To say that this is a strange time in history would be a GRAND understatement. It seems that in the mere blink of an eye, the world as we know it came to a screeching halt. I am writing this from Pittsburgh, PA, where we have been sheltering in place since March 16 with a *tentative* end date of April 30.
If you are anything like me, you have been cycling through phases of fear, anger, denial, overwhelm, panic, relief, acceptance, and probably a few other feelings that can’t really be described (because this has never happened in our lifetimes).
As the owner of a handmade or boutique business, your in-person sales likely got the guillotine as soon as the stay at home orders started being put in place. There were some gray areas in the beginning, but with the lightning fast spread of this virus, the vast majority of small business owners temporarily shuttered to keep their customers, communities, and families safe.
For some people, this time has been a blessing. Time to clean, time to collect themselves, time to create, time to care for yourself. For others, this time has created a LOT more work (I’m in this camp): more cooking, more cleaning, LESS time to create...NO time to care for yourself.
In this “new normal”, the balance is just...off. There’s no one right way to do things, and pretty much everything we USED to do now has to be done differently. Some daily tasks have become easier, many have become more difficult. As a handmade business owner, if you rely on craft shows or art fairs, this time has been almost paralyzing to you. There is NOTHING going on in the near future, and you may even be thinking that your business might not survive.
Here’s the cold, hard truth: if you don’t continue to work on your business during this time, you are likely to lose your business. That’s not something that’s unique to this situation, though: it’s true at any time. You cannot abandon your business and expect it to survive out there on its own.
Here’s another truth bomb: if you don’t care for yourself during this time, you will almost certainly lose your business.
Right now, self care is MORE important to the survival of your business than sales.
Yeah, that’s a bold statement, but I stand behind it. Here’s why.
Everyone has heard that old airline warning: “...place the mask over your own mouth and nose before assisting others”. Why do they say that? Because if you are gasping and flailing yourself, you won’t be able to be effective in helping others. You will, in fact, become a danger if you don’t care for yourself first.
Hmm...let’s think about that scenario.
If you aren’t able to get yourself taken care of first, you won’t be able to be helpful.
If you get so wrapped up in getting masks on everyone around you, you’ll be the one left breathless, disheveled, and unable to support yourself.
Instead of caring for others, you have now created a situation where others HAVE to help you. You selflessly put masks on as many people as you could, but without taking care of yours first, you missed the critical first step, which ultimately made the situation WORSE for everyone involved.
Now, lets translate that over to your business.
If you are working around the clock...making, posting, photographing, listing, advertising, chatting, scrolling, reading, worrying...you are going to quickly run out of steam, and it will all come to a screeching halt. You might think that you are doing everything you can to keep your business afloat, but in reality you are hitting the accelerator on a straight road that ends at a solid brick wall. If you don’t slow down and take the curve, you are headed for disaster.
Many handmade sellers are a one person show: we do EVERYTHING in our businesses. That means...if YOU get burned out, NO ONE will be left to work on the business.
If no one is left to work on the business...you guessed it: it will not survive.
You get the point: you’ve got to do some self care
Now here’s the million dollar question: what does self-care MEAN to you?
Well, to be honest, it means something different for everyone.
🌟For some people, it means taking a long, hot bath and having your significant other block out all distractions.
⭐️For others, it means reading a book or a magazine.
🌟For still others, it means working on a new design or craft (yup, I firmly believe that self care CAN include creating if it’s relaxing and fun for you!).
The underlying theme here is that self-care includes TIME for you to recharge your batteries. It’s not tied to a revenue or productivity goal: it’s just something you like to do that makes you feel rejuvenated. If it seems like an impossible task, start with just 5 minutes a day that you set aside just for yourself.
Taking these precious moments to get yourself set back to neutral allows you the freedom to value yourself as essential, not just to your business but to your entire community. By making self-care a priority, you will begin to lift yourself up as a leader and set a new standard for how your business will be run.
One more question: what does self-care mean in your business?
It means, you throttle back on your round-the-clock work and evaluate where your efforts are best spent. Show up for your audience where most of them are: if they are on Facebook, then it’s ok to post there and maybe set your posts up to auto forward over to Instagram. If it’s via email, sit down and schedule out a few emails so that it’s off of your plate (bonus points if you have a VA or other person you can delegate this out to!). If you decide it's time for a break, then give yourself permission to take a well-deserved pause.
It means you add some structure to your day in the form of a schedule, so that you can quickly decide what to say “yes” to and what to say “no” to (spoiler alert: you’ll be saying “no” to a lot more things now). You block times to work on specific, pre-designated tasks and you don’t stray from those blocks. Even short 15-20 minute blocks will add up to a LOT of productivity in much less time!
It means that you are going to start to work ON your business instead of constantly working IN your business. By treating yourself like a priority, you will be primed and ready to lead your business from a mindset of abundance instead of a mindset of fear or scarcity.
Take time for yourself, my friend, and be well. You will make it through.