It Is With Great Pleasure To Welcome
'I Quit My Day Job'
Guest Writer Heather Hanson, Founder and Creator of
Heather and I met through a mutual friend, who was very enthusiastic about my approaching Heather to write an article for this blog series. I'm so glad she did! Heather is a gem to say the least! To find out more about this dynamic woman, you must read about her here - Heather has an abundance of experience as a business owner, and it's no surprise (with her uber-impressive background) that she is the successful entrepreneur she is today.
This article is not so much how Heather was able to quit her day job and work full time for herself (which she's done now for the past thirteen years!) - rather, this article is Heather's Top 13 'Dos' for those who have decided to pursue their dreams and transition from working a day job, to being self-employed.
Go get a cup of hot coffee, or tea (or diet cola) - and read this. I found it to be incredibly inspiring, and can't wait to share Heather's words of wisdom with you.
It's all about Creating Your Dream!
My name is Heather Hanson and I am the creator and founder of the Tell A Girlfriend Network! I have been a business owner for about 12 years, and if there is one thing I have learned for sure, it is that word-of-mouth testimonials from clients who have used your products is priceless! But beyond that, I also have to say that I believe that any woman who throws the dice and is willing to put herself out there in order to create her own business deserves to be celebrated!
Heather's Thirteen 'Dos' For Your New Business
1. Do NOT attempt to be all things to all people…. Back when I opened my first store a woman came in inquiring about a certain line of very expensive perfume from
she was dying to get her hands on. I
took her name and number and finally tracked down the product. Fifteen hundred dollars later the product
took up residence on my shelf, the woman was nowhere to be found and for a very
long time friends and family received the products as birthday presents,
holiday gifts, in their Easter baskets and more. A few special items to mix in with what you
originally wanted to sell creates diversity and gives your clients more
options, but if you suddenly find yourself carrying a line of pickles because
Courtney Customer asked for them, your clients are going to get very confused
and you are going to be eating a lot of pickles. Don’t
be afraid to bend your inventory a bit, but only when it makes sense for the
overall theme of your biz. England
2. Do develop a healthy relationship with social media….You might not have an instant love affair with Facebook but it is a necessity for getting yourself out there. I am always amazed by how many women in my network don’t have Facebook pages for their businesses. It’s not fun to sit on the computer all day, but it’s an effective and free way to build your audience and gain potential clients. Establish a presence on Facebook by posting one thing about your business every day. Provide links to your website, blog, and Etsy shop, post photos of your products, offer some advice about your service and let them know you’re out there. Do not go on 20 times a day telling your audience about the movie you saw, complaining about your business or rambling on about politics. Your business page is for business, keep it simple, keep it positive and keep them engaged! Don’t forget to get out there and LIKE other pages as well. You don’t need to have 5000 followers, instead focus on attaining an audience that is actually interested in what you have to offer. As with everything else, it’s about the “quality” of your followers and not the quantity.
3. DO make it personal and remember that YOU are your brand. If you’re not a people person you might want to re-think the idea of opening a store or launching a business that requires interacting with other human beings. Whether your business is online or bricks and mortar, the level of palpable appreciation you have for your clients makes all the difference. While you may have the most amazing cupcakes, at the end of the day your entire company is built on much more than how that cupcake tastes, it is about YOU connecting with people and appreciating the fact that they are purchasing and eating your cupcakes….these relationships are what keep them coming back for more. A minimal commitment of your time can absolutely make all the difference in the world when establishing client loyalty. When they buy your products, show your gratitude no matter how big (or small) the sale was. You should always say thank you by either sending a hand-written note in the mail (email is quick, but so much less personal) or by actually picking up the phone and simply calling let them know how grateful you are! When they walk in your store or come up to your booth at a festival, stop what you are doing and say hello…make eye contact….let them know that they matter whether they purchase something from you or not. Perhaps today they don’t have the money for your products, but maybe they’ve got 24 friends who do and you have a mere 30 seconds to make a first impression, be sure to use that time effectively. Word-of-mouth can make or break a business, be sure that the exposure you get is in celebration of what you have created and not because you ignored somebody.
4. Do not be afraid to toot your own horn. Your clients want to know what separates you from the rest of the herd, so don’t be afraid to tell them. Did a particularly beautiful sunset inspire your latest piece of jewelry? Tell them! Are your ingredients top of the line? Let them know! Have you been studying and training for your specific line of work for years? Don’t be afraid to share! You are the expert in your chosen line of work. You have toiled, practiced, rehearsed, and put your soul into your business, don’t be afraid to let them know.
5. DO your homework in regard to pricing… One of the biggest mistakes I see business owners make is pricing. Be certain that you know what the market can bear in regard to your particular product or service. The worst thing you can do is either be forced to hold constant sales in order to stay competitive, or even worse, have to increase your prices constantly because you forgot about all the hidden little costs that come with developing your product. If your clients begin to recognize that you are one of those companies that is forever putting things on sale they will eventually see no reason to pay full price. So shop your competitors, ask questions, pose as a client, do whatever you need to in order to find out what the going rate is for your particular product or service, and for heaven’s sake, don’t forget that your time is worth something too! A lot of us fail to remember that at the end of the day we need to pay ourselves and don’t leave enough room in the pricing to even buy ourselves a much deserved glass of wine. So, know your costs for every component of your business, even the ribbon you are tying your packages with can take away from your bottom line.
|The Ruby Slippers Company|
6. DO not expect every member of your family and all of your friends to line up with their wallets open in a show of support…. I owned a very successful cosmetic company for 10 years and yet, my mom is convinced that the Maybelline eye shadow she has worn for 20 years is far better than anything I could ever have created. My sister-n-law thinks my art work is “cute,” but not “art.” My other sister-n-law spends most of her free time on facebook and yet has never LIKED my network facebook page. Don’t take it personally if they are not lining up to buy your cards, cookies or widgets. It is what it is, and if you’re planning to build a business merely on referrals from family and friends, think again. They may love you unconditionally, they may come to your grand opening and eat your free food, but it is not their job to do your advertising for you. Get out there and create your audience, establish a fabulous reputation and loyal client base because they WANT to support you, not because they feel obligated.
7. Do know your competition. While no companies are exactly alike you should become familiar with who else is out there doing something similar. Are you prices competitive? Is your quality up to par? Before having 500 business cards printed, creating an expensive sign for your storefront or labels for your bags, have you checked to make sure the name of your company is not trademark or copyright protected? Is the domain you want for your company available or is someone already using it? Does the company with products similar to yours have a bigger mouth than you in regard to marketing their company? If so, better get a megaphone. We all like to believe that our products are the most fabulous, the most unique and in demand, and while I’m sure that yours are, it is always best to know what is already out there so that you can stay one step ahead of your competition.
8. Do not spend your hard earned money on expensive advertising, networking groups and pricey websites. There are plenty of effective and affordable vehicles for getting your company the exposure that it deserves without having to take out a second mortgage on the house. Be creative. Many magazines will charge upwards of $500 for a mere business card size ad. And while they may have a circulation of 10,000, most people will only read that magazine once which means you’ve just spent all that money in the hope that your ad will grab their attention the first time the readers sees it. As far as networking groups go, your first meeting might get you a few new clients, but if the same people are showing up month after month, how are you really expanding your reach? If its support you’re looking for, or a way to make friends there are a plethora of online communities that won’t cost you a dime and are filled with amazing people who can’t wait to meet you! Website hosting companies have come a long way, and while you might not have the time or interest in building your own site, it is imperative that you establish some sort of an online presence even if it’s just a simple page with a few photos, a description of your biz and contact information. Keep in mind that nobody can sell your brand as well as you can, so it’s worth looking into DIY sites. Companies such as Network Solutions, Wix and several others will offer very inexpensive web hosting plans, shopping cart service, easy to navigate templates and even web design that won’t break the bank. Your website is often the first impression a potential client will have of your company so it is worth putting a little time into letting them know who you are and giving them a way to share your company with others!
9. Do remember to send press releases about your biz to all local papers, magazines, bloggers, social organizations etc. A simple bullet point page including who, what, when, where and why is worth its weight in gold. Local papers are always looking for feel good stories about local entrepreneurs but they can’t write about you if they don’t know you exist. There is loads of amazing and free information online when it comes to writing an effective press release. Do your homework and you just might find yourself splashed across the pages of your local publications! Free press is fabulous!
10. Do not donate freebies to every organization that contacts you for their fundraiser. It sounds terrible, but if I had a nickel for every gift basket I gave away hoping to gain some new clients while simultaneously being philanthropic I would be swimming in Jimmy Choo shoes as far as the eye could see. Pick your donations wisely and remember that you paid for every item you are giving away and that money comes out of your bottom line. Think about the last time you received a gift bag from a fundraiser you went to….the free product was fabulous, the coupons were generous, and all those business cards were very pretty, but did you actually take the time to find out more information about all of the companies that gave you the products or information that you received? Probably not. Generosity in a wonderful thing and is absolutely part of building and branding your business, but if the people attending the event are not your target demographic then all the freebies in the world won’t make one shred of a difference or bring you new clients. Choose carefully and wisely!
11. Do not attempt to do everything on your own. The fastest way to burn yourself out is when you attempt to be accountant, PR person, web designer, graphic designer, buyer, and sales person. Instead, do a little research, ask a lot of questions, and know that there are myriad of local small business organizations in your area that offer free assistance in a wealth of difference areas of expertise.
12. LOCATION LOCATION LOCATION…..You’ve heard it all before, but I can tell you from experience that it’s worth repeating; location truly is EVERYTHING. It’s very easy to find loads of empty spaces just waiting for your business. The low rent might be amazing, the parking might be fantastic, but if your potential shop is in the middle of a ghost town, there is a shop with a similar theme nearby or there are lots of empty storefronts up and down the street, then even the cheapest rent is not going to help sustain your business. So be sure you do a crazy amount of homework about the potential space you are looking for and if the perfect location means you’re over-extending your budget, then you might want to figure out a way to establish your business a bit before signing that three year lease.
13. Do remember why you wanted to start your business in the first place…. The responsibility that comes from owning your business can at times, be daunting. But at the end of the day, you created a product or service that you could not wait to share. You were so excited about showing it to the world that you couldn’t sleep at night. The passion you have had for your business is what prompted you to move heaven and earth to get to this place of entrepeneurship…. Be proud of what you are doing, be excited about what is coming next, enjoy every twist and turn along the way, celebrate even the tiniest victories and no matter what, know that you have already succeeded!
You took a leap of faith where others might have not been so bold, you made your dream into something tangible and for that reason alone,
you are already an amazing success!
* * * * *
To find out more about the fabulous Heather Hanson and Tell A Girlfriend Newtwork, click on the following links:
Facebook: Tell A Girlfriend Network
Website: Tell A Girlfriend Network
Heather's Creative Website
Facebook: Tell A Girlfriend Network
Website: Tell A Girlfriend Network
Heather's Creative Website
**If you know / or are someone who left their day job to pursue a full time creative business, and would like to be featured on my blog, please contact me: firstname.lastname@example.org***