2018 Wins & Learns

Wow! What a year it has been! It’s been such a treat to share my wins and learns with you in 2018 – my first year running an online shop full-time. If you’ve been following along with my monthly wins and learns posts, you know it was a great year filled with lots of reasons to celebrate, but it also came with it’s challenges and learning experiences.

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I have really enjoyed being so open and honest with you this past year. I hope these “Wins & Learns” posts have been an encouragement to you whether your are a creative business owner, hobbyist, or simply have an interest in my life as a Jesus follower and small business owner. It’s crazy to think that so many of you keep coming back to hear what I have to say and it’s a privilege to be a part of your life in this way. Thanks for letting me in.

As much as I have enjoyed writing these “Wins & Learns” posts each month, I am not planning on doing so in 2019 as frequently. Right now I’m thinking quarterly, but it also could mean more topical posts relating to what I’m learning. I haven’t really decided yet. I love these posts, but they were getting really challenging to keep up with as my business grew and didn’t leave a whole lot of room to spend time on other blog post ideas I had. But don’t worry! I’ll still be just as honest and open with you as I have been in the past, it’s just going to look a little different in 2019. Sound okay?

Now for the wins and learns of 2018…

Wins

I expanded my product line

My main goal this year was to add a lot more products to my shop. At the beginning of 2018, I had several black and white prints and my Romans devotional listed, but that was it. A year later, I have two books, regular prints and foiled prints, enamel pins, custom address stamps, calendars, notepads, mugs, and a variety of other fun products! A lot of product making dreams came true this year!

I released my second book

Ephesians: A Hand Lettered Devotional was released at the end of October! I still can’t believe I self-published another book. It was such a huge undertaking once again and I still feel like a crazy person for creating another book with even more intricate hand lettered art and longer devotional content… all in less than a year! As I sit here reminiscing those long days, weeks, and months of working on the book, I realize that as crazy as it was to put myself through such a challenging process once again, some of my best memories from the year were surrounding the new book. Two that come to mind: chatting with my good friend Kiley on video chat for hours working on the art and meeting with my sweet friend Joan, discussing the devotional content and how to best communicate the messages in Ephesians to readers of various backgrounds.

Thank you to each and every one of you who purchased Ephesians: A Hand Lettered Devotional in 2019! I poured so much of my heart into that book and it’s humbling to know so many of you wanted to hear what I had to say about Jesus’ teachings in Paul’s letter to the Ephesians.

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1,000 Etsy sales / 10k Instagram followers

I want to be careful as I write this one, because numbers aren’t everything and this is not supposed to be some kind of “humble brag.” I put a lot of work into making sure I was putting content into the world that would resonate with others, but I had no control over whether or not people would respond. My Instagram account reached 10k followers in June and it was so exciting to have the “swipe up” feature to make shopping easier for my followers! I ended the year with just over 11k Instagram followers, which is amazing, but reaching 10k was a milestone moment for me.

It was possibly even more exciting to reach 1,000 Etsy sales in November on Small Business Saturday. Instagram followers can come and go, but nobody can take those sales away from you (unless you do returns I suppose, but I only do exchanges). 1,000 sales was such a lofty goal to meet and I genuinely didn’t think my shop would get there at first. Ending the year with over 1,100 sales was honestly so humbling. I put so much love into everything I design and make, but being passionate about what I make doesn’t mean that others will see the value or quality of each of my products. Each sale is a gift to me, which is why I loved shipping out all those orders in 2018 – to hopefully give you the feeling that you were receiving a gift in return, expressing my deep gratitude.

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Year 1 is done!

I got through my first year of running my Etsy shop and lettering business full-time! It was such a great year and looking back, I am in awe of how much this little business grew, the cool things I got to design and make, the new opportunities that came up… It is bittersweet saying goodbye to 2018, but I am ready for exciting things ahead in 2019 – not just in my business, but my personal life as well! I’m feeling all the good feels going into this new year!

Learns

Expectations vs. Goals

As I read my blog posts over the past year, this was probably the big overarching learning experience of the year. The majority – if not all – of the disappointment I experienced in 2018 came from unmet expectations and a lot of those unmet expectations came from poor goal planning. It’s really hard to plan your first year in business full-time. It’s a guessing game. I had a general idea of typical stats, but I made the mistake of jumping into 2018 believing I was the exception to these statistics. I think this “exception” mentality is easy to fall into, because we are constantly hearing success stories and either we’re being told directly that someone made $100k their first year in business or we’re being told indirectly – or really just making assumptions – that the people we look up to most got to where they are now in just a matter of months.

I have learned to tell myself, “You are not the exception. You could be, but you’re probably not.” I don’t tell myself this to crush my hopes and dreams. I will continue working towards my goals and I’m pretty sure I’ll reach them in the next couple years, but I remind myself of that statement to keep myself from having unrealistic expectations, which always lead to disappointment.

As I write this, I feel like it sounds like I’ve given up or lost my motivation. That is so not the case! For me, having realistic goals and little to no expectations means I’m leaving more room for surprises! Still dreaming big here! Just being more realistic with the timeline. 😉

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Patience

I feel like self-employment is one long lesson in patience. I hoped to reach my financial goals in 2018, but I didn’t even come close to the minimum! Looking at my growth over the past couple years and ahead into 2019, I can see that I might reach my goals by the end of 2019, but it’s more likely that I’ll reach them by the end of 2020. That feels like a long way away, but as I’ve said before, this job is more to me than a paycheck. It’s my passion and I miss it when I’m away from it for an extended period of time. It’s worth the wait!

And, patience goes beyond the financial side of things. As an online shop owner I’ve learned – and I’m still learning – how to be patient with people. Manufacturers that aren’t coming through on their promises, customers that ask the same questions even though I’ve posted the answers everywhere, rude customers and comments, even just little things like waiting for custom order proof approvals. Patience is still a big area of growth for me going into 2019 and I would love to be better at not letting all the waiting, occasional rudeness, and small annoyances get to me in 2019.

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Trust

This year was a rollercoaster and I don’t know how I would have gotten through it without Jesus. I grew so much in my walk with Him and after a few years of feeling like I’ve been walking through the desert, 2018 was the year I really felt I stepped out of that desert season. There were a lot of learning experiences that God used to lead me to where I am now, but really they all come back to trust. It’s one thing to believe in who Jesus is and what He has done for us, but it’s another to trust in His promises in a more personal way. For example, it’s easier for me to believe God is capable of doing things for other people, but I have a hard time trusting He will do great things for me. 2018 was the year of breaking through the fear that God wouldn’t respond, trusting that He would answer and be with me in the waiting, the disappointment, and the celebration. It was the year of significant breakthrough and I’m hoping 2019 will be the year my trust in Christ grows deeper roots.

Anyway…

Thanks for joining me for these monthly Wins & Learns posts! If this is your first time on the blog, welcome! I invite you to read past posts and join me for new things in 2019! I’d also love to have you come be a part of my mailing list community if you’d like to be notified about future blog posts and shop updates. I’m excited for what’s to come in the new year and would love for you to be a part of it!

❤ Lauren

P.S. Speaking of shop updates, I am down to less than 10 calendars and they are now on sale! Click HERE to shop before they’re gone!

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