As anyone who’s ever started a business knows, there are moments when you doubt yourself. A lot.
But when you keep going because there’s that thing you’re utterly passionate about, you’ll never know where you might end up…
Look. I was trawling through my memory for a story or two to share with you about my ongoing love-affair with the Artful Business Conference (aka ArtfulBizCon), because it’s so darn freaking good for women in business like me and you. Like that time Elle showed us the video of the lone dancer and demonstrated the power of community. Like that time Sonia told us about growing up in a family that always reinforced the idea to “Do things that make other people happy”, but eventually realising that when we do things that make US happy, the happiness flows out of us to others anyway. Like that time Karen told us to start a revolution, by sharing your gift with one person – because who are YOU not to share?
And that time I spent sitting in the car in the carpark in tears of overwhelm for an hour, because I felt like I’d finally found my tribe.
I’ve come so far.
So when I was going through what I’d written about last year’s Artful, I noted with interest this little gem:
“Thanks to Elle, I’m facing my fears and doing it anyway. (F’rinstance: before, I struggled to find photos of me that I even liked. Now, I’m the selfie queen, and I’ve got a good dozen videos under my belt (yeah yeah, I know they’re short, but it’s a start!)). And I’m pushing myself out there in lots of other ways – new products, and a (ahem) webinar in the planning stages.” (note the self-doubt still hanging around there?)
Only last year’s conference, and yet it feels so long ago!! Since then, I’ve given several webinars, run 4 x 5-day challenges, currently post a selfie on my page at least a couple of times a week, got a bunch of new services to offer clients in graphics and training, and served LOTS of beautiful clients (new and old) who say fabulous things about me.
I’m kinda not the same person I was.
And my business has grown a lot.
The Artful Business Conference is only a couple of days away, and I’m a teensy bit excited (because you know I’m speaking there, don’t you!? Check out my workshop and other details on my event page). Tickets start at $117 for a virtual – you can join in from the comfort of your own couch and you get full access to the recordings afterwards, forever (and you’ll get bonus stuff from me if you book through my afflink).
If you come, you might get to meet someone fabulous.
(Here’s me and Jess Van Den from Create & Thrive)
See you there?
Grab a ticket.
I’ve been thinking about how far I’ve come in the last couple of years. On my down days, I feel like I’m pedalling that same bike around that same circuit.
Except I’m not.
Just like Karen Gunton’s lighthouse analogy, it might seem like we’re going round in circles, but we’re actually spiralling upwards. We can tell, because the view changes as we go.
Here’s a little something I wrote six years ago, when I had the tiniest Etsy shop with the baddest photos. Scarlet was my alter-ego, who spent a lot of time sighing and looking out the window, wishing things were better.
Super Scarlet was back in business.
“This is it.” thought Scarlet. “Today is the day.”
Today was mid-winter solstice. “The longest night means that tomorrow, the days will start getting longer. Time for a spring clean.”
She grabbed pencil and paper.
Time to make a to-do list.
Finish 3 more cushions
Make 5 new bags.
Sort some business cards.
Tidy that garden. (oh my, have you seen it of late?)
Sort that bookshelf.
Fix those broken toys.
Do those clothing repairs.
Vacuum that filthy floor.
Wash that school uniform for tomorrow.
Do those dishes…
Um, OK. now to prioritise.
Hmmm. She turned the list upside down and sighed.
Sure life with a family is a juggle – it always is and nothing’s going to change that. But seriously? Those house jobs are not your business. If you’re serious about your business, that list will stay right way up. No, it’s not easy, and of course you have to be flexible. Factor that stuff in to your timetable. If you’re serious, you’ll find a way to make it all fit.
There’s never enough time to do everything.
It always comes down to priorities.
Happy solstice x
Me, hanging out with a few friends at the Artful Business Conference – Jess, Dominique, Tash, Jayne, Karen, and Stevie <3
What WAS the 2016 Artful Business Conference like? Perhaps I don’t even have to say the words. Of course it was fabulous.
I got to actually MEET and give hugs to Jess Van Den, who I’ve known online for about a gazillion years. Too too beautiful! I got to dance with a room full of 80 or so women and laugh. I got my soul stirred by the hauntingly beautiful voice of Dominique Oyston. I got to play with paper and glue and textas, and draw on the table. I was lucky enough to get an Indian head massage from Shalini. I got fed SO much incredible information and I have written pages and pages and PAGES of notes of things to implement (oh!!!!). Hugs hugs and more hugs with gorgeous people I met IRL at last year’s conference – Tash Corbin, Karen Gunton, Jess May, Katie Wyatt, Jayne Traeger-Bliss and so many more…. and of course ELLE and her team – Meg, Kellie, and Jodi. And even more hugs from new friends I’ve only met online since last year. So many laughs, and tears too – of joy, of resonance, and connection (and not as many tears from overwhelm like there were for me last year, haha!!).
There were some fabulous quotes too.
“Focus on one thing” – Katie
“You’ve got to fill yourself up from the inside out” – Melanie
“You can never live the life you want without disappointing some people” – Felicity
“Focus on the long game” – Tash
“Don’t tolerate. What’s the biggest thing you’re tolerating in your life right now?” – Sylvia
“Tell yourself, ‘It’s a practice’. Give yourself permission to make mistakes” – Tash
“It’s not Artful unless there’s tears” – Jayne
“A keynote speech is an emotional journey.
You need to get your audience to feel why it’s important.” – Dominique
That last one is particularly important for me. Because I’ve got a little announcement to make.
I’M GOING TO BE SPEAKING AT NEXT YEAR’S EVENT.
Hooley freaking dooley. Yes I am.
And I cannot wait. Book your ticket here, and I’ll see you there.
(***UPDATE*** – The link above is an afflink, so I may receive a bonus if you buy through me – BUT the cool thing is that you ALSO receive some fab gifts from me!! If you purchase a virtual ticket through my afflink, you’ll receive a copy of my ebook viz biz – small business branding worth $35; or if you purchase a full ticket, you’ll receive the ebook, access to my Design School Workshop ($50), PLUS a 1 hour of 1:1 with me ($120) – you can talk branding, or you can talk Canva – total value of the bonuses is $205.
Seriously, I can’t wait. See you there.
Big love, Julie x
Customer service is part of your branding too.
You know all those pretty visuals you’ve got for your branding? It ain’t worth a scrap if you don’t treat your customers right. Yeah yeah nup; in the last few days I’ve been witness to some fairly unpleasant interactions.
Like at the takeaway counter when a customer queried his change, and the embarrassed sales assistant spent a silly amount of time fluffing over a calculator, then finally and hurriedly shoved the money into his hand and simply looked away.
He was polite, she was SO not. Not even a quick “sorry”.
Whaaaat!? Seriously, good manners cost nothing, and will vastly improve your chances of repeat business. (I doubt that customer will be back, even though the food is excellent.)
Like when I was at another business waiting for something to be finished, and they kept telling me, “won’t be much longer” and it ended up taking HOURS. (At least I got a brief apology.)
I mean, let me know how long it’s actually going to take and I will happily organise my life around that – I have plenty of things to do. Don’t coddle me along with a vague half-truth (because of course, hours are less than days and in that sense, no it’s not a long time). But now, I’m peeved because they weren’t straight with me, and made me late.
Always, always, put yourself in your customer’s shoes and think what they’re thinking.
And yes, the same goes for me.
I had an unhappy customer a short while ago. I was mortified. I wrote to her, explaining what we’d done and what she’d achieved, offered a couple of ways to rectify the problem, and sent her a copy of my e-book. But she was dismissive and fairly ungracious about the situation, and demanded a refund.
Ouch. That REALLY hurt. Not the refund of course, but the fact that I had disappointed someone so badly. Was I really so hopeless at delivering the service?
But after going through some angst and thinking about what the actual problem was, I realised that it boiled down to the fact that her expectations of what she was getting didn’t match with what I was offering. And so in that sense, yes it’s my fault because I didn’t make it clear what she would get. When I delivered something different to what she was expecting, she got cranky.
(And just a sidenote here: Always be gracious. Whether you’re a customer or a business owner, good manners work both ways.)
Now, I’m re-writing my sales copy so that there’s no mistaking what’s on offer. I’ve already re-written my intro to this service so everyone’s clear from the get-go. Everybody wins from this – I get the right customers, and they get exactly the service they’re wanting and expecting.
So the moral of these stories is, at EVERY interaction with your customer, try and think what they’re thinking. Because if you don’t… unhappy customers. They won’t come back. And they’ll tell their friends about their bad experiences.
And these interactions start early – not when they’re actually putting money on the counter, but when they first clap eyes on you. When they first see your website. When they see your happy, smilin’ face in your profile shot. When they read your About page. When they read your sales copy. When they read your testimonials.
Those interactions continue throughout the transaction.
How easy is it it for them to contact you and ask questions? How clear are you about what exactly it is that you’re offering (is there anything you’re specifically not offering?) How easy is it to buy something from you (what’s your cart system like?) How long do they have to wait for delivery? What should they have at the end of the transaction? (This last one’s especially important for service-based businesses.)
And at the end – how can you delight your customer, so that they become repeat customers and raving fans? So that they talk about you with a happy face, and recommend you to their friends?
To know what’s in their heads at every turn of the transaction might seem like an impossible task.
But it’s so much easier if you know exactly who your ideal customer is.
Who are they? What are they looking for? What are they aspiring to, and how can you help them achieve that?
Talk to them. Ask them.
And remember, every unhappy customer is a chance to learn, to improve, so that your next customer experience is a wonderful one.
Spread the love.
You know, the actual fact is that I never really had a moment of “I knew I was in business when…” (but I’m totally heading off to THE best women’s business conference in Australia in only two weeks because I am ABSOLUTELY doing the biz thing now!)
It’s been a long journey.
I suffered through a lot of half-hearted attempts on the way. After finishing my Jewellery & Silversmithing degree at uni, I’d tried lots of different things – selling my jewellery (of course), although finding a workshop to work from that didn’t cost too much (or, let’s be honest – didn’t cost anything) was really hard and I didn’t have the persistence required to make that hard thing happen. I got my dad to help me make a small bench, set it up in the shed and got bits and pieces made, but then shipping work around the countryside on a consignment basis was not only expensive, but also disheartening when things got sent back because they didn’t sell (consignment for small handmade businesses sucks I reckon; don’t do it people. Or, be prepared to have lots of work out in lots of shops. And wait.). In the mean time, I’d got a nice safe office job (ewww) to pay the rent, and started to think about other opportunities.
Then, I was offered a PhD candidature with scholarship, so I did that (who wouldn’t, if someone’s paying you to do something you love). I rolled over into training as a high school teacher, which I did for several years, and then had some babies, all the while making things on the side in fits and starts (think, random, scattered, not much).
With babies, the opportunities to make jewellery diminished (they don’t make a good combo with acid, fire, and sharp things). I picked up my sewing machine again. I set up an Etsy shop in the middle of 2009 to the sound of … crickets …. and nearly fell off my chair when something actually sold, several months later.
Let me just say that none of these experiences were in any way encouraging to me. Because I discovered that business is HARD. And you have to be committed and passionate (because that’s what will sustain you when the going gets tough). But I persisted, because I always knew that there was something more that I was supposed to do with my life.
I think I’ve got an inkling of what it is I’m supposed to do now. I’m working on it. I’m building it. The money’s starting to flow.
So here’s my best advice.
You have to have a plan. None of this “chuck a few things out into the world and let’s see what happens” attitude (which is totally what I did. To real life shops, and on the web. Just because you’ve got half a dozen things in two shops does not make for a sustainable business. Just because it’s out in internetland does NOT mean that anyone’s going to see it. You have to tell them about it, duh.) I mean a specific, actionable, PLAN. Where are you planning to be with your business in 1 years’ time? 5 years’ time? Specifically, how much money will you be earning? Be realistic (you’re not going to be earning a million bucks this time next year). What have you got to sell, and how many of those things do you have to sell to reach your income target? How are you going to let everyone know about it? And there’s only so much spruiking you can do yourself – how are you going to get other people (delighted customers and the like) to tell everyone about you?
Surround yourself with people on the same journey as you. Organise a coffee morning with a couple of other like-minded souls, and talk business. Get specific. Bounce business ideas around with them. Talk about what you think is holding you back, and figure out options to move you forward. Show them what you’ve made or written – whatever product it is you’re thinking of putting out in the world – and ask for constructive criticism. Remember you’re not alone; if you’ve got a great brainstrust around you, they’ve always got your back. Keep your eyes and your mind open. Learn, adapt. Invest time in your business. Be critical about how you invest money in your business – you don’t need every coaching course under the sun, nor every app with bells and whistles. Keep your eye on your goal. Filter everything you see through that goal and don’t get distracted by shiny objects. Build your business step by step.
Most of all, keep going. Because amazing things are about to happen.
I know. I kept going. Finally, it’s working for me. I’m in business.
Finally, we’re up to the juicy bit – colours, fonts and images… woohooo!!
But of course you can’t get to this point unless you have your foundations in place first. Don’t short-change yourself – skimping on the groundwork means you never have a solid base to refer back to when you get caught up in the next shiny thing (because there’s always a next shiny thing!). So put in the groundwork and the rest becomes simple.
I know this video is a bit longer, and that’s because there’s LOTS to cover – how to manipulate colour using value and saturation, and how that impacts on your audience’s perception; whether or not to use your own images on your website, and what to look for when choosing stock photos, the different types of fonts and how each of them is perceived, AND my very best tip to choosing between fonts when you really can’t decide.
Are you ready? Let’s go.
I would LOVE you to join in the fun of the comp and have a chance to win free coaching with me, copies of my e-book, and more!! I’ll be sending deets out again in the next newsletter in a couple of days – and entries close 29th Feb AND THAT’S REAL SOON.
AND there’s not many entries so far, so your chances are excellent. You can join in here.
Have you got any questions about your colours? Found a great palette you’d like to share? Same goes for fonts! Leave a comment and share it – the more we share, the more everyone learns, and that’s a good thing. I’d LOVE to see what everyone’s up to.