Finding “the thing”

Does your business have to be your calling? Not necessarily – but I would argue, that it should be as close to it as possible. I know that many people are not sure what it is they actually want to do. I am not different. Sometimes I know exactly what it is and sometimes I doubt it. Moreover, this can change over time as well. However, try to find some area or niche that is close to your heart. You will stick with it for longer and hence you are more likely to succeed.

  1. What would be your interest (hobby) if you did not have to think about money?
  2. What would you do if you had an unlimited time available to you?
  3. What do you like to do and you dont mind the time spent on it?
  4. Do you prefer to make things or teach how to make them?
  5. What are your strenghts?
  6. What compliments do you get from others?
  7. What kind of legacy do you want to leave?
  8. What were your talents in the past (but you dropped them for one reason or another)?
  9. What are you passionate about?
  10. What is missing in your life?

When you have your answers – look for a common theme and your area of interest. Repeat with a week or two weeks gap and compare your answers.

The area of work you are made for should emerge by then.

Good luck, dear friends 🙂

Prompts to think about – especially for solopreneurs

Have you been doing it wrong?

I certainly have. If you have read my last post, you know that I have been doing some analysing and deep diving in order to be more successful in 2022.

Here are my conclusions that might help you to rethink your strategy or save some money, especially if you are just starting out your new business.

I was wrong on the following:

  • Internet is a vast ocean and there is a space for everyone
  • Free social media are there for me and will help me to build my business
  • I don’t need to advertise 
  • I don’t need to sell locally and I can rely only on my online clients/customers
  • I need to produce as many products as I can (the more the better)
  • I need to be on as many social platforms as possible
  • If I am patient enough, I will succeed
  • If I watch enough ‘how-to’ videos, I will know everything
  • If I buy courses from people who made it, I will make it too
  • Having the right keywords and SEO will guarantee the success

I thought that it might be useful to put all the myths in one post. I might dive more into each one in 2022. Let me know if you have some myths, I should add to my list 🙂

In the meantime stay awesome, my friends 🙂

Myths that I have learnt from my own journey is a one-person business.

Prepping for 2022

Every year Quarter 4 comes. Lots of hopes hanging on to it. It was a really good time for me two years ago. All the sales were up. Statistics were up. Hopes were up. It really looked like I am on to something and I will be able to ditch my 9-5 job.

However, in the last couple of years, things have been stagnating somewhat. Numbers went down and it seems that I will have to start all over again. I know, Q4 is not over yet but the numbers don’t lie.

I think one of the hardest things is to stay motivated. If you are the only person in the business, you just have to rely on self-motivation. Of course, your family will support you but my guess is that most of the heavy lifting has to be done by you. So this is what helps me to do that:

  1. I recognise that there will be times when business stagnates. I am honest with myself while not being overtly pessimistic nor optimistic.
  2. I look at the current numbers and compare them with my stats from the previous years.
  3. I look at all things that I have changed during the year, ie. my business strategy, implementing new products etc.
  4. I look at my expences – did I spent more and what were the main expenses
  5. What was my workflow? Did I keep my routines? Did I procatinate a lot?
  6. Was I seduced by a ‘shiny thing’ that actually slowed me down and cost money?
  7. Which Quater was best and why?
  8. Which product sold most and why?
  9. Which social media was the most useful to me?
  10. What was happening in the industry in general (trends and influencers) and did I implement any of it or did I stay out of it?

Once I have all this information, I will start making radical decisions on what worked and what did not. I try to be as honest as possible as I know that will pay off in a long run. If I paint things too rosy, I might head off for a disappointment next year. If I am too pessimistic – that is not a good starting point to anything. So I am always aiming for a balanced view.

The hardest thing for me – is to drop things completely. Like a product I really like or I believed in. I think it is because over time I get attached to it. Not only because of the time I spent on it but because I genuinely believe that it is a good one. I often think of myself as a customer – and then it is really easy to fall in love with a product blindly. The truth is, if it did not sell, for whatever reason, I need to move on to something else, no matter how much I like it or I believe in it. I always find this bit rather sad – yes, business is an emotional affair for me. I am not able to look detach myself completely. It is always personal for me 🙂

Then I always streamline my work routine and cut it to a minimum. That way I know, it will be manageable and I still keep my motivation going. Also, I know, that during the year this routine will grow and grow and will be ready for trimming by the end of the year again. The work routine for Q1 is very bare. And I mean – VERY. Otherwise, I am not able to keep the focus, energy and motivation needed.

One more thing. I used to get very dispirited when I compared myself to others. Especially those, who were very successful. I thought automatically and rather naively, that I can do it as well. And of course, when I look at my numbers at the end of the year and compare them to the industry’s best – I am not anywhere close to them. What helps me here is reminding myself that most of the industry giants have been in it for many years – 10 and more! Some of them did not see any results for the first 2 or 3 years, yet they kept going. They have lot more resources, teams of people, freelancers and so on. So I look at them as an inspiration but I do not compare the numbers.

If your motivation dwindled, my friends. Don’t despair! It is normal. Especially during this time of the year. If you recognise it as a part of a process, you will be able to carry on. Wishing you all the best for 2022 and make it a great one 🙂

Photo by Monstera on Pexels.com

Where to put your energy

I have had this question on my mind recently: “Am I wasting my time on some of my business activities?” Some of them seem to go nowhere. How long it will take for them to take off? I have wasted a lot of energy on new products and marketing them on various social media. The results are highly unsatisfying. I did few courses and I listened religiously to some industry gurus. So I decided to do some digging myself. I know the approach may not be the most scientific but at least it is based on tangible data.

My hope is that it will steer me in the right direction and I will not be wasting as much energy as in the past few months. Here is some data I looked at and it might help you as well, although I am aware that people are different and everyone has their own unique needs and goals.

  1. Amazon – 9.7 million sellers worldwide but only 1.9 million are actively selling, Less than one in ten active Amazon sellers generated over $100,000 in annual sales, and 1% of the sellers hit the $1 million sales marks this source: Oberlo.com. My questions – Why are there so few active sellers? What happened to the rest? What to think about the odds 1:10? What is the 1% of 1.9 million?

2. Etsy revealed it had a $349.25 million net income in 2020 and there were 4.1 million active Etsy sellers in 2020. A really nice and comprehensive breakdown can be found here. My question – If I divide the total by the number of sellers, I get 85 USD an average per seller!

3. Red Bubble – revenue of artists 67.4 million and 700 000 artists and designers are currently on the platform. source for more details can be found here. Again, if I divide the total numbers, I get 96 USD per seller.

O.K., I know I am not a math wizard and this is not, how you do a market analysis – but I did need a quick glimpse. According to my humble maths, Amazon still comes on top for sure. Now the question is, do I view the odds 1:10 as good or bad odds…As I am an optimist, I would say, it is still worth a try but I am not so starry-eyed as before, realising it might be a longer journey than I originally thought.

By the way, I will continue my ventures with Etsy and other platforms but looking at it differently now. And please, carry on with yours as well. Remember, I am not an analyst, and it is your business after all.

one person business, dilemma and decisions that have to be made, difficulties of one-person business

Steps to set up your social media schedule

Not everything fitted into my previous post on Social Media. There are some points I think should be mentioned.

Before I decided on which social media I will stay on and which one I will drop, I ran several months of testing. I was mainly looking for these three variables:

  1. Which media is popular with my audience
  2. Which media gives me a push for free
  3. Which media does not emphasise recency

It took me a long time to figure this one out and this will be different for you simply because your business/product/audience might be very different. I don’t think there is one formula for all. I have received lots of advice at this point but I was very confused about all the contradicting suggestions. That added to the confusion and slowed down my process. I would recommend that you follow your own needs and common sense while taking all the advice with a pinch of salt. And to be fair. Most probably the bulk of confusion is caused by the constant changes in the algorithms. It is almost impossible to keep up with them. Therefore focus on what will work for you in the long term regardless.

After several months, I was able to figure out which media did not work for me and should be dropped. The second step was figuring some sort of schedule that will be sustainable and will not drain me. I do not want to slave the media. That is not what I am looking for. Quite the opposite. I figured that the algorithm will accept my schedule if I keep it regular while pushing me here and there to ‘produce’ more.

  1. how often do I need to post
  2. minimum of time need
  3. what type of post works

This step was even more individualised. Here your research skills are more important than ever. And really only you will know what works for you. Once you know it – double down.

And the last step is probably the hardest. Staying with it…I consciously limited my time on social media as a consumer. It ate too much of my time and sometimes I would not even know what I am reading or watching. Instead of that, I go first to creating my pins/posts first and only then I spent some time catching up or checking the trends. This helped me enormously in sticking with it.

  1. limiting my own consumption of media
  2. creating my posts/pins first
  3. following my schedule

If you are posting regularly, you probably know by now that the job is never finished. There is always another pin or post that needs to be done. I would love to get to a point when I am using only one social media. That is what I am working on long-term. I am not keen on posting for the rest of my life 🙂

I am hoping to achieve that by zooming on my analytics. But that I will keep for later perhaps.

P.S. I almost forgot. You can use my template and check your own schedule for Social Media. Is it working? Is it effective? Or does it need tweaking 🙂

Have a great week dear friends!

More about Social Media can be found here.

Testing social media algo :)

Every year, by the time August comes, I review all my activities and I start thinking about the Christmas market. Not so last year. Well, we all know that it was a very atypical year. Nothing planned worked and frankly, I got dispirited by it all. I thought to myself that no one is going to be interested in my products – frankly, they are not essential for life. And the shops that were making any profits were only those that had face masks, cleaning products, disinfectants and so on.

I was overwhelmed at work as ironically, we had to and were expected to work hard no matter what. The motivation for my own side business hit all time low and stagnated. Now, when things are moving again, I hear from people around me: “Ecommerce is saturated, everyone is doing it, so many newcomers create an enormous competition”…and so on. I am not debating here what has happened to the e-commerce, rather I am looking at it with fresh eyes. Sometimes it helps to start with a blank sheet paper again and toss out things that do not work anymore.

In this post I am looking at the social media and my relationship with them. I know that there were more people on social media than usual, but still some patterns have emerged.

Instagram – Once integrated with Facebook, I thought that there is no point posting there but fortunately recently there are some good changes. Mainly, I can again reconnect with my followers, I don’t seemed to be penalised from not showing up every single day and there is a steady growth, if you are steady. Instagram Reels have a big potential. For me personally more interesting than TikTok (the target audience of TikTok is not my audience).

Pinterest – I have seen numerous videos that were stating that it is the best platform. For me it was like that at the very beginning. I got a quick boost and the impressions were getting higher and higher until the algorithm changed and I faced a downward spiral. Nothing helped and now I have the same amount of impressions as when I have started. I would still say that it is a very good media if you have products related to certain industries and audiences – weddings, new couples setting up their homes, furniture of any kind, motherhood and parenthood topics, viral and trendy products etc. You do have to post regularly and preferably several pins a day or at least a one pin a day. For me this became very gruelling to keep up with. I am not dropping it though as it did drive a moderate traffic to my Etsy shop.

Blogging – I thought that no one is blogging in 2021 {hahahaha), just did not seem trendy and seemed bit lost among all other media. I was pleasantly surprised. There is a potential if you are willing to give it a time, and I mean a long time (like a year or two), of course there are exceptions but I am writing about my own experience and this is how it seems to me.

You Tube – Yes, it has potential. But again, you have to give it time as the growth is painfully slow. You need to be willing to create content without any rewards – for many months, sometimes I think that the Algo is testing us whether we can make it and how much we can endure.

I must say, that after 6 months, I started to dislike the social media. They seemed like these massive monsters that are always hungry and never satisfied. The AI always wants more and more…and it became unsustainable. I am a one person business after all and I would need to have clones to juggle them all. So, it was time to scale down and create a routine.

And here it is:

Friday – create one week of Pinterest posts 2 hours after work

Saturday – create Instagram posts plus check likes/comments – 2 hours

Sunday – create one blog post and one or more YouTube videos – 5-7 hours

Rinse and repeat. If I have some extra time on work days so yes, I will make an extra pin, post or whatever.

I know it seams very simple and maybe not enough – but it did the trick for me. I feel sane, I feel that I can manage the Algo and Also does not hate me for doing that. And lastly, I do get some rest on work days.

I will keep you posted if this routine worked for me long-term. In the meantime dear friends, don’t get swallowed by those beasts, remember – they will always be hungry! Rather, think of your own energy levels, how much you can give them and at the same time still lead fairly happy life 🙂

More on Social Media scheduling can be found here.

Which media is worth your while?

First step for “one person business”

Do I need this first step? Do I really need to find my “Why”? The answer often seem obvious, right?

Well, the most obvious thing seems to be “the money”. Yes, it’s great having some extra income but why would I be giving up my free time to do something I don’t even know if it will take off?

Of course, it would be nice to be free from the usual 9-5 routine, daily commute, tiredness at the end of the day and lack of free time. But for me personally, it is also a lack of time for my own hobbies. I have lots of them and I simply do not have any extra time to develop them or just to keep them. My weekends are all about the family – which is great, don’t get me wrong but there is simply not enough time for “me time”. 

Hence, I started thinking to myself, how to get back to things, I truly love to do. And I thought to myself, why not making one or two of my hobbies into a side hassle. I know that there are lots of people, who will tell you that you should not think that your hobby equals a business. And they are right up to a point. But I do think that if you are going to commit few years of your life to something – you should be passionate about it and you should love it. Otherwise you will burn out really quickly. Let’s say that you are willing to work hard for 3-5 years on a side hassle, every day after you come home. Yes, then you need a strong motivation.

“Why” is also important for your customers. They do like your story. And you would not believe, how often I am asked why I bother doing something outside my regular job. 

So, when you are starting and staring at the blank paper – I recommend putting down 2 things.

  1. “Why” I am doing this
  2. How long will this “ Why” keep me going 

It seems fairly simple as something that can be done in 5 minutes. But I think that it is really helpful to take couple of days thinking about this. I would sleep on it. Definitely. Then, when you know your answer, write it down in your journal or print it out and keep it somewhere, where you can see it.

It will be a constant reminder and a very helpful tool, especially during those time, when things will not go right and you will want to quit.

I know that some people will feel: “I know, why I am doing this! I don’t need to be too philosophical about that.” And that is o.k. If you feel that way, you can jump straight into the next step and that is all about  the magic word “What”. 

Have a great week dear friends and make it a productive one 🙂

What is your “Why”

When business is part of you

This post is very short. Basically I am just stating the obvious. We give everything to our business. Time, money, enthusiasm. We try to do everything under the sun to grow it. But we often make one simple mistake – we forget that we are part of it. If all our energy goes into the business, how are we replacing that energy?

There are so many people saying, you have to look after yourself otherwise you will run out of the gas. And this is so true and so simple. I had so many mini-burnouts. So many times I was saying to myself, why bother? My 9-5 gives me holidays, free weekends, public holidays, cheque at the end of the month…When my motivation dwindled it was usually because of the lack of energy.

This year I am trying to do something different. I am taking myself as a part of the business – part that needs to be taken care of, needs refuelling, needs some recharging….

I have made a very obvious list and stuck it on a fridge to remember:

  1. Hydrate yourself
  2. Choose healthy food
  3. Get some fresh air every day
  4. Move and enjoy it
  5. Quiet time without any device or distraction

Will let you know if that help but I have a feeling that it will 🙂

Have a great summer dear friends and don’t forget to look after yourself!

Self-care for small business owners

Are frenemies good for you?

To put it bluntly and to save you some time – the answer is: “No!”

I know that people are often scared about what will the others think. In this time and age everyone knows about everyone, right? But do you really have to waste any energy even thinking about this? Yes, there will always be people, who will not want you to succeed, who will try to laugh at you or who will try to ridicule what you do. So what? No, really – SO WHAT? I wrote about this in my post on toxic people some time ago.

Think about it the other way round. If someone goes all the way to find out the details about what you are doing instead of doing something constructive for themselves – isn’t there something sad about it? What really happened to their dignity that they have to belittle others to build their self-worth? O.K., they might find temporary satisfaction from learning about your struggles or they might have someone chiming in. But you don’t need to care, you are too busy with your own business, right? Rather than wasting time on toxic people on social media – work on your new project. That is what will pay off.

I did have this kind of conversation with someone recently and it even happened to me. I admit that I am always surprised that people need to do that. But remember. You are building something for yourself, that is build purely on your own effort, knowledge and ability. No one can tear it down just by words that are often empty and without substance. Don’t pay attention to what your frenemies are doing or saying – and keep on going my friends 🙂

When everything is too much…

I am at that stage and I thought that I will share it. I think all sides should be shown. Not only the happy and optimistic one – i.e. just plan, get organised, get routine going and you will get there…

Today I feel completely different and it is not for the first time. After all my planning and research, I see this massive and mean MASSIVE hill. Immense amount of work that needs to be done and immense amount of after hours that will have to be put into different projects. On the top of it, I know that at my 9-5 work the busiest period is coming and I will be coming home feeling like squeezed lemon. At this stage, I am not sure if it is all worth it. Will I ever break free and do what I truly love? Or will I have to do my hours and save from the little I am paid.

At this stage, I am scaling down my ambitious plans and focusing on things that:

  1. I love to do and therefore I will be able to carry on with
  2. are essential for the day to day business and cannot be dropped
  3. not looking at analytics too often and reducing learning hours
  4. putting on hold shiny objects that I really wanted but I know that
  5. there are not enough hours in the day

I do know that this is a mini-burnout and I need to make certain changes. I think the feeling that “I will never get there” is one of the most damaging and numbing to small business and solopreneurs. It is the more nudging as these feelings are often faced alone.

However, I know this is just part of the journey. The journey is by no means rosy. It is a hard work. It is many hours which could have been spent differently (i.e. watching Netflix or YouTube). So if you are at this point as well, don’t despair. Take a deep breath and pause to have a quick mental check. Look at all possible things that can help you – your family, friend, community or someone in a similar line of business. Take it as a part of the journey towards your goals. And yes, it will get better 🙂