What I Have Learned After 5 Years of Claireabellemakes

This is one of those blog posts that I have been thinking about for some time. Like all the thoughts in my head needed time to organise themselves before I could write them down. In a couple of weeks I am celebrating 5 years for Claireabellemakes which seems pretty surreal to say. I wanted to share with you what I have learnt in those 5 years, but also what I have learnt in the last 6 months since I quit my job. That has been the biggest learning curve.

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Card available in the shop

Running a business is a self discovery tool. Not only do you learn about profit and loss, marketing and product development, you learn about yourself in so many ways. I never really knew who I was or what I wanted to do as a career until I started Claireabellemakes when I was 28. I guess I was a late bloomer in that sense.

There are so many things to talk about, to share, to reflect on. I get lots of emails asking me about my business journey, but it’s often hard to reply because it has been just that – A JOURNEY. So much evolving and learning that it’s hard to put into words sometimes. Today I’m going to share some of the ridiculous moments and some of the realities. I’m going to be embarrassed and I’m going to be proud. This post is really a bit self indulgent as it’s about me….but as this blog is also a journal of my business life I figured it’s OK to record these moments! (And sorry in advance Mum, there are a couple of swears, because I feel really passionate about some of this stuff). Grab a cuppa, it’s a long one…..

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It’s all or nothing

When people ask me ‘how did you get to where you are?’ the general gist of my response is ‘by working really hard’. I consider myself a life long learner and actually really love learning new things. If you want to know about something, the answers wont just magically appear – you’ve got to research and put the time in. I just don’t believe in half arsing things. Now I know this about myself, I know where my limits are and what kind of effort I want to put into each product or project. And yes, those limits are going to be different for every person and maybe different depending on the project. Your working style might differ to your competitors and that’s OK. You’ve got to find your own boundaries and stick to them. I’ve had a couple of challenging working experiences in 2017 that have taught me about my own boundaries and working style and it’s been so valuable. I’ve grown as a girl boss, but also as a person. I’ve learned that I like structure and forward planning and that I want to believe in everything I am working on.

Remember it’s a journey

Everyone starts somewhere. I used to take TERRIBLE photos. I didn’t know what I was doing. I actually thought that this product shot was OK to put online and now when I look back, I cringe SO hard. But y’know what? I keep it to remind myself how far I have come.  I’ve learnt about lighting and product styling and sticking to brand values. You can’t learn everything at the beginning, so it’s important to remember that evolution and development is part of being a business owner. Maybe something you did 5 years ago was shit, but what did you learn from it? How has that project or product made you better at what you do? Look back as well as forward because it will remind you of the progress you have made.

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Let go and it will help you grow

You have probably heard the quote ‘comparison is the thief of joy’. Maybe it’s something that comes with age or growing as an individual, but I can’t tell you how good it feels to let go of comparisons. It’s a tough place to get to because there are so many people doing awesome things, but I’m now able to see those people as inspirational and motivational. Competition is healthy, it keeps us pushing forwarding and aiming higher, but only if we see it in a positive way and begin to focus on us.

I’m not going to lie and say I don’t look at successful creatives and think ‘how has she managed to do that’ and ‘why haven’t I been able to get there yet’ because sometimes I still get those feelings. These are the times that I remind myself that everyone’s journey is different and what one person defines as success is completely different to another.

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I once had a chat to a creative friend where we talked about the creative community and feeling part of the ‘cool crowd’. I thought of this analogy that there was a really good party happening – the music was great, there were tons of balloons and some amazing food on the BBQ. At the beginning you’re down the street and you can hear the music and it sounds pretty fun. A little further down the line you’re actually peering over the fence and looking in at all the fun. Before you know it you’ve got an invite and having a great time. And eventually you’re the party organiser with the guest list and you’re ordering the cake. But there are bigger parties to throw and there’s always louder music to play. That’s not to say it’s about popularity or being ‘cool’, but that there is always going to be someone ahead of you and always someone looking up to you. It’s a party journey and everyone is at a different point in the celebrations.

Maybe you’re not a party person. Maybe it doesn’t feel right to dance. Y’know what? That’s absolutely OK. You can walk away and go and put your slippers on and get under a blanket to watch Netflix. If it doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t. I walked away from some projects that didn’t feel right for me this year and I feel better for it. Create your own party. A blanket party is a pretty good one in my opinion.

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Know your worth

You hear the advice ‘you should never work for free’ a lot and I think it’s a topic that needs a separate blog post in itself. Knowing your worth is pretty powerful and it comes back to boundaries again, but also defining what value is to you. Is your motivation to run a business to make money, or to do what you love? Maybe it’s both or maybe it’s for a completely different reason.

I recently learnt what I was willing to do for a client when they asked for more work for no more money.  I had to assess what the value was for that project and whether it fitted with my boundaries. I stood my ground and eventually had to cut my losses and move away from it. For that job, money was my priority and I wasn’t able to get what I felt I deserved for my time. I’m sure that client will find someone who is willing to work for less. This same situation has happened with really big clients (I wont name names) and maybe I have lost out from an exposure point of view, but I think integrity and worth is a very important part of what I do.

I guess it’s about confidence, not arrogance. A fine line that I hope my creative friends would ever pull me up on if I crossed it!

Authenticity is so important

People will see through bullshit. In this industry we live our business and sometimes personal lives online. It’s all too easy to curate our Instagram feeds and to show how we want people to perceive us. I am a big advocate for keeping it real. Yes, I share my tidy studio online because it looks nice and it’s hardly ever like that, but I also share the crap behind the scenes from time to time. I sometimes post pictures of my face when I have a terrible migraine and look awful, because that’s my life. Sharing a bit about the people behind the business can be powerful and relatable. Learning where the line sits is key though! Oversharing can be just as damaging to a brand.

Recently, I’ve learnt that some people I knew online aren’t who I expected them to be when I have seen them talk in person. On the flip side, I’ve met people who are exactly like their online brand. It’s definitely a more satisfying outcome to experience that, so I’m always conscious of keeping the balance when I post online.

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Outtakes from my 4th birthday blog post

People matter

The community is so important to what we do. I’m generally quite an outgoing person, so I know it’s not always an easy part of business for introverts and shy people. I’ve learnt that reaching out to people who inspire you is scary, but rewarding. I know that people talk. I value face to face interactions so much and have booked my 3rd Blogtacular ticket for that very reason.

It’s so important to connect. It’s like that La La Land song ‘Someone in the crowd could be the one you need to know’. You might be sitting next to the editor of your favourite magazine at an event and not even realise. Or maybe you realised a friend of yours knows someone you admire and could perhaps introduce you. Never underestimate the value of people. They can help carve your path and guide you in the right direction. This is why I’m planning on using a business mentor this year.

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And people can give you a lift. The creative friends I’ve made have played a huge part in me feeling confident about what I do. Two of my creative besties even read this blog post for me before I hit publish and they give me courage every single day to keep being me. They cheer for me when things go right and they listen when I am struggling to find my way.

Sure, I have so many more things to add to this list about the things I have discovered. I’m still learning and growing and I always will be. Maybe in 5 more years I will have a completely different perspective on running a business. Maybe I will be creating a different kind of party. One where I mess about with balloons just for fun.

OH AND GUESS WHAT? I’ll be doing just that on 23 April for our Spring photo walk in Cambridge. Bikes, Balloons and Besties. Come join us!

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Photoshoot Fun In Cambridge

I’ve been feeling pretty low this winter. For the second year in a row, the S.A.D has kicked in and it’s been hard to find the energy to stay motivated and cheery. So, when Lucy got in touch about a photoshoot day in Cambridge, I knew it would be just what I needed to bring me some positivity! It was also a chance for me to do something outside of my comfort zone – I’m not one of those people who can relax when having my photo taken. Warning – this post contains a lot of my face!

Lucy (who’s business is Lucinda Price Photography) invited Jo and I to have a portrait photoshoot as besties on the route she takes clients in Cambridge city centre. We started at the historic Senate House and had a relaxed stroll along the back streets and cobbled walls.

I took my new Pup Tart glitter bag to wear because you know I love a bit of sparkle.
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I’m so glad Jo and I did the shoot together because it definitely helped me feel more relaxed. She’s one of the best people to spend the day with and having known Lucy for about 10 years, it felt just like a day hanging with friends.
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We got the giggles at one point……Cambridge-Portrait-Photoshoot

…and of course I did some bike spotting and wore my Traveller Bag from Cambridge Satchel Company.
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Lucy’s route took us to some of my favourite spots in Cambridge, we rode our bikes down Portugal Place and had our portraits taken with the famous Kings College in the background. At one point we even bumped into my Auntie who has visiting the city as a tourist for the day.Claireabellemakes-Kings-College-Cambridge

I think this photo is my favourite one from the whole shoot. It just sums up how much fun we had.
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I forgot to decorate Florence’s basket for the occasion. It’s on my to do list now! Any ideas for what to decorate with?Bike-Rides-In-Cambridge

Not only did Lucy take pictures of our faces, but she also asked us if there were particular shots we wanted to get as part of the shoot. Jo and I took our pins along and Lucy suggested these fun close ups.
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I had the best day and I’m super excited to share a fab deal below to get a huge discount on Lucy’s photographic services. I’ve also linked to all the items I wore for the shoot in case you are interested!

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Lucy is offering 25% off all her services with the code CLAIREABELLE2017 at her newly launched website here!

Hustle Sweater – Letter Clothing
Black Skinny Jeans – Primark
Clogs – Swedish Hasbeens
Traveller Bag – Cambridge Satchel Company
Glitter Bag – Pup Tart
YAY Necklace, Glitter Pin, Bicycle Pin – Claireabellemakes
Cat Pin – Hello Sunshine
Oversized Pink Coat – Debenhams
Icon Sweater – H&M

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*Some pages on this site may contain links to outside sites, including paid affiliates. Read more about my disclosure policy here.
**This photoshoot was provided to me free of charge by Lucinda Price Photography for review purposes. As always, all opinions are my own.

Instalife February 2017

Oof February whizzed by didn’t it? It’s only a few days shorter, but it always feels like we loose a whole week or something. I had a tough one for migraines and S.A.D, but I managed to stay productive and share some of my creative endeavours when I could. Here’s what I got up to via my Instagram feedClaireabellemakes-Instalife-Studio-Behind-The-Scenes-Feb-2017

Packing up custom pencil orders and restocking / Print inspiration

Glitter pins in progress / Desk space / Local press featureClaireabellemakes-Instalife-Shop-Feb-2017

Shooting new images for the bike pins and Valentines cards in the shop

Launching new colours of the Glitter Heart Pins and sharing pencils

Updating product photos for my new shop on Look Lane
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Using my Hello Day Planner and enjoying coffee in the studio

Sharing my pin collection / DIY Tassel Wall Hanging / Winter FavouritesClaireabellemakes-Instalife-Bikes-and-Cats-Feb-2017

Obviously I did some bike spotting / Tammy keeping me company in the studio

I also shared this awesome illustration Jo from Hello Sunshine did of me! I love her new watercolour style doodles.Claireabellemakes-Portrait-by-Hello-Sunshine

Throughout March I’ll be taking part in the #MarchMeetTheMaker challenge again. It is so much fun to share a bit more about my business through this Instagram challenge so be sure to follow along! You can see my posts from last year all together here.

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DIY Tassel Wall Hanging

I’m not going to lie, I have way too many creative supplies in the studio. I’m thinking about having a big Instagram sale again to destash. One of the supplies I have a lot of is yarn! So I decided to make a DIY Tassel Wall Hanging from some really lovely merino wool that I had left over from a knitted hat project.DIY-Tassel-Wall-Hanging

This is a super easy project and you can do it with any yarn or rope material. Find the full DIY on the Homedit blog here. It definitely got me thinking about how I can create projects to use up the rest of my supplies!

What have you been creating lately? I’d love to see your projects.

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New In Store: Even More Glitter Heart Pins

Over the last week I’ve been working hard on expanding my collection for the Glitter Heart Pins. They are now available in 14 colours in both my Etsy and Look Lane shops! I’m currently wearing the silver one, but I still can’t decide on my favourite.

New-Glitter-Heart-Pin-ColoursThe pins are just £7 each with free postage in the UK. I honestly feel cheerier when I wear mine!

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I also made a fun little video to show off the new colours a little more. I’m thinking about doing this for each new collection. What do you think?

Oh and don’t forget the bicycle pin giveaway on my previous post! I am loving all the comments about what you guys used to collect.

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