Hello friends! Today, I’m gonna share with you about my biggest failures in business, something I believe it’s a worthy topic. My hope is that it will inspire and encourage you in your entrepreneurial journey.
You can listen to all of my thoughts on this topic on the Wonder Creative Podcast above, or watch on YouTube! Let’s talk about failure…
When approaching any creative endeavor or business, it’s crucial to understand that failure is not the opposite of success; it’s a part of it. If I had known this earlier in my journey, I wouldn’t have hyper-fixated on success or failure during the early stages of my business.
It’s so important to learn the art of failing forward. Many people talk about this concept in business and life, but what does it mean? Failing forward means using your failures to help you progress. How can you integrate your failures into your success? How can you learn from them and use them to make yourself stronger, without letting them knock you down? Keep going and embrace your failures as stepping stones to growth.
I have been in business for four years and have made A LOT of failures. I just want to share with you some of those and how I am using these failures as fuel to launch me to success.
You know, when I first started my business, I was so eager and passionate that I didn’t set any boundaries for myself. I overbooked myself and took on as many clients as possible, which was partly due to my naivety and also because I needed the money. It wasn’t until year two and even into year three that I realized how much I was struggling to keep up.
Design projects, especially branding and web design, can be massive undertakings, making it easy to lose track of time and get off schedule. I didn’t really plan or assess how many hours each project would take, which led to chaos and a feeling that I couldn’t deliver the experience I wanted for my clients.
As a creative business owner, it’s vital to honor your capacity. I’ve come to understand that saying yes to everything isn’t sustainable, especially when you have a family to care for. So now, I’ve learned to evaluate how long each project will realistically take me. This way, I can set clear project timelines and deliver exceptional results without overextending myself.
Going past project timelines eats into potential new projects, and that’s not good for business or my well-being. It’s essential to strike a balance and not overbook myself, so I have the time and energy to create my best work and still enjoy life outside of work.
Another lesson I learned was about establishing my identity, both as a person and as a business. I now realize the importance of leaning into what makes me unique and niching down. I feel like maybe if I had done this earlier in my journey, making marketing decisions would have been easier. At that time, I was just starting out in brand design, so there was a learning curve I had to go through.
In 2021, I took on a big retainer client, and I felt ambitious about growing my business into an agency. So, I hired a team to help me with various projects. However, I didn’t know what I was doing, and it was tough to manage the team effectively. I realized that managing a team requires investment and constant cultivation, not just setting them in place and letting it go. I wish I had known better and prepared myself for this challenge.
It didn’t work out as expected, and I had to let go of some team members due to a rough patch in my business. That was a tough moment, but I cherish the relationships I still have with them. I learned the importance of delegating and training team members to effectively offload my workload. It was chaotic, but the experience taught me how to manage with confidence in the future.
Next, let’s talk about a valuable lesson I learned—quitting a client that was a significant source of my income without having a backup plan. It was a tough decision, and I did it out of sheer desperation because I was overwhelmed and depressed. Looking back, I realized I could have handled it better by being more open with the client and renegotiating our arrangement instead of abruptly quitting.
I tend to take risks and trust that things will work out, which can be both a strength and a weakness. In this case, I didn’t think things through enough, and I made a rash decision without considering the consequences fully. However, this experience taught me a couple of important things.
First, never burn bridges if you can avoid it. I eventually had to pick that client back up because I needed the work, and I’m grateful I didn’t handle the situation in a distasteful way. Honoring and maintaining professional relationships is crucial because you never know how things may change in the future.
Going forward, I always make sure to approach situations rationally and honor my clients and work. If there’s ever a challenge or a need for change, I now look to find another way without being impulsive.
Waiting for perfection can be a big hurdle in our journey. I used to wait and wait for everything to be just right with my brand, my marketing, and my confidence. But you know what? Perfect doesn’t always happen, and that’s okay!
I’ve learned that while there are some things worth waiting for, like the perfect timing for launching a podcast, there are others that you just can’t wait on. If you keep waiting for perfection, you might never take that leap and do what you truly want to do.
Instead of waiting, I now set my sights on excellence. I focus on doing something that feels right and aligned with where I am in life. It’s all about asking myself, “Is this sustainable? Can I keep up with it?” That mindset has been a game-changer for me.
Take the podcast, for instance. At first, I thought I needed a big audience, a team to manage it, professional equipment, and whatnot. But then, I realized I could start where it made sense for me and build it up over time. I didn’t need to wait for all the stars to align perfectly.
Consistency and excellence are way more important than waiting for perfection. It’s about taking action, learning, growing, and evolving. There will always be room for improvement, and that’s what makes the journey exciting and fulfilling.
Another thing I learned was the importance of niching down. When I first started Wonder Creative, I didn’t have a clear niche. I identified as a creative agency and offered a variety of services, but they weren’t in the same design family, so it didn’t resonate with people as I had hoped. However, looking back, I realize that I was new to this and needed time to figure out what kind of design I truly enjoyed.
A niche can take various forms—it could be a specific demographic, a unique style, or a specialized service. At the time, I had no knowledge of brand positioning or how to find my niche, but that’s all part of the learning process. Taking the valuable time to figure out exactly where my niche has been vital!
One mistake I made was not investing in education for my business. I enrolled in Design Biz Mastery, a fantastic design business program led by Morgan Rapp. It was a game-changer! Not only did it help me feel connected and less alone in my journey, but it also provided valuable guidance and wisdom. Having someone to pour into me and give me direction was incredibly beneficial.
Though I wish I had invested in this education sooner, I also believe that everything happens for a reason. Sometimes, we take a few trips around the mountain before finding our way, and that’s okay! It’s all part of the process of growth and discovery.
Another mistake I made was not being disciplined. As a creative, it’s easy to be in the moment and go with our feelings each day. Working for yourself gives you the luxury of choosing your work hours, but it also requires discipline.
Being disciplined was a challenge for me, especially while balancing motherhood and starting my business. I practically raised my son and my business simultaneously, which was a lot to handle. I struggled to structure my days and often felt overwhelmed by everything.
I didn’t realize that creativity is like a muscle that needs to be exercised and strengthened over time. I used to believe that I could only create when I felt inspired. I had a revelation that discipline can lead to delight in creativity. The more I chose to be disciplined, even when I didn’t feel inspired, the more I found joy in the creative process. Now, I have a sweet spot with creativity and can approach creative sessions with inspiration and motivation, even when I’m not feeling particularly creative that day.
As a creative business owner, waiting for inspiration to strike isn’t an option. Instead, I’ve learned to discipline myself, which has strengthened my creative abilities and made the process more enjoyable.
Another mistake I made was holding myself to impossible expectations. When I first started my business, I compared myself to others who were much further along in their journey, and that was a recipe for frustration. Instead, I realized that comparing my beginning to their middle or end wasn’t fair. I should have looked back at where they were in their first year and learned from their growth.
Setting unrealistic workloads was also a challenge for me. I thought I had to handle the workload of three full-time people, which wasn’t sustainable. Learning to identify my capacity and set boundaries helped me feel more fulfilled in my business and enabled me to grow without burning out.
Another important aspect I’ve learned to focus on is creating a solid client framework. Early on, both the clients and I weren’t sure what to expect from each other, which could be a recipe for disaster. I now realize that having a well-defined framework can make a significant difference in the overall client experience.
Now that I’ve implemented a framework, it’s a game-changer. Clients feel taken care of, and managing expectations becomes more seamless. This, in turn, helps build trust and establishes me as an expert in my field. Happy clients are more likely to recommend and refer me, and that’s a win-win for everyone.
Honoring one another is essential in this process. My clients deserve to know what to expect from me, and I want them to feel valued and supported throughout the project. At the same time, I’ve learned to take care of myself too. While I’m naturally giving and self-sacrificing, I’ve realized the importance of sticking to the scope of work and not overcommitting. Going the extra mile is great, but not at the expense of my well-being.
Another important skill I’ve learned is not being afraid of confrontation. Running a business means you’ll encounter confrontations, and it’s essential to learn how to handle them. One reason people might ghost others is because they avoid confrontation. However, if you’re a business owner, this is just part of the territory.
Dealing with conflict in a healthy way is crucial. It’s like exercising a muscle that needs to be strengthened. I’ve had to have a couple of hard conversations with clients, although it’s not the norm for me. Most of the time, things work out wonderfully after working through any conflicts.
It’s natural for conflicts to arise when we’re all different people with unique communication styles. Miscommunication can lead to misunderstandings, but addressing these issues in a healthy manner can resolve them. Embrace it as an opportunity for growth and better business relationships.
So, those are just a few of the many failures I’ve had so far. I’m sure there’s a whole list of more mistakes I could share with you. But my hope is that you find something in this that encourages you on your entrepreneurial journey or wherever you are in life right now.
Remember, failure is not the opposite of success; it’s a part of success. Embrace it, learn from it, and keep moving forward. Every mistake is an opportunity to grow and improve. So, don’t be discouraged by setbacks; instead, see them as stepping stones on the path to success. You’ve got this!