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April 10, 2016. It was the day my husband and I officially set up and registered Pixel Loon as a business. It was the day we decided we were really going to do it, and I was going to step away from teaching at the end of the school year. I had also decided that with the new business would come the launch of my blog, melaniewinters.com, a way to document my culinary escapades and more. Although we set this all up back in April of last year, it really wasn't the focus of my time (or even publicly launched) until August, so I suppose it's more like a 9-month anniversary, but either way, today's a day worth celebrating. It's been one heck of a learning experience and is never easy, but I haven't regretted our decision for a second. Below is a look at what this year has brought us (with regards to the business, the blog and our personal-lives) and some of the lessons we've learned.
- Secured that coveted first client! A contact from my time at Watertown-Mayer Middle School was kind enough to go out on a limb for me and use Pixel Loon's services for her Social Media Consultancy Company's logo. A project that was full of lessons and provided me the foundation to move forward and continue to improve my offerings for future clients, I will forever be grateful to Jennifer Janikula and the Sherwood Media Group.
- Developed fabulous relationships and built lasting partnerships with recurring clients. That first client is always a sigh of relief, but after that you're left wondering how to keep trending upwards and fill up your work calendar or, better yet, be able to make a profit someday! A couple more connections led me to some fabulous projects that allow for recurring work and again continuous learning.
- Joined the TwinWest Chamber of Commerce. As proud members of the TwinWest Chamber of Commerce, we've become involved in the Gala and Leadership Committees and, again, have been able to build wonderful partnerships and learn from our peers while also creating business opportunities.
- Learned we have a baby girl on the way! Without a doubt our most exciting and celebrated milestone, we are beyond happy to be welcoming the love of our lives to the world this July. What a trip pregnancy has been so far - now that we're 25 weeks in we are enjoying every little kick and movement and can't wait to meet our little one.
- Began offering digital downloads. With a little one on the way, it seemed to be the right time to start diversifying our passive income streams. One way of doing this has been this blog, but now we've decided to include melaniewinters.com under the Pixel Loon umbrella which means offering Pixel Loon designs available for digital download right here on our products page. So far it's a couple of wedding invitation suites, but baby shower invitations and many other themed packages and simple digital downloads will be coming soon!
- If you feel like you're "faking it 'til you make it", you're not alone. Having been blessed with a fabulous group of women in my life, many with the entrepreneurial spirit, one thing I learned quickly was that most of us are always feeling like we're faking it, no matter our industry. If you are someone who values continuous learning, professional development and self-improvement, you likely will never feel like you have it all figured out and that's okay. You're determined to keep problem solving and being an innovator and that's what will set you apart from the rest. Even if you feel like you're faking it year after year, keep exuding that confidence (even if it's fake confidence) and no one will know the difference.
- It's a slow process. When setting up the business and researching all about "taking a reasonable salary", I realized that even the government doesn't necessarily expect you to be able to do this for the first couple years. Every blogger or entrepreneur I spoke to expressed the same sentiment - it takes at least two years to really get things rolling. Keep plugging away at it, get involved in your local and online communities and your time will come. Be consistent and provide great services/content and it will come.
- I picked the right person. This year has affirmed my decision to marry my favorite person in the world. Taking a jump like we did in April/August is scary, I'm not going to lie. Making a whole bunch of major life decisions in the span of 2 years is scary. It hasn't always been easy, but this year has highlighted how incredible of a team we are and that there is no one else I would want to share the adventures of marriage, parenthood, home-ownership and business-owning with. From business decisions and tackling taxes to talking through home-improvements and remaining calm during pregnancy scares, I can't imagine a better partner. Being able to rationally talk through anything and bounce ideas off each other while still remaining a couple of goofballs has been, and will continue to be, what drives a happy marriage. Whether it's your husband, a parent or sibling, best friend or business mentor, find your person. You can't go it alone.
- It's about relationships. I hate networking. Socializing is exhausting for me sometimes. I'm by no means an extrovert. Despite all of this, I love the feeling you get when you build a new partnership or find a way to help someone and strongly believe life's all about relationships. I may feel tired or lazy but will rarely pass up an opportunity to spend time with the people I love or build relationships with those I barely know or have yet to meet. There's no better way to make your own day than by making someone else's. Go put a smile on someone's face today.
If you want to hear all my lessons learned with regard to blogging, graphic design or even business incorporation and taxes, please feel free to comment below or contact me with your questions or to share your own insights! This year has been a rollercoaster but it's safe to say the best is yet to come! Cheers to a bright future!