I have to admit, I have been avoiding writing this post. I know there are a lot of you out there who were like me 6 months ago: a small creative business owner who happens to be pregnant. Some of the comments on my previous posts have been along the lines of "thank you! You're giving me hope!" And so I haven't wanted to tell you how damn HARD it is to run a business and take care of a baby.
My initial plan was to take some time off. I figured a couple of months would be good. However, I didn't stop taking on projects when I should have because I still needed the income, especially because we just bought a house and spent a lot of money. And so I found myself, the week after Charlie was born, finishing up drawings. I haven't turned down any jobs, except for those who were on a serious time crunch (it's taking me 3x as long to finish things these days, so I've changed my workflow too, so I can still deliver on time). I put up a message on my website that I might be slow to respond to emails, but I still tried to respond within 24 hours.
The one thing I did stop doing was promoting myself. This ended up working well for me, because I got fewer inquiries and could handle the business I was bringing in. So instead of taking time off, I slowed down. Things were manageable, but not easy to say the very least. There were tears on more than one occasion. I'm not writing this as a woe-is-me sort of post, more like a "this is reality" post.
The difficulties were compounded by the fact that Charlie refused to sleep, starting at about 3.5 months. She went from sleeping 8 hour stretches at night to sleeping 3 hours at most. She didn't nap for longer than 30 minutes unless she was sleeping ON me. The only time I had to work was at night, after she went to sleep. But I was so tired that I was running myself ragged trying to get anything done. I was running on very little sleep and still only had about 2 hours per day of work time.
Things have gotten better in the past week, because we decided (reluctantly) to start sleep training. Charlie is now able to sooth herself back to sleep and thus is finally on a routine. She sleeps from 7pm - 7am with two feedings, and during the day naps from 30 minutes to 1.5 hours. I am better rested and have more time to work.
I am hoping that things will get easier as she continues to grow up. She can already entertain herself SO much more than she could before, so I'm often able to respond to a few quick emails while she plays with her toys on the floor for a few minutes. The other issue, though, is that my priority is obviously Charlie. While she CAN entertain herself for quite a while without being bored, I want her to have interaction with me and the world, and see new things. I don't want to keep giving her new toys so I can ignore her 5 minutes longer - I want to take her out for walks so she can experience the world beyond our front door.
The reason why I've been dreading writing this post is because I want you guys to be hopeful, and I don't want to scare the crap out of you. My business is not where it used to be, by any means. I am having to get creative about how I will continue to grow when I have far, far less time than I used to. The good news is that, slowly but surely, things get easier as they get older. In the beginning, she couldn't entertain herself at all, and she wasn't going to bed until 11pm. Things are a lot easier with a six-month-old than they were with a newborn, or even a three-month-old. But I have scaled things back quite a bit, and I am certainly not working full time.
I know a few of you had due dates not long after mine - how have you coped? Are you still out there? I know it's difficult to comment from your iPhone (that's how I read all of my blogs these days), but I'd love to hear from you. :)
Every once in awhile, I’m reminded that I need to write a post on this subject - and now I’m finally doing it!
I’ve been asked these two questions more than a few times:
“why don’t you have any photos of your clients on your website, so we can see what they look like compared to your drawing?”
“do your characters really look like the people you’re drawing?”
The answer to the first question definitely comes down to personal preference. I just don’t like the way websites look when they have those “before and after” photos. I think it cheapens the look of the website, so I made a conscious decision not to do it. But in a way, it kind of sucks for my potential clients, who are left wondering, well..."do your characters really look like the people you’re drawing?” And the answer is definitely yes, but with one caveat: I have to have good photos of the person first. If I have good photos (more on that in a minute), I think I do a pretty good job - and so do my clients! Take this quote from a recent client, Jess:
“"WOW! I always thought your stuff was cute, but I didn't really realize how much it would actually LOOK like me until I saw myself drawn. So cool!"
When Jess asked me why I don’t post photos of my clients alongside their drawings, I asked her if she’d be willing to let me use a few of her photos for the blog, so I could do just that! Lucky for me, she's a good sport. :)
So without further ado, here’s an example of a couple, and their Save the Date:
Jess and Mike provided me with great photos, so it was easy to make them look just right.
And what makes for a great photo, you might ask?
In order to draw a character that looks like you, I need to be able to see the shape of your face. That means I need photos that are taken straight-on, and are unobscured by things like sunglasses or hats.
Here’s an example of a couple of photos:
In the first one, see how her face is tilted away from the camera? If you like taking self-portraits, a lot of your photos probably look like this (I know mine do!).
Sometimes clients have a hard time finding good photos of themselves, and they’ll send me a bunch that are just okay. Sometimes I’m able to make a character look right using those images, but it takes me a lot more time, and I’ll often feel less than 100% confident about them. In those cases, I email the client the initial proof and ask them, “do you think this looks like you? If not, send me a few more photos!” After the second round of things, the character ends up looking just right. That’s why it’s good to have great photos from the outset.
One thing to keep in mind that your pictures don’t have to be super high-quality. If you want to send me a photo from your camera phone, I’m not picky! It’s mostly the angle that matters. ;) So feel free to take a quick picture just for me - I’ll definitely appreciate it!
Remember back in January when I said I was working on some very exciting new stuff for 2010, and then I announced my pregnancy a couple of weeks later?
Well, that wasn’t the only big change I had planned. For Stinkerpants, I was working with Flourish Web Design to create a completely new website, which was sorely needed! It took longer than I expected, but it’s finally here and I’m totally thrilled with how it turned out. I’m also really relieved that I can get back to blogging now that it has been launched! I've had a lot of personal changes in the past few months (and my little baby is officially considered full term, believe it or not!) which I can't wait to share with you.
I won’t go over every single new feature of the website with you (I don't want to bore the crap out of you, no matter how excited I am!!) but I will show you guys my favorite parts.
First off, there is (of course) the new look of the front page:
Not only is this super fun and cute, but it makes finding the different types of work I do much easier – before, I think it looked like I only did custom drawings for weddings. Now, I think it’s clear that Stinkerpants is weddings and a lot more.
Next is the shop, where everything is really streamlined according to what you’re looking for. If you are interested in custom stationery for your wedding, you’ll find it right alongside fun greeting cards for your bridal party. If you’re looking for custom drawn baby announcements, you’ll find them next to art prints for your new nursery (and all of the individual alphabet prints are back! Yay!). I also have a section for “everyday” items like wall art, calling cards & other stationery, and announcements or holiday cards. More products will be coming in the future...and, as always, if there are any products you’d like to see me make, leave me a comment somewhere on the blog or shoot me an email!
The “How It Works” Section is a new area for custom clients, which should be really helpful. In addition to links to my latest projects, there are pages for envelope options, layout options, a FAQ and an intro into my pricing (which has changed! More on that in a few days!).
And, one of the more exciting things that I’ve been wanting for a LONG TIME is a brand new logo. I did a lot of research to find something I knew I would like for a long time, and settled on the beautiful calligraphy ofGina Sekelsky of lettergirl.
Isn’t it wonderful? I was looking for something fun, classy, completely non-generic. I think Gina nailed it.
So there you have it: a general overview of some of the biggest changes. There will be more details about some of the other changes (such as the changes to my pricing structure and new products) in the coming weeks, but I think this is good for now. I hope you’ve all been well!Comment
When I thought about getting pregnant, I (of course) had to think about my plans for Stinkerpants. I figured, “okay, once we get pregnant, I’ll have about 7-8 months to get a bunch of goals accomplished, and then once the baby is born I can take a step back and just maintain the business for awhile.”
Uh, yeah. That’s not what happened.
I didn’t anticipate that my life would change dramatically right away. I am sure this doesn’t happen for everyone, but heck–it sure happened for me. I found out I was pregnant, and literally two days later I started throwing up. By the next week, I was so exhausted that I could barely get off the couch. Even doing the laundry was both mentally and physically draining. Accomplishing my long list of goals for early 2010? Not going to happen! I’ve been in maintenance mode.
Now that I’m four five months (what is up with the way they calculate pregnancy months?!) into this pregnancy, my mind has cleared a little bit (although I did recently mail a letter to my mom and address it to myself–oops!) and the daily sickness seems to have gone the way of the exhaustion, thank heavens.
So now, with about 5 months until my due date, I’m finally thinking about my business and re-thinking my goals.
Part of this process involves thinking about maternity leave realistically. I’ve asked various people for advice on this and have been very unhappy with their responses, which have ranged from “plan?! You can’t HAVE a plan!” to “working at home with a baby is an impossibility until at least 7 months.” After hearing those responses, I was left feeling kind of powerless. After all, even though this seems like overkill to me, who am I to argue? What do I know? I’ve never had a kid.
Well, I’ll tell you what I do know, actually. I know that, at the end of the day, this is a baby. As Y said, it’s not like we’re battling wildfires every day. It’s definitely going to be hard, but seriously?! I can pick up my work for a few minutes and then drop it again when I have to take care of the baby–I don’t need 8 continuous hours of work, and I’m not doing brain surgery here. Furthermore, I know that I will have the help of my husband, in addition to both my parents and my in-laws.
I also know that this business isn’t a hobby for me, and I feel a great responsibility to my clients. And having my business sit idle for months on end isn’t good for the business, it isn’t good for me, and ultimately (because I’ll get cranky), it won’t be good for Little Stinker. The other thing? I can’t afford not to work for that long. But the real big kicker, the one that squashes all the negative advice, is this: I know that there are women who have done it, and I can be one of them.
This afternoon I was able to talk to a good friend of mine, who also happens to have a 7 month old baby. She made me feel a LOT better about what having a baby is all about, and actually reinforced some ideas I’d already had (mostly because my mom told me). For the first few months, the baby doesn’t need to be entertained that much. It’s mostly about figuring out how to get them to sleep, how to cope yourself, and letting your body heal. Once they get to be 5-7 months old, though, they start to need more attention. They want to be entertained. And that, my friends, is when I think working from home will be rough. But I’ll cross that bridge later. ;)
I also was very lucky to call on some inspirational and intelligent women from the wedding industry last week (thank you Michelle and Caroline!), who were very reassuring about my ability to keep running my business and take care of the baby. Because I’m not the only one who has gone through this or will go through this in the future, I figure I’ll post about my experience here on the blog every now and again. Maybe someone through Google will find my learning experiences helpful. :) And hey, I bet I’ll have a few funny experiences to share, too. ;)
In other news, I hope you are all well! Thank you again for your supportive comments on my last post. You guys are awesome!Comment
Over the past few months, I’ve been doing a lot of soul-searching and business plan writing, and I’ve decided that it’s time to make some changes in my business.
Specifically, it’s time to expand. I need to create products that are not custom so that my husband and I don’t have to live in a cardboard box down by the river. I’m only partially kidding (haha).
I’ve been blogging here for about two years, and I’ve really come to value your opinions and feedback. I’m hoping you guys can help me out: what would you like to see Stinkerpants do next? It doesn’t have to be wedding-related: anything you can think of. I’m looking for specific items to pursue, not just generally “kid’s products,” you know? If I use your idea, you’ll be the first to get whatever it is, I promise.
Any ideas? A billion thanks for helping me to build my business, both in the past and in the future. I really appreciate all of you, lurkers and commenters alike. :) Thank you.Comment
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