When you go into business for yourself, you’re putting your soul and work out there for the entire world to see.
It’s vulnerable and it’s scary. I guarantee you, you will experience (if you haven’t already) people who want to criticize you, say mean things about you, and give you negative feedback about your work.
What I’ve learned over the years is you don’t have to change yourself to still be successful in business. You just need to create some systems to make your business work for you.
Keep reading because in this post, I’m going to share with you 7 practical ways to run a successful handmade business as a highly sensitive creative person.
Hey there, my name is Mei and I help makers, artists and designers create a consistent income from selling their handmade products online.
Now, it’s especially challenging to deal with that ugly side of running your own business when you’re a highly sensitive person.
I've been labeled as a highly sensitive person ever since I was a little girl. I was told over and over again by my family and friends that I was a sensitive person. Back in the day, people weren’t talking about this as much, and definitely not in the culture I was born in.
I was led to think that this is a bad thing that I needed to fix about myself.
I know, I’m not the only person who feels this way.
1. Self Care
The first tip is kind of cheesy but I’m going to say it anyway, and that is self care.
This is so important.
I grew up learning to serve other people first before I even thought about my own needs. That’s really unhealthy. That makes it really hard for me to think about taking care of myself.
There came a point, several times in my business and the most recent was late in 2019 when business was in a really bad way. I was spending money faster than I was making, I had $50,000 in debt, maxed out all my credit cards and I hit rock bottom.
Up to that point, I was working non-stop. I was doing all the things people told me to do.
The moment I focused on myself and what I wanted and removed all the extra fat in my business, things started to take a turn.
Specifically, my self care started with me acknowledging that I needed help.
Then I went to schedule an Ayurveda consultation to get my body in balance again. I even saw a hypnotherapist.
These are things that in my younger days, I would scoff at and feel like this was all really woo woo. But here’s the thing, whether or not I believe these things worked, the fact that I was engaged in the act of doing these things for me and me alone, that was self care.
Only two months after that, and I paid off all that debt and now I’m making more sales than ever.
It’s not a coincidence.
Other things you can do are:
- set working boundaries
- set a schedule
- don't work weekends
- don't work after 5 PM
- don't turn on phone notifications for your email or social media
I’m not saying any of this will be easy, but once you get in the habit of it, you’ll thank me later.
2. Have a Support Network of Business Friends
Have a safe, support network of business friends who you can talk to about what’s going on.
You will inevitably come across situations in your business that’s going to make you upset. It’s okay to be angry or frustrated, but it’s not healthy to dwell on it for days and weeks.
Once you’ve processed your emotions, you need to let go of it, and you can’t let go if you keep it bottled up inside you.
Running a business is lonely. There was a time where I felt like all my business problems were my own. I felt so depressed thinking that there was no one else out there who I could share that burden with.
Then I started making it a habit to share my thoughts and experiences with my husband and some of my close friends. Don’t share with the expectation that they have solutions for you. This isn’t about problem solving. It’s just about venting and that in itself will help you move through challenges.
3. Keep Your Focus On Your Own Work
If you’ve ever felt jealous about another handmade business that’s really similar to yours, but you see they’re way more successful than you, then you're not alone.
If you’ve ever felt comparisonitis, you know how bad it makes you feel about yourself.
When I started Creative Hive, I started at the same time as this other person, but they made it to $1,000,000 just a couple years in. I kept asking myself, what’s wrong with me? What do they have that I don’t have? How can I be more like them?
Everyone has their own path to where they want to go.
Now, as I’ve matured, I know that I would never be happy if I were like them and if I made it to $1,000,000 with their strategies because they were not strategies that aligned with my values.
Stay true to yourself and trust that you’ll get there in time.
But more practically speaking, stop looking your competitors up. Stop following them on social media, unsubscribe yourself from their email list.
This will help you stop thinking about them, so you can think about yourself.
4. Don't Look at the Comments
There’s something about interacting with other people online that makes some people more ballsy and makes them say things to you that they would never say in person to your face.
It’s that barrier of a computer or phone screen between you and the other person and the lack of consequence for what people say. People online can be super mean and unkind because of this.
Because you’re an online business with a social media presence, and you send out emails and create content, there will always be that chance where you’ll find a comment or email response that makes you want to cry.
If you’re a sensitive person, in the beginning of your business, this is just something you have to deal with.
Unhappy customers will often be rude and disrespectful and it will hurt.
One of the first few things I highly recommend you do as soon as you make some money and you’re able to spend a few dollars a day on this, is to hire someone to become your filter.
This person can go into your social media accounts and your email inbox to check for trolls and haters and remove them before you go in to interact and respond to your followers.
Better yet, if you have the funds for it, actually have this person respond to people for you.
Hiring my customer service person for my jewelry business was one of the best decisions I ever made. I was happier and I was able to better focus on growing the business and making new designs and ultimately serving my customers better, because I was in a better place, energetically.
5. Remove Negative Things in Your Business
What’s causing you pain in your business right now? Think about it and come up with a list.
Then, I want you to let that go.
In the beginning, when you’re first getting started, I do recommend that you say yes to most things that come your way. But there will come a time, when the things you’ve tried or built up in your business, will no longer serve you and that also makes you unhappy.
If it makes you feel like it’s a hassle and it’s not giving you anything, you don’t have to keep doing it.
I was talking to one of my mastermind clients the other day and she was asking me for advice on her Instagram. She’s very successful and makes six-figure sales, but she doesn’t make any sales from Instagram. I told her, let’s just focus your effort on other low hanging fruit that will get you better results than Instagram.
When I said that, she was so relieved because she was led to believe that she neededto do Instagram.
No, you don’t.
Whether or not you have an Instagram channel will not make or break your success.
I know more successful business owners who have very few followers on Instagram than people who have a ton of followers and actually make a majority of their sales from there.
This is an inherent problem human beings have too. It’s more intuitive to want to fix what’s broken, but let’s shift that to thinking about how we can scale up what’s already working for us.
I’ve had so many things in my business that cause me stress, anxiety, frustration, pain, and when I let those things go, my business flourished.
6. Learn and Be Okay with Saying No
I don’t know about you, but in my experience, sensitive people have a hard time saying no because they don’t want to let the other person down.
Here’s the thing, as long as you treat the other person with respect and kindness, you are not responsible for other people’s feelings. You are only responsible for yourself.
Don’t stretch yourself too thin.
Energy management is just as important as being productive. You can’t be productive if you have no energy left to do your own work because you’ve given your energy away to other people.
The next time:
- someone asks you to donate your products
- someone asks you to be a vendor at a craft show
- a friend asks you to make some products for her at a discount
- someone asks you out to lunch during your work hours
- someone asks you to be on their podcast
If your gut is telling you no, listen to your gut.
7. Push Yourself Forward
Having said that, number 7 is you need to create ways to push yourself forward, despite the fear and over analyzing of situations.
Sometimes we intuitively want to say no to things because we’re afraid of it.
We’re afraid of success.
We’re afraid of putting ourselves out there.
There will be a hundred things in your business that you need to do in order for you to make sales, like promotion, marketing, talking to customers on the phone, pitching yourself to a retailer or a magazine, or being interviewed on a podcast.
Those are scary things for most of us, especially if you’re sensitive in nature. But intellectually, you know this is good for your business.
Give yourself some system of accountability to take action despite being afraid.
That could be as simple as telling someone you’re going to do that podcast because you don’t want to make a fool of yourself and go back on your word.
Or it could be taking advantage of moments of inspiration.
We all have these little moments every now and then where we feel brave and optimistic. Take advantage of that and ride that wave. Use that time to put yourself out there and reach out to magazines or stores to sell your products in.
We often have the tendency to overthink and overcomplicate things, so it’s important to be aware of when that’s happening so you can snap yourself out of that state.
There you have it, those are some of my favorite ways that I’ve learned over the years for how to run and manage multiple six-figure businesses of my own, despite not having a thick skin and despite not being an aggressive hustler.
If you have some of your own ways, I’d love for you to share with us in the comments below.