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Happy Birthday to Calligraphy Gems!🎂

Updated: Mar 11, 2022

A year ago today I announced the launch of my website and this is what I consider to be the birth of my business. I had run a couple of workshops prior to that and knew that calligraphy

was something I wanted to take beyond a hobby so having some free time on my hands, I decided to finally get serious about running a calligraphy biz.

A year is an important milestone and it's definitely been a year of growth for me. Here are twelve things I've learnt over the course of this year:

Number one - The dreaded unsolicited advice

Upon launching my business people started popping in to let me know what they think I was doing wrong. The first piece of unsolicited advice is that I was charging way too much (I wasn't) and that they wouldn't buy it so I should change what I was doing. Frankly, I felt both hurt and frustrated. At the point of receiving this piece of advice I was feeling vulnerable and burnt out and so it hit me really hard.

Now this wasn't the only piece of unsolicited or hurtful advice I'd recieved and I'm sure it won't be the last. What I learnt from it though is that not everyone is my ideal customer and also that community is super important for keeping up your morale and helping to keep you on track with your pricing and focus.

Number two - Hand cramps are not fun

I mean that should go without saying but last year around Christmas I took on some large commissions on a quick turnaround time and OUCH. My hand was cramping up throughout meaning I was genuinely in pain working and I do not want to put myself in that position again. To avoid this I now only accept commissions that I know I can approach in a comfortable way.

On a commission related note, I also needed more time to check spelling and allow breaks or mistakes are likely to happen. There was one piece that had taken me eight hours. I'd battled through the cramps and the end was in sight when wait a minute - why did I add an extra word? It made sense in context but the client rejected it which is their right but to say I didn't have a little cry that night would be lying!

Number three - Sometimes I can't work on my biz

If I have stuff going on in my personal life that's drained my energy I'm going to struggle to get stuff done and I have to accept that that's ok. Being honest, in January this year I was feeling a bit depressed. I returned to my 9-5 after a year out and it was huge readjustment. I was incredibly fortunate to have received furlough so I was being paid but my time was my own and I kind of felt like my freedom had been taken away when I returned to work. I feel kind of guilty to admit that as I know that not everyone was as lucky as I had been and a lot of people lost their jobs including close friends of mine. What I learnt from this though is that it's ok to take a step back from my business when I need it, particularly as that time it was a tiny side hustle, It also made me recognise just how much I was enjoying working on my business and that long term I couldn't continue in that 9-5 role.

Number four - Jump first, work it out later

I guess this has always been something I've done. It's worked for me and I'd recommend it to others. Sometimes when you are scared to do something you just have to commit, the logistics will work themselves out later. And when I say work themselves out I mean I spend a lot of time out of my comfort zone trying to work it out. I know though myself enough to know that if I don't publicly commit I'll chicken out. For example, earlier this year I ran my first online workshop. I was a year late on this really because I was scared of the tech side of things. I didn't know how it worked and expected it to go wrong. So I booked in a date, advertised it publicly, then got to work. I was very unlucky in the fact that there was a technical hiccup in my first workshop but I worked it out, I had to. It made me realise that I could do what I set my mind to and that I need to take that leap of faith sometimes. This is what pushed me to leave my 9-5 as I knew I could work the biz stuff out once I'd pushed myself to commit to it full time.

Number five - I can't do everything

I definitely felt pressure to attempt to do everything when I first started my business. I actually spent a fair amount of money on materials for wedding calligraphy when I didn't even want to do wedding calligraphy, I just felt like I was missing out if I didn't do it.

Niching down has done my business wonders though because it's so much clearer from both my perspective and the customers perspective about what I offer. This means that I've started feeling comfortable turning down work or referring it elsewhere to another calligrapher.

Number six - Stop comparing yourself to others (you don't know what's going on!)

Working more closely with other calligraphers and getting a behind the scenes look at their business has made me realise that a lot of what I'd been absorbing on social media wasn't the full picture and that there's sometimes context missing. For example, you may see someone posting a gorgeous set of vows saying "thank you for choosing me to create this moment for you" but you don't realise that it's actually their friend that they've created it for., not a paid client. Now that doesn't mean it isn't lovely work but from another calligrapher may think "oh they have another client, what am I doing wrong?".

I mean looking at my own work, I was pretty organised about my course launch but what my social doesn't often show, is the behind the scenes anxiety because sales were really slow to come in at first and I'd invested in all of the materials for the course.

What I really learnt is that you may occasionally feel as though you're falling behind because you're comparing yourself to someone else's social media, not real life. You never know what's going on behind the scenes.

Number seven - Community is a game changer

Community has not only improved my business but changed my life in some ways. I've made some genuine friends from connecting with other calligraphers. The calligraphy community is great for several reasons - they lift you up when you're feeling full of self doubt, they celebrate your wins, they provide ideas and new perspectives, they help you to stay firm on your pricing and keep you on track. That's a few just off the top of my head, I'm sure there's more. Oh yeah, they can put work your way too!

To make friends in the creative community, you'll have to put some work in. If they're based locally, consider inviting them for a cuppa at a local coffee shop. If you like their work on Instagram, engage with their content meaningfully, send them relevant DMs and try to build that connection over time. I personally made a bunch of friends by participating in a calligraphy biz course run by Dina Calligraphy. This was particularly helpful for making friends as we'd have regular video meetings and they were all motivated to grow their calligraphy businesses, same as me.

Making friends in the industry has also changed my mindset to community over competition which is not only a far better mindset to be in but has also led to me feeling more comfortable to let go of work that was more suited to other calligraphers.

The calligraphy community was definitely an unexpected but essential part of growing my calligraphy business and I'm genuinely so grateful to all of you that have supported me (you know who you are).

Number eight - I can do this

Running a calligraphy business is something I'd wished on doing for years. In the last year I pulled my socks up and got to work. I built a website, I built a community and a clearer offering. I started to feel more confident and the imposter syndrome got a little quieter. I started to realise that I could do this, really do this, and it's been an amazing feeling.

What I've learnt though is that success doesn't happen overnight (that'd be nice!) but growth creeps up on you. At time it can feel like you're getting no-where but you are. I found it really rewarding to create a list of my wins to date and visually see how the number of wins have increased each year. You can watch a video of me taking through those wins here.

This is something I'd highly recommend doing yourself too if you want to take calligraphy from a hobby to a business so that you can really gain that perspective and celebrate those wins.

Number nine - Batch your work

Something that has helped me with my business is to batch work such as social media posts and YouTube videos. Batching this content has not only saved me a ton of time but also

cleared up mental space as I can focus on non-social media aspects of running my business.

It's helpful to think of ways that you can make your social media life easier - scheduling apps, having a hashtag bank and having set days to post have all been beneficial. Remember that social media metrics such as followers doesn't always correlate with the customers you're getting. I also think that it's important to "find your medium" by asking yourself where you spend most of your social media time and where you actually want to be, not where you think you should be (*cough* Tik Tok). Attempting to show up in 100 places at once isn't going to win you followers and it'll only stretch you thin.

Number ten - Make things work for you, not the other way around

I've been posting to my YouTube channel for 2 and a half years now. A lot of blood, sweat and tears has gone into

my channel as I've spent hours and hours putting together each video. After leaving my 9-5 to do calligraphy full time I started thinking of the tasks I was doing more critically to consider whether they actually add value to my business. I realised that YouTube was a huge time suck as I'm not yet monetised on YouTube. I had a decision to make - pack in the channel or approach it differently. Now I really love sharing ideas and insights on my channel (that's why I do it) and stopping meant that I'd likely never monetise it as growth only really happens when you upload regularly. With this in mind, I decided to simplify my YouTube content so that they are easier to film and edit, freeing up more time for other business activities.

What I've learnt is that if something isn't working for you, think about ways that you can change your processes.

Number eleven - Clients can come from a range of places

I was at a workshop and asked my attendees how they discovered my workshop, hoping that I'd finally get the key to understanding where my focus should lie in terms of promotion. I'd done all sorts of promotion and I wanted to know what was working. The answer I received wasn't what I was expecting, the answer was in fact all of it. Every attendee had heard about me in a different way - Instagram, a Facebook ad, a Poster at the venue, Eventbrite, a referral. At first I interpreted this in a negative way as it had not been the answer I'd been hoping for but then I started thinking about it differently. This meant that everything I had spent my time doing had been worth it but also that my eggs were not

all in one basket. This meant that I wasn't just reliant on one platform which are prone to dodgy algorithm changes, I was actually more in control.

As I launched my course I had some repeat customers (thank you so much if you're reading this!). It made me realise that not only does the avenue for finding workshops bring me workshop attendees, but it can also result in loyal customers.

Number twelve - Must do, should do, could do

Must, should, could, are all different things. I realised that for too long I was placing could do tasks into the should do list and it really made my to-do list never ending!

Now when I approach tasks I think of them more critically - do I actually need to do this at the moment? If it doesn't, is there a tangible benefit to me doing so for either the short term or long term success of my business which aligns with what I want to achieve with my business? And if not, it probably lands in the could list and therefore should not be taking up valuable brain space.


I just want to say thank you to everyone that has supported my business in some way this year, every bit of support has contributed to being able to do something I love. Supporting my business of course doesn't always have to be paid of course, it could be talking about my biz with friends, celebrating my wins with me, or commenting on a YouTube video so that I know someone is actually watching.


Want to start your own calligraphy business this year? Get your free guide with ten top tips by popping your name and email below.


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