Monday, March 24, 2014

My Top Ten Small Business Tips

Originally shared on the Bespoke zine blog, I wanted to post these here for you too, my lovely readers.

I couldn't wait to get some ideas down on paper! The children played around me as I drew, and Emerson contributed a Vegemite handprint. Feeling grateful once more for getting my sketchbook back. :) #instasmithy #instajewelrygroup #handmadejewellery

Oh, the many things I have learnt since I first opened my bigcartel store four years ago and started selling my pieces of jewellery. While there are all the nitty gritty things to learn about business, like keeping books, applying for an ABN and invoices that you will learn as you go, the following are ten tips, drawn from my experience as a jeweller with an online store, that I think will make your business better. Whether you are just starting or have been in business a long time, these ten areas are worth consideration and energy.

Write down your goals
Know why you are doing what you are doing and what your goals are. Write it down. Talk about it to friends and family until it is clear to you. It's easy to go off track, be asked to do something you're not sure you are comfortable with, or be offered an opportunity that you aren't sure fits. Go back to the reason you started the business, what your goals were, then see if it fits with them. Trust your gut and stay true to yourself. Anyone can run a business, but no one can run your business the way you can.

Share your story
People prefer to buy off someone they feel they 'know' or have a connection with, than a faceless company with mass produced items. Share your story at every opportunity - your About page, your blog posts, little by little in Facebook and Instagram updates. Let them know who you are, what inspires you, what you are doing, how you do it. Your story is unique, don't be afraid to tell it.

Brand, brand, brand
Don't underestimate the power of your brand. Research branding. Hire a graphic designer to pull it all together. Keep it cohesive across all your social media, packaging, stationary etc. Be recognisable. Ensure your packaging and logo reflect your product.

Know your market
You may think you know who you are selling to, I thought I did, until I actually sat down with pen and paper and tried to describe them. This is crucial. If your target audience is reading certain things, going to certain places and wanting certain things, you need to know what they are and pick up on those influences, advertise in those places and talk about those things with your audience. Get a pen now and ask yourself - who is my target audience, how old are they, where do they shop, what is their budget, what can I do for them, what need can I fulfill. If your audience mainly reads craft blogs and zines, there is no point advertising in the Sunday newspaper for instance.

Your budget is not their budget
It took me awhile to learn this. What I think of as 'expensive' isn't necessarily expensive to someone else. And while I may have a set budget that I would spend on say my husband or sister for special occasions, other peoples budgets may be many times that. Don't assume. Offer a range of prices and prepare to be surprised by what other people spend.

Ask for what you want
I've heard this a lot recently and I can really relate. No one knows what you want unless you ask for it. It seems simple, but so many of us are reluctant to really ask for what we want. Like our budget not being everyone's budget, what we feel may be too much to ask may be a simple matter to someone else. Always ask for what you want. Better not to get it than to get something you don't want. There will be more opportunities.

Grow without debt
This was a big one for me. I wanted to be able to grow my businesses without going in to debt. This meant growing it slowly, and reinvesting the profit from each sale back in to the business in order to buy new tools, pay for packaging, invest in advertising etc. Though frustrating at times because things had to wait, not being able to impulse purchase has it's advantages. And not having debt is certainly less stressful.

Today's project: working on more 'Nature's Play' pendants with these interesting octahedral Fluorite gems. Apparently they fluoresce under ultraviolet light, and gave their name to the phenomenon of fluorescence. #gemstones #rocknerd #fluorite #instajewel

Love your clients
One of the first things I learnt working in a jewellery shop, and that has been proven to me time and time again is that it is easier to sell to someone you have already sold to than to find new clients. Yes, be working on expanding your client list for sure, but your previous clients should always come first. Give them great customer service, beautiful quality products, prompt replies to inquiries, personal follow up emails, and you will create life long customers who love what you do. What more could you want?! Offer them special discounts, keep them up to date with your collections, stay in their mind with a regular email newsletter, facebook posts or blog updates. Love your clients and they will love you.

Word of Mouth
It's an oldie but a goodie. In today's day and age, word of mouth means social media. When you send a thank you email after a purchase don't be afraid to ask your client to share photos of their purchases on their facebook page or instagram account and let them know that their word of mouth is the best advertising you have. If they are happy with your product and your service, they will be only to happy to share your details with friends and family.

Find a support network and a mentor
Your family and friends will get sick of hearing about your business. It's true. But if you can find yourself a support network of other small business owners who are at a similar stage to you, it is infinitely rewarding for all involved. Not only can you trade business tips and advice, you will have someone to bounce ideas off, show new products to and share in your successes. A mentor is one way of learning by example. You need not even know your mentor, it could be someone else in the same industry, someone you have read about or seen on tv. But it is a great idea to have someone to look up to, who inspires and encourages you to keep moving forward and aiming higher in your business.
I have three lovely friends that I call my 'craft brains trust.' While all of our businesses are completely different, we face similar situations and support and inspire one another through monthly catch ups, group emails and comments on Instagram.

Back in stock, 'Nature's Play.' A uniquely beautiful uncut octahedral Fluorite in a handmade sterling silver eight claw setting on a solid sterling silver cable link chain. :) #naturesplay #handmadejewellery #rocknerd #fluorite #instasmithy #instajewelryg
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