I had the pleasure of teaching a bunch of sessions at the Conference of Creative Entrepreneurs this past weekend (speaking on 1 panel discussion and teaching 4 other workshops). I had a really great time and saw a huge range of creative folks from those who are just starting out, some who had been in the business for a few years and some who had been in business for so long that this new “indie” craft market is more of a resurgence to them than an new concept.
At one point, while I was on my way to my next session, one person asked me a very pointed question:
What are the chances of someone actually making it (a living) selling handmade work?
I really wanted to dig in deep and figure this person out but I was on my way to another class so I just didn’t have the time to go into it. Instead I managed to say, “Well, my business has been completely handmade for over 18 years and I feel I’ve found a good bit of success along the way. What makes you ask such a question?”
The answer was, not surprisingly, full of fear and hesitation:
“Well, it just seems like it’s just so hard to run a handmade business. There doesn’t seem to be much hope for anyone to really make a living at it.”
I answered as politely as I could saying, “Well, running a small business is definitely challenging, but that’s why you’re at this conference, right? To learn how to do it the right way?” Ending on my usual cheery “rah-rah” note.
The conversation ended with a half-hearted, “Yes, I suppose you’re right” and the two of us went about our business. However even now, days later, that exchange is haunting me. I’m realizing that she was probably just saying out loud what most of us in the handmade industry wonder from time to time.
The truth is, success is always right in front of us. What we might not know is that it takes the form of small courageous movements forward every day. When you are able to celebrate those moments, that is where you find success.
Honestly, if I had the chance to talk to that person all over again, I’d ask my own pointed question:
What would you say if I told you that running a successful creative business is absolutely possible and that all you would need to do to make it happen is to put your fears aside and do the work*?
I wonder what the answer would be?
What’s YOUR answer?
*Taking a cue from Robert H. Schuller’s famous inspirational quote, “What would you do if you knew you could not fail?”