On Lessons Learned: Going All In

Well, hell, it has been a long time since I have posted anything. Too long, I know. I did it, finally... I made the leap and started the Cracked Anvil as an official business and all of the stressful and frightening things that entails. The past few months have been very busy but, also, very educational and exciting!

First thing first, if you are going to start up a small business being a smith, don't call yourself a smith or anything that sounds like a trade. Instead, officially refer to yourself as an artist. Why? I am so glad you asked! Essentially, artists have free reign. Without getting into local and national law technicalities (of which the County Clerk's Office has plenty that they are thrilled to discuss), if you are registered or known as a manufacturer then you may be held to a higher standard, as far as regulations and taxes are concerned. Let's face it, even though I work with a fire thousands of degrees hot, have potentially toxic and lethal aspects to the job, and make useable items, in no way do I compare or compete with a factory or even a modern metal shop. If you, like me, will be making things one at a time and trying to put a little soul back into what people buy, you are an artist. Not to mention you are keeping a trade alive that many people, sadly, think is pointless. Cut yourself a break and throw "artist" somewhere in your job description or tax forms.

I approached this whole thing a bit like a hungry person at a buffet. Bit off a little more than I could chew. Solution? Make a business plan. Not the type where you go seeking investors, but one where you have goals. DO NOT just let those goals float around in your head. Yeah, you may get them done eventually, but eventually isn't going to be good enough. What do you want to make? What are you best at making? What is necessary for you to make to be profitable? Do you have the tools and equipment to get close to being profitable? After sinking so much money into the job, do you have the means to recover that cost? How long is that expected to take? How are you going to expand your skill set? Do you even have the time? So many more questions! Who knew work would be so much work?!

Seriously, write it down and refer to it, keep yourself on track the best you can and plan realistically. You will get sick, unexpected expenditures will arise, things will break. These things can't be planned, understandable, but their impact can be diminished by giving a little extra time to deadlines and expecting costs to be higher than they may actually be, plus a whole lot of other tips people far more educated than me can tell you about. Use the internet, read dreadful forums about it and be willing to ask for help. It is easy to get lost without a map, the business plan is your map. Anyone that has used one of the first GPS devices for cars can tell you that even the "best" maps can have problems, but it is a hell of a lot better than having no idea what to do next.

So, before you even consider making your passion a full-time deal, sit down, think about it, and write out what it is that you want to do. It will be boring. So boring. But you'll kick yourself later if you don't.

You will look like this, cigar included, when doing the necessary (and it is necessary) leg work.

You will look like this, cigar included, when doing the necessary (and it is necessary) leg work.