Small Business Burnout [Letter of Encouragement]
You master a new art form and create a unique product. It’s beautiful, and you receive a ton of positive feedback. You love the process, so you keep creating. Before you know it, you’ve got quite the inventory and no idea what to do with it. A small business is born.
Running a Small Business
Word of mouth gets you started, but now what? You do some live events, but you can’t do them all the time. You need a web presence, so you join Etsy, or build a site, or spin up a social media page. Awesome. But now you need product photos. And product descriptions. Finally, that’s all done, and you can get back to crafting. Ah, but wait. No one seems to be seeing your products. Why!?
You realize you aren’t posting often enough to stay in the algorithm. Better go take more photos. Maybe that social media platform isn’t your jam, so you start a new account elsewhere, hoping to reach new folks. More posts, more photos. You’re spending a lot of time trying to learn how to do all of the things, but you still need to make new products. And ship them out. And get to the events. And schedule another post. And answer all the questions.
Creating the art, it turns out, was the easy part of running a small business.
Here comes the overwhelm
Eventually, it all feels like too much. You can’t keep up. You’re not a photographer. You don’t know where to start. You have no idea how to manage all this social media stuff. It never feels like enough. Everything is falling apart. You don’t know what to do.
It is really hard to wear all these different hats, and that’s exactly what small business owners have to do. It’s not always in the budget to hire the help you need (yet), so you do all the things yourself. And there are lot of things! How do you, just one person, manage to do ALL of it?
You do what you can. However many things you can do right now without losing your mind, I promise that is the right amount of things.
Break it Down to build it up
Imagine your business being built with Legos. One piece at a time, you keep clicking the blocks into place. With each click, some aspect of the business gets easier. Some of it even becomes second nature, taking up less time, no longer feeling so overwhelming. When you are ready, you grab another block. The business gets bigger. You continue to build your skill sets. All of this is forward progress.
Some people like to make you think that ONE of these blocks is the key to your success. If you could just attend enough events, get more followers, make more products, if you could just top off your mailing list, everything would fall into place. But it’s not true. All of these things are individual pieces of a much larger project. No one block is going to instantly launch you exactly where you want to be. They all work together.
When you catch yourself thinking: I can’t do this. I don’t know how to do social media. I’m no good at taking pictures. I can’t figure out how to juggle everything. I can’t keep up. I want you to really pause for a moment and remember this:
What you are feeling is NOT a deficit within yourself.
What you are feeling is creative burnout.
You have been working your butt off on this endeavor, day after day, week after week, for months and months, maybe even years. You are hustling. You are trying to bring big business energy to your small business, but you don’t have the same level of resources or support. You are a one-person show, and that level of hustle is EXHAUSTING.
You wore yourself out. Then you probably hit some obstacle, however big or small, and it left you in the dumps.
I have been there so, so many times. We all have. When you hit small business burnout, the only thing you can do right now is lean into whatever task feels approachable. Whatever that small thing it is, it is enough. You are enough. And you need to put a little focus into what you need right now to take care of you. Because, news flash, you are the glue that holds this whole thing together, and self care is a legit need.
Self Care & Survival
So what now? Well, maybe it’s time to take a step back for a beat. Maybe it’s time to lean into whatever fills your cup. Maybe it’s even time for a detour.
I’ve been struggling to find the time to sit down and create content lately. I’m exhausted from doing all the things, just like you, and I’m suffering from a bit of small business burnout. So I gave myself a little grace, a little mental break, and I’ve just been chasing the dopamine. Sometimes for me, that looks like taking the evening off to watch a movie with my family. Sometimes it looks like doing a little maintenance on the website. Sometimes it looks like making a silly turtle video because that’s what got me motivated.
At the end of the day, even with a silly turtle video, people are still getting to know more about me. I’m still active on social media. I’m still stretching those creative muscles. And when I was finished working on that project, I felt better. I had accomplished something. Working on the video made me happy. Sharing it with my followers, seeing them get a good laugh out of it, also made me happy. Suddenly, I felt energized and ready to do something a little more productive.
Ironically, this was about the same time that a vendor reached out to me, feeling overwhelmed and underprepared for all the things she needed to do to succeed in her own small business. As I was talking her up, I found myself thinking about you. The other artists, crafters, makers, and bakers who are probably just as exhausted, locked in the throes of creative burnout, and questioning how on earth they are going to do it all.
You will find a balance. Just take it one step at a time, and remember to take care of yourself along the way.
Running a small business can be lonely work. DFW Craft Shows offers two Facebook groups for connecting with other vendors and discussing the daunting workload and growing pains of owning a small business:
- DFW Craft Shows Community (specific to the North Texas community)
- Craft Vendor Community & Support (a nationwide resource for small business owners)
We also offer a VIP Membership for local North Texas artisans who are ready to take their business to the next level and would like a little extra encouragement, support, and help along the way. VIPs unlock a variety of perks throughout the site to help with both finding events and increasing their exposure. They also gain access to our private Facebook group for more personalized feedback and a community full of kind and encouraging vendors who understand the small business life.