Today is my small business' 3 month birthday! Don't worry, I'm not going to be one of those people that counts down every single month and celebrates each one, but I thought this point would be a great time to reflect on the journey already and share what I've learnt.
Before I opened my online business, I spent 6 months to a year intensely planning every single little thing I thought I needed to do and create in order to be ready to open. I most probably over bought the number of business cards, thank you cards and prints. I'm not ashamed to say that despite researching and feeling as though I was prepared to start this venture, you can never truly be prepared enough. It's only when you actually open and gain that experience that you realise the true nature of running a small business.
For example, 3 months down the line, I have experienced enough to know that I severely overestimated myself. Not that I think my work is not sufficient or worthy, more so that I was too optimistic and naive. The first thing I have learnt is this: You are not going to sell tons and tons of your products straight away. Some of you might get lucky or have struck gold with timings or marketing, but the reality is that most of us will take a while to get discovered and make that first sale and that's perfectly okay. It's not because you are not talented or offering an amazing product, it's just simply due to the vast amount of products available on sites like Etsy and NOTHS and the even greater number of interests that people have. Obviously, making sure that you are using the right tags and search terms, that your product photography is clear and bright and that you aren't out-pricing yourself are all incredibly important factors as well. However, if you have all of that stuff down, people will come. You just have to wait.
Secondly, another sale is always around the corner. Again, due to overestimating how many sales I would get straight away, I initially thought that three sales in just under three months was poor and that I was failing. I was feeling a bit down about the whole thing when BAM! One of my colleagues from work bought three of my prints in one go. I later discovered that they had only just seen my work via another work colleague liking a Facebook post I had made about my dragonfly print. It's easy to think that you have a complete handle on social media and digital marketing and therefore you've done everything possible and that a lack of sales is because people don't like your work. Wrong! No matter how much research and study you do on digital marketing, there will always be something new that you can do to grow your reach and besides people are busy! This means they may have just not seen your advertisements and will come when they do. I think that is the biggest challenge as an artist and now as a small business owner, just assuming that everyone has seen your work but just don't like it. Self-criticism is such a double edged sword in that it can be the motivation you need to improve and change your work but it can also make you over-analyse things when you don't need to.
Thirdly, just remember that you are doing great. You have just created a business out of nothing. The only people that will know about it, will be the people you have told. You need to get yourself out there and make yourself known. I think this is the thing that most people, including myself, forget. There are at least 7 billion people in the world and your business is only known to a handful of people. This may seem like a scary number, but don't immediately feel dejected. EVERY business had to start somewhere, in the exact same position as you. They all started with just one person knowing that they exist. Everyone has to work their way up, promote and market their business and spread the word. This is where the fun part happens. WE as small business owners get to do all the fun, creative marketing and portray our business exactly how we want to. This means making social media accounts, starting blogs, printing promotional materials, business cards, going to networking events, selling at markets, advertising, upping your SEO game and using holidays and national days to gain exposure. This is an exciting world and it should definitely not daunt you. Ticking each marketing tool off the list creates bigger steps to get your business noticed. It doesn't happen overnight but it will.
I have written this post as a reminder to myself, that I can come back and read whenever I feel sad, unmotivated or when I think that I am failing. I hope it can provide the same motivation and comfort to any of you that read this. Whether you are small business owners, artists or anything else. You will succeed. Keep working and keep improving until you shine so brightly that the world can't help but take notice. There is more than enough room for all of us and we will all get there.
Community over competition.