Have you ever thought about starting your own business? Even the idea alone seems daunting to most. But for those who are willing and able to take the plunge, figuring out where to begin and how to plan for the future can be the toughest part. Obstacles will arise, finances may run low, and stress can (and probably will) hit an all-time high. In order to avoid as much of that as possible, we asked 17 of our Top 50 Etsy Parents for their best financial, emotional, and technical advice that they wish they had known before they jumped into the wonderful world of self-employment. Check out their tips on starting a business below! — Erin Lebar
Looks DO matter 1 of 17
I wish I had known the importance of a cohesive product line and the power of good photography. Both are things I'm still working on, but every little bit of progress makes a difference. First impressions mean so much online where everything is visual, so a good-looking shop is key.
— Ashley, Ashley Pahl
Think long-term 2 of 17
I wish I had thought bigger from the beginning. Starting out, I had no long-term plans — I was only thinking a day at a time, which led to work piling up and being unprepared.
— Jennifer, A Merry Mishap
It’s a time suck 3 of 17
I wish I'd known how much time and planning it actually takes to run a successful business. It can take over your life if you're not careful.
— Jo, 42 Things
The importance of organization 4 of 17
I wish I had known more about the importance of organization. My lack of being organized in the beginning led to some really stressful times, particularly during the busy holiday season. Now that we have worked organization into the equation, everything is smooth sailing… most of the time.
— Erin and Nick, Imagination Kids Toys
How to find a work/life balance 5 of 17
We wish we had known how difficult it would be to achieve a work/life balance, and six years on, we're still struggling with it. Ultimately we're responsible for every aspect of our business, and it all has to get done. We've had to make some sacrifices on both sides.
— Mara and Anna, Dutch Door Press
Take more breaks 6 of 17
I overworked myself too much in the beginning. It is very important to set a maximum number of hours a week for yourself or you will work nonstop. You have to close sometime and cannot work weekends — you need the weekends to recoup and be with your loved ones. Plus, you will burn out if you do not take this time. And, burn out does not fuel creativity or really good production.
— Tara, INK + WIT
Use what you have 7 of 17
You don't need to spend a lot on supplies. If you look around you, you can usually find everything you need to begin.
— Kim, Jikits
There are no limits! 8 of 17
I was afraid of potential instability and financial risk, but the flip side is that there is no limit to what you can achieve when the business and decisions are yours.
— Erin, Knot & Bow
Map out your goals 9 of 17
I wish I had known what our ultimate goals were. I knew we should define them when starting, but we just had no idea where to start or what we could hope for. Reaching the goals we have now would have been much simpler and more efficient if we had determined them at the beginning.
— Kimber and Nick, Little Sapling Toys
Opportunities are disguised as obstacles 10 of 17
I wish I'd known there is no finish line and that there is no way to know everything. There will always be uncertainty and obstacles, but these are opportunities to improve.
— David and Adrienne, Manzanita Kids
The importance of marketing 11 of 17
I wish I would have known more about marketing, communication, and networking and how they help to grow a business.
— Erika, MIKODESIGN
Teamwork is vital 12 of 17
Learning to work with others with all the "let go" that it implies is something I've learned through the process. If possible, I wish I'd had that knowledge and those resources 10 years ago!
— Melina, Palomaria
The importance of good pictures 13 of 17
I knew it was hard work, but I guess I underestimated the time you spend on describing your work and taking very good pictures.
— Ioana, Redstitch
There’s no escaping mommy guilt 14 of 17
That "mommy guilt" will always plague you no matter what job you hold.
— Suzanna, Sushipot Vintage
Innovation is key 15 of 17
The roller-coaster effect of a new business is something we didn't expect. Sometimes sales are up, sometimes sales are down. It seems you always have to find new and creative ways to keep your products fresh on peoples' minds. But in doing so, exciting ideas are often born.
— Michelle and Steve, Twig Creative
How fulfilling it’d be 16 of 17
I knew that it would be hard work and I was willing to do that, but the fact that I love Mondays now — what a thrill.
— Araya, Wind & Willow Home
The importance of administrative tasks 17 of 17
It's wonderful having your own business, but all the things you imagine you will do (i.e. the creation) sometimes ends up being the least you do. There are so many other aspects — accounting, legal tasks, email correspondence — that are also imperative. And the more successful you become, the more imperative they also become.
— Katie and William, Oh Dier
Want more from Babble’s Work/Shop series? Check out our past features below: