I did more of a jump in and swim 'business start-up', rather than the, probably tried and true, method of researching and studying how to swim in said waters first. Although I'm sure this method has many disadvantages, I think it has a few good ones too. My first few clients have quickly aclimated me to the demands of a small business and very much helped me to understand how much time I will put into each piece and what that translates into a $$ amount per hour (not a lot).
I've also learned that many people do not want the hassle of printing and am looking into purchasing a quality printer that can handle that demand. (Researching printers has been an extensive and exhausting process, please do no think ill of me or anyone else printing professionally if they don't cough up the name of their printer, they put in countless hours to find the best printer for themselves and will expect you to do the same if you are serious about the business. If you are looking only to print your wedding invites- trust me, you don't want to spend that much on a printer). Not to mention the almost equally exhaustive search for the best paper to provide all the characteristics you want and still be compatible with that printer.
I'd have to say the most valuable lesson so far has been learning that I LOVE doing this. I love working with people to create something they feel embodies their event and are proud to send out as a statement of the excitement that is to come. As many of you know, this is a VSSB (very small side business) for me right now, but when I come home from my full-time 9to5 I'm actually excited to catch-up on emails and start working again. (Never thought I would say that). It provides a release for me, so much so that I get just as excited about the designs as my clients. Having this knowledge fuels me to build a better business, to promote it more, extend it further, and dream about it often - becuase I know the passion I have for design isn't dying anytime soon.
I've also learned quite fast that as a designer you won't be right for everyone, sad but true. I thought, being the perfectionist/desire to please everyone person that I am, that I would have a hard time accepting this. But I have come to acknowledge this with more ease than I ever thought possible. I thought that after sending out a quote I would be heartbroken if that person didn't hire me, because that would mean my prices were too high. I shocked myself when I realized I was okay with that. I know that what I'm charging is more than fair, although that still doesn't mean you have the budget for it.
These first few weeks have been fast, exciting and knowledgable and I can only imagine what is to come in the future.
Your Social Stationery Artisan,