It’s been a while since the Zebra Pit has added to our Disability and Work series. I enlisted the help of spoonie entrepreneur, graphic designer and blogger Kirsten, who owns Graphic Organic and works as a freelance graphic designer. Kirsten was kind enough to lay out a few of the things she found instrumental to building her business and discusses a little about how she manages the needs and constraints of her chronic illness with her work. Please help offer Kirsten a warm Zebra Pit welcome. I hope you enjoy her invaluable advice as much as I!
Are you chronically ill and looking for ways to work from home? Did you have to give up your full-time job? Are you good at a specific skill? Do you have a lot of knowledge about a certain topic? Sounds familiar? Then keep on reading…
I’ve been running my business Graphic Organic for two years now. Graphic Organic is an online store with my own designs on sustainable clothing and stationery. I’m also a freelance graphic designer and I love writing articles for my blog.
I’m not an expert whatsoever, nor am I able to fully make a living with my business. I don’t have the secret ingredient for becoming a success overnight. I started out knowing nothing about the entrepreneur life. Graphic Organic is slowly growing every single day and so am I as a girl boss. I’m here to share my story of how I started my business and things I’ve learned so far.
1. No matter how much you prepare you’re never ready, but it does help.
You will learn most things along the way. Even the most successful business person will tell you they find out new things every day. Owning a brand has its risks, no matter how good you prepare, you’ll realize soon you can’t control everything.
Nonetheless, I’m glad I did go to a business course before opening. I didn’t have many people close to me that are entrepreneurs and I had no idea where to begin.
In business class we studied the basics of marketing, insurances, laws, how to make an invoice, taxes, etc. I know some people make it seem “easy” online to start as an entrepreneur but a lot of them are technically doing things against the law. This doesn’t have to lead to serious problems now but it’s important to know your rights, especially as your company grows.
2. Invest, volunteer and support.
In order to grow your brand you have to be very passionate, otherwise you will give up in an early stage. Believe me, there have been multiple times when I wanted to just stop because I was so tired of working for free.
Every little money you earn goes needs to be reinvested into your business. Whether that is paying your suppliers, materials you need or your accountant. Advertising and promoting your business is not only hard work but also expensive. Running a business is so much more than the service or products you offer.
I know it sometimes feels like you are constantly giving and not receiving. Money will come into your life but you have to be patient.
Doing volunteer graphic design jobs have payed me in experience and more work to put on my portfolio. Thanks to the work I did for free, a client reached out to me because they liked my style.
Giving away products made people talk about my brand and therefore I gained new traffic to the site who subscribed to the newsletter or follow me on social media, which attracted them later on to actually purchase something.
Another thing I noticed is supporting fellow entrepreneurs in your niche is so important. You know about yourself how many hours of work you put into your project, a super quick and easy thing to do is simply let someone know they’re doing a great job. Think about how it makes you feel when you get a compliment. Feels good right?
Why would you go to a supermarket with four floors for jam when your neighbour makes it themselves in a local establishment? If you don’t have money to spend now, you can easily support by just telling people about it, hang up a flyer, share on social media or a simple thumbs up and a nice comment help to gain followers.
Try to look at your business as something unique, even if people try to copy it, they can never be YOU. There is a place for everyone. Don’t look at it as much as a competition but a positive look and genuine support can help you a lot further.
3. Your health stays a priority.
Last but not least, your health should always be your first priority. My chronic illness is not going on a holiday when I’m in working mode. The chronic pain and fatigue is always with me. Even though we all know it can be so nice to just focus on something else and forget about being ill, it can be toxic too if you put self care at the bottom of your to-do list.
The freelance work I did has always been for someone who understands my health issues. They know that I have a slower pace than the average graphic designer and that sometimes I’m stuck in bed and it’s possible appointments have to be rescheduled. Strict deadlines are a no go for me.
This makes it a lot harder to find clients but I think it’s important to not promise anything you cannot realize.
When I receive an order, I give myself 1-3 business days to package the product(s) and bring the parcel(s) to the post office. That way I’m not getting stressed out when I’m having a flare.
I know all too well what it’s like feeling trapped in your body and wanting to do things because you feel so inspired but you can’t. “You can’t pour from an empty cup”. I’m working hard on planning in rest, just as I plan in work and activities.
I make mistakes and I’m gonna keep making them. But I’m growing as a business woman and as an individual too. Remember that taking care of yourself is a skill just as much as making jam is. 😉
Do you have a business yourself? Are you thinking of starting one? Let me know in the comments!
Kirsten is a graphic designer, blogger and the founder of Graphic Organic. She’s 23 years old and lives with fibromyalgia and M.E. To learn more about Kirsten, visit her website: https://www.graphic-organic.com