It’s time for a giveaway! I’m not quite sure where the years have gone, but Claireabellemakes has just passed 6 years in business and I wanted to celebrate with you! To enter, just head on over to my latest Instagram video here and follow the steps there. I have 6 mystery prizes on offer that have all been carefully selected from the shop.If you don’t use Instagram, drop me an email here and say you’d like to be entered. Winners will be drawn at random on Wednesday 18 April.
Seeing as I’ve just launched the confetti and sprinkles collection, I thought I’d have some confetti fun of my own to celebrate 🙂
Thanks for all your support whether you’ve been following since day one or you’ve just found the blog and shop. Good luck in the giveaway!
It’s been a while since I’ve posted any updates here…… *Blows dust off keyboard* but I’m happy to be back today to share a little of what I have been working on.
February and March are typically quieter months for sales, so I have been spending time working on stuff behind the scenes such as planning a new website and designing new product collections. I’d love to know if there is anything you’re interested in seeing on the new site as it will have a shop built in and lots of new features!
New Glitter Heart pin colours coming soon!
In March I was also super excited to work with Lucky Dip Club again to create a surprise stationery set for their subscribers. It was so much fun testing the waters with this new product idea and it seemed to go down well. I have a few of these limited edition sets available in my Etsy shop if you would like to snap one up. They will be back in different designs in the future, so watch this space for more stationery!
I am thrilled to be working with a few new stockists this month, both in the UK and internationally. Tania’s Teahouse in Dubai is one that I am dying to visit – it’s the most beautiful place which opened on 8 April! They are stocking my TEA necklaces which I am so pleased about and I’m following along on their Instagram and dreaming of visiting one day. If you are a shop interested in stocking my work or you know somewhere that would fit my designs, just get in touch!
I have also been working on uploading my designs to the Thortful website and app via my shopfront here. The selection of cards available on Thortful is really fantastic and they support independent illustrators and designers by printing and shipping cards directly to the customer.
On a personal note, I’ve been struggling with migraines a lot lately and had a constant fortnight of pain at one point which was very frustrating and draining. A lot of people ask me what I have tried or whether doctors can do anything more and to be honest I’ve exhausted most options! I currently use a neuro-modulation device called Cefaly on a daily basis which I love as an alternative to preventative medications.
In April I began a very strict elimination diet to determine if any foods or drinks have been acting as triggers. So far it has been a huge amount of work – thank goodness for my Bullet Journal for planning! I am cooking every meal from scratch and avoiding so many things such as gluten, most dairy, processed food, sugar and a huge list of random ingredients (no avocados, garlic or tomatoes which I am finding hard!). Hopefully I will see some results after a couple of months of using this book. If you are ever interested in hearing more about my health journey do let me know and perhaps I’ll write a separate post.
So that’s my updates for now! Even though it’s been hard to be working at a slower pace, I’m prioritising my health for a little while and that feels good right now. I hope to have more news on the website and new collections very soon!
* Some links shown above are linked on an affiliate basis. Items purchased via my links will earn me a small amount of affiliate commission.
I’ve been wondering whether to write this post for a while but as I see the blog as my creative place and business diary, it seemed like the best place to share some thoughts on overcoming a creative/business funk. It might seem like a pretty negative post, but I think it’s important to discuss the harder parts of running a small creative business sometimes.
Let me update you on January. Now I am a person who likes new starts. I like the chance to set new goals and learn new things. I love Mondays and I’m a pretty positive person. However, January didn’t seem to bring me that feeling of renewal or excitement this year. It was really tough, a bit dark and kind of confusing really.
There were a number of reasons it felt like a difficult month. I’m going to share my experience with you because it might help others and to be honest it will probably be cathartic for me. One of the first reasons was pretty personal. I felt very very low for most of the winter season. I struggled with SAD, had anxiety pretty much every day and ended up with a 12 day stomach flu that wiped me out. Funnily enough, my migraine condition was pretty good through January and I tried to visit the gym twice a week, but it just felt like I was battling my mental health each day. SAD is a weird one because it hits me each year and I’ve somehow forgotten it exists. It takes me a good week or two to realise why I feel unmotivated, down and just really really sad.
In business, January is the month I work on my accounts a lot; usually submitting my tax return, analysing income and expenditure, and generating sales reports. I had been putting in some extra hours in my part-time job and most of that was to cover a job that used a spreadsheet all day. When it came to looking at my accounts at the end of each day, I had spreadsheet and number fatigue and it really didn’t help. I pushed through (because tax return deadline!) and have to admit that not seeing the growth I’d planned for was kind of demotivating. Yes, my sales increased a little and my conversion rate was healthy, but I did feel disappointed that I had worked so hard to see lower results than I wanted for the shop.
People don’t talk much about money and that’s OK. I run my business because I want to make money. Being able to do something creative and earn a living from that is what drives me. In 2017-18 I made a conscious decision to let go of all my freelance work to focus more on the shop and product development. It was a scary moment because HALF of my income in 2016-17 was through freelance work. I’m pleased to say that even though I felt a bit disappointed with sales, I’ve built my income up to almost what it was when I was taking on monthly freelance work. I’m working on approaching new stockists to replace that freelance income with larger and more regular orders. It feels like a better way to control my income than relying on other companies and chasing unpaid invoices all the time. I reckon the amount of time I spent chasing payments could be much better spent on developing new product collections.
Another big factor in feeling ‘stuck’ in my business, was social media and the general vibe I was feeling from Instagram and other platforms. I wrote a post about this here but to summarise, I had a feeling that everything had become rather judgmental and bossy – possibly as a result of people sharing their opinions on new year’s resolutions and new starts. I decided to take a step back from all business activity in January including social media. I can’t say my sales didn’t suffer (because I had a terrible month for the shop), but I definitely felt better for accepting it was time to post and engage less. I had considered taking a complete break for 1 or 2 weeks with no online interaction and to completely switch off from the business. However, I kept going and engaged when I felt like it without any kind of schedule.
One positive thing was that I was feeling creative outside of the business. Throughout the month I worked on a lot of personal projects such as quilting, knitting and journaling. G and I smashed through The Office boxset (US version) which help to lift my mood too. Accepting that I was feeling stuck was helpful and I chose to focus on activities that felt enjoyable.
One of things that really helped me to work through the lack of inspiration, was to talk to other people. I told G I felt like giving up and just having a ‘normal’ life and he reminded me of all the things I enjoyed and what I would miss. I had definitely lost sight of why I started the business and G said I would miss the creative community a lot if I didn’t do what I do. I knew he was right.
I also talked to people who had felt this way before – from that creative community G reminded me of. Friends and fellow creators were so understanding and just listened rather than trying to force me to find solutions. A few people said they thought I was burnt out, but I really felt rested and not exhausted physically or mentally. I found that letting the feelings run their course was the best thing to do. I accepted how I felt, spent my time doing things I wanted to and slowly let my creative business brain wake up again.
At the end of the month my inbox was starting to look exciting again, with a couple of stockists interested in my work and some sponsored content on the horizon for brand collaborations. I had already taken some time out to Bullet Journal my goals for the first 2 quarters of 2018, ready for when I had the motivation to work again. Thankfully, the start of February has felt more inspired and I have started the month with ideas, sales forecasts and strategies in place.
In April I will celebrate 6 years since I started Claireabellemakes. I do feel lucky that in all that time I hadn’t ever felt like giving up and that I’ve been motivated and excited about the business the whole time. So I will accept my January funk as a blip and be thankful that I’m paying the biggest tax bill I have had since it all started back in 2012 (thanks freelance work!).
Thank you for reading if you got this far! I’m definitely feeling much more positive about everything now and ready to tackle what 2018 has in store.
If I’m being honest with you, January hasn’t been the one. I’ve lacked inspiration, have felt completely unmotivated and the weather and lack of light has been tough for my wellbeing. Self-care has been a priority and I have been going to the gym and trying to take time for personal projects. I’ve still been creating, but I took a little step back from products and social media to regroup for a while.
I’m slowly getting back into the swing of things, so thought I would share another Life Lately post to document the positive things from the past couple of weeks. I hung the new rainbow lamp in the studio – a great gift from G for Christmas.
I’ve been immersing myself in planners for the start of the year and have decorated my Bullet Journal with stickers from Nikki McWilliams. I’ve also been filming review videos for the Momentum Planner and the beautiful Hello Day Chic Planner. They are both up on my YouTube channel this week which just hit 3000 subscribers too!
In product news, I have been brainstorming and thinking about new cards for the shop. I definitely want to keep the colourful, positive themes of my existing collections for new designs! This has also got me thinking about my tagline for the shop and blog, but I’m struggling a bit with what to say. If you have any ideas, give me a shout!
Brainstorming for new cards means I get to play with the Scrabble tile box – definitely one of my favourite tasks in the studio!Here’s a sneak peek at a new print idea in progress…….
One of my personal goals this year is to read more. I just finished this book which I would thoroughly recommend to anyone who enjoys snail mail and postal curios. We are visiting the Postal Museum next month – definitely a topic I geek out about and always have done. I used to collect stamps as a kid.
Aside from getting back into the studio, I have been enjoying both London and Cambridge seeking out the rare days of winter sun. Jo and I spent this particular day drinking hot spiced apple outside and putting the world to rights. And of course there is always time for a little bike spotting.
I’ll be back again soon with a ticket offer for the Knitting and Stitching Show. It’s a great event to visit if you’re into crafts!
After finally waking from my Christmas food coma, I thought it was about time I wrote my yearly review post! I’m not sure if you guys enjoy these kind of posts, but I love writing them to look back on my productivity and positive moments. After creating a new product every month in 2016, my 2017 goals were to find more balance across my business and to focus on wholesale for the shop. Here we go!
The year often starts slowly as I spend time on my tax return and stock inventory. I also take time to review the year past and set goals. Even so, I also opened a shop with the new marketplace Look Lane and took some time out for a watercolour class with Emma Block – thanks to Jo for the great gift!
In February I launched the Glitter pins in 6 new colours and they were featured in local magazine, Cambridge Edition. I worked on some freelance Crochet commissions behind the scenes.
This was the month the blog hit 1 million views!! I also took part in the March Meet The Maker challenge on Instagram and continued work on my freelance crochet patterns. I hosted another Craft party in Cambridge for a private booking.
In March I also started a new part-time job working as a receptionist in a Cambridge technology company. I absolutely love it and really enjoy getting out of the studio to work with others each week.
In April I decided to retire Cambridge Craft Parties to focus on the shop, so hosted my final one for a fantastic group of girls. Jo and I hosted another Cambridge Creatives Photowalk and a TON of people came! I also went on an Olympus Camera photowalk and sold at Norwich Makers Market for the first time.
G and I visited Amsterdam in May and I got to see the beautiful tulips and bicycles! This was the month I finalised the planner pin designs after much sketching and designing. I continued with freelance DIY projects until this month.
The planner pins finally launched and I sold my glitter heart pins on the merch stall at Blogtacular. Attending Blogtacular for the 3rd year was awesome for catching up with my creative pals.
In July I worked with Axa to share a patio makeover on the blog. This marked the start of many evenings spent in our hammock! I also visited Pinterest HQ in London and launched my new card collections in the shop.
In September I visited Etsy HQ to meet the team and was selected to become an Etsy Educator. I worked on wholesale orders and sent the planner pins to my first international stockist; Washi Gang in Australia. I also sent an order to a Tea themed cafe in Dubai!
Jo and I hosted the Autumn Cambridge Creatives Photowalk where we worked with Cambridge Satchel Company again and set off confetti canons.
I was thrilled to get crafty on stage with Kirstie Allsopp at the Handmade Fair for Pinterest too – A great month for business achievements and productivity. Pretty tiring though!
I worked with Wicked The Musical to run a children’s craft workshop in October and loved every minute! Reloved magazine featured me on their Blog Watch pages and I held my Etsy Educators class in Cambridge to help new sellers get started. I worked with Crown and Glory to add my glitter heart pins to their monthly subscription boxes and took on new stockist Sew Me Sunshine for the SEW necklaces.
November was spent preparing for the Christmas market season! I also uploaded more planner videos on my YouTube channel and worked with the Sofa & Chair Co and Boots for sponsored content on the blog.
The Cambridge Creatives group visited Escape and Create for a sewing day and mostly just ate cake and chatted about our projects!
The Glitter Wheelie Festive Bikes Decorations were launched in 8 different colours in the Etsy shop (currently on sale until 7 January).
I was thrilled to see the bicycle decorations featured in stop-motion queen Xanthe’s video for Etsy and loved having this full page feature in Velvet Magazine. I took part in Etsy Made Local markets in both Cambridge and Norwich and worked with John Lewis to share decorating ideas on the blog. Jo and I hosted a Cambridge Creatives Christmas meet up at a Wintergarten and I sent out loads of sparkly orders to customers.
G also surprised me with a 2 day trip to Arras in France where we ate lots of cheese and explored the Christmas markets. It was at a crazy busy time of year, but it was great to take some forced time out and feel festive!
PHEW! What a year. I definitely feel like I had a better balance between part-time work, freelance and business work across the year and I was able to be more selective about the projects I worked on. I loved meeting people at Etsy and Pinterest and seeing all my creative pals work with Kirstie too for her Christmas TV show in December.
This week I usually sit down and figure out all my goals for 2018. I know that I want to work on getting more stockists so if you know any cool shops that my work would fit in, do let me know! I also want to finally finally finally launch a new website and of course keep creating new products and fun content here for you.
Thanks for all your support in 2017! What was your highlight of the year?