but save the big jobs for the professionals-when Bob came on board, we had some ideas about expanding El's Cards. We wanted to add a wholesale portion to our website and to start expanding in that direction. I have worked with several web developers over the years, since El's Cards has had 3 different websites. It's like with anything. You get what you pay for.
This website we currently are enjoying is by far the most comprehensive and easiest to use of all. And no, we did not build it. We hired a professional to create it for us, page by page. We do have the capabilities to "stock the shelves" when we have a new product. But this was the most worthwhile investment we have ever made for our business. Was it cheap? No. Was it worth every penny? Without a doubt.
Even now, when it comes to back of the house changes that require coding, I won't go near it. We have a great guy in Texas who does all of those changes for us. It's been a great system. What takes him an hour would take me six hours! In the early days, I didn't have the finances to go this route. But when it became clear that Bob and I were going to make a go of this business together, we needed to get serious! We haven't regretted that decision for a single minute.
Now we have the retail site that brings us so many wonderful couples looking for wedding invitations. We also have the wholesale site which gives us another revenue stream. This part of our business can always expand, but for now, we have just enough.
19. Good communication is imperative-This is one of the most important lessons I have learned being in business for myself all of these years. And actually in life too! Whenever I am working with a new client, I always let them know that I am good about email communication. It is my policy to try to answer emails as soon as possible when they come in.
I also like to pick up the phone. Sometimes on a quick, 15 minute call, we can accomplish more than 2 days of emails back and forth. It gives clients a chance to ask as many questions as they wish, and I enjoy getting to know the people with whom I will be working.
Bob and I put this into practice every week. We always sit down at the beginning of the week together and talk about what is on the calendar for development, production, and mailing. We map out when things are slated to go out and go over the numbers for print. This is a critical part of having a successful business. There are so many moving parts, we both need to review our timelines so we stay on schedule for our clients.
20. Be patient- This has been the biggest lesson of all for me! After 20 years, I finally feel like we are where I have wanted to be. But it took years of figuring things out, doing the best I could with my resources at the time, and most of all...so much patience!
As I have mentioned, for many years, I was working hard at getting El's Cards off the ground. Sometimes it felt like I would never get there. Every day, I am grateful that I stuck with it and didn't give up. There have been so many challenges, but for that reason, I don't take a moment of any day for granted. Bob and I both feel so fortunate that we are able to do what we do, and have such a good life together.
We still learn on a daily basis and always remain teachable. I believe that if I had been handed a big pile of money to start my business all those years ago, and grew too quickly, I wouldn't have the appreciation for all the good things in my life now. Because it was years of hard work, the reward to me is much sweeter!
So if you are starting your business and are feeling like it will never get off the ground, take it "one job at a time". And realize that anything worth having, takes time!
Big thanks for the photo to Melissa Mullen Photography!