02 March 2010

tips for success

since most of the experts on my panel manage to run successful online shops (etsy or otherwise), i know they have wise words for us. they have each figured out how to get out there, create a buzz about their products, and provide great customer service. these girls walk the walk and talk the talk. having been there, done that, i inquired of them, what are your top 3 tips for maintaining a successful small business?

1. Use a spreadsheet. Track all incoming and outgoing cash on a daily basis.

2. Stay new. Work on generating products and goods at least every couple months.

3. Do what you love. Running a small business means wearing a lot of hats (designer, marketer, accountant, production team, packer, shipper, etc.) Be comfortable and happy with wearing every hat or refigure your time and finances to hire out help for the parts that don't work for you.
- elise blaha | enjoy design

1. Do as much of it yourself at the beginning to keep costs & overhead low. That meant for the first 2 years I did the product development, website, marketing, PR, shipping, tradeshows, customer service inquiries, etc.

2. Do your best & forget the rest (taken from my p90x workout dvd's) - seriously though, as cheesy as it sounds, you can only do so much. So cut yourself some slack.

3. Never forget what's most important. Is the crabby customer more important than tending to your babies needs? I think not. Is twittering for the 20th time that day more important than getting on the floor and playing with your kid? Nope. Is shipping out the orders the second they come in more important than having a healthy dinner on the table? Nope.
- jenny | LobotoMe.com

1. be organized and keep your overhead down.
2. don't grow too big too fast.
3. keep it enjoyable and keep sight of your goals.
- rae dunn

Be consistent, promptly follow up, don’t get discouraged.
- karyn | den10studio

Since my photography business is still in the beginning stages I can only share what I know right now. First of all, I would say the biggest factor in my business is passion. I have always loved photography and I feel blessed that I am able to take something that I love and turn it into a business. I believe that photographs are a gift...the only opportunity we have to 'freeze time' and time becomes so fleeting when we become parents and watch our little ones grow. I feel so lucky to meet families and get the opportunity to capturee their fleeting moments.

Secondly, another tip for a successful business is having good organizational skills. It is imperative to keep receipts, emails, invoices, etc. in order so that you have access to what you need at a moment's notice. I am more passionate about the artistic/photography aspect of my business, but fortunately, I am married to an accountant and a business owner, so he helps me a great deal.

Lastly, I would say that to have a successful business you need to work hard to balance your work life and your home life. As a mama to three little boys I am overwhelmed at times by all there is that needs to be done. One thing that has really helped me is I hired a babysitter to come to my home one day a week and this frees me up to do work, go on photo shoots, answer emails, etc. She is available to me other days if necessary, but it is great to have at least one day a week that I know I can get certain tasks done.
- melissa deakin photography & flickr

1. You have to have passion for what you are doing, either for what you are selling or just for having a small business. If you don't have passion, then someone who does will come along and beat you every time.

2. You can't do everything. Avoid burnout and find people who are willing to learn and that you trust to help you out.

3. Businesses don't stay still, they either shrink or grow. Prepare now for growth.
- brittany | one charming party

This is so hard to narrow down, but I have found that the 3 things that have helped me in my small business are also 3 things that have helped me in my life. It just is natural that they are now woven into my experience as a small business owner. And without them, it would be impossible to be happy in what I do at home, at work, or anywhere else. Here they are:

1. Be Flexible. When I first started Allora Handmade, it was a make or break situation. We. were. broke. My husband was a full time student and I was a stay at home mom to two small children. And so, in the beginning, we learned to be flexible. At first that meant with our time and our resources. Some days it means little sleep or giving up other activities. Flexibility in a new business means being willing to adapt and change your product, your prices, your methods. It means listening to customers, staying ahead of trends, and being willing to try new things. It means finding what works for you and what works for your customers and then being willing to change that again and again with an ever-evolving market. I have come to realize that my business must be a living, growing organism in order to survive. And I must be flexible enough to nourish and prune and find what works to help it thrive.

2. Be Surrounded. In order to be successful at anything I think you must be surrounded by positive people who are excited about and anxious for your success. Good friends and supportive family members will buoy you up when you feel stuck, encourage you when you are overwhelmed, and tell everyone they know about your success. Even though most of my friends and family live far away, I can’t believe how much I have depended on their support.

3. Be Generous. From the day Allora Handmade was born, I strongly believed in my heart that if I was willing to be generous with my product, my time, and my talents, that things would work out. It amazes me to see the result of generosity. Being willing to give has infused my business with a frenetic excitement and happy energy that pushes me to do more and do better. AND it just so happens that the awesome by-product is more sales. What’s to lose? Nothing!! It’s a win-win-win.
- jessica | allora handmade

I guess that depends on what you to and your definition of 'successful'. I'm an artist, designer, painterly kind of person. I've been painting and selling work since I was 13 years old. Before having kids I owned and ran a design studio for a decade. Art is my biggest passion - which tends to blur the line between work and play but, this is all I've ever done. It's all I know how to do. For me, successful means doing stuff I love on a schedule that makes me (and those around me) happy. Oh and it's nice to pay bills, too. Here's my 3 tips...

Don't pick something you don't like doing. That should be obvious, but it's not always easy to tell when you start. I wrote a book and when it came to traveling around to work with bookstores on promotions - I realized quickly that hardselling myself is not something I enjoy or do well. I'm in my element when I'm holed away dreaming up art. If you feel you're on the wrong path - change directions.

Find the right balance between create and sell. It's easy to start thinking of things in terms of "what would sell" and although that's an important component to running a business - but, I've found that for me - it's more important to just create. If it's genuine people are drawn to it. If people are not drawn to what you do - use it as a springboard to help you find something else.

Get the right people. I might have mentioned that I'm an artist. Things like shipping and spread sheets are not my thing and I typically decide things by feel - getting an accountant to take care of your taxes or a shipping expert to help you. Or even a web person to jazz up your look. Small business people seem to think they need to do it all themselves and sometimes that sets you back more than the cost of getting someone to help.
- kal | love life

i am so impressed by their work ethic and ability to juggle! follow their links to see the experts in action. tune in tomorrow to hear their list of favorite social sites to promote their businesses.


junelle said...

Yes. Passion. I am convinced of this after reading this in books/blogs/classes. If you aren't passionate about it, it isn't something for you(or isn't the right timing?).

I also think that being generous is a huge aspect of success. I just love ordering from etsy shops because of all the extra touches (notes, bits of ephemera, emails).

Great post.

erin wilson said...

"Businesses don't stay still, they either shrink or grow. Prepare now for growth." Love.love.love.

Olivia said...

Those are great tips.

Olivia said...

On the passion, I completely agree. I started sewing & selling these little infant giraffe toys. I enjoyed it at first, but then it just became a chore. I stopped doing that and am now just trying to put my efforts towards art, which is what I really care about.

The Chubby Dove said...

great article-very helpful!

Christen E. Krumm said...

this is really encouraging me!

thanks for putting this out there!!


reSPACEd said...

It's remarkable how many of the experts said a variation on "do what you love." It would seem that passion = motivation = accomplishment.

the whyte house said...

i am JUST GETTING STARTED in photography myself. i'm still trying to find someone to help me that i trust. i LOVE taking photos, but i am so scared to put myself out there. very frustrating.

lindsalita said...

thanks for the motivation!

Kayla said...

I love Kal's comment about focusing on creating, not just what can sell.

Gudny Brá said...

love all those tips, thank you for this wonderful workshop! Can´t wait to read and learn more. :)

Karen said...

Thank you so much for this workshop! It's been so great to see all the tips and advice so far! Learning lots and having things I knew reinforced. Thank you!

Amelia Irene said...

All great tips thanks for your willingness to share!

Tarsila Krüse said...

These tips are so insightful and I particularly felt that Kal from Love Life explored a thing I'm facing and I assume many others are: The "What would sell" fear. As we all develop confidence enough in our art/craft this is a sort of ghost hanging above my/our head(s)...Thanks so much.

elizabeth rosemond said...

Fab!! and oh so timely for me. Thanks so much!!

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