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LITTLE NELL BLOG

THE 5 BEST THINGS I DID FOR MY BUSINESS: PART 2 July 18 2016, 1 Comment

Before reading this post, I recommend catching up with The 5 Best Things I Did for my Business Part 1.

That post was written nearly a year ago, and things have grown a fair bit since then so I thought it was worth an update. Part 1 was written just a short while after I'd started working full time on Little Nell, so it was about adapting my routine and getting used to working alone. Part 2 is about growing my brand, and learning from people far wiser than myself. (Rather than thinking I already know it all...)

6. FINDING A COMMUNITY

I'd like to say I've always found the creative community really warm and friendly, and for the most part, it has been. But there have definitely been moments when I felt like everyone else had a Twitter clique, and the internet can make it hard to tell who is your internet friend, and who is your actual friend. Recently I've joined a few closed Facebook groups set up for this exact thing. (And now I actually use Facebook again!) It's so lovely to find an encouraging place, which provides invaluable advice from people who've been exactly where I am, and have grown their business into something amazing. I feel hugely grateful that they make time to help people like me, and to see they're still learning too. Try searching for groups local to you, or linked to your most popular marketplace sites as a starting point. 

7. TAKE A RISK

Heading to a Trade Show was definitely one of the riskiest things I've done for my business, and there are no guarantees it will work out. (You can read all about my experience here). I've been attending trade shows for about 8 years, but this was my first with Little Nell. Each show is different, and you never quite know how it's going to go, and it can be so easy to feel disheartened if you don't come back with a folder full of orders and contacts. But pushing yourself to take a calculated risk can be a really rewarding experience. It would have been really easy to not go, and happily keep plodding along in my comfort zone, but if you never try, you'll never know. So far, I'm really enjoying working with retailers, I'm sure part of it is the novelty of doing something new, but each time I get a new stockist it feels like a new Brownie badge, and I just want a really nice collection to sew onto my shirt.

And as costly as it is, I can never be too mad about the excuse to buy new furniture on the business account.

8. OPENING A ROYAL MAIL BUSINESS ACCOUNT

I feel a bit daft that I didn't do this sooner, but I just didn't know it existed. It was a bit of a faff setting things up, but things are so much easier now. I do all my own post online, then just drop off the bags at the Post Office. No more queuing up for all those international orders, or taking forever posting next day delivery purchases at Christmas... And it's cheaper. Win. Win.

9. BRANCHING OUT

If you're selling your products through sites that you don't own, then you don't have control, and they can make any changes they like which could be hugely detrimental to your business. (Which one HUGE marketplace recently did and left some sellers out of the job, and looking for a new career with very little warning). This is where I've been focussing my attention recently, branching out to retail, and working with some new carefully selected marketplaces. Being dependent on one channel was a really big concern for me when Little Nell became my sole income, and not only that, I felt it was leading me in a particular direction, that wasn't completely in line with the vision I had for my business. Which leads neatly onto my last point...

10. BALANCING CREATIVITY & COMMERCIALITY 

I don't want to criticise marketplaces, because I think they're awesome and there is no way I'd be where I am now without them, but the downside was I found myself creating products to please them, hoping to be featured in their marketing, rather than creating the jewellery I really wanted to make. I find it a challenge to balance commercial success with creative satisfaction, and my best-selling products aren't always the ones I'm most proud of. Whilst I refuse to make jewellery that compromises on quality just because it might sell well, I also need to accept that there will be ranges I personally love, that just won't sell and need to be retired. It's getting a happy balance between the two and since branching out to work with a wider range of retailers and marketplaces, I've found a comfortable middle ground. My best selling range at retail is my worst selling one on notonthehighstreet.com. Different retailers have different target markets, and I'm so glad I took a risk of launching something different, because it paid off. Don't be disheartened if a range doesn't sell on a particular channel, it doesn't mean it's a flop, it just might be better suited elsewhere.


THE WEDDING PLANNING MYTH June 02 2016, 0 Comments

 

I was never one of those girls who had planned their perfect wedding in their head before getting engaged. I knew I wanted to get married, but that was because I'd found someone I wanted to spend my life with rather than just wanting a fancy frock and a wedding day.

I love weddings, I love catching up with friends and family, making new best friends (if only for the day), and being in a room filled with so much love that It's impossible not to smile. And yes, I cry at everyone's wedding, I'm absolutely that person.

I'm not sure where it came from, but I was lead to believe that planning your wedding was great fun, and I've come to think that's a myth. Don't get me wrong, I am super excited for our big day, and I love having an excuse to bring together everyone we care about together, but wedding planning isn't one big Pinterest-worthy picnic. 

Firstly, there's the cost. I know it's obvious, but bugger me, they're expensive. I completely understand it's a big industry and people have to make money, but there are a lot of people charging twice the price for the exact same service just because the word 'wedding' is involved, and I find that a little dishonest. We're not planning a hugely extravagant day. We wanted a simple barn wedding, nice dinner and a great band, but sadly, a relaxed day doesn't mean a cheap one.

Then there's the pressure. I was terrified about trying on wedding dresses, I wasn't giddy and excited despite everyone constantly asking if I was, or telling me I should be. I was worried that trying on a heap of expensive dresses was just going to bring back a host of body issues that I'd very slowly been moving on from. And I was sort of right. (Thanks boyfriends of my late teens and your 'you'd be really pretty if you were a bit thinner' comments.)  Trying on dresses wasn't as bad as I anticipated. I thought I'd look like an uncooked sausage in everything, but I didn't, I even looked quite nice. It wasn't until I got home I broke down in an emotional puddle (sorry Dad). It wasn't really the dresses that caused my outburst, it just hit me that I was going to have to walk down an aisle with everyone looking at me, and it terrified me. I'm no wallflower, but I don't like being the centre of attention, and I hate the thought of being judged on the way I look. I know it's stupid, I keep telling myself that the people there are my friends, they're not going to change their feelings toward me because they don't like my dress, or I failed miserably at a wedding diet. (That's a whole other blog post, but in short, I won't fail, because I'm not on one.) I tell Nath the same thing when he worries about making his speech. No one is there willing us to trip up or stutter, and if they are, we should probably remove them from our guest list.

It's not just the pressure about how I look, It's wanting to create this perfect day for everyone, and feeling like it should look like something from a designer wedding blog. What if it's not that stylish? What if my 'laid-back, mis-matched, no theme' theme looks half-arsed, or worse still, a bloody shambles? I know these thoughts are stupid, and the rational, logic part of my brain keeps telling me that. I know that it doesn't have to be everyone's perfect day, and just having that moment with those people will be the best feeling, regardless of whether the instant camera runs out of film, or it pisses it down all day, or the groomsmen clash.

Despite my whinging, the one thing I have been grateful for is how very supportive and laid back our friends and family have been about everything, you know you've chosen your people right when they create no drama. I know my bridesmaids are probably in dresses they might not choose themselves, but not one of them would let me know that. Most of us put enough pressure on ourselves without the hassle of trying to accommodate for family feuds and high maintenance guests. 

I don't mean to sound negative about wedding planning, there have definitely been fun bits - menu-tasting and making my bridesmaids try on ridiculous skirts to mention but two - I just wasn't expecting to get so stressed about silly little things outside of my control. I'm still terrified about walking down the aisle, but knowing my favourite man is walking me down it, and my best friend is meeting me at the end of it definitely helps.

 


NEW: MONOCHROME MARBLE May 11 2016, 0 Comments

Our latest collection is the perfect addition to your summer wardrobe, combining three of our favourite jewellery trends, geometric, marble and monochrome. Shop the range here.


WE'RE WINGING IT, AND THAT'S OKAY April 26 2016, 1 Comment

I met someone recently who had followed me online for a while, and assumed Little Nell was far bigger than it is. They thought I had staff, and that I was a proper professional, with a real studio (not a pokey attic with a bit of damp). I laughed, the thought genuinely amused me. But when I thought about it, I'm guilty of trying to portray that online, not all the time, but definitely some of the time. I always refer to Little Nell as 'we' because I finding saying 'I' a bit odd (I am not my business), and when I had a full-time job, I rarely mentioned it on Twitter for fear it would make me look less professional. My life does not look like my instagram feed, I only post the good-looking bits. (You can follow me on snapchat for the less glamorous bits @little_nells.)

The internet is full of advice, half the blog posts on my feed seem to be telling me 'How to increase your social media following' and 'Top Tips for achieving the perfect work/life balance'. I'm not against these posts, hey, I've even written some, but it can make you feel that everyone else is an expert apart from you, and it's just not true. The truth is, we're all winging it, and that's okay. I just wish sometimes we could be a bit more honest about it, without worrying about looking unprofessional, or feeling like a failure. We're all learning as we go, and some are a little further along than others. No matter how much it might look like it online, no one has completely got their shit together, and I would happily put money on the fact that even the most professional looking businesses have cocked up at least twice (but probably loads).

When I see other people's really organised studios or their super efficient daily routine, it makes me feel guilty about the fact that my desk is always a tip, I definitely start work in bed, and I've absolutely sacked the afternoon off for little other reason than the Zara sale has started. But that doesn't make me worse, or better at running my business than anyone else. I also work late, I push myself, and it might not be written down in a perfect powerpoint, but I definitely have a plan for Little Nell, (even if it's just a few bullet points in my head). You do what works for you, because you're the boss, and you know best. There are no rules about how you run your business, no rights or wrongs. Being super organised works for some people, but some of the most shambolic, disorganised people I've met are running incredibly successful businesses.

"I'm going to tell you a secret about everyone else's job: No one knows what they're doing. Deep down everyone is just faking it until they figure it out. And you will too, because you're awesome and everyone else sucks."

April, Parks & Recreation

 


BUSINESS TIME: ONE YEAR ON February 24 2016, 0 Comments

It's been a year since I left my full time job and became self-employed. In that time I've been a very inconsistent blogger, going through phases of loving blogging, then feeling like I have nothing to say. But I'm really grateful to have it as a record to look back on every now and then as Little Nell changes and (hopefully) grows, it's definitely a little therapeutic having somewhere to write down my experiences.

Just over a month into my self employment I wrote this very positive post, and it's good to look back on it when I'm feeling complacent and whinging about quite insignificant things (usually being cold and always having to make my own tea).

A year in, a little more weathered and less naive, I feel like I can write more openly and honestly about the pros and cons of working for yourself.

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SELF-DOUBT

I think all creatives suffer from self-doubt, but if you're in a shared office, or agency you have people to ask for feedback. I've said before that social media channels are helpful for getting opinions, but you can't do it for everything. And more to the point, it's my business and I should be confident in making decisions about how it moves forward. But ordering huge quantities of new packaging the week before my first trade show was a bit terrifying. Do I go for the expensive luxury card stock for a high end feel that's more on-brand, or the cheaper, more rustic kraft finish, which contrasts with the jewellery better? Which leads neatly on to my next point...

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MISTAKES

There are two ways of looking at this one, you don't get mad at anyone else for making stupid decisions that you then have to work with (which used to be a pretty big issue for me), but instead, you only have yourself to blame if (and when) something does go wrong. When you order 1000 flyers on the wrong card, or buying a train ticket and immediately losing it so you have to buy it again. (Yes, I've done both of those, this is a safe sharing place - no judgement please!)

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LONE WOLF

Being alone was always my biggest fear about working myself. When I'd dreamt about having my own business, I often pictured me and a couple of others, working in a lovely bright, airy studio, giggling at slightly rude place names and opening the gin at 4.30pm on a friday, needless to say, that's not the case. Being alone isn't usually an issue, if I'm lonely I get out, and the rest of the time, the radio does a pretty good job of making me feel like I've got company. However, at peak season, when it's early starts and late nights, and Mr. Little Nell is working away, I do find myself going a little stir crazy. I very nearly phoned my mum to get her to come and stay to just make me tea and talk at me whilst I pack orders. I think it's more the monotony than anything else. Usually I like the variety my job entails, if I'm bored of something I'll do something else, but non-stop order packing made me feel very 'ALL WORK AND NO PLAY MAKES PENNY A DULL GIRL'. 

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FLEXI-TIME

This is still my favourite part of self-employment. It's simple things, like not having to run errands on a saturday when everywhere is rammed, working in my favourite cafe as a hump day treat, and doing emails from my bed when monday morning is just a little too much. I have to remind myself to appreciate these things. I even go running now *shocked emoji face*, there's no way I would have gone for regular runs through winter with a full time job. (I won't run in the dark, that's indoor time). 

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FUTURE

The other day I logged into my linkedin account for the first time in months to find an old message from a recruiter. She asked if I was interested in a job that I would have jumped at 18 months ago. It caused me to have a brief moment of doubt, wondering whether I should have stayed in a more corporate environment which would perhaps have been more stable, and sensible. Do I think I'll still be making trend-led jewellery when I'm 50? Honestly, I don't know, but as I grow and change, I'm sure my business will evolve too.

My other future worry is a pension. I've never had a pension, and this never really worried me because they were for old people, and I couldn't even comprehend what I'd be doing next week, let alone when I retire. But I'm nearly 30 and it's almost 10 years since I left university, and I still have diddly squat pension-wise. (I can feel my dad rolling his eyes at me as I write that sentence.) 

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All in all, it's been a good year, a great year in fact. I'm quietly proud of myself for making it this far. I haven't done all of the things I hoped I would in those 12 months (I may have been a little over ambitious!), but I've made some pretty big moves in the right direction. And keeping in mind that my initial plan was to see how things went, and possibly look for another job 6 months down the line. I'm pretty chuffed that I haven't had to. 

 


BUSINESS TIME: MY FIRST TRADE SHOW January 29 2016, 0 Comments

(That's my nervous, first thing, day one face. You can see the look of 'please buy my jewellery' desperation.)

Earlier this month I attended my first ever trade show at Top Drawer. It felt like a real landmark for me, a deadline to get my sh*t together and start selling to retail. (Which was supposed to be my priority when I left my full time job 10 months ago...)

Trade shows were a big part of my job when I used to work in marketing, so I'm familiar with the process, but it felt quite different when it's all about your own brand (and out of your own pocket *flying money emoji*).

Until then I'd only sold direct through my own website and marketplaces, so it's a big change for my business. There's a fair amount of risk involved in trade shows, it's expensive to attend, you've then got to furnish your stand, and you've got to pay up front for a whole load of new promotional material ranging from price lists, packaging, and postcards. So between big upfront costs, and smaller margins selling to retail, there's a lot of pressure to make it successful. (I had a lot of anxious dreams the week before about arriving and my stand being wrong, stock being stolen, or my sign falling on a buyer.)

Here are a few things I wish I'd done before exhibiting, or was glad I did. Apologies if it's common sense, but if you've never attended a trade show before, hopefully it's of some help.

LIMIT YOUR EXPECTATIONS

I didn't know what to expect. I had friends who had attended before, but they were stationery or home rather than jewellery, and most of them said each show was different anyway. I was exhibiting in Spotted which is a curated area for small creative businesses that are new to retail. There were definitely pros and cons, I wasn't sure specific jewellery buyers would come to Spotted as well as the jewellery section, but being highlighted in a 'New Talent' zone definitely meant people who might have overlooked you before would see you. 

You're told not to expect orders on the day, so I tried not to get my hopes up. But I also know from experience that lots of independent buyers will make orders on the day, and I would have been disappointed if I hadn't had any. But you shouldn't be, it's a show room, and honestly, If you were a buyer, would you buy things on the day? I'm guilty of panic buying, so I would collect the info of the brands I liked, go back to the office, look at my budget and then make any decisions. This is especially relevant if you have higher price items, or you have high minimum orders. And lots of small orders are great, but you could have just as profitable show by just getting one national store on board.

DO YOUR RESEARCH

I failed at this. With the show coming just after Christmas, I was too busy (erm, managed my time too badly) to contact buyers beforehand, but you should, if only to let them know you're going to be there. The worst that can happen is that they ignore you (nothing lost) but it might just be that one little email reminds them to pay you a visit and then they fall in love with your new range. Also, loads of buyers will hide their badges, and also use the line 'I forgot my business cards', but don't fret, they'll get in touch if they like you. And it does give you the opportunity to play guess the buyer. (Or you can always stalk them on linked in beforehand...)

HAVE FUN

I was so grateful that my boyfriend took a couple of days off work to come along with me. Although you'd be fine by yourself the majority of the time, it was so nice to have someone cover the stand when you need to eat or wee, and having an extra pair of (long) arms to paint the far corners of my stand, and help move the chest of drawers I thought it was a good idea to bring. Not to mention having him keep me company over dinner and in the hotel. (He also went to the shops to buy me socks as I'd forgotten to pack any.) And I loved my little Spotted family too, it was so nice to feel like I had colleagues for a few days! And you genuinely support each other, I was really willing them to get the retailers they wanted. There are slow periods when you need someone to be silly with, to get you through the last hour of each day when your feet are burning and your back aches... Hence the creation of 3pm lunge club with our neighbours Paper Plane

MAKE THE MOST OF IT

You're there to sell, but you're also amongst 100s of successful brands who started exactly the same way as you, as well as 100s of potential customers. After working alone for so much of the year, I found it really helpful to talk to people and get their feedback on the products, the pricing and new packaging. If there are any particular brands you want to chat to, it's worth getting in touch beforehand, and it's best to visit them before the show opens or as it's closing when things are a bit quieter so you're not preventing them chatting to buyers.

THE AFTERMATH

The most important time is after the show, more orders will be made, and you'll need to follow up on all those new contacts you made. Don't leave it too long and let them forget about you. Add them to a mailing list and keep them updated with any new launches. All those price lists and post cards you had printed? (I ordered waaay too many.) Don't waste them, send those to the stores and buyers you didn't get to meet at the show. And maybe book yourself a little time off and a treat a week or so after the show. You've earned it.

 


INDIE OUTLOOK: LOUISE WRIGHT DESIGN November 05 2015, 0 Comments

Welcome to the wonderful, whimsical world of illustrator Louise Wright. Her artwork features a menagerie of adorable animals, possibly inspired by her own pets (anyone who has ever owned a Collie will strongly identify with this particular print!) You can shop the full range of Louise's cards and prints over on her Etsy shop.

WHAT DID YOU WORK AS BEFORE BUILDING YOUR INDEPENDENT EMPIRE?
After studying illustration at uni it was my dream to become an illustrator right away. However, reality hit me hard and that just didn't happen. I ended up doing a range of jobs that I hated in order to try and tide myself over money wise. There were a couple that I did love and stuck at for a while, one was working as a Bookseller (on the kids floor!) and a Barista at my local Cafe. But I always had the goal of getting my work recognised, and I would work every evening after my day job to try and make that happen.


WHY DID YOU DECIDE TO GO IT ALONE?

To be totally honest I kind of fell into it by accident, it was a way of pushing myself to keep making creative work when times were tough. I joined a local print studio and started screen printing. I was just doing it for fun and printing onto whatever was around (tote bags, tea towels) and people at the studio kept asking me if they could buy them from me. Slowly I realised that I might have something here, and if going directly to publishers wasn't working - I'd just do it myself! 

WHERE DO YOU LOOK FOR INSPIRATION WHEN YOU'RE SUFFERING WITH CREATIVE BLOCK?

I try and get out of the house! I find this massively helps me, I leave my phone at home and I go into town or take the dogs out for a walk. I struggled with this a lot earlier in the year and I've been forcing myself to try and take weekends off (when and where I can) so I can get out into the countryside, it makes coming back to my desk on a Monday much more exciting and I'm fresh and ready to tackle work again.

 

 


WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE PART OF WORKING FOR YOURSELF?
I love how rewarding it is! You put so so much in, it's always amazing when it starts to pay off. Whether that is a customer sending you a thank you card, getting a big wholesale order or nailing the card range I've been mulling over in my head for months.
(It's also nice that I get to be with my doggies all day and I can work in my yoga pants ;)

WHAT IS THE HARDEST PART OF WORKING FOR YOURSELF?
One of the toughest things for me is having no-one to speak to all day unless I go out. I find myself narrating what I'm doing to the dogs/plants. It also means there is no other creative person nearby who I can bounce ideas off so I do have to do everything by myself which can be tough sometimes. Having said that, I get distracted very easily so if some-one else worked with me in my studio I'd get no-where near as much done!

WHAT SONG DO YOU PUT ON WHEN YOU NEED TO PICK YOURSELF UP AND 'GET SHIT DONE'?
Every now and then this changes but I figure you can never wrong with 'Dancing Queen' by Abba! Always my go to song if it's a rough day.

WHAT WAS YOUR DREAM JOB AS A CHILD?
I wanted to be a writer, I'd spend ages writing these crazy stories and read them to my brother at bedtime to gauge if they were any good or not. If they got requested again the next night I was on to a winner!

WHAT'S NEXT FOR YOUR BUSINESS?
The big thing on my mind is making it through Christmas alive at the moment!! *panic* 
But seriously...I am launching some very limited illustrated jewelry pieces at my Christmas markets, and I have new card lines getting ready for a 2016 launch. I'm now stocked in Paperchase (yay!!) and I gained my first Canadian stockist a week or so ago so I'm just working on building the brand inside and outside of the UK.
Follow Louise here:   TWITTER    |    PINTEREST    |    INSTAGRAM   

BUSINESS TIME: POP-UP STUDIO September 21 2015, 0 Comments

I'm trying to avoid the 'September is here, Autumn's arrived' angle on this post, but as lots of you already know, the shorter grey days can make photography really tricky, (unless you have your own photography studio set up!) I found this particularly difficult when I worked full time, because evenings were my Little Nell time, but trying to photograph dainty jewellery past 5pm in November is all but impossible. It was then that I made the very sensible decision to invest in some lighting, I didn't want anything too expensive or bulky, and after a little research, someone recommended these lights from Amazon. They had good reviews, and for only £60 I thought they were worth trying. (Not being a photography expert, I didn't want to spend a fortune on lights I didn't know how to use.)

They've been pretty indispensable since, they fold down to almost nothing, so are easy to store when they aren't in use, but now I use them almost daily with a corner of the attic becoming my pop-up studio. They're great for social media photos as they just look so much more consistent which was something I really struggled with before. Having a dedicated space for photography makes sure that I'm posting pictures daily, and it's helped me be a little more playful with the styling. The set up is made from a couple of white ikea shelves, and in the leather suitcase underneath I keep a selection of props, fabric and coloured wrapping paper to use as backgrounds when things need brightening up. It means I'm posting a lot more of my jewellery on social media as in the past it's been a little neglected. (It seems taking photos of my travels, outfits and the cat required a lot less consideration and I didn't want to spam my feed repeating the same old self-promoting product photography.) I try to make sure our products feature in 1 in every 3 photos (roughly) but rather than just having flat lay product shots, I'm trying to incorporate it into the style photos too so customers can see how things look on, as well as neatly laid out on a shelf.

I've set myself the target of taking one photo a day, most of which are posted on instagram, but I've also got some backed up to post when I'm away from the office, or having one of those days that's so hectic taking carefully styled instagram photos is the last thing on your to do list. I'd love to see your home studio set ups and prop collections. Mine is primarily vintage books, brass trinket boxes and tiny glass bottles....

You can follow our instagram feed here, and share your studio spaces with us over on twitter :o)

 


BUSINESS TIME: THE 5 BEST THINGS I DID FOR MY BUSINESS August 27 2015, 2 Comments

1. CUSTOMISE YOUR SPACE

I work in an attic, space is tight and all the furniture has to arrive through what is essentially a hatch in my bedroom ceiling. Went I quit my job and realised I was going to be sat in that attic 5 days a week, I decided to scrap my impractical little Ikea desk and have one made. I bought some £25 mesh drawers, £2 desk legs and found a carpenter on mybuilder.com to create and fit a bespoke desktop that made the most of my limited space, fitting into the uneven walls. It cost me £120 which really wasn't much more than my little Ikea one. My desk is for packing, making and working so I needed something that could work for all 3. It's deeper than a standard desk as I use it as a shelf for storing jewellery, and it's longer on the corner so my laptop can sit alongside my monitor.

2. FREEAGENT

Accounts is not my strong point. It's not that I can't do them, I just don't want to. It's boring, and time-consuming, which is a problem for someone (like me) with the attention span of a child. Investing in FreeAgent was the best thing I ever did. I can upload my bank statements month by month, and it gives you an overview of how much you owe the taxman (rather than thinking you know and having a hideously surprising and painful kick in the face come tax day). If you're really snazzy you can create project codes to see how much specific projects are costing you, and it can also handle all of your invoicing so you know who has paid and who is taking the p*ss out of your cash flow.

3. OUTSOURCE

It's hard not to be a control freak when it's your business. Being in charge of everything is kind of satisfying, it's my baby and no one else will love and nurture it like I will. But that's not true, they will, because it's their job too, they'll just focus on one aspect on of your business rather than all of them. Don't get me wrong, having your own business is great for pushing you to learn new things and challenging yourself, but sometimes it helps to sit back and evaluate. Yes, I could design my catalogue for no cost, but I'm not a designer, it would take me forever, and I don't think I'd be 100% happy with the outcome. OR I could outsource it to someone who is great at that stuff. That way I get a better final result, less stress, and I've had the time to create an awesome new range to cover the extra costs.

 4. ROUTINE

One of the joys of working for myself is the flexibility, that I can throw routine to the wind if, and when I need to. That said, I really benefit from a routine, if I stick to traditional working hours I find it a lot easier to switch between work-time and my free-time. I treat my attic just as I would an office (with a very lax dress code) because when I didn't, the lines got blurred. When I worked on the sofa, that became my office and it's hard to just sit there and not think about work. For me, having a routine creates boundaries which I need to be my most productive. But yes, sometimes friday morning emails do get done in bed with a face mask on and a hot brew.

5. ENVIRONMENT

I'm a woman of simple pleasures, I like having a nice, comfortable working environment and it really helps my productivity. It needs to be somewhere I enjoy spending time, and for me, that means creature comforts; prints, blankets, nice lighting... Even so, now and then I need to get out of my house. Usually for 1 day every couple of weeks I'll work outside of home, away from domestic distractions of washing up, laundry, and cat cuddling. They're not bad distractions, and they don't take long, but on some days they add up and they get the better of me, because it'll only take two minutes, or they're only downstairs. I'll either work in a cafe or at a friends and being somewhere where I physically cannot make orders, or rearrange shelves means I finally get some of the admin work done.

I feel like I need to end this post with a disclaimer! These are small changes that improved the way I run my business. I'm not suggesting they'll definitely work for yours, if you're looking for advice, then lord knows there are more than enough advice posts out there for you to read! I just wanted to share my own experience, but if working till midnight in your pants on the kitchen floor works for you - stick to that. What I love about our creative community is that there are no rules, we all operate differently, and there are no right or wrong ways.


INDIE OUTLOOK: STORMY KNIGHT August 25 2015, 0 Comments

Say hello to my pun-loving pal Sarah Knight, the Bristol based brains behind Stormy Knight. Stockist to the stars (Alexa Chung's sister bought one of her cards) and my go-to greetings girl, her cards have just the right mix of funny, cute and clever. Read more below to discover her 'Get Shit Done' song and childhood aspirations to be a contortionist....

WHAT DID YOU WORK AS BEFORE/ALONGSIDE BUILDING YOUR INDEPENDENT EMPIRE?
I've always worked in the design industry as a graphic designer and illustrator - most recently as an in-house designer for a company retailing children's travel products. Working in a creative environment has been great for developing my design skills, but some of the things I gleaned from that job were indispensable from a commercial perspective too. (Less creative things like profit margins, setting up  bar codes etc….)

WHY DID YOU DECIDE TO START YOUR OWN BUSINESS?
It's the main thing that drives me. Although I've been lucky enough to work in creative jobs that I've enjoyed, my mind is always filled with what I could be doing on Stormy Knight. When you are that geared towards something it feels like it's your calling and you lose interest in the other stuff - no matter how interesting that stuff is!


WHERE DO YOU LOOK FOR INSPIRATION WHEN YOU'RE SUFFERING WITH CREATIVE BLOCK?
My peers - there are so many amazing designers, illustrators and publishers at the moment that inspiration is rife! There are also some amazing stationery blogs like 'Oh So Beautiful Paper' and the 'Paper Chronicles' which are great for seeking out trends too. And trade shows are a great place to see what's new and exciting.

WHAT'S YOUR FAVOURITE PART OF WORKING FOR YOURSELF?
It's cheesy, but I enjoy it all because it has a direct impact on my life and income. (I even enjoy doing my accounts!) But the best bit is coming up with new designs and seeing them come off the press. Or when you get a massive order for thousands of cards ;)

WHAT IS THE HARDEST PART OF WORKING FOR YOURSELF?
Sometimes you want to run ideas and decisions past someone and that's not an option. I'm lucky that my family and friends are interested in what I do and they are always willing to give me feedback on new designs. And my boyfriend is pretty good at coming up with sound business advice. But essentially I make the decisions and if I make a bad one then there's no one else to blame, (and it's down to me to make the most of it!)


WHAT SONG DO YOU PUT ON WHEN YOU NEED TO 'GET SHIT DONE'?
KC and the Sunshine band 'Baby Give it Up'. You can't be down when that's playing.

WHAT WAS YOUR DREAM JOB AS A CHILD?
What wasn't? Vet, mounted police, contortionist, explorer, interior designer. The list goes on...

WHAT'S NEXT FOR YOUR BUSINESS?
Diversify and expand my ranges - my new foil collection was a big step aside from the humorous designs that I’m known for and they're doing really well (it’s just been announced as a finalist in for a big trade award, which I’m very excited about!) so I'm developing more typographic designs at the moment due to launch in January. I also have a new range of mini cards for Top Drawer this September and have lots of ideas for new ranges that I hope to bring to market in 2016. As well as that we've just started working with some stores in the US and Canada so I'm expanding the business both inside and outside the UK. 2016 is set to be a very busy year! 

Follow Stormy Knight on social media here...

TWITTER | FACEBOOK | INSTAGRAM


INDIE OUTLOOK: HELLO HARRIET August 07 2015, 0 Comments

Meet Hello Harriet, purveyor of adorable goods adorned with alpacas, pugs and kittens (to name a few), but really, what's not to like? I've been following Harriet for some time on social media and my first purchase was the 'Alpaca that for you' tote bag, which is probably my favourite pun ever. Read about how she went from packing custard powder, to full-time freelance below...

WHAT DID YOU WORK AS BEFORE BUILDING YOUR INDEPENDENT EMPIRE?
It took me a good 4 years after leaving Uni before I started working for myself full time, and I literally had *so many* random jobs in that time! The most recent before becoming self employed I worked in a factory packing powdered custard, jelly and hot chocolate, which was … interesting, and as you can imagine super glamorous {I’m talking hairnets and overalls}. After that I took on a part time job at a local convenience shop just down the road from my house, which was much more bearable! I actually quite enjoyed that little job but only ended up staying there for about 6 months as that’s when my own shop really took off and I was able to make the jump to full time boss lady.

WHY DID YOU DECIDE TO START YOUR OWN BUSINESS?
I originally planned to be a freelance Illustrator, but after graduating I started to realise I really didn’t get on with tight deadlines and the pressure that kind of work involved. I knew I really enjoyed creating artwork and making things, but it was just by chance that a friend invited me to share a stall with her & a few other creatives one Christmas that I ended up making a few products featuring my drawings. I set up an Etsy shop with the remaining stock and things went from there. I cannot imagine working for someone else now. I love the freedom of being able to work on what I want when I want.

WHERE DO YOU LOOK FOR INSPIRATION WHEN YOU'RE SUFFERING WITH CREATIVE BLOCK?

Urgh, creative block is the worst! It usually happens to me when I have been spending way too long on Pinterest or Instagram green eying other people’s amazing work. I try to take myself away from creating anything at all. I’ll get on with other little jobs that need to be done that take zero creativity, like tidying up the studio or replying to emails to give myself a break from the ‘pressure’ of creating artwork. A bit of down time always help to clear my head out so I’ll go outside, to the gym or hang out with friends {Meeko the cat}. I basically remind myself to have fun.

WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE PART OF WORKING FOR YOURSELF?
There are so many things I love about my job, it’s awesome being able to work from home, as it means I get to hang out with my little fur baby Meeko all day long. {My partner, Luke is a freelance illustrator and we share our home studio so I get to see him a lot too, which is pretty sweet.} But the thing I love most is seeing my lovely customers sharing photos of things they’ve bought from my shop. There is nothing better than getting tagged in their photos on Instagram, it totally makes my day!

WHAT IS THE HARDEST PART OF WORKING FOR YOURSELF?

Aside from having to find my own motivation, being strict with myself about actually getting work done and being a one woman band - having to do literally everything myself. One of the things I often struggle with is when other people don’t take your job seriously. Yes, I draw cats and cute things, but this is a legitimate business and it takes hard work to make it work! {I can’t tell you how much I wanted to write that last sentence in lolcat}

WHAT SONG DO YOU PUT ON WHEN YOU NEED TO PICK YOURSELF UP AND 'GET SHIT DONE'?
I’m actually one of those weirdos who really enjoys silence whilst working … but, I’ve always got time for a bit of Beyonce.

WHAT WAS YOUR DREAM JOB AS A CHILD?
Mermaid.

WHAT'S NEXT FOR YOUR BUSINESS?
I’m always working on expanding my range of products, I have a few new items in the pipeline that I’m really excited about. I’m also planning a bit of a relaunch this Autumn, so at the moment I’m planning my first ever ‘proper' photo shoot and doing a lot of work behind the scenes.


If you want to keep up with Harriet and her beautiful furball Meeko, you can follow them here.

TWITTER | FACEBOOK | INSTAGRAM


INDIE OUTLOOK: PAPIO PRESS July 23 2015, 0 Comments

First up in our new Indie Outlook series is Papio Press, created by illustrators Harry and Zanna. They sell a range of beautifully illustrated accessories and homewares, from prints and notebooks, to phone cases and wall clocks.

WHAT DID YOU DO BEFORE/ALONGSIDE BUILDING YOUR INDEPENDENT EMPIRE?
Harry and I started Papio Press at the end of our second year of our Illustration BA. Starting a business as a student was fantastic, and I would highly recommend it to others. We had a lot of support from our tutors, access to a lot of amazing equipment, and the pressure was off because all our bills were being paid for by student finance! The only downside was it got a little tricky juggling everything because both of us had part time jobs as well. But it was worth it, because now we can both afford to work part time. We both work for other, larger online businesses, so we're pretty immersed in the digital world!

WHY DID YOU DECIDE TO START YOUR OWN BUSINESS?
We decided to start Papio because we knew it would be really difficult to get commissions as illustrators, and wanted to take our future into our own hands. This way it means we get to draw what ever we like as well, which is fantastic! We started really small with just pocket mirrors, and we were lucky enough that it kind of kicked off and we thought - woah, we might actually be able to do this for a living!

WHERE DO YOU LOOK FOR INSPIRATION WHEN YOU'RE SUFFERING WITH CREATIVE BLOCK?
When I have creative block I don't usually try to draw anything. I find it's better just to leave it for a few days and get on with some of the many other jobs that come with running your own business (like sticking stickers on envelopes, or packing up iPhone cases etc.). The whole time I'm doing stuff like that there will be a small part of my brain thinking about things, and trying different designs out in my mind, and after a while I usually hit upon something I get excited about! We also have a huge number of books for inspiration, and getting out the house is always a good idea!

WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE PART OF WORKING FOR YOURSELF?
I love having total creative freedom - there's nothing else like it. Sometimes I'm still shocked that I'm lucky enough to be able to draw whatever I want and making a small living from it.

WHAT IS THE HARDEST PART OF WORKING FOR YOURSELF?
Probably figuring out the accounts. Man that's hard! Fortunately for me that's mostly Harry's job, but it makes my brain hurt just watching him try to figure it out. When you've spent the last six years doing creative studies, numbers feel a bit alien.

WHAT SONG DO YOU PUT ON WHEN YOU NEED TO 'GET SHIT DONE'?
At the moment I'm totally obsessed with Taylor Swift. Shake It Off is my current pick me up jam. But I also enjoy a good bit of Pirate FM (Cornwall's number one radio station) because it plays great cheesy songs and reminds me of home.

WHAT WAS YOUR DREAM JOB AS A CHILD?
I wanted to be an actress when I was little! I was in a youth theatre group for ages, and totally loved it. Harry wanted to be a fire fighter, until he realised there were a lot of flames/danger involved...

WHAT'S NEXT FOR PAPIO PRESS?
We've got a lot of gorgeous new products coming up. For the first time since we started we can really focus most of our time on the business so it's getting a lot of love. Our aim is for us to both be able to work for Papio full time, but it might be a little while until we get there!

If you love Papio Press as much as I do, give them a follow over on the following sites..

Twitter  | Instagram | Facebook


BUSINESS TIME: THE FIRST MONTH April 11 2015, 1 Comment

I've been working for myself for just over a month now, so it seemed like a good time to let you know how it's going.

My biggest worry was that I'd be bored and lonely. I've always been pretty content in my own company, but that was when time on my own was relatively rare. Suddenly I have all day to over-think everything, and there's no one around to talk me out of my crazy ideas (jewellery for cats anyone?). Although I'm reluctant to make a definitive verdict on this after such a short time, so far... *whispers*, I'm fine. (And that's not a high-pitched, Ross from Friends fine.)

I'm sure the changing seasons have helped, longer days and brighter mornings are much more motivating. There's definitely still the novelty element too, being able to do lunchtime yoga classes, and picking up food from the bakery and green grocers that were always closed by the time I came home from work.

It's hard not to get a bit mushy and sentimental about it all, but I'm just incredibly happy and content. I don't think I have one tiny regret about quitting my job (not yet anyway). I'm very conscious that this blog post could sound a bit smug, which isn't my intention at all, I'm just aware that some of my other Business Time posts are a bit 'work hard, be disciplined' etc. and that I should really write about the best bits of having your own business too, (because it is AWESOME). Par exemple; On Friday the weather was so nice that I left my desk at 2pm and went to B&Q to buy plants for the garden, (I'll just make up the time on Saturday when the weather isn't so good). And on Thursday I met a friend for lunch in the park because I CAN, (okay, now I sound smug) but I don't want to take these things for granted.

It's the change to my lifestyle that has been the most satisfying, all these things have improved since going freelance:

  • Diet: I eat much more fresh food because I stop by the green grocers on the way back from the Post Office. Bye bye greasy convenience lunches, hello avocado.
  • Fitness: Okay, not drastically, but I can go to the gym whenever I like, and fit in daytime classes too. I definitely yoga a lot more, still working on the running....
  • Spending: When you're solely responsible for every £ that goes in or out, your purchases are far more considered, no more tat.
  • Mood: No laughing! But I think I'm nicer to be around, I'm less ratty, and working alone makes you appreciate time with friends more.
  • Sleep: Working two jobs meant I had so much running through your head all the time that it's hard to switch off. I get up earlier now then I did when I worked, but I'm well rested and can't wait to start the day.

The best thing about all of this is, I made those things happen! Sometimes I forget that, and I just feel really lucky, but it's not just luck; I worked evenings, I spent my own cash setting things up and I made it happen. I've never felt like it was acceptable to publicly say you were proud of yourself, but between you and me, I am a little bit proud of myself. (Don't hate me)

*Fingers crossed this all keeps going well and I'm not at the job centre in 3 months time, because then this post will be an uncomfortable read.


BUSINESS TIME: STARTING OUT March 31 2015, 2 Comments

 

Starting your own business can be daunting. In the early days you have to make pretty big decisions, some of which can come back to haunt you. If you're thinking of going it alone, whether you're launching a shop, blog, or your own freelance services, here are a few things to consider...

NAME

Picking a name is one of the trickiest decisions. Do you go for a name that you think sounds nice but has no meaning? Perhaps something more sentimental, or do you pick one that perfectly describes what you offer right now, but that could be restrictive if you expand things in the future? There's no right answer, but you will be asked why you chose it, so you need to be content with your reasons. There's nothing to say you can't change it in the future, but it will be a hassle. Check what's available as a web address, and research your SEO competition on google. (I learnt the last one the hard way.)

USP

I hate the question 'What's your unique selling point?'. I think it's very difficult to be completely unique, and I think there's room for lots of us doing similar things well, competition is healthy and people want choice. But I also think you need to be clear on exactly what it is you offer, and what makes you stand out. Once you're clear on this, write it down, it doesn't matter if it's on a post it note or laminated somewhere. It's your ethos, and when times are challenging, use it to keep yourself on track.

YOUR BRAND

Your brand encompasses every element of your business, it's so much more than your logo, it's your tone of voice when you talk to customers, your packaging, customer service, etc. Think about how you want to be portrayed, and how the brands you love communicate with you, what is it that makes you listen? Every brand is on Facebook and sending weekly emails, what's going to make people engage with yours?

PLAN

This was never my forte... If I'm honest, I used to hate planning, it felt so restrictive and I'm (what I like to call) a free spirit (by that I mean dis-organised), but plans don't have to be stuffy 20 page powerpoints. For me, it's about making goals for myself. They don't have to be about taking over the world, but having something to aim for does help to drive you. I find it best to plan for the year in January because it's quieter, and easier to reflect on the past 12 months. However, if you're starting up, there's never a bad time to plan.

BE REALISTIC

If you're starting a business or blog because it seems like an easy way to make money, you're wrong. Don't believe those sepia toned instagram feeds, there's a lot of work that goes into making it look 'easy'. Followings aren't built overnight, and it's not going to support you financially from day 1, so be prepared to invest lots of your free time for little or no financial reward.

 


WEEK IN PICTURES #3 March 15 2015, 0 Comments

1. Sneak peek of our new Bold as Brass range

2. Our ocean jasper pendants are back in stock, and aren't they lovely?

3. Finally, the sun is shining in the studio!

4. Shooting our new hair grips for Mother's Day

5. More Mother's Day photography

6. Playing with new stock

7. Gave the bathroom shelves a little spruce

8. Bold as Brass range, now online!

9.Sun is shining, so out comes the yellow.


BUSINESS TIME: SWITCHING OFF March 05 2015, 0 Comments

When I worked full time I walked to and from the office and I found the 20 minute stroll was great for clearing my head of any work related stress (at least most of the time), but now I work from home taking the 8 steps down from my attic office just doesn't work in the same way. I find it hard to leave the office without every little job being neatly tied up, but if I did that I'd be burning the midnight oil every night. There are also those moments where I'm sat watching TV downstairs and suddenly remember there was a picture I wanted to take for instagram, and rather than leave it until I'm back in the office tomorrow, I'll run upstairs and 'do it now, before I forget again'.

Now, before any of you start thinking I'm some sort of workaholic, I assure you it's not the case. I like my free time and I strive to have a very healthy work/life balance. I work to live, not the other way around, I'm just very fortunate that I make a living doing something I love. I know it's a hideous business cliche, but I believe in working smart, not working hard. If you enjoy what you do, it shouldn't feel like work (at least not all the time). And for those days when I'm struggling to remove my head from thoughts of printing costs, and sourcing new suppliers there are a few things that never fail to help me switch off...

TAKE A WALK

I could have said exercise, and that works too, but often it needs to be something I can do without having to get changed (or wrestle with a sports bra). It doesn't need to be far, sometimes I'll just walk to the park and sit on a bench for 10 minutes (like an angry teenager), but never under-estimate the power of fresh air to make you feel better when you're tired/hungover/stressed/anxious. And people watching is always a great distraction.

PAMPER

If there's one thing that always makes me feel better, it's being wrapped in a very fluffy dressing gown, wearing disposable towel slippers. (I'm a woman of simple pleasures). It's the combination of steam, warm water, and calming aromas that almost completely cleanses me of any stress. And when you don't have a spa to hand, a long soak in a candlelit bath always helps.

CHANGE YOUR SURROUNDINGS

When you've had a particularly tough week, it's hard not to attach that negativity with your surroundings, it hangs around like a dark gloomy cloud. For me, the hardest thing about being freelance is working alone most days, so I try to mix things up. I spend one day a week sharing office space with friends, and roughly 2 half days at local cafes. It means I've still got people to bounce ideas off that aren't my cat, (it's only a matter of time before I create jewellery for pets isn't it?) and I find being around people is good for me. (For a start, you have to get dressed, and there are no distracting box sets lingering on the shelf.)

PREEN

It might seem shallow, but making the time to put on a face mask, pluck your eyebrows and paint your nails is a great distraction. (The latter is particularly good as you can't do anything for *at least* the next half hour, whether you like it or not.) I find these things get neglected when I'm really busy, but I instantly feel better after doing them, a lot more presentable and a little more human.

 


MOTHER'S DAY GIFT GUIDE March 05 2015, 0 Comments

Unlike most made up holidays, I welcome Mother's Day with open arms. It means Spring has sprung (or is at least on the way) and it's a much needed reminder to show our our motherships just how appreciated they are. (I don't know about you but I'm definitely guilty of taking my ma for granted every now and then.) 

The problem is that every time I ask my mum what she wants for Christmas/Birthday/Mother's Day, I'm always met with the very sweet (if a tad sickly) answer 'nothing darling, I have everything I could possibly want'. Well that's lovely ma, but you are going to get a gift so it's better to be something you want, than something you don't. With that in mind we've rounded up some of our favourite gifts ideas for the mother who 'has everything'. 

Book something together. Whether it be a spa day, floristry class, gin-tasting or afternoon tea. Mother's Day is about showing your mum you care, so whilst gifts are lovely, I can't help but feel that sending a bouquet when you've not seen your mum for months, might be missing the point. Go on, make her day. (It's ideal if you've lots of siblings too as you can share the cost and you all get time together as a faaaamily.)

1. Afternoon Tea at The Hilton, 2. Gin tasting, 3. Bath Thermae Spa

I love getting flowers, I know many consider it an unimaginative present, but we're not necessarily talking petrol station carnations here. There are some incredible florists who create the most beautiful bouquets. (Just look at Swallows and Damsons Instagram feed if you need convincing.) You can create a really personal bouquet, using your mum's favourite blooms, colours and scents. Pay a visit to your local independent florist and get creative.

4. Augustus Bloom, 5. Lily Violet May, 6. Swallow and Damsons

Jewellery - And no, I don't mean a 'world's best mum' pendant from the Elizabeth Duke counter. But something with sentiment, and I don't believe this necessarily needs to be inscribed on the item. Think about adding your own bespoke gift card with a favourite quote that really means something. Try using a favourite book as a starting point, one of my ma's favourite is Little Women and Good Reads has 100s of quotes to choose from... If you order gift-wrapping from us, you can leave a note at the checkout and we'll hand-write it on a gift tag. You can also send the gift direct to your loved one.

7. Crackle glaze earrings, 8. Moon & star necklace, 9. Leaf slides

Trying to find a card that's the right amount of funny (without being offensive, Ma doesn't appreciate offensive humour) and still satisfies my need for something that looks good, can be a challenge. I'll be picking up a Mothership card, because I call mine that, it has cute UFO's on, and it's resisted the temptation to use the phrase 'out of this world'. #winwin

10. Favourite Child - Heidi Nicole, 11. Mothership - Stormy Knight, 12. Congrats - Veronica Dearly


COMPETITION: BE OUR VALENTINE February 02 2015, 1 Comment

Fancy winning this lovely lot? Well, then make sure you enter our Valentine's competition below!

We're giving away an exclusive Valentine's gift set including a set of Cupid's arrow hair grips, cut out heart necklace and lucky star bracelet. There are plenty of ways to enter, and the more you select, the better your odds of winning.

 

 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

BUSINESS TIME: I JUST QUIT MY JOB January 28 2015, 1 Comment

Today was a big day for me, I quit my day job. I handed in my notice for the company I've been with for over 6 years. It might be one of the boldest things I've ever done. I quite liked my job (most days), I was paid a fair salary, and I worked with some really awesome people, but It didn't make me happy anymore, I was distracted, constantly thinking about how to grow my business, rather than progressing my career there.

I know that some people might think I'm crazy, but those closest to me have been really supportive. If just one of them had turned around and said 'don't do it, it's a bloody stupid idea' I might have re-considered, but they didn't, and knowing the most important people around you have total faith in you really does make these decisions a lot easier. It wasn't a snap decision either, I've been thinking it over for a long time, and I had a lot of sensible conversations with my mortgage advisor, my accountant, and my boyfriend about the practicalities of everything before making any life-changing choices.

People keep asking how I feel, and I'm not really sure how I feel. I felt calm beforehand, and I still feel calm now, which I think was the biggest sign that it was the right decision for me. I'm really excited about growing Little Nell, getting my teeth into some new freelance marketing projects, and doing all those things I've just not had the time for juggling two jobs. But I'm anxious about working on my own most days, about leaving behind my office family who've been there through all of my ups and downs, and about being entirely responsible for making my own living. (You can guarantee I will check my bank balance at least 3 times a day for the first 2 months).

Leaving your full time job to go freelance shouldn't be a total leap of faith, you have to be practical and work out whether you can afford it, how you can sustain it, and always have a plan b just in case, (whether it's savings, or alternative options if things don't work out as you planned). But no matter how prepared you think you are, it's always going to feel like a bold move, because if it was easy we'd all be working for ourselves wouldn't we? For me, the appeal of being my own boss, and doing something I've always wanted to do was worth the risk. And if it doesn't work out, then so be it, but at least I can say that I gave it a go.


VALENTINE'S DAY January 27 2015, 2 Comments

That chubby little baby and his crossbow are back! Yes, Valentine's Day is almost upon us. Now, I'm not one of those super soppy types, I'm fully aware that it's a bit of a made up day, and I don't believe you should need an annual reminder to be affectionate and thoughtful to your loved ones, BUT it is just a little bit of fun. If you want to get involved, get involved, but if the thought makes you gag, then maybe it's not the occasion for you. Maybe you're lucky enough to have someone who showers you with gifts and affection all year round, but if you don't, it's not such a bad thing if they get a nudge every now and then. On that hugely romantic note, we've rounded up some of our favourite Valentine's gifts for both him and her.

POUR HOMME...

1. Craft beer box, £22 - Not the most original present, but probably very appreciated.

2. Quest mini DAB radio & alarm £55 - Looks good, and it gets him up in the morning? You can also unplug it and use batteries if you need to take it on-the-move.

3. Eliza Southwood Tactics print £75 - For the cycling lover in your life.

4. Timex Originals in Grey £59.99 - This is just one of many favourites from the Timex Originals range.

5. Harris Tweed x ASOS wallet £14 - I adore the Harris Tweed x ASOS collection (must be the country girl in me), go and take a look if you haven't already.

6. Blue YEAH! Print £18 - How Kapow have a great selection of bright typography prints, this is a bit of a favourite.

7. Paul Smith scarf £69 - Okay so £69 is quite a lot for a scarf, but it's a pretty timeless design, and we all deserve a little bit of luxury now and then...

8. Retro desk calendar £32 - I've got a minor obsession with rolling clocks/calendars, we have a 1950s one in silver that makes makes me feel like Joan Holloway in Mad Men.

9. Nanoblock Empire State Building £25 - If you've an oversized child for a boyfriend (like I do) these are great gifts. They don't take over your living room like Lego can, and they're much cheaper too.

10. Felt laptop case £11 - Perhaps not a romance fuelled purchase, but a practical one nonetheless. I have it and I love it, just in case you needed a testimonial.

POUR FEMME...

1. & Other Stories Scarf £19 - A scarf that looks like an old TV screen? I think that's what every lady wants.

2. Seb Lester Print £75 - Because we're all mad for a bit of foil-blocking aren't we?

3. Arrow grips £12 - A pair of Cupid's arrows for your tresses.

4. Cut-out gold heart £15 - It wouldn't be Valentine's without some sort of heart...

5. Silver Karma Circle bracelet £15 - This pretty little bracelet is ideal every day wear.

6. Silver & Gold Cosmic Studs £18 - If perhaps you're looking for more of a statement item...

7. Sparrow & Wolf notebooks £10 - Because I'm yet to meet a girl who doesn't love great stationary

8. Whistles Rivington bag £80 - Yes, please. 

9. Rifle Paper City Coasters £13.50 - Too pretty for coasters, these would get framed and go on my wall.

10. Anthropologie candles £20 - As far as I'm concerned, a nice smelling, nice looking candle will always be well received. And this one doubles as a trinket box when it's burnt through. Win. Win.

 


BUSINESS TIME: WE ALL DO IT... January 22 2015, 0 Comments

Being your own boss is awesome, It has a heap of pros, (like pyjama thursdays, and unlimited biscuits) but working for yourself also means that you work for you, and as a boss (I'm just going to say it) sometimes I can be a bit of a tyrant. I'm far harder on myself than I would be to anyone else who worked for me, so here are a few life lessons I've learned along the way...

STOP COMPARING YOURSELF

I love looking at what my peers are doing, it's inspiring, it pushes me to make my business better, and it's really interesting to see how different business models work. What I've had to stop myself doing is comparing myself, it's so easy to get really disheartened with the 'but their website is better' and 'oh look how many Facebook fans they have' thoughts, but the truth is every business is different, we grow at different rates, with different budgets and skill sets. Rather than focusing on the negatives, think about it logically, and if you think you need to make a change, make it a goal with a set time for when you'd like to achieve it.

YOU CANNOT DO EVERYTHING

The challenge with being a one-man-band is that you can't just specialise in one thing. You end up being an office manager/PR pro/graphic designer/book keeper and tea maker, but the chances are you only excel at one or two of those things. My advice is to be a total boss in the things you can do, and don't be afraid to ask for help on the things you can't. And don't put the difficult tasks off. I don't know anyone who enjoys doing their tax return, but don't wait till the last minute to tackle it. It won't be as bad as you think it is, and once it's done, you've got more time to spend on the stuff you love.

DON'T TAKE CRITICISM TO HEART

I do everything I can to make customers happy, but inevitably, very occasionally things go wrong, (postal delays, faults, etc). Most people get in touch, and the problem is sorted almost immediately, but there will always be somebody who never contacts you, then leaves you a bad (and sometimes unfair) review, and it can be upsetting. But do not lose sleep over it, if there's a lesson to be learnt from it, take it, but if not, just pick yourself up and move on. You can achieve so much more by focusing on the many postives than sulking about a teeny tiny negative.

LISTEN TO YOUR CUSTOMERS

Constructive feedback is so useful, it's helped me make my product descriptions much more accurate, and has even led to whole new ranges. Friends make really great guinea pigs, and if you've got good ones, they'll be honest with you rather than telling you what you want to hear. Social media's a really great tool for getting opinions too, we'll often test out new designs on instagram to gauge feedback before launching. Just be careful not to get too carried away with one strong opinion.

GIVE YOURSELF A BREAK

When you're working alone, aside from the tummy rumbling, there's no one else to remind you that you should probably take a rest from staring into your laptop. And let's be honest, lots of people in 'real jobs' think we're just lazing around, sipping herbal tea and setting up instagram photos all day, (which is only partially true). In all seriousness, looking after yourself is better for your business, start well rested, and take a break whenever you need it. I find that I can start to lag around 3pm of an afternoon, I get post-lunch slump, and feel my eyelids getting heavy, so just taking a 20 minute stroll round the park makes a huge difference. I also have a host of different Spotify playlists to choose from depending on the task I'm doing, or my mood. Generally it's pretty laid back music that's not too distracting when I need to get stuff done, but when I'm feeling sluggish, the Northern Soul and Disco comes out, and the real joy of a home office is singing along as loud as you like.


2015 GOALS December 30 2014, 0 Comments

I don't make New Year's resolutions, I don't think you have to wait to 1st January to make self improvements, I think you can try and become a better person at any time in the year. That said, there is something about January that gives me a kick up the bum to organise myself. It's a lot quieter than the chaos of Christmas, so I get time to plan the year ahead, as well as a host of crisp new stationary that I'm dying to cover in lists and stickers. 

Wall planner & desk pad from Lollipop Designs. Diary from Typo

I think giving yourself a year to do everything on your goal list can be a little generous, there are certain goals you only tend to evaluate on an annual basis, (like the growth of your business), but most other things can be achieved at any time, why give yourself 12 months to complete a 3 week evening course? The more time we allow ourselves, the longer we tend to put things off. Here are just a few things I'd like to achieve throughout 2015...

TAKE A PHOTOGRAPHY COURSE

I don't love taking photos. I love styling shoots, picking props, and laying everything out, but I don't really know how to use a camera. This year I'd like to introduce myself to some modes outside of 'Auto'.

SELL TO RETAIL

Right now Little Nell is only available via my own online channels. In 2015, I think it's time to branch out a little, which means it's probably time to start designing a catalogue, which leads nicely to my next goal...

LEARN TO USE INDESIGN

Well now, this is embarrassing, I'm just revealing all my incapabilities in one post. I can't use InDesign. I have a very lovely friend, who helps me out with all my graphics because my skills don't really go beyond PicMonkey. I know, I'm ashamed, but it's easily fixed right?

GET A BETTER WORK/LIFE BALANCE

Juggling two jobs has its challenges, and I've definitely felt the strain over Christmas. It's so good to be busy when you rely on people buying your products, but long hours do not allow you to be a social butterfly. It's made me realise that I need to be far more efficient with my time planning, and that it's okay if you can't do everything all of the time.

MAKE TIME FOR OLD HOBBIES

I've always considered Little Nell my hobby, but as it's grown into a business, I've started to neglect my other hobbies. This year, I will get back to making my own candles (if nothing else it'll save me a fortune in Anthropologie) and cross-stitching.

 


LAST DATE FOR CHRISTMAS DELIVERY December 11 2014, 0 Comments

Hello! We're back from our holiday, and in full Christmas mode... Just a little heads up that our last date for UK Christmas delivery is Friday 19th December, so make sure you get your orders in before then.


LITTLE NELL ON HOLIDAY November 14 2014, 0 Comments

We're off on an Australian adventure for 2 and a half weeks on wednesday, so this is a polite reminder that if you want your order urgently, get it in now! We're away from 19th November, and back on 9th December, so they'll still be plenty of time to get your orders in time for Christmas when we get back, but if you're sending something farther afield than the UK, we'd highly recommend you get it in now.

Whilst we're away the store will remain online for browsing (and dropping hints to others!), you just won't be able to make any orders. We'll also still be online across our social media platforms should you have any questions regarding current orders, or products.

Here are a few snaps from our last Australian escapade... 

 

We're planning to blog whilst away and keep you updated with our travels. We're visiting Sydney, Melbourne and spending a few days along the Great Ocean Road, if you have any tips for us of places that we MUST visit, we'd love to know your recommendations, just comment on this post, or tweet us at @Little_Nells.

 


SHOP INDEPENDENT THIS CHRISTMAS November 13 2014, 0 Comments

Image from the lovely, talented LolaHoadDesign.co.uk

Last week this image caught my eye on twitter and straight away I knew I wanted to get involved! I don't think I need to do too much explaining about the thinking behind it, but in short, shopping with independents is good for you. It's good for the economy, it's good for the soul, and best of all they have the coolest stuff.

I'd love to say that I was doing 100% of my Christmas shopping through independent stores, but realistically, I'll inevitably end up doing a cheeky last minute rush to Tesco to purchase the in-laws dog a stocking. 100% may be a little ambitious, but I'm aiming to do 75% of my Christmas shopping through independent shops, and I'd encourage you to do the same, maybe not 75% but to just consider options outside of those huge retail giants.

Christmas shopping is genuinely my favourite part of Christmas, I love trawling the internet and high street in search of the perfect gift. Finding something that you know will make someone you love smile, really does make me feel warm and fuzzy inside. It might sound soppy, but it's true, I get the same feeling when I hear really lovely feedback from a customer, it makes all the hard work worthwhile. (Just call me the Christmas fairy)

If you don't know where to start with your Christmas shopping, I've picked some of my favourite indie stores as a starting point...

L

1. Pineapple earrings from Little Nell £12 - What better way to cheer someone up during the dull winter months than with pineapple earrings?

2. Magazine rack from Moonko £22 - Also doubles as a handy rack for giant toast

3. Cloud coasters from Pygmy Cloud £14.50 - I own these, because they're awesome

4. Wall planner from Lollipop Designs £15 - For the chronic organiser, (or for someone in need of organisation...)

5. Mountain print from Leaf City Press £35 - Know someone who has just moved? This would make a lovely house-warming/Christmas gift

6. Danish stamps from Present and Correct £45 - This is just 1 from 100s of items I could have picked from Present and Correct, go and take a look. NOW.

7. Bear cushion from Robin & Mould £26 - It's a bear, and it's mustard, two of my favourite things. There are also hedgehogs, and foxes, and cats...

 

 

 

 


WEEK IN PICTURES #2 November 11 2014, 0 Comments

1. Wedding fun!

2. It might be cold outside, but that won't dampen our tropical spirits! Pineapple earrings are coming soon...

3. My new Bertie boots! They were half price, how could I not?

4. Shooting for Christmas

5. Good old fashioned organised Halloween fun! Do you remember Atmosfear?!

6. Nala helped us with some gift wrapping...

7. The most decadent Liberty hot water bottle cover

8. Playing with our new studio lights

9. This weekend was a photo taking marathon! I'm attempting to re-shoot our entire range, this may be naive...

 


BUSINESS TIME: IF NOT NOW, WHEN? November 10 2014, 1 Comment

5 TIPS FOR SETTING UP YOUR OWN ONLINE STORE

1. STOP HOLDING YOURSELF BACK

The best piece of advice I received when I was setting up Little Nell was to stop talking about it and actually do it. I spent so long faffing about what I wanted my logo to look like, what to name my twitter handle etc, when all of these things are changeable. You'll learn much more doing, than talking about doing. Yes, when I first set up my shop it looked drab and the photography was dire, but fortunately It had about 5 views a month, so I try not to beat myself up about it...

2. ASK FOR HELP

Don't be afraid to ask people for advice, you haven't done this before and you're not expected to know everything. Google is my best tool, if I want to know something, I search for it, and if Google doesn't have the answer, I'll ask other small businesses who've been where I am. Although don't be offended if you don't get a reply straight away, I've found the independent community to be really generous with their time and advice, but they're also one-man bands who are super busy.

3. START SMALL, THINK BIG

You don't need a huge range of products to set up your own business, just look at Lost My Name, they have one product, but it's a really, really great one, and they've seen huge success off the back of it. Better to do one thing really well, then lots of things badly. But likewise, think about how your business might grow when the time comes. Selling direct is great for your margins, but one day you might want to sell to retail too, so make sure there's enough margin for both.

4. TIME IS PRECIOUS

Creating items by hand is lovely, I find making jewellery really therapeutic, and customers love that it's been made by someone they can put a face to, rather than mass produced in a Chinese factory. The downside is that it's time consuming, particularly when you have orders to pack, expenses to file, a website to manage, and not to mention another job to get on with. Think about how you can streamline your processes, it might be something as simple as outsourcing printing, or rearranging your packing table, but if it saves you time, it's worth it!

5. WORK

In the profound words of Britney Spears, "you better work bitch". As much as instagram would have you to believe it, working for yourself isn't all long brunches and playing with the cat, (we only do that on tuesdays and thursdays). No one else is going to make your business a success for you. Be prepared to work late nights, early mornings and most lunch hours. But also remember that what you do may be seasonal, try not to get disheartened by the quiet weeks, use them to catch up on your accounts (or housework...), or prepare for your peak seasons. 

Image by Little Nell, Go Get 'em Tiger card by Rifle Paper Co.


AUTUMN ESSENTIALS October 31 2014, 0 Comments

Autumn is by far my favourite season, but it's always over too soon. As much as I love summer for being social and getting outside, I'm much more content in a jumper and boots than shorts and sandals. And by the time the freezing temperatures of Winter arrive, I'm far too concerned with not falling over and staying warm to concern myself with looking stylish at the same time. Autumn is ideal scarf wearing season, and we're all agreed that the scarf is the ultimate accessory right?

Here are my Autumn essentials, I buy a variation of these items every October...

1. Asos Oversize Scarf £18 - We all need an oversized scarf (or 6) in our lives. They also double as a handy granny blanket for those of you who work in an attic with no heating, like me...

2. Bertie Panola Grey Boots £69 from £115 - These are helping me branch out of my black boot comfort zone. I'm okay with tan, and grey, don't push me too far.

3. Triangle Studs £8 - Oh hello shameless self promotion! I've told you how much a love a stud before (easy, tiger) and these are favourites.

4. Mighty Oak Leaves £12 - If you can't wear leaves in your hair in autumn, when can you? Also available in silver if you're that way inclined.

5. Military Shirt £22.99 - Is it a shirt? Is it a lightweight jacket? It's both, and I love it. This New Look one is a really lovely fabric for a really reasonable price, I know, because I bought it.

6. Tan Leather Shopper £38 - It's impossible to own too many tan bags. I mean, if there was a better colour, I'd be on it, but there's not. Timeless and goes with everything.

7. Hazard Lipstick £8 - A bit berry, but not too berry, because I have a tendancy to look gothic, and it can make teeth look yellow. (Gross.) This is just the right shade for my pasty face and yellowing teeth.

8. Topshop Denim jacket £45- Controversially, I'm going to say I prefer it to a leather jacket. (I'll change my mind again though, because I'm really fickle.)

 


WEEK IN PICTURES #1 October 12 2014, 0 Comments

1. Shooting our new geometric range

2. Autumn leaves and our gold oak grips

3. Nala the biscuit hunter

4. New arrow, key, triangle and feather charm earrings

5. Dressing for Autumn

6. Playing salon with gold arrow grips

7. Studio wall fodder

8. Flea market finds in the living room

9. Nala's winter beard progress, week #1


BUSINESS TIME: STUDIO TOUR October 05 2014, 0 Comments

I love referring to the attic as 'my studio', it makes me feel like a real freelance creative, with an actual business, which is strange because I still think of Little Nell as my favourite hobby rather than a career choice.

Working from home has it's pros and cons, there are the obvious benefits - like working in your pyjamas and being flexible with your hours. But there are a lot of cons too - like going stir crazy with cabin fever, and not having a team on hand to bounce ideas around with..

Here's some stuff I've learnt along the way...

1. MAKE A DESIGNATED WORKING SPACE

When Little Nell started out I'd make everything to order, and the living room sofa was my destination of choice for jewellery making. As things have grown, that's just not practical, and having my own space exclusively for Little Nell really helps. It means I can create some separation between when I'm working and when I'm 'home'.  I know not everyone has an extra room to turn into their office, but even having a desk and chair that's specifically for working rather than slaving over the dining table every day will really help you. No one wants to feel like they live at the office.

2. BE SPACE SAVVY

I'm fortunate that I don't need a huge amount of space. (Which is just as well because there's no room for wall shelving in the attic!) Jewellery stock doesn't take up much room so most of my supplies and stock can be stored around and under the desk and I use clipboards on the wall as my in/out tray to save on desk space. This means once I'm seated I can stay there rather than having to move around to gather bits and pieces. (It sounds ridiculous but getting up every 5 minutes to get something you need makes everything take so much longer!) My desk has to function as a workshop bench, packing table and office desk at different times throughout the day, so it's important that I'm flexible with space to get the most from it.

3. COMFORT CONQUERS ALL

As well as a practical working space, it was important to me that the studio was somewhere I was happy to spend a lot of time. If we have a busy week, I can be in there first thing in the morning, and late into the night, so it had to be comfortable. Our studio also doubles as a spare room so the sofa bed was an essential. It also means I can lounge and watch TV while doing mundane jobs like stickering jiffy bags, folding boxes etc.... It also makes the most decadent cat bed around.

4. MAKE IT PERSONAL

The main joy of having your own space, is that you can put up whatever you like. Whether it's inspirational quotes, illustrations, or just copious pictures of Michael Fassbender (ahem), no one can tell you that your desk looks 'unprofessional'. I've created my own postcard bunting that I can switch around as much as I like, it includes cards, book covers, some of our press coverage and illustrations.

5. STAY CONNECTED

The hardest thing I find about working from home, is the lack of company. You've always got to make the tea, and there's no one to gossip with by the water cooler, and even if there was, there isn't even a water cooler, it's your kitchen tap. Social Media is a godsend, and not just for marketing your brand, but for keeping me sane. And although I don't have a team to bounce ideas around with, I have a lovely group of like-minded sole-traders at the end of an email who (fortunately for me) are quite happy to lend me their ears and ideas when I need a second opinion. These people are my virtual colleagues, and they're probably more important than anything else on this list.


LOVING AND LOATHING #2 September 25 2014, 0 Comments

Here's what we're loving and loathing this month...

LOVING

Boots - Autumn is my favourite season, and for the past two years I've been on the hunt for the perfect black ankle boot. (A chunky heeled Chelsea boot - nothing to western, and please don't cut into my cankles!) It's taken me a while, but then I discovered these boots from Ganni. Far more than I'm comfortable paying, but ASOS had a voucher code, and I'm weak (Plus, I've been hunting for like two years... that's a lot of time I've spent hunting for these!)

Studs - Despite being a total jewellery fiend, I very rarely wear earrings (aside from the 'Bohemian years' where I was attempting that whole Sienna Miller thing, and had earrings most fortune tellers would have been jealous of). However, I've rekindled my love with the stud, (I mean the earrings, ladies, stop that filth!). I went a little mad in the Urban Outfitters sale on tiny little earrings, and I've barely taken these little triangles off!

Topshop Lip Bullet in Heartbeat - My current go-to lipstick (anyone else have copious numbers of lipstick, but only really wear one?) It's still a little summery, but I'm not quite ready for an Autumn berry lip yet (besides, they make my teeth look yellow). This lipstick even survived Mexican food, and if you saw me messily eat a fajita, you'd know how impressive that is.

LOATHING

Season Change skin breakout - My skin is rebelling, It's dry, spotty and greasy all in one. I blame this on the changing of the seasons, I realise the two things are probably quite unrelated, but I like to have an excuse for these breakouts to make me feel better. Any of you guilty of this? I also blame long haul flying and extreme cold weather, it couldn't possibly be my lack of water-drinking and carb-fests...

Moschino's Barbie phone case - Just no. I'm all for a novelty iPhone case but this is too far for me. Firstly, it's a highly impractical, non-handbag friendly shape which bothers me (I'm 28, going on 55) but secondly, it's £45. If you want a novelty phone case, get yourself a Minion on ebay for £3.

Mugginess  - It looks cold outside right? So why, by the time I arrive at work after a 20 minute walk in my leather jacket, am I sweating so much? Not cool bro.

 

 


CANDLE CRAVINGS February 26 2014, 0 Comments

A couple of years ago I received a Diptyque gift set with three little candles inside. It seemed like a nice enough gift, then (after googling the cost, like the curious gift receiver I am) I realised it cost £60 and all I could think about was how I'd have much preferred a Topshop voucher. £60? For three little candles? It seemed ridiculous, surely no candle could be worth that (they're only £2 in Ikea right?), but believe me when I say it was love at first sniff.

Since then I've become quite the scented candle snob, constantly on the hunt for a Diptyque dupe! Below I've picked my top 5 scented candles including some slightly more pocket friendly options...

 

1. Roses, Diptyque: For me, Diptyque are the mother of all scented candles, they burn evenly, slowly, and have the loveliest selection of fragrances. I've tried Figuier, Baies and Roses and loved them all, but I've re-purchased two large rose candles so I guess they must be my favourite. The scent fills the room really quickly without being overpowering. Not to mention the minimal, elegant packaging which i'm more than happy to display on my bedside table. My only fault is the hefty price tag of £40.

2. Wild Mint & Jasmine, The White Company: I love this scent so much, it's really light and fresh, so I'll quite often light it in the day. It burns evenly, and has elegant, simple packaging, complete with it's own lid to keep the scent locked in. At £26, it's not cheap, but it's worth signing up to the mailing list as I got mine with 20% off and free delivery.

3. Relax, Neom: The scent is lavender, geranium and juniper. I know a lot of people find lavender over-powering, or say it reminds them of their nan, but it's one of my favourite scents. As the name suggests, it's quite calming and relaxing, definitely a good bath time candle. And if lavender isn't your thing, they have a whole range of scents to suit your mood. I'm also a fan of Moroccan Rose. Prices start at £15.

4. Exotic Fig, Oliver Bonas: I hoped this would be a bit of a Diptyque Figuier dupe when I bought it (£15), and it's not far off. The scent is very similar, but it doesn't fill the room in quite the same way. The packaging is lovely too, and it's a good slow burner, making it good value for money.

5. Green Fig, Muji: Another Diptyque dupe, again the scent isn't as strong but at a quarter of the price (£11), I think we can let them off. They also have a range of candles in tins from just £3.50, and the log fire scent is definitely worth the pocket money.


LOVING AND LOATHING #1 February 12 2014, 0 Comments

Here's what we're loving and loathing this February at Little Nell....

LOVING

Sparrow & Wolf - Metallic weather notebooks and origami cushions? Okay, so I realise it all sounds a bit odd, but give Sparrow & Wolf a look over on Etsy and I promise you won't regret it. I'm currently coveting the Pom Pom trim boats cushion, I've got just the spot for it!

Mint loafers The obsessions with all things mint started back in 2012, and it's still going strong. These patent beauties from Office are loafer shaped perfection. The only thing holding me back is the knowledge that breaking in a patent shoe is always so much more painful than normal leather. (I know, I know, first world problems.)

Revlon Matte BalmsI love lipstick but I'm a bit lazy when it comes to 're-applying' so balm stains are one of my beauty essentials. These new matte editions are super long-lasting, and not at all drying for a matte colour. I'll take one of each please!

LOATHING

The weatherOh i know, it's an obvious one, but waking up to see the mess and destruction it's causing every morning is truly very sad. I know the tube strike is annoying Londonders, but at least you have homes to go back to. Give us all a break please Mother Nature.

Winter Skin - When will it end? My poor nose is in constant need of moisture. Fortunately the (delayed) discovery of Origins overnight moisture mask has drastically improved the situation, now if I could just have a little vitamin D....

Shia Labeouf - Is this another Joaquin Phoenix faux breakdown? I'm not sure what happened to the old 'happy-go-lucky' Shia. All this talk of 'art' after the disaster that was Transformers 3 seems a little bit much... If you've no clue what I'm on about, have a read here.

 


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