Meet the Maker is an interview series that I am hoping to implement on a regular basis. While I am collecting interview answers from others, I thought I would start with myself so you can get to know me a little bit!
Introducing: Rebecca Fletcher from Rebecca Fletcher Designs!
Pretend that we know nothing about you or your business. Describe yourself and how you got started. (What inspired you to start a business? How did you get started in your niche?)
My name is Rebecca Fletcher, and I am a hand lettering artist and full-time teacher. When I’m not at school (which, let’s face it, is where I spend most of my time!), you can find me hunched over my laptop, writing blog posts and trying to navigate the world of small business social media, or working on new hand-lettering designs. I love making things like printables, t-shirts for teachers and Disney fans, and even wedding stationery!
I actually kind of stumbled into the world of small business by accident. I was looking for a hobby to take my mind (and my time) off of teaching, and I decided to give calligraphy a try since I have always loved handwriting and typography. I bought a beginner calligraphy kit from Michael’s craft store and quickly grew frustrated that I couldn’t seem to “get it.” My nib kept catching on the paper, ink was splattering everywhere, and my work just didn’t look how I wanted it to look.
Eventually, and partly out of frustration, I picked up some Tombow markers from Michael’s and then began to fall in love with hand lettering! It was around that time that I bought my iPad Pro + Apple Pencil and downloaded the Procreate app. Though my first few months’ of creations were really, really terrible, I had so much fun figuring out all of the options that I wasn’t getting frustrated at all.
Eventually, some very kind people suggested putting my digital creations on Etsy so they could purchase them, and it just kind of grew from there!
The funny thing is that I also accidentally stumbled into designing and t-shirts in the same way! I made one for myself, posted a picture of it on Facebook, and had several people ask me if they could buy them, too. I’ve come a long way since then, purchasing a larger Silhouette and a heat press and then eventually graduating to print-on-demand.
By far, my favorite thing is designing Disney and teacher t-shirts and seeing people wearing them. It makes my little heart so happy!
What was your dream career as a child?
I remember that when I was younger, I thought that grown-ups could only have one of three professions: astronaut, ballerina, or chef. Nevermind that my mom was an EMT/paramedic and my dad was a fireman… I thought I had to choose from those three options and didn’t particularly like any of them!
For awhile, I wanted to be a high school English teacher. I love reading and writing (and especially love editing other peoples’ writing) and figured that would be a great way to get paid to do it! Unfortunately, that dream only lasted two semesters in college when I was placed (as a freshman) in a classroom full of high school seniors for a field placement. I was so overwhelmed that I changed to early childhood education in the middle of that field placement!
The funny thing is, I always kind of wanted to be an entrepreneur, even though I didn’t know it at the time. I consistently picked up new ideas or skills (selling flowers I picked off my grandma’s tree, crocheting little purses and selling them on Craigslist, making beaded jewelry and selling it on Facebook) but none of them ever seemed to work out, probably because I didn’t stick with them. (Also probably because they were all terrible ideas.)
How do you generally schedule your days? How do you balance work and time with friends/family life?
Well, my schedule definitely looks different in June and July than it does the rest of the year! As a teacher, I have to put my business on the back burner during the school year to ensure that my students are having their needs met and making the growth they need to make.
Most evenings during the school year, you can find me working on order fulfillment (although hope that’ll change since I switched to print-on-demand for my shirt orders!), posting on social media, and I’ll also be adding new blog posts throughout the school year as well.
I do struggle with balancing things during the school year because it just seems like there’s not enough time in the day to do all the things I want/need to do! My husband, who also works full time while blogging and trying to launch a podcast, and I often set aside certain evenings per week to spend time together alone or with friends.
During the summer, my time is way more plentiful and I am a much more pleasant person! 😉 I usually wake up around 7, make some breakfast and coffee, get ready for the day, and then sit down to work on blogging.
I’m working to have 2-3 months of blog posts scheduled ahead of time so that I can be a bit more relaxed during the school year instead of constantly being overwhelmed with churning out new posts that are high-quality.
In the afternoons, I am usually working on social media or making graphics for my blog posts (which I try to batch in order to save time). I also catch up on all the shows I don’t have time to watch during the school year!
What is your biggest challenge in your business?
Time! Like I’ve mentioned, it’s tough to blog and run a side business while teaching full-time and also, you know, being a human with a family and friends. I often feel stretched really thin during the school year.
How do you handle criticism from other artists? From clients?
Thankfully, this doesn’t come along very often! I have definitely been criticized from other artists before (which you can read about here) and, to be honest, I didn’t handle it well. I took their criticism way too personally and allowed it to bring me down for weeks at a time.
At this point, I’d like to think that I would handle it better, but I honestly can’t tell you until it happens (though I hope it never does)!
As far as criticism from clients, I’m happy (and quite relieved) to report that I haven’t had to handle much of it! I did have one very unhappy customer who contacted me weeks after she purchased something from my shop, furious that it hadn’t arrived in the mail and now she didn’t have a gift for the baby shower that she was attending… so I screenshot the listing that she purchased and highlighted the multiple places where it mentioned that it was a digital download and that no physical item would be shipped. She never messaged me back so I assume that she realized that it was her mistake, not mine, and backed off before leaving a bad review.
Thinking back to when you first got started, what is one thing you would do differently if you knew then what you know now?
If I had to pick one thing, I would definitely say purchasing a bigger Silhouette right off the bat. I spent months making shirts with bigger designs than my machine could cut, so I had to cut them in multiple stages and then piece them together, hoping that everything was spaced correctly and straight. It was so stressful and completely unnecessary!
What do you like to do in your free time?
Plan my ideal Disney trip. 😉
What does your perfect work day look like?
Let’s see… wake up at 7:30AM, make coffee and pancakes for breakfast, not have to wash my hair, sit down and have 3 uninterrupted hours to blog, eat lunch and play with my cats, sit back down and work for ~2 hours on social media and blog graphics, spend ~2 hours working on a wedding stationery order, and then sit down with my husband and watch a movie and eat pizza! It’s the simple things. Also, during that day, I would have received multiple shirt orders (which I wouldn’t have to fulfill by hand) and several other requests for wedding stationery. 😉
What’s something that you’re excited about right now?
Working ahead on this blog! It’ll be so nice once I’m actually 2-3 months ahead of schedule.
I’m also working on multiple awesome Disney World planning posts that are stuffed with information and I can’t wait to be able to share them!
Have you ever had a big, ugly failure? Can you walk us through it? How did you get over it? What were your takeaways?
I definitely have had a huge failure! I mentioned it earlier and wrote a whole post about it here, but I’ll summarize it with this: I didn’t have specific guidelines set in place for custom orders and ended up spending hours and hours (and, weeks later, even more hours!) making a save-the-date for a bride. I vented about it in a Facebook group for lettering artists and got ripped to pieces for taking work away from real artists, and it really knocked me down a few pegs (more like a few ladders). It was several weeks before I felt like doing any more work!
From that experience, I learned the importance of having policies set in place before beginning any work, and making it clear what the clients are getting for $X instead of them telling me what they want for $X.
It really did change how I run my business, and I’m much more up-front with people now when they place orders. I have different add-ons (like resizing art) to ensure that I’m not losing my time or money because I’ve overlooked something.
Learning from your mistakes is so important, and I’m so lucky that I had friends and family to pick me back up when I was down! I’m also so grateful for other artists and small business owners who took time to help me realize my mistakes and help me build up a successful business.
What has been your biggest success? What were some of the steps you took to get there?
I actually wrote a blog post a few weeks ago, outlining my biggest success! It’s called My Experience with Collaborations and it talks about three different collaboration experiences I’ve had. Two were a big waste of my time (but really, really valuable learning experiences!)… but one has been amazing for everyone involved!
I teamed up with Allison and Scott from The Nelson Shop to make some designs for their e-commerce shop and it has honestly been a dream come true for me to see my products in someone else’s shop! Allison has been amazing to work with and we communicate so well together.
When I was looking for potential collaborations, I posted in a couple of Facebook groups for entrepreneurial women and was able to go from there.