A few months ago, I shared some of the mistakes that I made as a freelance calligrapher and artist. I think that it’s important to remember that nobody is perfect, no matter how polished everything may seem! Today, I’d like to share five business mistakes that I have made throughout the course of TPK’s existence. This isn’t a glamorous post to write, but my hope is that you see that it’s okay to mess up and things always turn out okay in the end! The #5 item is probably my biggest regret!
1. I Had No Idea What to Blog About
When I first started The Postman’s Knock, my main goal was to offer freelance calligraphy and art services. I had heard that having a blog could help businesses to increase exposure, but I didn’t understand how that worked. Despite my cluelessness, I barreled ahead and wrote blog posts when I could.
If I had it to do over, I would have advised myself to write as though I were writing to a friend. I appreciate casual, conversational tones when I read articles, so why wouldn’t I offer the same on my website? It’s also important to write about topics that benefit the reader. Saying, “Hey, this is a pretty design, isn’t it?” doesn’t help anyone much. In the case of the Frasca Caffè menu post, well, that could have been a nice chance to discuss how to integrate photos and text to make compelling images.
2. I Charged Too Little for My Time
Pricing is a tricky minefield that plagues most creative entrepreneurs. If you’ve just started a business, there’s a temptation there to take on practically any work that comes your way! Working for pennies just plain feels crummy, though, and I learned that the old-fashioned way. When I first quit my day job to pursue freelance work, I had an acquaintance who wanted to write a book, and he asked me to illustrate it.
The client asked me for my pricing, and, being in my early 20’s and totally green, I deferred to their judgment. “How about $10 per black and white drawing, and $15 per color drawing?” the client proposed. I agreed jubilantly! As it turns out, though, each black and white drawing took me around two hours to complete, and each color drawing took around three hours. So, I ended up making around $5.00 per hour, plus whatever time it took to scan, digitize, and send the designs to the client. I also gave over all the rights for the illustrations, which was silly considering how little I charged. Now, if I take on freelance work, I try to consider how long a project is truly going to take, and I always give the client a price, not vice-versa.
3. I Bought a Huge, Non-Portable Computer
For some people, having a large computer makes sense. I work a lot with the Adobe Suite, which requires a lot of horsepower from your computer, so I reasoned that I needed an iMac. For the first month, I was totally in love with it. The screen was so big! I felt incredibly professional! (As a side note, the photo below is of the office I had in our apartment. For a “tour” of my current office, you can visit this article.)
As it turns out, as someone who worked (and still works) from home, I found it very easy to get stir-crazy having to stay in all day. There were lots of little electronic tasks I had that I could have completed at the local coffee shop, or even in my living room! A change of scenery would have done me good, but of course the iMac wasn’t portable. As a result, I ended up buying a laptop shortly thereafter. Then, it became annoying having to share data between two computers, so the iMac ended up abandoned and alone for three years. Now, I work exclusively on a MacBook, which works beautifully for designing worksheets and editing photos!
4. I Wrote Long, Rambling Blog Posts and Emails
When I think about the correspondence I had with clients in my first couple of years running TPK, I cringe. I sent emails that I now realize were long and confusing, studded with superfluous details. For example, I remember sending a client three different versions of her illustrated map in the same email. Each map had differences that only I could see — they weren’t obvious. I explained in painful detail how the maps differed from each other, and I asked which she wanted. She said she couldn’t tell the difference, and chose randomly.
I also wrote the longest blog posts known to man! Trying to compensate for my brevity in the blog posts of 2012-2013, I suppose, 2014 saw me writing articles that go on forever. One important thing I’ve learned since then: people appreciate conciseness. Now, I only try to touch on pertinent details, and if I’m writing a long tutorial, I break it up into parts that I publish in a series of posts. That makes it easier on me as the writer, and easier on the reader as well!
5. I Wasn’t Careful With My Name
In 2014, The Postman’s Knock was starting to gain some traction because of the blog and social media. Late that year, a publishing company reached out to me to work with them on a book. It was very flattering to be noticed, and I loved the prospect of being a published author! At the time I didn’t realize this, but a few things about the project were a bit wrong. First of all, the publisher offered me a fairly small, flat fee up front — no royalties. I understand that this isn’t an unusual practice, but to me it doesn’t quite seem right. Perhaps most alarming, I had no control over the layout, and the layout the editors came up with wasn’t great. Despite the red flags, I was so excited to publish a book, that I still went along with it.
As it turns out, the book ended up being a small booklet that comes as part of a kit that has what reviewers say are sub-par materials. They didn’t even spell my name right on the first version of the cover (the booklet originally said “Lyndsey” instead of “Lindsey” — you can still see this error in the photo on Amazon)! Oh, gosh, if I could get the kit taken off of Amazon, I would! I’m so embarrassed to have my name and brand be associated with something that doesn’t reflect my thorough teaching style and love of quality materials. If I work on a publishing or book project again, it will be on my terms!
This list admittedly isn’t a fun one, but I think it’s important to stay honest about the normalcy of business mistakes. It’s good to remember that mistakes help you to modify the way you’re doing things for the better. As unpleasant as errors may be to make, they’re a necessary part of your evolution! Remember: we’re constantly developing and learning, and it’s okay not to be perfect. Thanks so much for reading, and enjoy your week!