Happy February, gang! I know, we’re a week in, but it still feels right to celebrate the start of another month as the first one of 2018 seemed to go on for quite some time… It’s been a year of ups and downs already, but I guess that goes hand in hand with running your own business. I’ve certainly seen a lot of mixed emotions online and so hopefully with the imminent arrival of spring, our spirits will be lifted and we can move forward with renewed energy and excitement for the year ahead. We’ve lots to look forward to this year but I think it just takes some of us a little while to get going!
You may or may not have seen that I’ve finally announced the online workshop course that I am running in a couple of weeks. It has been quite an emotional rollercoaster as I’ve been so determined about it, but so terrified of launching it, and announcing it to the world! Being completely new to me, and totally out of my comfort zone has really tested me, and my confidence.
I’m running another of my popular blogging workshops in Exeter this week, and I thought it would be a good time to get one of my own blog posts together about how to blog and what on earth you should be writing about!
It’s one of my favourite things to do, read blogs. I love the thoughts that go on in creative minds, and I love seeing behind the scenes, hearing their experiences and learning some snippets from them. It makes me more invested in them as an artist or business, and it gives me insight and respect, which in turn grows into loyalty and advocacy. I share my favourite blogs, I share my favourite makers and I love that I can introduce new people to my favourites.
That’s the power of a good blog. It can increase your reach, and therefore potentially your sales. But I don’t believe you should write a blog to make sales. Just as I don’t believe you should go on Facebook or Twitter or Instagram to make sales. Those sales should be a result of the relationships you form, doing what you do online. Return customers on average are worth 10 times their first purchase, so that’s why it can be so beneficial for you to create a loyal relationship with your audience. Remember a sale doesn’t end once money has changed hands.
So, it’s 2018! A new year, a new opportunity – time to make plans, work out your goals and make this year the best ever for your business!
Except, what happens when you start the year a bit stuck? What happens if, like me, you’ve had time away from your business and now you’re back and wanting to get on, but your head is distracted and still in coffee, cake and duvet mode?
I’ve had a bit of an odd start to the year. My uncle took ill and died very suddenly on New Years Day. He complained of not feeling right on the Saturday and died on the Monday after being wired up to life support machines. We weren’t close, I’d only seen him a handful of times in the last 20 years, but it still makes you reflect on your own life and mortality.
Without wanting to start my 2018 blogs on a morbid point, we do only have a finite time on this planet. You can be here one minute and gone the next. I am fully aware of trying to make the most out of every day, but sometimes it’s hard isn’t it? Especially days like today, when I’m back to work at my desk after a few weeks off, and struggling to get going. Not particularly seeing any potential in anything and feeling like my brain hasn’t switched back on again.
I really do want to attempt to make the most of every single moment though, so to help me, I’m looking back at the last 12 months to help me think about what I want the next 12 months to bring. I’m trying not to think about the ‘what ifs’, as I don’t want to be pulled down by the possibility of what could have happened but didn’t – I really do want to focus on the ‘what next’.
Here we are, at the end of the first week of December, and everyone is going Christmas crazy! Whether you are a small business trying to stay sane, or a Mum frantically searching for ideas for your kids, or an employee exhausted at the thought of the office Christmas party – it seems that although Christmas should be a time of joy and excitement, it is leaving us frazzled, impatient and completely bloody fed up.
What is it about this time of year that gets people so riled? Are we putting too much pressure on ourselves? Or each other? I don't know but I'm not seeing happiness on people's faces, I'm seeing panic.
You know what I hate about this time of year more than anything else though? It’s the rudeness. The impatience. The tutting, the frantic shoving, the ‘I’m too busy to even say thank you’. It’s completely unnecessary and to be honest, I’ve had enough.
There is so much being said about Black Friday at the moment that I thought I'd contribute! It's a crazy time of year with consumerism going through the roof, and whether you agree or not, if you want to grab a bargain, tomorrow is the day to do it.
As you may be aware, the term 'Black Friday' originated in the US in 1952 as an informal name for the day after Thanksgiving Day, in which Christmas Shopping Season started. It has since become much bigger than that, and in the UK we have adopted Black Friday to fall on the last Friday in November where retailers slash their prices hoping for more customers. It also is rarely a one day event as stores have started promoting their sales days, if not weeks, ago and will last through until next week.
For independent sellers though, it get's a bit trickier. There is a lot being written & shared throughout social media at the moment promoting other alternatives to Black Friday, and to bring awareness of the little guys when it comes to doing your Christmas shopping.
This weekend I spent my time networking, chatting, presenting and generally having the best time at the Outlaw Craft Fair in Cornwall. I was really honoured to be asked to host an evening for the exhibitors at the end of their first day, alongside Poppy Treffry and Kirsten Edwards - two incredibly inspirational women. I had been so excited about this weekend, but as soon as it arrived I was a quivering mess!! I like to think that I am now quite experienced at public speaking, as I present workshops on pretty much a weekly basis, but this was a completely different level. To say I was out of my comfort zone is a massive understatement!!
The weekend itself was amazing. I had a smile on my face as soon as I walked in the door and it didn't leave for the duration of the weekend. What a room - full of a bunch of lovely, talented creatives and definitely what I call my happy place.
Judi & Kirsty (organisers of Outlaw) asked me to talk a little about the 'business' side of running a creative business and then I had the privilege of interviewing Poppy, before Kirsten spoke from the side of a buyer, having years of experience working in creative retail. I'd prepped, I really had, but you know when you're having an out of body experience, your hands are shaking and you keep forgetting what you are talking about?? Well, yep, that was me! I was told I came across well, but I'm sure I missed so much out that I should have said! So I thought I would summarise what I wanted to say here in case you were interested in what I spoke about - or you were there and didn't understand a word of what I was saying!!
So, grab yourself a cuppa, put your feet up and have a read...
I recently went to a networking evening and the keynote speaker (a young musician who’d been through a tough time) spoke about authenticity and the importance of it in your online marketing. I hear it a lot. I talk of it a lot. More and more, especially at the moment I am feeling the need to be it, and to be surrounded by it.
I was also reminded of it during my few days away with the marvellous Helen from Guilty Mothers Club. She helped me see through the gloss and polish, but also the mundane and generic, and delve into what is authentic to me.
I even wrote recently about it in my Keeping it Real blog, but I guess I hadn't fully listened to my own advice... well, not on social media anyway. I do believe that here I am truly me, but all over the wonderful online platforms that I find myself in, well that's a different story.
*warning - slight swears below*
I’m reading numerous blog posts at the moment about the new year – or rather the new academic year. There have been some brilliant pieces about how this time of year is a time to make plans, reassess your business, start afresh with renewed energy and structure the next few months in an exciting and energetic way.
I love September. I love this time of year, when the light changes and the colours alter and everything becomes a little ‘crisper’ – the smells as I walk through the woods are ones of anticipation and I can almost see the season shifting in front of my eyes. I know some see the end of summer with sadness, but I feel the opposite. I think more than any other month, September has that power to really make me feel that everything has potential, and it helps me focus.
We’re over half way through the Summer holidays and I’m not actually quite sure how I’ve made it this far! I’ve found this year more of a struggle than most, and I know I’m not alone in that.
I’m married to a teacher so in theory I should have loads of spare time to work during the holidays but bizarrely it hasn’t really felt like that. We’ve both had to take on second jobs during the last few weeks for financial reasons, he’s in the final month of writing a book (deadline is looming), we’ve got a 15 year old daughter who requires us to be her taxi on a daily basis (what is it with teenage social lives?!) and a son who would rather be on the Xbox all day than do anything else so we need to manage that diplomatically and calmly...! We’ve dog sat, child-minded and had family and friends come and stay. I’ve had to prep and deliver workshops and stay on top of emails and calls. And we live in a small house with just one open plan living space so we’re all on top of each other. It’s been loud, messy and chaotic.
There’s no space – in my house or in my head. Is there ever any time for us to take care of ourselves within all the juggling?
How do you all do it?
How open are you with regards to your business? By that I mean the blogging, the online platforms, what you put out there? Are you all ‘take me as I am’ or are you more ‘must retain professional at all times’?
It’s a tricky dilemma when you are running your own creative business. Do you want to show the warts and all or do you want to give a glossy overview of what you do?
I get asked quite a bit about best ways to market yourself online and I do talk a lot about ‘telling your story’ and ‘finding your voice’ but what does that voice have to sound like?
It’s going to be different for every one of us, and of course there are a few things you have to figure out before you start talking to your followers online, but it’s important to get that voice right.
I spoke quite candidly recently in a blog post about my struggles in direction, and I didn’t know initially whether to share this with my readers and followers, but after a while I knew I had to. After all, what that voice has to be, how you talk, is all about authenticity.
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01884 266045 / 07969 044006