small business, small steps
Wow!!! The response to this small business, small steps post was amazing, overwhelming and so very much appreciated. As I write this, there are 59 (!) of you wonderful readers who left comments, and although I could not respond to all of them, I certainly did enjoy reading them. One of the most frequently mentioned ideas from that post, was the idea of being patient. It seems like we are all struggling with this concept and I've done a lot of thinking about why that might be during this last week. So I'd like to carry on talking about patience this week, and ask the question, what can we do in the down time while we're waiting for our businesses to take off?
Being Patient ≠ Being Lazy
I think that patience is such a tricky quality to master because as entrepreneurs we are doers, creative hands-on people, perfectionists and (ahem...) perhaps a wee bit controlling. We are determined and demand a lot of ourselves, our goals and expectations are high, and when we do not see the results we hoped for our minds quickly turn on us, raising doubts and questions about our skills, abilities and talents. I've heard it said that even your greatest strength can be your biggest weakness when it is not properly harnessed. So let's not allow our ambition and ideals get the better of us while we're laying the ground work for our future success.
What to do in the down time?
So you've just launched your business and you're patiently waiting for that first sale. Or, you're like me, and you're patiently waiting for business to pick up again after the Holiday rush. While you're practicing patience, is there anything else you could be doing? Heck, yes! Making your business even more 'awesomer' than it already is.
• be creative
Your creativity is at the heart of your business, it is your business. Spending most of your time trying to will yourself a sale will only use up your precious energy and creative juices. Why not put that energy and drive into expanding your product line, developing new ideas, planning for the coming months? Things will begin to pick up in Spring/Summer, but that's when you should be gearing up for Back to School, Halloween, and even the Holidays. So, do it now. Calendars, Christmas cards, Holiday gifts, Winter accessories, etc... always be a few months ahead. You will not only be giving yourself a productive task to do, but will be prepared when those customers come a knockin'.
• be curious
It's time to do some research. Who are your product peers (or some may call them the competition)? What are they selling? How is it selling? Do you see areas in your market where a need is not being met? Are you the gal/guy to meet that need? Who in your market is selling successfully and what can you learn from them?
The internet is a great tool to scope out other designers who are selling similar products to you. You have access to the whole spectrum, from those who have just begun to those who are pros. Go to their sites, read their bios, search for interviews, be a sponge! Of course you are not looking to steal, knock-off or copy, just for inspiration, for little nuggets of information that you can use as jumping off points in your own business.
Another great research resource are books and blogs. Again, the internet is a gold mine, there are so many e-books and blogs about how to run a successful small business. While things are a little slow this would be a great time to check them out.
• be social
Many of you mentioned in the comments how alone you felt now that you were working for yourselves. Although blogs and social media are great ways to connect with like minded individuals, I still think nothing beats a nice chat over a cup of tea or coffee with someone who really understands what you're going through. I'm jealous of all of you who are living in Canada and the US, your countries are full of Etsians (and English speakers!) so why not connect with a few of them. Perhaps you could even start a monthly meet-up to discuss work, your questions, successes, failures, etc..., something your friends and family may not completely "get". Finding a like minded buddy goes a long way to lessening some of those lonely small biz feelings.
• be supportive
Support your business by making sure it's ready to respond when you need it to.
Have you made business cards? How's your website looking? Do you have clear policies for your customers? Are there ways to improve your customer service? How do your product photos look, and your product descriptions sound? Have you contacted any blogs about your products? Have you started your own blog? Do you have a Twitter, Facebook or other social media account?
I know you've heard all this a million times, because I have too, but supporting your business by making sure you've dotted all your i's and crossed all your t's is what will set you apart from your competition and give you a professional feel.
Of course, there are many more things to add to this list and, as always, I'd love to hear your thoughts... So, "What do you do in the downtime?"