It has actually been going a little bit longer than that as I launched my website on Dec 31st 2008 - but I went "officially" self employed on Feb 8th 2009.
So, what fool starts a business in the middle of a recession?! Er, me! I do have to say that it was not 100% a free choice, as the footwear company I had been working for, for nearly 3 years went bankrupt - without giving us, the employees, any notice and so I was left with an opportunity, which I decided to take as the fashion design industry in general was (and still is) so volatile.
I have been making Jewellery for about 10 years now - first starting off with silver wrapped wire and precious stones, but I felt the market was too saturated, even though I used to do quite well with this stuff. About 6 years ago, I then started making the illustrated plastic jewellery that I still make today, in the form of super cute cupcakes and kawaii punky images which I branded under In The Pink, (I still also have this website).
Sailor Cupcake -One of my original In The Pink designs (now Dolly Cool), that is still one of my best sellers today.
I then progressed to making more intricate and detailed pieces, taking inspiration from my love of Rockabilly, 50s, Tattoo and Day of the Dead imagery, and decided that I needed a new website, and brand to launch this new collection. And thus, Dolly Cool was created!
I'm lucky in the fact that I make everything myself so I don't have to buy in stock - just materials - as I make everything to order. Its a sad (and scary!) fact that 50% of new businesses fail within the first year. This is, I expect, largely due to cash flow being tied up in other areas such as stock and property leases. I don't have either of these issues and me being the thrifty person I am, am able to run with very low running costs, while still making a quality product that is individual, affordable and different to what is available mass market.
Although I am by no means an expert on this at all - here are a few tips that I can advise to help you on the way if you are thinking of running your own creative business (obviously some tips are creative specific as thats what I do, but most are generic to any small business) and hopefully save you some money while doing so;
1. Make sure your product or idea is tried and tested that it works. I had been making my style of jewellery for quite a few years, selling bits online and at craft shows - so I knew that people liked it and it would sell. I highly recommend running whatever you do alongside your regular job for a good while first to see if it works for you.
2. Make sure you have a passion for whatever it is you want to do. You have to absolutley LOVE what you do and be 100% commited to make it work. Self employment is hard work, with no holiday pay, long hours and you can't just go on holiday for 3 weeks and forget about it.
3. Get some professional advise. Do a search online, most councils have FREE business advise for those thinking of starting up a new business. They want to encourage you as you will be one less person on benefits! I signed up for a week worth of courses when I first started out, from everything including marketing, setting up a website, and inland revenue (the tax man!) on keeping books. The courses were all completely free and very, very useful.
4. Save money wherever possible. Do NOT got out and buy a top of the range laptop, digital camera, hire an office, hire models, pay out for a super fancy website etc etc. Use what you have. I work on an old Desktop PC, have a budget digital camera, work from home, make my own websites using sitebuilder packages (Ok, it helps that I'm a graphic designer too, but I not a web designer!) and make all my jewellery packaging and labelling myself.
5. Get help from friends and family. My family and friends save me their used Jiffy mailer bags, shoe boxes, cereal boxes, tissue paper and bubble wrap. Michael has an agreement with his workplace that he can bring me home any used jiffy bags they get in the mail room - so its always worth asking friends/family if they can do the same at their workplace. As an 'e-tailer' one of my main expences is postal charges. If bought from a shop, jiffy bags can start to get expensive when you send out 150+ packages a month. I have always used (clean!) re-cycled packaging. In 10 years of selling online, not one person has complained that they got a used mailer bag. This saves me ££!!
6. Join a craft group/groups. I am a member of two groups - one is a local craft group, and the other is an Etsy team. If you are a seller on Etsy, you can find groups near you to meet up and share ideas, and get advise. Both groups have been invaluable for me and I have made some lovely, interesting creative friends through them too.
7. Read! I follow other creative/self employed folk's blogs. Its a good support network and you can never know too many people in your field. I also highly recommend this book. I read it about 5 times in the first few months that I started out - its great and you can get it from Amazon;
Craft Inc. Turn Your Creative Hobby Into a Business by Meg Mateo
I could waffle on for ages about this, but like I said, I am certainly no expert - just thought I'd share a few tips that helped me along the way.
Finally a BIG thank you to all my friends, family, customers and readers for your support over the past two years. I'm going to continue to work hard and build on my business, and hope it continues long into the future :))