5 Tips on Starting Your Calligraphy Business

Jan 05, 2018
kristaraschnippert

Photo by Carr Cormier Photography

It’s hard to believe that I started my calligraphy business nearly five years ago! In the beginning, I made a lot of mistakes. Like, a LOT. From the outside, it’s easy to assume that I always know what I’m doing and that I’ve always been successful. That’s definitely not the case. Everybody feels overwhelmed sometimes. With social media, it’s really easy to compare yourself to others, beat yourself up, or put too much pressure on yourself to be perfect all the time. Or, on the flip side, it’s easy to assume that things are a lot simpler than they actually are.

I don’t think any entrepreneur starts out knowing exactly what to do or how to run a company. But over time, your experiences (yes, even negative experiences) will help you overcome new challenges and shape your success.

I’ve been getting a lot of requests to “pick my brain” lately, so I thought I’d share my top 5 tips for working from home and starting a business.

1) Set big and small goals for yourself

There’s such a difference between having vague ideas of what you want to do and physically writing down specific goals you have for your business. I’m a very Type A, goal-oriented person, so when I first started my business, I wrote down a ton of goals for myself—from small, easy, attainable goals that would help keep me motivated to more challenging, long-term goals like building my business up enough to make the leap to full time.

2) Create a dedicated workspace and get dressed every day

I’ve found that it makes such a difference in my productivity to have a dedicated space to work. In the beginning, I’d take over our entire kitchen island and dining room table (hey, envelopes take up a lot of space), but eventually I moved everything into my home office and then my studio. Don’t judge me, but some days I’d work in my PJs all day and then it would suddenly be 7 p.m. and I’d find myself (and our home) in such a mess. It was stressful and exhausting and really blurred the lines between being at home and being at work. It felt like it never stopped. Which brings me to tip #3.

3) Make a schedule (and stick to it)

This is definitely the hardest one for me to follow, but it’s important to set specific times of when to start your workday, take breaks, and take lunch. When you own your own business, it’s so easy to get caught up in projects and deadlines—and then you end up working a crazy 14-hour day or staying up until the middle of the night trying to finish something. It’s important to take care of yourself and maintain your work/life balance by setting boundaries.

That being said, be prepared to never TRULY unplug ever again. When you have your own business, you have to wear multiple hats, including bookkeeper, cleaning lady, receptionist, social media strategist, webmaster, etc. I honestly don’t remember the last vacation where I didn’t have to at least do a little bit of work. Even after I had my daughter, I couldn’t take a true maternity leave. I still spent a lot of time answering emails and running a lot of back-end things for my business.

4) Network, network, network

Building relationships with other entrepreneurs is one of my favorite parts of owning my business. It’s wonderful to have other people to talk to, inspire you, and who will understand what you’re going through like no one else can! Owning a business is not for the faint hearted. It’s not all rainbows and butterflies—some days and weeks are really tough and you just want to give up and call it quits. Talking to other business owners helps me keep things in perspective.

The other great thing about networking is you also never know where one relationship will lead to. For example, I went to an event once where I was set up right next to the Kendra Scott booth. I started talking to the girls and we ended up really hitting it off. Before I knew it, they reached out to me to do some calligraphy for them. Years, and many projects and events later, they have become one of my favorite and most loyal clients!

5) Be smart with your money

This is my least favorite part to think about. According to a U.S. Bank study, 82% of businesses fail due to cash flow problems. Small businesses ebb and flow. Some seasons are crazy busy. Others, for seemingly no reason at all, end up being incredibly slow. Sometimes you have to chase people down for your money. Sometimes you may discover that you severely underestimated and undercharged for a project.

I’m not a financial professional at all, but you should minimize your overhead as much as possible, set aside a significant portion of your profits for taxes (income taxes, small business taxes, and sales taxes) as a contingency, and, because you’re not part of an employer savings/retirement plan (e.g., a 401(k)) anymore, you should create a retirement savings plan (I set up a SEP IRA). I’d also highly recommend working with a CPA (and possibly a bookkeeper) to properly manage everything.
Hopefully some of these tips help you as you’re getting started!

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