In October 2019 we asked the amazing Leona, AKA Indie Roller, to do a live takeover of our Instagram account. Leona is an indie biz expert and she answered your burning questions in her live stream, sharing all her knowledge with you #molliemakers. If you missed that takeover or just fancy re-reading her tips then you're in luck. Leona has kindly answered the most asked questions below so you can pave your way to indie biz success.


There's way more indie biz goodness on our blog from experts like Leona, Studio Cotton and The Creative Business Network. Check those posts out below and become the wisest designer-maker in the land.

tips on how to grow a small business

When is a good time to give up the day job and go full time with your small business?

I would focus on building up a variety of revenue streams for your business before you go full time with it. Ask yourself, 'where is the money coming from?'. If you have a single source then it could be risky having all your eggs in one basket, so consider the following:

  • Online selling platforms: Etsy, Not on the High Street, Folksy and Amazon Handmade are popular
  • Your own website
  • In-person events – craft fairs, markets, pop-up shops
  • Wholesale
  • Collaborations
  • Workshops
  • A recurring revenue offering, like a subscription box or product
  • Creating different product types, such as custom work and personalisation

Cashflow is the lifeblood of a business. Having a variety of revenue streams is a solid strategy to build a business that can support you on a full time basis. Use a cashflow forecast sheet for financial clarity – fill it in retrospectively at first, and it’ll reveal the times of the month and year when outgoings are high or income is low, so you can plan accordingly. This will empower your decision-making process so you know when the right time is for you to hand your notice in at the day job based on the numbers.

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How do you know when to take a break or when to keep on trucking?

If you’re asking yourself that question then it’s your sign to take a break in some form. This isn’t about giving up, but building in habitual breaks, as they're a fundamental practice when growing a long-term sustainable business. This is something I’ve learnt the hard way too many times.

Your breaks could look like this:

Daily – lunch away from the screen, coffee break without scrolling, walk round the block for some fresh air.

Weekly – If being online is a vital part of your business then you need at least one digital-free day a week so you can connect fully with yourself and your people.

Monthly – Block out a long weekend or whatever length of time to fully rest and reset.

When you can – Book the holiday and write it on the calendar!

When you take regular breaks, you're making space to have and to hear those all important 'a-ha' moments so you and your creative business can thrive.

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I'm still setting up, should I start posting on Instagram now or wait until the business is more developed?

Start now. Settle into the rhythm of sharing your indie biz journey on Instagram and recycle the content onto your blog, newsletter and other social channels. This style of in-the-moment DIY marketing is how you can build an emotional connection with your audience so they feel invested in what you’re doing. Inspire and motivate your followers to care about your indie biz by sharing why you do what you do with the ups and the downs, and the round and rounds. Instagram doesn’t have to be an overly-polished success highlights reel any more – revealing your learning journey is a fascinating and memorable part of your online marketing. Your imagery and photography does need to be good quality, but the caption can simply tell your story as it unfolds.

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How do you decide which ideas to turn into products?

Ask yourself: 'what is the work I want to be known for?'. Create what lights you up and experiment with product types in small batches at the start. Use social media for feedback but focus on your vision and values to inspire your potential customers to make the purchase. Product design solves a problem, so when creating your pieces, think why it’s ‘must-have’ not ‘nice to have’ for your target audience.

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How do you know what to talk about on Instagram Stories?

Ask yourself: 'what’s happening, right now?'. Have you placed an order with a supplier? Designed a new product? Doodled a new idea? How are you feeling? Instagram Stories is about being in the moment. It’s a cheeky sneak peek behind the scenes and can humanise our online marketing content, which is brilliant because people buy from people.

If you're overthinking whether something is interesting enough to share then remember, you run a creative business and your individual process is unique to you.

If you prefer a more structured approach to get started, then do a ‘day in the life’ and save it as a Story Highlight. Use a variety of tools to mix up the imagery including boomerangs, time-lapses, talking to camera and lots of GIFs!

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I'm finding it hard to break into fairs – I send emails but never hear back. What's the secret?

Here's a sneak peek into the Indie Roller Handbook when Sinead, founder of Crafty Fox Market, shared her top tips for applying to markets with us. Here are three out of her seven tips:

  1. Good quality photography is key – we need to be able to see what products you plan to sell. If the photography is dark or it’s hard to tell what the product is then we're unlikely to select you.
  2. Show a range of products, ideally that look like they belong in a collection. We want to imagine what your stall will look like, so a selection of things that look like they belong together will work well.
  3. We ask for a website so we can see your products. Clear out your online shop before you apply. Get rid of old items, creative experiments which no longer fit your current aesthetic, or things which don’t sell. It’s better to have fewer good quality items than lots of varying quality products.

How do you know if you’re capable of running a business?

You're capable of more than you realise. Think back to previous jobs, hobbies or pastimes when you learnt or developed skill sets – some of these are bound to be transferable to your current or new business.

I'd prioritise what you think you can’t do well, rather than trying to avoid it. For example, I wasn’t good at maths at school. That meant I paid extra attention to the financial side of my business because I told myself it didn’t come naturally to me. I'd now say the financial side of running a business is one of my top strengths, showing how investing in your ongoing personal and professional development is the key to growing a successful business. Try Skillshare or join a business community like Indie Roller.


For more business tips follow us on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook. Oh and make sure you're subscribed to Mollie Makes for all your creative projects and inspiration.


Phoebe Burt
Phoebe BurtSEO and Communities Editor, Gathered

Phoebe has worked for Gathered, and our sister magazine Mollie Makes, for 3 years. She manages our Arts & Crafts section and specialises in social media and content strategy. She has a background in all things marketing, a flair for Pinterest and a knack for finding the next big craft trend. Previously she worked as Digital Campaign Executive for Fat Media. You may recognise her name from Mollie Makes Social Media magazine, where she shared her expertise and top tips on becoming social media savvy.

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