I am in Chicago today so I am so happy to have Grace from Paper, Love & Dreams here to share three pieces of small business advice.
I want to thank Regina for letting me share some of my knowledge with all of you lovely people today, it is a real honor to be featured on a blog that I admire!
So let's get rolling! My name is Grace Anderson, and I run a boutique printing studio called Paper, Love & Dreams in the ever so foggy Bay Area, where I create everything from greeting cards and thank you notes, to custom wedding supplies like stamps and invites.
I have been working in artistic jobs since I was 14, when I began working in my family's photo studio after school. These are some of the lessons I have picked up along the way, that I believe have helped make my current business a success.
1. You can't (and shouldn't) please everyone.
This one is probably the most important thing I could tell any creative entrepreneur. A huge part of creating a successful business is finding your niche. I have a background in photography, oil portraiture, graphic design, and home decor design, as well as being more inclined towards calligraphy and ink based illustration. You will notice that my store only offers what I feel I am best at, and what I enjoy the most- printing and writing in ink. This is no accident, and doesn't mean I haven't tried to make money off of every other thing on that list.
Over the years I have learned that my happiest clients are the ones who I worked most in sync with, that is to say, they like my design, and understand my prices. The people who have given me the most trouble have been people who want everything for nothing, and would like me to rip off some trendy design or other. I'm not against trends, but I am really really good at being me, not so good at being anyone else. So when people ask me why I don't offer x, y, or z, or tell me that with my pricing I won't make any sales, I just shrug it off. The people who tell me that are simply not my target market, and that's ok with me. There are plenty of people who like me, they really like me (or my products, whatever)!
2. It takes a lot more work than just making your product.
Have you ever seen the Producers? If so, you'll be familiar with their marketing plan, which is roughly 'Step 1: Find the worst play ever written.. Step 2: ?? Step 3: PROFIT!'. The good news for the handmade marketplace, is that it really is a 3 step process (once you make your wonderful products). The bad news? it's a lot more work than just raking in a profit (and it can't be awful). Success is not for the faint of heart! So what is this secret trifecta that will bring you to the sunny seas of success? Simple: Solid branding, great photography, and a real marketing strategy.
Very quickly, what does this all mean? If you don't know your brand, then you don't know what you're selling, or who you're selling it to! For some great advice on branding, I highly suggest reading Attract and Feed a Hungry Crowd by Tea Silvestre.
The second key to your success is faithfully representing your product through photographs, this means clean, in focus, and correctly colored photos of your product, sorry babies, but Instagram won't fly if you want to go big.
Thirdly, a real plan for marketing doesn't just mean throwing up a Facebook page and Twitter account and just leaving it there. You need to interact with your followers, and grow your audience by offering more valuable information that what you had for breakfast, or that you're having a sale. There are a lot of great marketing resources online, and tons of blogs that can help you figure it all out. I suggest Firepole Marketing, and ThinkTraffic.net.
3. It will never work if it isn't what you love.
This sounds like a pretty 'duh' statement, but it's so true. It is easy to fall in the trap above, of trying to be everything to everyone. If you are turning out product that you aren't passionate about, that will show. When you are creating product that makes you happy, that will show too!
So spread the joy, find your niche, and market your sassy little butts off!
For more advice, DIY's, and other fun tidbits, check out my blog, and become a fan of PL&D on Facebook!
Thanks Grace! I really love number two. You cannot please everyone all the time, so be true to yourself and value what you do.
For more small business advice, check out the rest of my Handmade 101 posts.