10 things I've learned
as a self employed
I've started Crocus Paperi in 2016, and during this time I've tried myself in various areas of design creating both physical and digital products. Here are 10 most important things I've learned during 8 years of being a creative entrepreneur.
These 10 insights are general revelations, which I think would work for any creative business. I'll follow up with more specific insights about the design and illustration, covering topics like marketing, social media, products, working with clients, and more.
It’s actually possible to make a living off your creativity!

You can start a profitable business from scratch. Even without initial capital and special skills, you can succeed if you really want to. When I started, I knew nothing about running a business, handling accounting, or dealing with taxes, and my drawing and design skills were just beginning to develop.
You don't need a degree.

In design and illustration, you can make a living without having a formal education. Just watch some tutorials and start working.
It's crucial to have your own style.

It catches people's eye and makes you stand out.

The good thing is that if you listen to yourself and don't just copy others, you'll develop your own unique style over time. Copying helps when you're learning, but it's important to find your own way through practice.
Once you start feeling your own style, trust it.

I had times when I doubted and tried to follow popular trends, but I always came back to what brings me joy and what clients liked me for.

When you feel lost, go back to what you’ve started with. Look at your first works to remember what inspired you to start in the first place.
Success doesn’t mean growth.

You don't have to expand your small business.

I realized this while reading the book "Company of One" by Paul Jarvis. At one point, when I was creating wedding stationery, I thought I needed to start a design studio and hire people. I've actually hired a few people to help me during peak season. It made me feel important in a way that "look, my small business is growning, the demand for my services is so high I need people to help me".

But also it made me realize I just love working alone. And a bigger company means more problems to solve, and I just didn't want that. Comfort and a familiar work atmosphere are more important to me than growth.
Having a schedule is crucial to avoid burnout.

Flexible work hours can be a trap. Set rules for yourself, just like an employment contract at an office job. Specify your work hours and create a similar agreement with yourself.

For example, you might work on Monday and Tuesday, take Wednesday off, work on Thursday and Friday, and then take Saturday and Sunday off.
Your demand isn't defined by big-name clients.

Most designers don’t work with large companies, but that doesn’t make them less successful. Success varies and isn’t tied to famous brands.
Save and build a financial cushion from the very beginning.

As your own boss, you need to take care of your health,your retirement, your insurance.

Start with small amounts, but save regularly. First, build a financial cushion, then start saving for your retirement. Having a financial cushion and savings will make you feel much better during creative crises, illnesses, or just when you need a break.
Find a small group of like-minded people for motivation and support.

Since our jobs are almost entirely online, I believe it’s much healthier to meet your colleagues in real life, have a lunch or a walk together, share your thoughts, complain about common issues and support each other.

You might find creatives in your city through Instagram or meetup.com. Instead of large groups, find 1 - 3 people you can connect with deeply.

Do this only when you feel the need to get out there and share. I didn’t feel this need for a very long time, I really enjoyed being alone.
Hobbies and other activities beyond your main business are a must.

Drawing was once my hobby, but then it became my job. So, what did I do in my free time? At best, I would just go for a walk. Usually, I would either do accounting or something else work-related.

Finding a hobby can be challenging when you're so consumed by your main work. Try to find something else that excites you besides work, at least one other activity.

I’ve tried a bunch of things and nothing seemed to do the job, because my work has always been more important. Until I burned out and wasn’t able to do anything work related at all.

What was even worse, I didn’t understand what I liked or wanted. After months of emptiness and frustration, I finally got excited about something else 🙂 I’m studying to be a pilates teacher and teaching classes in a studio here in Helsinki.
Follow Irina on Instagram and shop illustrations and templates on Creative Market.