I am thrilled to be able to share this article today from Vianza’s Mita Patnaik. I absolutely flipped when I first read it because I think it hits home on some issues that really hold designers back. Things like – are you creating your own little sweatshop? Is your business giving you the freedom you expected? Are you doing everything yourself because you don’t know how NOT to and is this burning you out?

I can’t wait to read you comments and get this discussion going. -Jane

your own little sweatshop?
Starting a Fashion Business 

Are You Self-Employed Or Are You An Entrepreneur?

by Mita Patnaik

Last weekend I happened to read a short, inspirational book called Anything You Want by Derek Sivers. From being a musician to building an indie business worth $22M to giving it all away to charity, his story has some great learning’s for creative businesses. Sivers brilliance is reflected in the nuggets of wisdom found throughout the book. The similarity of Sivers journey to that of many aspiring creatives inspired me to write this post.

If there was a recipe for Sivers’s success, the key ingredient would be his understanding the difference between being self-employed and being a business owner.

The rise of the handmade has perhaps given rise to more self-made sweatshops than creative entreprenuers . Aspiring creatives transition from being employees to hobbyists (dabbling on selling handmade goods on the side) to self-employed makers hoping to make a living doing what they love. They assume:

Self-employment = FREEDOM.

Freedom to own their time, freedom to pursue their passions, freedom from bosses and freedom from doing “more of the same” day in and day out. It feels liberating to be the boss until they try taking an extended vacation. It becomes obvious that their job depends on their talent and ability to perform the work.

No work, no income.

Perhaps the eagerness to start a business, the need to control everything or the thought that no one can do a better job lead to I-make-every-aspect-of-the-product  and next thing you know they are in a sweatshop of their own making.  Now they have no time to enjoy their freedom and realize that running a sustainable business is all about doing “more of the same” in a repeatable way.

How ironic! They did not see the “self employment trap” coming…….

“When you make a company, you make a utopia. It’s where you design your perfect world.” – Derek Sivers

Make vs Serve

So what went wrong on the journey to lead a more purposeful life of a creative entrepreneur?

It is in the mindset.

While self-employed makers, creatives, artisans like making things with their own hands a true business owner, a true creative entrepreneur puts systems in place to “serve” customers.

They both might employ people to work for them. They both are selling products or services to customers but their approaches to building their business is vastly different.

The self-employed maker is always running the business while the entrepreneur is building the business.

The entrepreneur is creating value or assets in the business that keeps working on their behalf.

“Business is not about money. It’s about making dreams come true for others and for yourself. “ – Derek Sivers

Systems vs DIY

So how do you build value in your business so that when you want to go do something different or retire the business can still keep running in your absence?

As a self-employed creative you oversee multiple areas of the business – design, production, sales, marketing, fulfillment, customer service to name a few.

Ask yourself the question: what part of the business can I automate? Is it production? Is it fulfillment? Or is it sales?

Whatever the answer, taking the time to teach someone to run that part of the business or implementing a piece of software will make it a repeatable system that does not depend on you running it. It’s only when you have freed up your time from running the business can you focus on building it. 

  “Anything you hate to do, someone else loves it. Find that person and let them do it.” – Derek Sivers

Remember that just because you have a registered a company, taken a loan or used up your savings, make a product or have employees….just because you have the trappings of a business does not make you a business owner.

Entrepreneurship is an art and requires a certain mindset.

The skills can be learned and you get better with practice. There are no magic pill that you can take to become a successful  entrepreneur or business owner. You have taken the first step towards achieving your dream of building your creative empire by being self employed. Changing your mindset will mean the difference between success and failure.

“When you sign up for a marathon, you don’t want a taxi to take you to the finish line.” – Derek Sivers

Photo Credits:: MeganElizabethMorris

About the Author: Mita Patnaikis is the co-founder of Vianza, an online platform for specialty retailers and indie wholesalers to work together, co-create and collaborate.  Vianza helps you get control of all the paperwork and and moving parts of your business so you can streamline your operations and spend time on the things you love to do, like design. You can find them at http://www.vianza.com/

What business are you in: making or serving? Share in the comments below!




2 Responses

  1. For an organized/structured creative that’s more interested in designing jewelry than making it (like hiring a manufacturer), and know nothing about the business side of the industry, any first steps advice?

    1. Hi Lisa,
      First of all let me tell you that I love how you already know you want someone else to manufacture your line. This will free up your time to market and sell your product. As for advice, you can start with a few books about starting a jewelry business. I also recommend my New Designer Program https://fashionbrainacademy.com/blog/e-learning/new-designer-program/. With the exception of Session 3, the info can be used for jewelry. It covers the business side of things. While it is mainly geared for apparel and sewn products, I do think there is plenty of info for you. Plus you then have access to monthly group “Office Hours” where you an get in the line and ask me your questions for no additional fee.

      You can also check out Dee Dee McGuire. She is a jewelry consultant in LA and you can find her blog here: http://www.deedeemcguire.com/

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