Things I’ve learned from my first year being self-employed

After celebrating my business birthday on 3rd October, I thought it would be great to evaluate my first year of working for myself and write about all that I’ve learned. It has been a testing, challenging, exciting and mostly fun learning curve and I’m not sure I would have realised any of the following things if someone had told me at the very beginning. Some things you have to learn on your own but if this helps someone, then I’m glad.

You can’t do absolutely everything

I look at other creatives who are self-employed or running businesses online and a lot of them are on facebook, twitter, have a large Instagram following, they keep up with Instagram stories, have a youtube channel, they’re on Patreon, hold in-person classes and workshops, they run a blog, promote their blog, they are pinning on Pinterest, they’re on Etsy and not on the high street as well as having a selection of amazing clients and are magically able to eat and sleep!

In reality, no one person is actually able to do all of the above and if they are, how? The internet is truly amazing in allowing us to do all of these things. I’ve just got to carefully choose which things I want to do as I can’t do it all.

This also applies to design work that I do, I can’t be everything to everyone. I can easily think that I’m a failure because I can’t design or illustrate like *insert artist’s name here* but I’m not them, and they’re not me. So I’ll carry on doing my thing. In fact, one could say that I’d be more of a failure if I didn’t do my thing and simply copied someone else.

Keep it simple

This almost ties in with the previous point but I have a tendency to over complicate things. I want to do all the things, and always have big plans but I’ve found recently that the key is to keep it simple. Right at the beginning of this year, I spent a lot of time thinking about my skills, what I could offer, what I’m good at and what I enjoy. There are a lot of things that I enjoy, for example, painting, hand lettering and I have a background in graphic design, I wondered how I could strike a balance where all of these things could feature in my shop. I found that I was fighting to keep all of these things together all at once and it meant that I just got confused and nothing seemed to work or make sense. Equally, I had plans for Wedding Stationery but how does that fit in with the Penguin Calendars? How does it all fit together? I panicked a lot about my shop and business being a little bit of a mix n match of different things but I learned that that was ok. The thing that ties it all together is me and my style. I aim to be a helpful and approachable designer and offer colourful, cute and personal design and illustration to you lovely people. As soon as I realised that, I’m a lot happier with my shop.

Do what you’re good at…at all times

Short story: Earlier on in the year, I started work on what was a small project. A Groom asked me to design some envelope liners and source some gorgeous envelopes for his Save the Dates. This was a project that I absolutely loved, starting work by looking at all the lovely paper samples was my idea of a perfect day! I went back and forth a couple of times with different paper and envelope samples. Every time I would send a paper sample in the post, I included a small hand-written note to explain what kind of paper sample I was sending. After a while, the Groom asked if I would hand write the addresses on his envelopes as he liked my handwriting so much. I have had a few comments on my handwriting before and make sure I put a little effort in whenever I write a note to someone, making sure it’s neat but I hadn’t considered offering handwritten envelopes as something I do. If you have something that you’re good at, keep doing it because someone will notice and one day you’ll be addressing 70 envelopes. I will be adding envelope addressing to my Etsy shop really soon.

Everything takes time

Drawing takes times. Improving takes time. Editing, printing, photographing all takes time. Healing takes time. I’d get frustrated earlier on in the year that I wasn’t growing as a business as fast as I’d like but these things all take time. I’m actually glad for the slow and steady growth because all this is a huge learning curve and there is a lot to learn. The slow and steady growth has helped me learn along the way.

Momentum

This brings me to momentum. I’m glad that things have taken time but at times I could have got things done a lot quicker. A lot of the time I’ve felt like I’m catching up with myself. I’ll write down ideas, finish what I’m doing (fret about that project, delay actually finishing it for a little while) work on the next priority and over time the enthusiasm fades for that idea or I never get round to even giving it a try. The experts would say that if I lose the enthusiasm for that idea, it wasn’t meant to be anyway but I’ve learned the importance of keeping up momentum and creating when the idea is fresh and it seems to be working at the moment.

Photography & Lightroom

As I said in my year roundup, I’ve learned so much about photography. I took the product photos of the Wedding Stationery samples about 3-4 times before I was happy with them, get the right background, getting the layout right, then learning all about lighting, exposure, white balance, and focus. Product photography is still the most difficult part of running my shop for me but I definitely see an improvement. It’s a lot quicker to create a photo that I like now and I no longer have to battle with my camera to get the right effect.

My photography life also changed the day that I downloaded Lightroom, a photo editing software from Adobe. It is seriously amazing for quick edits and I highly recommend it. I even have the app on my phone which has changed my Instagram life too!

Drawing & Layers

My drawing style has definitely changed (improved?) over the last year. I have done a lot more drawing than ever before, which has given me more confidence in my style. Over the last year, or even the last few months, I’ve started to use layers of paper to create the illustrations that I work on. I do this by using thin paper (not quite tracing or layout paper but cheaper pads of paper that I’ve found in a local stationery shop) sketching out the main shape of the illustration, then laying other piece of paper on top so that I can see the original illustration through and add the details, if it doesn’t work it’s fine because I haven’t had to erase the whole thing losing the original illustration! This has become especially useful in the Christmas card and Calendar designs that I’ve worked on recently. I layer up the drawings so that I don’t ruin the original pencil drawing by trying different details that may or may not work.

I carry this through to my work on illustrator and put the scanned pencil drawing on the first layer, roughly draw out the initial shapes on the second, add shapes of colour on the next, brush strokes to outline and add details on the following layer, then finally add a background behind it all and hide the original scan and rough shape layers. This may sound like such a simple thing but it’s a simple part of my workflow that keeps me organised and means it’s a lot easier to create and edit afterward.

I’m not dreadful at what I do

I was really struggling with my work before I was made redundant a year ago. I became so unsure of everything I worked on. I thought I had been progressing over the 6 years that I worked in the job but was still referred to as a Junior Designer, which knocked my confidence. I had worked so hard but was still seen as a Junior. Then over the last year, I have worked on some relatively small projects with clients who have been over the moon with the work that I’ve done and have been really complimentary of my work, which has been really great to hear. Not only that, I’ve had the chance to work on the projects that I’ve wanted to work on, in the style that I’ve wanted to use, through my Etsy shop and it hasn’t been dreadful.

Calm

I underlined the word calm on my list of things that I learned. All of these things are a complete work in progress and none more so than to keep calm. I remember many a day of fretting over my style, worrying about my ability, am I doing enough? Am I trying to do too much? Am I even cut out for all this? But I’m slowly learning not to worry about all this and to breathe, go for a walk, hide my phone and just get on with it.

So that was quite a lengthy list! I probably could go on for a while with everything I’ve learned in the last year! It has been a great year and I’m so thankful for the opportunity. Is there anything you would add to this list that may help others?

My first year of self-employment

Wow! 3rd October marked one year since I officially became self-employed and I can’t believe how fast that time has gone. This time last year, I had just been made redundant from a job I had worked at since University, I spent a few days processing the news but knew deep down what needed to be done. I had wanted to set up on my own for a while, I knew I wasn’t ready but I felt like this was the perfect opportunity to give it a try. I thought, I’ll give it 3 months but haven’t turned back.

When I was made redundant, my confidence was dashed quite considerably. I had very little confidence in myself as a person and even less confidence in my work and my ability to do just about anything. Designing a Penguin Calendar was something I really wanted to do, however, so I did it. I used drawings that I’d worked on, two years before and within 2 weeks, I had vectorised those drawings (drawn them again on the computer) and they looked great. I sat on those designs for a little while, doubting whether they were any good, wondering whether I should add anything to them. I had been painting a little for my mental health so I tried adding some painted details to them but that didn’t quite work. I think I forgot about them for a few days and then revisited the illustrations to find they weren’t dreadful, so after a few tweaks, I sent them to print alongside a typographic design that I had worked on and fretted about in equal measure.

In the beginning, I got just 40 printed and the Penguin Calendar sold out pretty quickly. My sister-in-law snapped up quite a few and I thought she was just buying them to help me out, she gifted them to her colleagues, however, who all loved them! I went on to reprint the penguin design quite a few times as they sold out quite a few times and I worked out that I’d sold about 200 of those Calendars over the Christmas period. I learned so much at that time.

I hand cut out each and every page of the first 80 Calendars that sold! I struggled to find a printer who printed that small, so printed on flat SRA3 sheets and cut each one out. Thankfully, I found out that the same printer would print A7 “leaflets” which was exactly what I needed.

Christmas was then over and all of the Calendars had sold, what now? How do I follow that? I also had quite an upsetting and stressful Christmas time that it took me a little while to get back into creating confidently in the new year. I had big plans for designing Wedding Invitations and Wedding Stationery so set out in designing those. It took a while to settle on a style for those and in the end, I had 7 House Collections of Wedding Stationery, which I really love. Since then I have designed for a couple of lovely Weddings. I hope to do a lot more in the new year.

I’ve learned so much about photography whilst trying to photograph these collections. I’ve taken the photographs 3 or 4 times over, thankfully they get marginally better each time.

The early summer was quite stressful for me, I had quite a lot of things going on, alongside my shop going quiet. I worked on a few great branding and design projects which were lovely. I continued to paint for my mental health again, which resulted in a bright and colourful selection of notecards for all different occasions, which look really great and I’m so pleased with them.

Throughout the year I’ve also faced a horrible habit of comparing myself to others. I would get into a trap of scrolling and scrolling, then wonder why 1. My work wasn’t as good as theirs’ 2. Why my Instagram feed didn’t look amazing and 3. Why I hadn’t done all that I needed to that day through scrolling all day. It’s really silly thinking about it now. But at one point, in July or August, I made a plan, to create furiously and to just keep going regardless of how I felt, about my work, regardless of what someone else had posted online and how good it was. I decided to lock myself in a little bubble and to do my thing and keep going.

Since then, I feel like my focus, momentum, and attitude towards my work has really changed, which has been great. I feel like I’ve found my groove. It has helped that I’ve started working on the Penguin Calendars again which I really love. So that brings me to now. I hope I manage to stay in this groove for a while and continue to create furiously.

Now, this post started off as a “things I’ve learned..” post for my first year of being self-employed but it ended as a pouring out of honesty about how things have gone. I am so grateful that I’ve had the opportunity to work for myself for the last year and I’m incredibly grateful for the work that I’ve been able to do this year. It has been testing and challenging at times. I have faith and hope that my second year will be even better.

My second year starts with preparing for Christmas again, which is exciting. I have designed two versions of the Penguin Calendar this time, with all new illustrations. I have a Penguin Pin badge which is so unbelievably cute! I’ve also been busy designing a selection of Christmas cards which I’m so pleased with and are now available in the shop.

I have a few Christmas fairs lined up, I share a table with my sister-in-law, who sells candles and we make a great team. I’m also excited to have been accepted for my first ever solo fair (a table all to myself) for the Hertfordshire Etsy Made Local in Ware, I’m sure this won’t be the last you’ll hear about that! I’m excited to meet all of the other members of the Herts Etsy Team and to sell at a local Etsy event.

I have some big plans for the new year, including offering custom portraits, prints, designing a range of birthday and thank you cards, and to take my Wedding Stationery Collections to at least one Wedding Fair. I would also like to take on a few more freelance clients and commissions (so if you’d like to work with me, please get in touch. 😉 ) I also celebrate my 30th birthday next year and what better than to make it the best year yet!

So here’s to the first year and all that it has taught me, let’s hope for a successful second year!

Penguin Calendars are back for 2018!

Hooray! They’re back!

The Penguin Calendar was my best seller last year. I was only just starting out and was a little overwhelmed by the reaction to it last year! It was quite bizarre really, I had very little belief in myself, and then it did so well that it took me a little while to recover from the reaction to it.

I planned on doing so much more this year, there were thoughts of different versions of the calendar and a few different products, the pin badge being one of those. I haven’t managed to do half of what I’d planned but I hope you approve anyway.

I started planning out the Calendar in July and the worked on it in the background whilst the summer flew by and suddenly we were at the end of September and I was patiently awaiting the delivery of 200 Penguin Calendars from the printers.

There are 2 versions of the Penguin Calendar this year. There is the tiny A7 version with a small calendar in the same style as last year and a bigger A6 version which has a grid style calendar with a small space each day for appointments, birthdays, events or meetings.

Both versions have all new Penguin Illustrations on each page and I’m so over the moon with them. I realised how much my style has changed (improved I hope) over the last year and I really hope that you like them as much as I do.

The smaller version is £9.50 with an easel and £8 if you already have an easel. The larger version is £10.50 with an easel and £9 if you do not require a little easel for it to sit on. These prices do not include postage.

Penguin Enamel Pin Badges

These have actually been in the shop for a little while now but I’ve been dreadful at updating the blog, so please forgive me. I’ve made a plan to make time for blogging in October, so now that I’ve said it, I’ve got to do it! I’m making a schedule and mapping out an afternoon each week for the blog. I’d just prioritise other things in front of the blog and never get round to it. Well, now I even have a posh fountain pen and a dedicated notebook for drafting blog posts, so no excuses!

So onwards to the exciting news…(that you probably know already!)

I now have Penguin Enamel Pins available in the shop!

I wanted to create a little token that you could either gift to a friend or keep all to yourself that every time you look at it, it would make you smile or remind you that you’re loved and that someone is thinking of you. Then whilst creating the little Penguin drawings for the 2018 Calendar, I created this cute Penguin holding a heart garland for one of the pages and it seemed perfect!

Each pin is 25mm across, made of soft enamel and is a super cute penguin holding a pink heart garland. He is so adorable, I might cry!

He is available in my shop right now and is being snapped up quickly so make sure you don’t miss out.

Wedding Stationery: Charlotte Collection

To celebrate the launch of my new Wedding Stationery Collections, I thought I’d write about each collection so that you can get a bit of background about each design and find out all about each one.

I could easily say “this design is my favourite” for the Charlotte Collection, however if I started choosing favourites, I’d be saying that for each one.

Charlotte is my sister’s middle name, it is the name that I was almost given when I was born and is my Great Grandmother’s name. Each of my Wedding stationery designs has been given a name that is close to my heart.

This design is slightly different to the other designs in that the main invitation is square. My favourite part has to be the delicate floral pattern at the top of each invitation, it is delicate and elegant and adds a lovely detail to an otherwise minimal invitation. The coordinating Save the Dates have the same delicate floral pattern.

This Collection features a 148x148mm square Day/Evening Invitation and an A5 details sheet. The front of the Day/Evening Invite has space for your names and all the most important information like time, date, location. The back of each invite can be a coordinating colour or you can even mix and match with other collections with a floral pattern on the reverse. The details sheet is a great place for addresses, accommodation, dress code, gift lists and any other information that you think your guests will find useful.

The difference in size means that the details sheet can be seen behind the invite when they’re put together in the envelope. If you love the design of these invites but would like a different size, I will happily discuss this with you and create them in a different size. Day/Evening Invitations and detail sheets are available here.

To make it quick and simple for your guests to reply to you, RSVP cards can be added to your order. These will be customised to your colour scheme so that everything is coordinated. RSVP Cards are available here.

This Collection also features belly bands or twine to tie everything together and keep it together in the envelope and so that your guests can keep all vital information together. Belly Bands are available here and Bakers Twine is available here.

If you want to add a bit of luxury to your Wedding Stationery, you can opt for envelope liners, which have a coordinating floral pattern, like the rest of the collection they can be completely customised to your colour scheme. Envelope Liners are available here.

The ordering process

– You can either order these through Etsy, Love & Lilah or contact me directly with your requirements. I’m afraid there is a minimum order of 25 sets of invitations.

– I will ask for a few details so that I can get to work on your Invites straight away, this will include things like your names, date, wording, your colour scheme, quantities and your address for delivery.

– Your first proofs will be sent to you within 5 working days after I receive all relevant information and payments. Two rounds of revisions are included if you need to make any changes to wording or colours.

– Once the final proof has been approved by you, no more changes can be made and your Wedding Invitations will be sent to a local printer in London. The printing process takes approximately a week.

– I will ship your Wedding Invitations out to you once I have received them from the printers and have checked them for quality. Your invites and details sheets will be collated in their envelopes, all you will need to do is secure the envelope, write the addresses and apply postage.

If you’d like to see all the new collections, they are now available in my Etsy Shop or on Love & Lilah. You can also contact me directly through the contact page if you’re interested in having me design your Wedding Stationery or if you have any questions about them.

To read more about my Wedding Design services, take a look at my Wedding page.

New website – SianShrimpton.co.uk

New website, new url, sianshrimpton.co.uk

 

I’ve wanted to change my URL for a while now. Sian Louise will always be my name but it was a URL that I chose back in 2010 when I was 22 and working on my final project at University. Since then, I’ve graduated, worked in London at a design agency for 6 years, moved house twice, got married, started working for myself and have learned a whole lot. So I thought it was time for a more professional URL to go with my new fancy website, so www.sianshrimpton.co.uk it is.

If you’ve been redirected from my old website, Hello! Thank you so much for continuing to follow what I do, make sure you update your blog reader of choice to the new URL.

If you’re new here, Hello and Welcome! Make sure you add this new URL to your blog reader of choice so that you don’t miss a thing.

I have been working hard on new things to add to the shop and blog lately, so watch this space. In the meantime, check out the lovely new note cards and Wedding Stationery that I have in my Etsy store right now. You can also keep up to date with what I’m up to on Instagram, twitter and facebook.

 

Graduation Card Design


With the end of term fast approaching for most schools and students moving into a new academic year or even a new school, I was asked to design a set of graduation cards for a group of preschool children who were leaving for primary school. I had great fun creating this fun and cute card design.

I started by thinking of all the school and stationery related things that these children will be using and started by drawing then all. I wanted the background to almost look like a chalkboard and the illustrations to look like they’d been drawn in chalk.

I enjoyed adding in smiley faces on the pencils and the addition of hand drawn text in the centre made be a really fun greeting card. Inside the card was the word “Congratulations!” in crayon looking text and space for my client to write a message to her students.

If you’d like a custom greeting card design, please get in touch.

Thank You Card Design

I was asked to design a set of Thank you cards for my client to give to a group of people, who generously donated prizes for a raffle. The client wanted something simple and had loved some of the designs in my Etsy Shop so wanted something similar for these cards. So I got to work straight away, trying a few different lettering styles and this is the design that was chosen.

If you’d like a custom greeting card design, please get in touch.

Introducing my new Love & Lilah store

I’m pleased to introduce to you my wedding store on Love & Lilah.

Love & Lilah is an online wedding store that brings together a fabulous range of British wedding suppliers under one virtual roof and I was so pleased to be approached by them a couple of months ago.

I am so excited to be selling on a dedicated Wedding website, especially for British suppliers. At the moment you’ll be able to order from all seven House Collections on the site, which all include free postage & packaging.

Please go on over and have a little look and let me know what you think. I hope to be adding more products in the near future including Save the Dates and on-the-day Wedding stationery.