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.
You may have seen my stories a few weeks back when I asked you what your one question would be with regards to social media. If you didn't see it, here's a quick back story...
I run digital marketing workshops at Exeter Phoenix and every week have a real variety and range of small businesses attending. They are targeted to creative businesses but it's not always the case that it's purely creatives that attend. Either way - every single person in that room, for every single workshop has totally different needs, and are at complete opposite ends of the scale with regards to levels of knowledge, and understanding. So I wanted to start my 'Social Media Masterclass' workshop with a question to all of them. My question was; 'What is the one question you want to ask with regards to social media'?
Because it's huge isn't it? Social Media - digital marketing - getting yourself out there in the online world. There is SO much to ask. And that room full of people with different levels of knowledge and in different stages of their business, coming to a workshop to learn about social media - well, what was it they really wanted to know? As a tutor, I do struggle because I want everyone to walk away with something they've learnt, but I need to know what they already know, before I can make that happen.
So most of the questions asked (in the workshop, an on my Instagram stories) were based around how to get more followers, how to get more sales, how to become more successful on social media, and therefore in your business.
And this comes back to how some of you may be feeling right now. Seeing the businesses that you follow on Instagram being inundated with orders - and wishing that it was the same for you. I've been there - if you've read my blog about my own business, you'll know.
And the new year will come, and because of what you've seen, more of you will be asking for my help in how to become more successful and get more likes and sales and be MORE, so that next Christmas it could be you who's too busy to get onto IG. Or you may be thinking about starting up a business and you can see how amazing it is for other businesses out there and you want a piece of that.
But what I'll tell you, which I tell my workshop students all the time - you might have guessed it from the title of the blog, but there is no magic formula. There is no 'one size fits all' business development package I can give you. It really isn't a case of X + Y + Z = success. And I think it's so important to tell you this, because that's not what business is about. There are things I can suggest and there are definitely practical aspects I can help you with, but it all comes down to what it is you want for your business, and what is right for you.
So remembering the 'just because someone else is doing it, doesn't mean you should' mantra, this is what I suggest for you...
Create a business you 100% believe in
You might not always believe in it, and you will most definitely go through having doubts, but if you start with 100% belief and passion in what you are creating, you will do well. Being half hearted about something you might like to do at some point probably isn't the best starting point.
Be completely unique
You may not be able to create a product that has NEVER been seen before, but whatever field you're in, whether it's jewellery illustration or ceramics (yep, they're all pretty big fields!) - be completely unique. In your style, your process, your message, your voice, your styling - whatever aspect - you decide. But make sure there is something about you that is totally different to anyone else. This will set you apart and make people remember you.
work your arse off
In whatever capacity you can. I don't mean working 18 hour days for the first 6 months (although if you want to, go right ahead!) - just do what you can, even if it's a couple of hours a couple of nights a week when you're home from your 'real job'. But when you're doing it - DO IT. Step up. Learn. Research. Discover. Learn some more. Find out everything you can in the time you have and make sure you know your shit.
Engage with others
Essential to growing a business - whether you engage in twitter conversations, join a networking group, get on Facebook and chat to other creative businesses - it is so important to talk to others in the same boat as you. But as well as that - engage with potential suppliers, stockists, galleries, collaborators, journalists, magazines, influencers. But do it in a completely authentic way - be yourself, that 100% unique you - and talk to them as people, real people. Put yourself out there and engage with as many people as you can. Yes, I know - it's hard, it's alien; we're shy and introverted - but you will benefit SO much from it.
remember that is doesn't 'just happen'
The followers don't just arrive, the orders don't just start rolling in - they don't for anyone. What you see in others feeds/websites/shops hasn't just magically appeared. It takes time. And it takes failures and mistakes - many, many failures, to get to a point that you are happy with - and even then there is still room to grow. Don't think that because you've listed a product on Etsy it's automatically going to sell. Don't think that because you've written a blog it's suddenly going to go viral. It doesn't 'just happen'. Be patient - but work hard, keep turning up every. single. day - even when it all seems really shit, and at some point there will be a shift. You may not even notice it - but suddenly you'll get an email out of the blue, or someone will mention you, or you'll get that 'kerching' sound that might just be the turning point for it all.
Obviously I can also tell you about the importance of brand, audience, web presence, SEO, online persona, etc etc - but that's all the 'stuff' that helps you grow and become more visible. What I really want you to know is that there is no 'one way'. But that's the exciting bit! I love hearing the ideas behind new and growing businesses, and little gems that are in the very starting points and I love love LOVE being part of that growth. So as hard as it is, don't be put off. There are many of us to support you, and if you've got the few pieces in place as mentioned above, and you've got a determined mindset, then you'll do great.
Do get in touch if you'd like to talk anything through, it would be lovely to hear from you.
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