Greetings my dear friends!! I am slowly dipping my toes back into my shop and creative endeavors as I continue to heal from my recent surgery. It has been this pause in my shop and the decisions surrounding when to close orders before surgery and when to reopen post operative that has led me to think about the fine line between self-care and small business, especially in today's economy.
In previous posts, I have talked about "Buying Handmade in the Era of Amazon Prime," and this is a companion piece of sorts. Small businesses often find it more difficult to compete with other online retailers - who mass produce items - in general, but if you have other obligations or health issues that arise as a small business that down time can be even more of a burden to you economically.
I preface this by saying I love making my stuffies, they are my kiddos and they bring me joy making them, and I hope they bring others joy in receiving them. However, this is not my primary occupation or primary source of income. I do have a day job and my husband works as well: This Is my second job to help pay for my need to crochet and to maybe have a little extra on the side. So, when I talk about some of the consequences for small businesses, I do not necessarily mean me, but from other stories I have heard, and from friends whose small businesses are their life blood.
But, even for me, it was something that I weighed carefully in making my decisions.
I have worked hard over the past (almost) three years to build my business and to be able to be at a point where I can offer a wider variety of Luvvies and be able to have amazing customers who come back to me. I don't want to let anyone down. At the same time, I knew getting close to my own surgery date there were several factors to consider: My production time is 2-3 weeks, do I want to push that up until the night before surgery? I don't want to cut off orders too soon in case someone is looking at my site but I don't want to create more stress - or worse - miss a deadline. And of course, down time means loss of revenue, which is something that has to be considered.
In retrospect, that might have been the easier part of the equation instead of determining when to come back.
If you follow me on Instagram, you know that while I have picked up my hooks and yarn again (I couldn't stay away from them long, they are my comfort), I am still moving much slower than I normally do. My stamina is not what it was pre-op. And while I feel 1000% better than I did immediately following the surgery, there still is healing going on, which is one of the reasons I still am off from my primary job...because I am not back to 100%.
However, and this could be something unique to my brain, I felt a push to try to get the shop back up and running as soon as I felt I was able to do so reasonably. It is amazing that it can take so long to build and cultivate a small business, but it can take only moments to tear it down. Again, competing with the big boys/big box stores make it difficult to be noticed in the first place, you can't afford that downtime.
And this ultimately is the question: For small business owners what is the balance between your small business and self-care?
I have joked with family and friends that since I started my business I have not had a true day off because if I wasn't working at my primary job, I was working for the small business - either crocheting on vacation, or over the holidays, or going to conventions and trade shows to meet people and sell my wares.
As a kid, I had this vision that being in business for yourself would be the greatest thing ever: You would be your own boss, you could set your own hours, no one could tell you what to do, but the reality of it is much different.
In reality, yes, you are your own boss, but that means there is no one to rely on for support or go to for answers (again, I am lucky in this regard because I have met an amazing array of female small business owners that are awesome and I know I can ask them questions). But, at the end of the day, the ultimate decisions are yours. And even as your own boss, you still answer to people: The difference is you answer to many people - your customers. The goal is to make the customer happy, so it is important to create that relationship and make sure that you really listen to what they are doing.
Setting your own hours, again, the reality is far from glamorous. If you work multiple jobs, setting your own hours means finishing one job, racing home and having dinner with the family and maybe trying to fit in some household chores, and then starting to work on your business, which might be until late at night. If you don't work a second job, you still might work insanely long hours - depending upon how many people are in your business to help - to fulfill orders and to make sure everything is getting done On time.
There is freedom to your own business, but also a lot of worry, and that is why it makes self-care difficulty, especially if you have a people-pleaser attitude.
It is easy to say that really won't take too long- I can get that done for this person. Or to say, I feel pretty good, I probably can handle a few orders. But, it might only take a little to tip the scale from something manageable to something overwhelming and then your thoughts of self-care might be sacrificed for the business .
I've been lucky so far that even though I have gotten orders since I've been back and they are taking me slower to fulfill, I haven't been overwhelmed and I still have time to rest and nap when I need to in order to heal. I am glad that I do have that as an option. I do worry about my peers who fear they do not have that luxury and have to make the hard call between their business and their care.
Hugs and cuddles,