self-employed

The 3 biggest mistakes I made in the first year of my business

By Cassie Mendoza-Jones

I’ve been working in my business for just over four years now. My clinic work (I’m a kinesiologist, naturopath, nutritionist, herbalist) involves plenty of learning, integration and processing, and has done since I opened my clinic doors back in 2011, not to mention my work as a writer, blogger and business owner. Needless to say, there’s a lot do to each day, and there has been from day dot.  

It has meant I’ve learnt so much, and sometimes those early lessons – the lessons I learnt in the first few days, weeks and months of business - get lost in the momentum of growing my business today. 

Part of my work is also mentoring practitioners on how they can create a wellness business that not only feels like them, but also works for them and supports both them and their beautiful clients, readers and clients-to-be. 

For me to be able to do this, I really had to tune in and remember what it was like to wake up one day and find myself the owner of a pretty little wellness biz, knowing very little about how to actually run my own business. 

So in the spirit of sisterhood and support, I thought I’d let you in on 3 of the biggest mistakes I made when starting my biz (I can promise you – there were plenty more than 3, but this is a good start!):

THE FIRST MISTAKE 

I wasted money, time and so much energy time on non-digital, printed advertising and… wait for it… letter box drops. 

(I know, what was I thinking?)

You see, in my first year, I worked in a lovely clinic with other practitioners. A few of them were doing letterbox drops, and even though I intuitively felt it wasn’t a great thing for me to be doing, I decided to go ahead with it. 

I figured I had nothing to lose, so I printed a ton of flyers, and then I walked around dropping them in people’s mailboxes! Oh, the joy. 

I remember a couple of days after I’d done it, I was walking down a street on which I’d dropped some flyers, and I saw my flyer ripped in half on the sidewalk. I was devastated. I’m glad I experimented with this though, because I knew quite quickly I’d never do it again! 

I’m not saying printed media isn’t great, but for me, in the initial stage of my business, it did absolutely nothing to grow my audience or attract new clients. All it did was make me feel lousy and ‘small’ in the wide world of business. 

Not only that, there’s only a very small chance you’ll receive feedback from printed advertising – you can’t track it the way you can track digital marketing. 

You can’t respond to comments, questions or queries, and you certainly can’t expect people are going to quickly and easily grab your flyer and go and type in your website URL to check out your site the way they could if all they had to do was click on a link.  

So yes, my letterbox drop was an absolute waste of time, money and resources, but a valuable lesson because it made me realise that wasn’t the right way to spread my energy in this world.

Your reminder: "Truth: Follow your intuition, not the crowd."

THE SECOND MISTAKE

I thought people disliked me or that I was a bad practitioner if I had slow client days, or empty calendar days, or if clients rescheduled or cancelled.

I would berate myself and criticise myself for days over a simple client cancellation. All this nasty inner critic stuff – and complete lack of self-compassion – put myself in such an intense downward spiral of self-doubt, when in fact, all it meant was that I could use that extra time for something else; maybe more research, business-building techniques, rest and self-care. 

Your reminder: Your self-worth isn’t based on how full your calendar is.

THE THIRD MISTAKE

I rushed… everything!

I rushed the creation of products, I rushed my writing, and I rushed my client and clinic research. I basically rushed my days, from morning until night. Why? Well… I didn’t trust my voice, and I didn’t slow down enough for it to find me. 

Being scared of not knowing what my ‘unique voice’ sounded like, and what my unique talents were, and not trusting my own worth when it came to my words and my work was punishing. The only thing I knew to do in order to help me get away from that pain was to rush through my days, my work, my purpose-driven schedule, and fast. 

As an example, I remember during the design process of my first eBook, I was still finding typos while my designer was designing it and asking for feedback. That’s definitely not how I do things these days. 

But back then, I’d reply with “Oh yes I love that font, but um, can you please change the 6th word ‘XYZ’ on the 57th page, in the 1st paragraph to the word…”

Just days before writing this post, I came across the following quote from Natalie Goldberg in her beautiful book, Writing Down The Bones:

“Learn to trust the force of your own voice. Naturally, it will evolve a direction and a need for one, but it will come from a different place than your need to be an achiever.”

Let your voice evolve from a space of stillness, quiet and compassion. It certainly won’t evolve when you’re rushing around like a headless chicken. (I know from experience.)

My lesson in trusting my own voice and in being patient and not rushing the process took me a little while to absorb and integrate (and okay I’ll admit, while I’m now better at not rushing, I still need to work on being patient…), but it feels so much easier now that I trust my voice.

And I trust my voice because I trust my worth. 

Heads up: You can too.  

Your reminder: Trust your voice. Trust yourself. Trust your words. Trust your place in this business, blogging, and creative world. You’ve earned it (whether you think you’ve ‘done enough’ or not).

Cassie Mendoza-Jones is a kinesiologist, naturopath and writer. She works with women who feel stuck, unworthy and disconnected to themselves. She shows them how to increase their self-care, self-worth and self-acceptance on every level, while making it all feel like it’s the most natural thing in the world. (Truth: it can be.)

Meet Cassie + get ready to find the most balanced, centered version of yourself at Elevate Vitality and Heartfelt Harmony. Also follow her on Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter

 

Day To Day Of The Dream Job

By Abbey Henderson

I left my day job in 2010 to pursue my dream of being a full-time photographer. The learning curve was steep. The first few years brought with them overwhelming situations, beginner's mistakes, sleepless nights, comparison to others, and a constant feeling of inadequacy. The glitz faded quickly when I realized owning my own photography company was about 20% photography and 80% office work. 

Fast forward five years and I've settled into my industry a bit. I wouldn't trade my first years for anything. I don't ever want to go back to them, but I'm grateful for all they taught me. But, what if I had to go back? I think about that question often. There is so much I've gleaned through the school of hard knocks...truths that I wish someone would have just told me at the beginning. So, if you are on that starting line of pursuing your passion as a career, I think these 7 simple habits are vital to both the morale and health of you and the day-to-day of your dream job.

1. Develop a creative community.

You cannot do it alone! I cannot stress this truth enough, especially if you are a one woman (or man) business. There is so much value that comes from investing in a community of like minded creatives. I spent the first two years in business afraid to reach out to other photographers solely because they were my competition. The truth is there is more than enough business to go around.  Some of my richest friendships in the industry are also my closest competitors. We sharpen each other and encourage one another regularly. Sometimes I wonder what pitfalls could have been avoided had I invested in fostering those relationships sooner.

2. Prepare.

More than likely you will not stumble upon success. You will build it, one step at a time, one day at a time. Evaluate where you want to go and start preparing. Make a road map for getting to your destination. A vision without a plan is simply a dream. Dreams become reality when we are willing to put pen to paper and make them happen. It takes brainstorming, commitment and preparation. Oprah Winfrey said "I feel that luck is preparation meeting opportunity." Start building momentum, gain experience, invest in your education, and keep the energy going. When the wave of opportunity comes you will be ready to ride.

3. Be Wise, Save.

When we were newlyweds my husband and I bought an owl shaped piggy bank at a thrift store. At the base of the ceramic owl's feet are the words Be Wise Save. It does not get more straightforward than that.  And everyday that owl stares me right in the eyes, reminding me to steward the finances well. Finances can be one of the most stressful parts of stepping out on your own in business. As you start generating revenue, save for the dry seasons. Keep a reserve for when you hit a slow patch. Our company is approaching our slow season that lasts about two and half months. It's a lot easier to face the bleak times when we've prepared for them financially.

4. Give Back Intentionally.

I just wrapped up a meeting with a non-profit I'm photographing for this fall. We are planning some really exciting stuff; and I'm doing it for FREE. Why? Because I'm passionate about their cause, and I love that I can use my talents to invest in their work. Early in business I would jump at any opportunity to do free work for any non-profit that came knocking on my door. I ended up overworked, uninspired and bitter towards the projects I was doing for free. I wasn't passionate about most of them; I was committing to them out of fear; fear that if I said "no" I would miss out on a connection or opportunity to collaborate with someone else I would meet in the process. I learned the hard way that its vital to set boundaries and know your limits in terms of what you can do for free. By intentionally choosing the causes I contribute to, I work better and produce higher quality content for their mission.

5. Move Forward.

Don't be paralyzed by perfection. Perfection is a trap. Perfection is the enemy of great.  Are you launching a new site? Don't wait for perfect. Get it up and running and keep moving forward. Hold yourself to a standard of great not perfect. When we wait on perfect, we will always find something else that needs to be fixed or changed. 

6. Rest.

Make room for rest. The best way to avoid burnout is to rest regularly. I know that's hard to tell to an entrepreneur just starting out. Work is always on your brain. But rest is crucial to the longevity of your company and creativity. Take a day or two a week to focus on anything but work. Do things for fun, turn off the computer, have good conversations without your phone on the table, breathe fresh air. Life is richer when you discipline yourself to rest.

7. You can do this! 

You can. You are capable of more than you think...that's all there is to it! 

Abbey discovered her passion for light and photographs as a child, and was introduced to film photography in the dark room of her high school art class. She’s been photographing weddings since 2010 and is co-founder of Loft Photography. The West Wing, Pride & Prejudice, and a glass of red wine paired with deep conversation are a few of her favorite things. She believes there is no such thing as having too many leather bags, or pearl earrings. Beautiful light, quiet mornings, river days and plane tickets to anywhere make her happy! Follow her on  Loft's Instagram and her personal Instagram

Photo Credit: Loft Photography

 

How to Identify Your Ideal Customer

By Rebecca Thompson

The fact is about 20 percent of all your customers will generate 80 percent of your income. That is because the other 80 percent aren’t totally in line with your ideal customer. There is a way to improve your income exponentially, and that's by hyper focusing on your ideal customer so that you can attract more of them and fewer who aren’t ideal.

1. What Benefits Does Your Product or Service Offer? - Make a list of all the benefits that your product or service has. When you are thinking like your customer, you will always think about “what’s in it for me?” Your customer wants to know why they should use that product.

2. Identify Pain Points That You Can Solve – What sort of pain points does your product or service solve? Does it free up time? Does it end boredom? 

3. Determine Who Needs These Issues Solved – Once you’ve gathered a list of benefits your product offers and pain points that your product solves, you need to figure out who needs those benefits and has those pain points.

4. Determine Your Customers' Potential Characteristics – Once you have a list of those who might benefit from your product or service, you can make a list of demographics and other factors that people in that group share. 

5. Determine Your Customers’ Behavior – Find ways to research the list of people you made above so that you can get a better idea of the type of behavior your target audience displays.

6. What Career Does Your Ideal Customer Have? – Can you determine what type of career your ideal client has from the information you’ve gathered above?

7. What Price Point Can They Afford? – Once you know what type of career your ideal client has, you can also determine a fair price point for your product or service based on what they can afford to pay and the value of your offering.

8. Test Your Assumptions – Once you have a fair idea of who your ideal client is, you can test your assumptions by identifying some influencers within your audience and asking them to try your product or service.

9. Repeat – Take the answers you get from the information above and the test and improve upon your offerings so that you can truly please your ideal customer.

Using the information learned from all of the above actions, you can truly focus your marketing efforts toward your ideal client. In addition, you can use the information to retain the right customers in order to take advantage of repeat customers and a high level of customer satisfaction.

Rebecca Thompson is a social media consultant and strategist who assists small business owners with increasing the quality of their social media presence and online communities. She loves social media and thrives on using it to increase brand awareness and gain visibility for her clients. Find her on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.

Photo Credit: Picjumbo

Finding freedom in self-employment

By Jess Van Den

Freedom is one of my major motivators in life. It's a big part of why I am my own boss and run a business instead of having a job.

Part of what I love about this freedom is that I can travel where and when I want to. I love exploring the world – getting out and seeing new places and new faces. I think travel expands us and wakes us up to life in a way little else does – and I am a confirmed (and contented) sufferer of 'itchy feet' syndrome. If I'm not travelling, and I don't have a trip of some sort planned within the next month or two ahead of me, I start to get a little stir-crazy!

Thankfully, the only limitations on the travel I can do are the ones I set for myself. I can plan my business goals around my travels, rather than having to plan my travels around my job.

I'm in an interesting situation, in that I run two businesses – one of which is completely location-independent, and one which is less so.

Create & Thrive – my handmade education biz – is run purely online, so all I need to keep that business running is my laptop, smartphone, an internet connection and a few other tech accessories. I don't plan on taking any time off from C&T this year for that reason – despite the fact that in 2015 I will be away from home for a total of 5 months out of 12 (including 3 months on the other side of the world, travelling in the UK and Europe).

My other business – Epheriell, which I sell through Etsy – is a little less mobile, since it's a handmade silver jewellery business. That said, as I write this article, I am sitting in my campervan in caravan park in the little seaside town of Robe in South Australia – over 2,000km away from home, part-way through a month-long road trip. And my husband (who happens to work with me in the biz) and I have been making jewellery on the way. In fact, he's outside the van cutting out silver to make rings as I type!

My point is that no matter what you do, most creative businesses have the possibility of being location-independent to a certain extent. It all depends on what tools and materials you need to keep your biz running, and how willing you are to experiment with your equipment and your work/life integration in order to do things a little bit differently.

If you've considered travelling with your business, I've got a few pieces of advice for you before you take the leap.

How Mobile is Your Business?

If you run a business that sells non-physical products, you're pretty much guaranteed to be able to take your business on the road. There are a huge number of digital nomads around these days – people who travel either part or all of the time, running their businesses as they go. For one example of someone who does this – and teaches how to make it happen – check out Natalie Sisson of The Suitcase Entrepreneur.

So long as you plan ahead in order to ensure you have an internet connection (and electricity, depending on the sort of travel you plan on doing!) when you need it to hit your deadlines, you're golden.

If you've got a handmade or product-based-business, things get a little trickier.

If you have the capacity to travel with a campervan or caravan, chances are you can probably take your biz on the road. You just have to figure out how to store and access all your tools and materials, and how and where you are actually going to do your work during your trip.

We have all our tools and materials pared down to the absolute minimum, and we've (well, Nick has) built a mobile work-bench based on a collapsible saw-horse that we use in combination with a folding table to do all our work on while we travel. You also need to think about security – we have all our raw materials (i.e. our silver) locked away in a safe that's bolted to our van. Make sure anything expensive is secured out of sight. And make sure you have insurance on your vehicle that covers the loss of anything inside it! We have special campervan insurance for this very reason.

It can also be quite an adventure to find somewhere suitable to set up to do our work – some of what we do is quite loud, so that's not something you want to be doing in a campsite full of holiday-makers. Planning ahead for 'work days' is a good way to get around this. And if you're travelling on the road in Australia, make sure to get the WikiCamps app on your phone to make sourcing work-spots (and campsites!) super-easy.

It may be that your business is so mobile that you can even take it overseas (maybe you hand-embroider?). Or it may be that your tools are far too big to take travelling (perhaps you use a big letter press).

That said, there may just be ways around that obstacle if you think outside the box. For example, maybe you want to go house-sit in another city for a month – chances are you can find someone local from whom you can hire the use of bigger machines or tools while you're there, while you can take smaller items with you in your luggage – or even post them to yourself!

Whatever you do, it's super-important to plan ahead so you have all the technology and tools you need for your trip. Do a test-run or test-pack before you leave, and have a list that you tick off as you go.

Do you need your smartphone, tablet, laptop, camera, diary, notebook, pens? Do you have your SD cards? Have you got all the right cords to charge everything and connect everything that needs to be connected? Do you need a power adapter if you’re going overseas or into another country? Do you have that particular small tool that you only use for a fraction of your designs, but would find it impossible to do without?

It’s no fun to get going and realise that you’ve left something important (and expensive!) at home that you need to do your work.

Not only that – make sure you have all the non-physical tools you need for your work. Do you have all the apps or software you’ll need pre-installed (or updated) on your devices BEFORE you leave home? You don’t want to be downloading that stuff with your mobile internet allowance!

Also make sure you've taken advantage of the cloud, and have any info you'll need during your trip at your fingertips. If you’re going away but know there’s stuff (photos, files etc) that you’ll need that are currently stored on your home computer, ensure you’ve uploaded them all to some sort of cloud software before you leave.

Try Google Drive or Dropbox (or the i-equivalent) to ensure you’re not stuck without that crucial document or photo during your trip.

How Much Time do you Want to Spend Working?

The thing to remember about working while travelling is that it's very hard to do the same volume of work on the road that you do at home.

After all – you're travelling! You're seeing new sites, exploring new places, and taking photos for Instagram. You don't want to be stuck in your hotel room while your partner/family are out enjoying the sights because you have to catch up on emails. Blergh.

The most important thing you can do here is prepare yourself for this reality – and don't fool yourself into thinking you can keep up the same volume of work – it's just not going to happen.

However, a nice consequence of this is that you might find yourself working much more efficiently and with more focus because you don't have the time to waste mucking about on Facebook. Setting goals, planning ahead, and being organised will save your sanity when it comes to working on the road. Know what your non-negotiable work is, and make time in your schedule to get it done.

One golden tip here is to take advantage of 'waiting time'.

There will no doubt be lots of travelling and waiting time on your journey – whether that’s time in a plane, train, or in the passenger seat of the car. If your stomach allows it, this is a great time to get the bulk of your computer-based work done, so that when you’re stopped at a destination, you can fully engage with your family and friends and really enjoy yourself.

Another good time to work is early morning before you head out for the day, or late at night once everyone’s tuckered out and asleep.

When we’re road-tripping, I do the vast majority of my computer-based work in the passenger seat while Nick’s driving. This works well for us, for while we both like driving, he hates being in the passenger seat – so I just take that place and get my work done, and when we reach our next destination, I can relax and enjoy just hanging out with him.

When we're running Epheriell on the road, we plan ahead for 'making time' – and when we set up, we both focus and get to work in order to get everything made in the minimum time possible. We don't sacrifice quality – but we do 'sacrifice' the inefficiencies that creep into your work process when you're in your comfort zone, working in your regular space. It can be a really great education into how much wasted time you actually have when you're working at home, even if you don't think you do before you set out.

Finally, as far as possible, get work done before you leave. If there are any big projects you can complete early, do your best to get them done so you don't have the stress of completing them on top of your regular workload while you travel.

Do you Really Need to be Working on this Trip?

This is a really important question to ask yourself. When you're self-employed, it is so, so tempting to be working all. the. time. and never take a proper holiday, even when you're travelling, because you DO have the ability to work as you travel.

But do you really need to be working on that next trip?

I ask myself this question whenever I plan a trip. I look at my year overall - I look at where I'm going and what my goals are for that trip. For most of the trips I do, I continue to run Create & Thrive while I'm travelling, because it's so easy to do so.

However, I do take some time off even from that once and a while – because everyone needs a complete break now and again! With Epheriell, things are a bit easier – whenever I'm going overseas, I can't run the biz (though, if I'm only going on a short trip, I often leave the business open for orders while I'm away, while explicitly explaining the subsequent delay on orders to all my customers prior to them ordering). Therefore, I plan to only have a certain amount of time overseas each year so I'm not closing the biz too often. After all – when I'm not making jewellery, I'm not making any money from Epheriell, either!

So, before you plan your next adventure, make sure to be realistic and honest with yourself. 

Do you REALLY need to be working on this trip? Or would you be better off taking an actual holiday, rather than just working from another locale?

Finally, Don't be too Hard on Yourself

Unless you're planning to travel and work all the time – to become a digital nomad – don't beat yourself up if you don’t ‘keep up’ with work quite to the level you usually do when you're working at home. Travelling will always present you with unforeseen 'adventures'.

There will be times when you think you’ll have internet reception and you won’t. There will be times that you come across a random adventure and that hour you set aside to answer emails just doesn’t happen.

Let yourself off the hook a little and just enjoy the moment. Don’t spoil it by stressing about the work you ‘should’ be doing. It will still be there when you get to it. People will understand if you take a little longer to respond to emails – especially if you’ve publicised that you’re travelling.

In order to reduce your own stress levels about this, make the fact you are travelling really clear wherever possible (on your website, email signature, social media), and that this might mean a few delays here and there. The majority of people will be super-understanding about this, so long as you do the best you can by them! You might even find they good-naturedly chide you about working when you should be enjoying yourself.

After all – you're living the dream that so many people have. You're embracing the freedom that comes from having your own business – the freedom to run things your way, and to get out and experience the world while still bringing in the money you need.

It doesn't get much better than that.

Have you worked while travelling? What advice would you give others about to do the same?

Jess Van Den is a self­-employed silversmith working under the Epheriell label. She's been making jewellery since 2008, when she opened her Etsy shop to sell her jewellery as a hobby, and turned Epheriell into her full­-time occupation in 2010 ­bringing her husband Nick on board soon after. She specialises in eco sterling silver wedding rings, and works out of her solar­-powered home studio in the countryside north of Brisbane,Australia. She's also the founder and editor of Create & Thrive, where people learn how to turn their handmade hobby into a full­-time business from those who've done just that.