It’s the start of a New Year - 2019 already!! What are you feeling right now?? Are you feeling inspired and ready to nail it? Are you feeling rested and calm? Are you already asking yourself how you can make this year work for you? Are you worried? Excited?
Me? I’m excited for the year ahead but also I know it’s one of huge change and I’m entering it with caution. My husband has left his job as an early years teacher to become self-employed, and as you know, I’m also self-employed. We now do not have a regular wage coming into our household, and that is always going to bring about a little bit of worry – especially as none of us know what this coming year holds with regards to Brexit. But luckily, I’ve never been particularly materialistic (or at least, that’s what I keep telling myself!!) and I know he will make a huge success of his business (as will I.) The flexibility and freedom to create our own paths that we now have far outweighs the money he was bringing in.
So I’m cautious but I also CANNOT WAIT to get going this year! What about you?
I want to start 2019 with a post that has a few cold hard truths. Unfortunately, it’s not all butterflies and roses in the creative business world. We all know it – I’ve spent the morning reading this Just A Card post and wow – there are a lot of you that are unsure, tired, concerned, overwhelmed and really needing some help. So many valid points in there about the Instagram Algorithm, unable to get traffic to your website, having no confidence in promoting yourself – it’s all so true and so REAL for all of us.
Here’s the truth. Running your own business is HARD. Really, really, bloody hard. Don’t ever go into it thinking it’s going to be easy, or that you’ll become really successful really quickly. Getting followers, customers, sales – that stuff is TOUGH!! I know. I get it – I’ve started my own business twice now, once back in 2008 and this one 2.5 years ago (with a brief employed role inbetween).
The business landscape is a very different one to ten years ago – actually it’s even different to 2.5 years ago. And that’s the thing that a lot of people (and businesses) don’t always come prepared for. You have to adapt – to your customers, to trends, to algorithms, to new platforms, to the market, to consumers desires. Nothing stays the same, so your business can’t either.
There is SO much to consider if you want to make a success (whatever that means to you) of your business. As you know, it’s not enough to make/design/produce your work, there is much more to it than that, and this is what I feel you all find so overwhelming and confusing. Marketing, SEO, finance, planning, etc – it’s all so consuming and hard to know where to start.
But what I’m going to say is re-iterate what I said above – Business is HARD. If you want to run a business well, you do need to invest in training, research, advice, whatever you can afford (time or money wise). Whether it is youtube videos, blog posts, workshops, a mentor or coach – investing in someone or something to help you navigate the bits you don’t get is essential. If you don’t know something – go find out. Google is AMAZING – just ask the question!
Also, you’ll fail far more times than you’ll succeed. But this is also essential to making it work. How else can we learn if we don’t try?
"success is walking from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm"
So now I’ve probably made you all feel despondent and bleak (told you there would be some hard truths – sorry!) let’s see what we can do about it.
"success usually comes to those who are too busy to be looking for it"
You are your business. It is engrained in you – you are all consumed by it. This (as above) can be so overwhelming, but also – how bloody incredible??! You create MAGIC!
But sometimes (actually – most of the time) I think we are too consumed by getting social media followers. I realised on my dog walk the other day I didn’t have a clue how many Instagram followers I had – not a clue! I knew it was a couple of thousand but aside from that I just didn’t know. I’m not sure when I stopped chasing the followers but it kind of just happened. Now – I’m not preaching here for you to do the same – I’m not an Instagram guru (there are plenty out there), and it’s not my aim or purpose to tell you what you should be thinking of doing. My aim is not to get 100s of 1000s of followers, but that’s okay with me. However, I TOTALLY get that you may want more followers. More followers means more potential sales, or contacts, or suppliers, or shares – that makes so much sense. But what would happen if you stopped worrying about how many followers you haven't got, and just started focusing on giving real value to the followers you already have?
What I’m hearing is that many of you struggle to know what to put out there. So if you’re struggling with what to post, do you think that the posts you do put out, might not be the best of what you can create? I’m not casting judgement, but all I know is that if I post something in haste, or because I think I should, or because I might lose followers if I don’t, it doesn’t end up being something I’m particularly proud of.
I’ll side step for a moment if you don’t mind. I just want to say that as a consumer (and again, there's no judgement here) I’m starting to feel a bit bored with much of the content that is put out there. Are you? How much do you scroll past before you see something that stirs something inside you?
We have been so saturated with content that we are constantly looking for something different. Even content that two years ago I was captivated by, makes me feel a bit ‘meh’. I need something else – something new, and I think as consumers, we all want to experience something different. We are inundated with more, more, more, and it seems to be having a negative effect on how we view the ‘normal’.
So maybe the rushed content, the ‘I should really put something out today’ content, the ‘how the hell can I beat this algorithm’ content, is having exactly the effect on your audience count as it is having on your head when you post it, and therefore not getting the likes or engagement you wish it would. Does that make sense? Let’s start respecting those numbers inside that app and start making them sit up and take notice.
So how do we learn from this? Well, it’s all about how you can stand out, give real value and inspire people. Because if you can do that, I guarantee your follower count will grow without you even realising it.
I know this might be a bit left field – but look at Bandersnatch, for example – Black Mirror’s latest episode. Now I love Black Mirror – it’s messaging is SO powerful, but this, this was something completely different and made us all sit up and take notice. Now, I know there’s a huge difference between a Netflix film and a small indie business trying to get followers on Instagram, but really, the theory remains the same.
Do something different – make people listen and give them something to talk about and share with others.
Always go back to why you started.
"People don't buy what you do, they buy why you do it"
If you’ve not watched Simon Sinek’s ted talk, go watch it now. Or even better, go read his book. If you have, you’ll be totally familiar with the ‘why’ of your business – and that’s great! Keep referring back to that. Focus on it and bring it into everything that you do.
I want you to think about how you can bring VALUE to someone’s feed, or someone’s day. What will that look like? How can you inspire them? What can you create that will make someone pause, read and potentially share?
Hard truth – which I wrote about here – there’s NO magic formula. You have to find your own way, look at your own ‘why’ and focus on your own audience to figure out what you can tell them and what they want to hear. The time is gone for those half hearted rushed posts that don’t really have much of a message – your audience wants more.
If you’ve got our Brand Toolkit you’ve probably done the exercises within it which help you define your brand, and the message you’re putting out there. Look again at your invisible headline. What does it say? and is it reflective of the content you are putting out? Whether that’s on Instagram, your website or shop – always keep asking yourself a) does this content give value and b) is this in line with my invisible headline?
The more you focus on creating really authentic and valuable content the more you will start to attract engagement.
I know that sounds idealistic – yes, what about hashtags and what about what time to post, and how do I get people to my website, and everything else besides. But honestly, the more you invest in creating REAL value, authenticity and MAGIC, alongside the research needed to figure out the practical stuff, the more you’ll start to get it.
Also, sales don’t just happen. They do take time – and (I know, I keep saying it!) a lot of hard bloody work. Where you’re at right now is going to be very different to where you will be at this time next year – so just keep focusing on what you can do NOW to give value. Yes, make plans – keep your 2019 goals in focus, but don’t worry too much about what happens next year if you haven’t got the 10,000 followers that your competitors have. While you’re busy creating, engaging and blowing people’s minds, that following will eventually grow.
"I find that the harder I work, the more luck I seem to have"
If you do want support with your business, then my retreats are selling out so take a look. Jan – April one on one retreats are now booked, but I do have group retreats available from March.
Jenny Hyde is running an inspiring business retreat on 17th – 21st Jan which you can find out more about here: http://www.thejennypace.com/retreat-weekend-17th-21st-january-2019/
Sara Tasker’s Instagram course opens tomorrow which you can sign up for here: https://meandorla.co.uk/the-insta-retreat-2-0/
Leona Thrift Ola has an Indie Roller membership group which you can learn about here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/TheIndieRollercoaster/?source_id=219511055315458
The Design Trusts Dream Plan Do planner can be found here: https://www.thedesigntrust.co.uk/publications/#dream-plan-do
My digital marketing workshops at Exeter Phoenix can be found on their website: https://www.exeterphoenix.org.uk/category/courses/
Our build your brand toolkit can be purchased here: https://www.thecreativebusinessnetwork.com/store/p5/define-your-brand-toolkit.html
With just over two weeks to go until Christmas, how are you doing? It's a big question isn't it? Are you crazy and run ragged - or are you disappointed with how sales have gone this year? Do you wish you'd done more online promotion or more craft fairs? Are you too busy to even click onto Instagram or are you spending ages scrolling through your feed, wishing you had a bit of what others seem to have? Whatever you're feeling right now, you really aren't on your own. There's not long to go until you can take some time just for yourself, to think about where you want things to go, or what direction you want to take. Make sure that over the festive period you really do stop for a while - it's important to try to forget the highs and lows and just think about you.
Even during this busy time, I'm getting emails from small businesses - start ups and those who have been trading a while - with requests for help. As you know, in the New Year I'm going to be running my day retreats but I will also be running my online workshops again. But I just wanted to talk about something that has been on my mind for a while.
I know, I know - it's been an age (again) since my last blog post, but I promise I've been very busy! What a time of year this is - clients are busy and needing extra help, my new Phoenix workshops have gone down really well, my coffee catchups have been rammed full, I've organised an Artisan Market and I've been planning 2019. It's meant that although I've been so 'on it' with everything, so much else has unfortunately gone by the wayside. Constant ups and downs, but that's how it goes isn't it? I'm sure you're all feeling it too.
(I'm really ashamed it's been so long that I've blogged. Also, I've started this so many times over and don't really know where to begin... so I'm just going to start!!)
Two weeks ago (is it really two weeks already?!!) I held an event. I'd been thinking about this event for about 18 months but in reality only really planning about it for about 8 - as in, last April I talked to a couple of people about wanting to host a creative community event, but I didn't really do anything about the organisation until earlier on this year when I just couldn't ignore myself any longer!
It was a huge success, and I'm still humbled by all of the comments that I've received. The speakers were phenomenal, the workshops so useful and educational and the overall vibe was one of real energy and colour.
I really want to talk about #Marchmeetthemaker*. I’ve been wanting to write a blog about it (MMTM - abbreviated throughout for ease…!) for a while because I think the impact it has had on artists and makers all over the globe is enormous. Just looking at how many posts have been shared on Instagram alone (273,834 at time of writing) let alone the posts shared throughout Facebook and Twitter, as well as the hugely active community group that Joanne Hawker (creator of MMTM) has set up on FB – this campaign has actually made a really positive difference to people.
I took part in the challenge this year as well as actively engaging with a large number of others who were part of it. I’m not even kidding when I say that so many of the post made me laugh, made me cry, made me wistful, envious, proud – so many emotions evoked from a few square images on my phone.
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.
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01884 266045 / 07969 044006