Creative journeys are rarely linear, but how can you tell a dead end from a fork in the road? We asked two comeback queens for advice on changing direction.
There comes a point in most creative journeys where whatever you’re doing isn’t quite going to plan. Maybe your Etsy shop isn’t exactly bringing in the big bucks, you’re struggling to progress with your craft, or you’ve fallen out of love with it and want a break. These scenarios are so common, but it’s all too easy to feel like a failure rather than recognising them as an opportunity for reflection, or a change in direction – just see Veronica Dearly’s amazing illustration above. So how do you get over a creative stumble, and switch things up to your advantage?
Turn it around
“Many creatives and entrepreneurs have a good mindset towards failure,” says Sam West, curator at the Museum of Failure in Los Angeles. “The main issue here is that accepting failure only makes sense if we are also willing to learn from it. This is often overlooked.”
Leona Baker, AKA Leona Thrift-o-la, founder of subscription box service Lucky Dip Club, is possibly the craft world’s number one comeback queen. She launched a hugely successful new venture after becoming completely burnt out and exhausted by her previous business, jewellery label Lady Luck Rules OK. “I started LLROK in 2003, and over seven years I built up a very successful online shop, supplied wholesale to over 100 retailers, and employed seven people,” she recalls. “But there was no emphasis on self-care for small business owners back then, and I ended up working myself into the ground. I hit a wall and just couldn’t do it anymore.”
Time to reflect
Leona quickly made the decision to close the business and go travelling to “fill up on inspiration” again, buying and selling vintage clothing as a way of paying the bills. However, she says she sometimes feels regret over changing direction so hastily. “I’m so glad I started Lucky Dip Club, but it took a number of years to get the idea for it (she launched the boxes in 2014) and for a long time there was a lot of self-doubt as to whether I would ever run a successful business again.
“I think when you consider changing direction, you have to delve down into the reasons why. Are you just overworked? You need to understand why the passion has gone. If I’d been looking after myself properly then maybe it wouldn’t have left me.”
Then, in 2018, Leona gave up Lucky Dip Club and started her new venture – Indie Roller. She created a brand around her name and now shares her expertise with other crafters hoping to start their own indie biz. Her handbook and membership club is for like-minded crafters, and she’s thriving in her new project. She truly is the ultimate comeback queen!
A fresh start
There can be other reasons for losing passion that are trickier to solve. Zoe Bateman made a name for herself with her vintage-inspired jewellery line Ladybird Likes, but decided to close it in January 2017. “I changed direction in what I wanted to do,” she explains. “I was into that vintage, retro style when I first started, but over the years my own style changed a lot and I felt really at odds with my brand. It had also become very jewellery-focused when I never intended it to be that way. I felt I was just doing what was expected of me.”
Trying something new
Zoe now has her new brand, Too Cute To Quit, which she launched in August 2018. She says her brand is more colourful and playful and features stationery, tote bags and T-shirts. The change hasn’t come without some challenges, though. “You need an action plan for dealing with issues like leftover stock. You need to keep your customers in the loop,” she says.
“Also, start to prepare for your new business. Get your domain name and social media handles all at the same time, and have a plan of how you’re going to make an income. Although setting up a new business is really exciting, it’s also a bit disheartening as it can feel a bit like being back to square one. You have to remember why you’re doing it.”
As well as the practical lessons learnt, the main takeaway both women drew from changing direction is that the support they’ve built stays with them. “I kept all the social media channels and just changed the name,” explains Zoe.
Leona agrees: “People buy from people, so if you’ve created a customer base, that’s yours. I don’t think I’ve actually made a fundamental career change, because those people stayed with me. Changing direction is never a dead end, it’s always an evolving process. So, here’s to finding new roads, and the paths our making takes us.”
See more advice from Leona here: