Hey guys it’s Andi from madebyandi.com…  A regular question I’m asked by new small business owners is how to start their business off with a bang. What do they focus on? What do they need to know? And how do they become successful?

The answer to this question is tricky as there are many important factors to consider including the type of product you’re selling, your price point, the type of audience you want to attract, your own passions as a small business owner and how much time do you want to focus on your business.

I’ll share some suggested areas to start to get you thinking. These areas are not just for new business owners, it is important to go over them as a regular refresher at any stage of your business. I personally like to review them every couple of months or so.

Priority One: Creating Great Products That Sell

Without a doubt, this is always going to be your priority #1. Creating products that you enjoy making is one thing, but are they selling? Here’s a way to merge your love of making and selling!

So here’s the plan, test the waters first: When you’re first starting out, you might be beginning with 1 or 2 products. That’s totally okay. And actually that’s really smart. This way you can test the waters to see if your customers are responding to the products or not. This is one thing I learned the hard way – assuming that people will buy just because I think my product is awesome – I create a huge batch of printed pouches which ended up taking me many many months to clear out – ever been there? Your customers might not be in to your products in the way you are. That’s okay, you just need to learn how to read your customers.

If you have a new product you’re launching and you really don’t know how people will respond to it, test the waters first to see how it does. If you’re a creative, sign up for a Market Collective. The goal here is really to see how your product does and not about profits off the bat (although if you do make lots of money, then kudos to you). At the market it’s important to really pay attention to what people are doing with your product – how are they responding to it? Do they pick it up? Do they talk to you about it? Do they buy? Are they buying too quickly? (maybe your price is too low). Do some tests too, try different arrangements on your table throughout the duration of the show to see where your table “hot spots” are. These are places that people will automatically have their eye drawn to on the table. Those are great places to put your best sellers or your test products. You might also want to try experimenting with the pricing of the product as well. If your product is too low in price some people might think theres something wrong with it. And if it’s too high, they might also not buy. There’s always a magic spot for pricing – it’s your job to experiment and see where this is.

Product Failure: Sometimes it’s easy to create something that might be ahead of it’s time or just not something that people want to buy. At this point, I think many people get discouraged and quit. I’ll let you in on a little secret though, every business has had failed products! Here are the questions you need to ask yourself when this happens, and trust me, at some point it will happen to everyone: What are some reasons they might not be buying? Again, start analyzing how people are reacting to your products. Is it the display? Is it the price? Is it the product itself? You might have to reassess whether the product is working or not with your business. If you have a failed product, or a failed show, this is not the time to give up. This is the time to start experimenting with ways to reinvent and adapt!

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Priority Two: Working ON your business and not just IN it

When you’re first starting out, it can kinda feel like you’re walking blindly in your business and not really knowing what to do. Well, you need a plan.

Before you even begin working in your business, you should start working ON your business. What does this mean? It means, thinking about the big picture. An example of working in your business is the day to day stuff. Things like making your products, shipping them out, marketing tasks, customer service etc. Working ON your business is thinking about ways to move it forward in the bigger picture.

In the beginning you might not know what that is just yet, which is totally okay. You might be content with just doing a bunch of local art markets this year and seeing how that goes. If that’s the case, make a plan for this. Which markets do you want to sign up for? What are the application due dates? How much do you need to put away for each table fee?

But take a second and imagine your business a year from now – What does it look like? What outcomes do you want from it? What products are you selling? Are you making everything yourself or do you have help? Thinking about the bigger picture will help to give you a better plan for today.

Priority Three: Sit down and make a 4 page business plan

Even if you’re just starting out and doing your business part-time, sitting down for an afternoon or two at a coffee shop and getting these things figured out will really help you to understand what you’re doing and why your doing it. You will make better decisions in the future for your business as well. This will help you to understand what’s right and what isn’t for your biz and what it stands for. And yes, I am referring to creating a business plan. It’s up to you how long it needs to be. If you ever want to apply for a loan for your business, your plan needs to be a lot more in depth than the one I’m asking you to make today. But if you’re just creating one for yourself, I’m going to recommend 2-8 pages will do the job (mine is 4 pages). You can always elaborate or edit your plan in the future too. In fact, I recommend that you do.

Business Plan step one: Create a manifesto // A manifesto is basically a glamorous word representing your brands motives and intentions. How do you want your brand to be perceived by others? It’s important that you have a clear description for your customers to understand what you’re all about. What do you make? How do you make it? What’s unique about you and your work?

Business Plan step two: Memorize that new manifesto and form it in to casual conversation language // Have you ever been in a situation where you’re meeting someone – someone who has a “real” job (well, you know what I mean here) – and they’re asking what you do, and you don’t know how to answer them!? Instead of answering confidently, “I’m a creative entrepreneur! I make {insert your product here},” you clam up and say something super vague, with an insecure tone, and then try to change the subject quickly? Guaranteed that person you just met feels like you think your job isn’t good enough. Therefore they’re gonna think the same thing. And this is why it’s so important that you memorize your manifesto so that you can say this with confidence!

“I’m a creative entrepreneur/designer/artist/awesome person/etc! I make {insert your product here}”

Business Plan Step three: Creating an invisible customer friend // A lot of creatives do not know who their target customer is. And actually, I went the first two years in my business not knowing my target customer! Looking back on this, I think it’s just crazy I did that for so long! You can get by not knowing who you ideal customer is, but you will have a much stronger brand if you start to implement this now, trust me. Your brand will become more memorable and not get lost in the shuffle of other artists/designers. This will also help you to get more cohesive with your collection of products.

Having a target customer can be a bit confusing because you think, “Well aren’t all buyers that support handmade goods my target customer?” Yeah, this is kinda true, but there are many different types of people that shop for handmade goods both locally and online. But amongst those handmade lovers, there are so many different styles and personalities. You want to target a niche within them so that you can create a stronger identity and not look wishy washy with your branding. When you are all over the place with branding, you instantly become unmemorable. It’s like the kiss of death.

Business Plan step four: Defining who your Competitors are // So, who do you think your top 2-4 competitors are? These are the people selling products that are very similar to yours. But first of all, what does top competitors even mean? Well, it’s the creatives that are similar to you in product style and you see them selling lots and getting a lot of views. Usually, they are more established. They’ve probably been selling for at least a little while. Do you know them already? Think about them both locally, and online. If you don’t, that’s totally okay, it’s time to figure it out.

Business Plan step five: Do your Research // What legal business information do you need to be aware of? For example, business registration, insurance, tax information, bookkeeping, etc. Do some research and figure this out. This is will be different for you than it is for me, and I’m not a lawyer or an accountant so I’m not going to go in to detail here.

Priority four: Start getting comfortable with the uncomfortable

Starting your own business is going to be full of scary moments. There will be lots of things that make you feel uncomfortable because they’re new and currently out of your comfort zone… get used to it. This never goes away. Success happens when you are constantly pushing yourself and feeling “unsure.” Take leaps of faith, challenge your whole being, and never stop learning. Click here to read more about the comfort zone struggles in my own business and life tips you can use for yourself here.

Priority five: Define & Design your products personality (aka. Branding)

If you could describe your product as a personality, what would it be? Here’s some examples: girlie, masculine, bohemian, flirty, streamlined, modern, understated, beautiful, etc etc. Try to come up with three words that would describe your brand. Now, write them down. Got it? Ok, awesome.

Now, what visuals come to mind with those three words? What colors make you visualize those words? What about a style of font? One thing I really like to do is start to pull images off of my pinterest that go along with these words. They may not have anything to do with what my brand yet, but they start to evoke an emotion. I pull fonts I like, designs and layouts, logos, colors, fashion, and clothing styles of people that might buy my product. Then I put them all together in a photo collage to give me an idea of what I want my branding to look like for my business. Now that you have this, stick to it and don’t sway from it. A cohesive idea of branding is so important to your product – this is how people are able to remember you visually! Some of the main visual rules I like to stick to with branding are: use only 1-3 fonts in all of my visuals, use 1-3 colours in all of my visuals, and less is more – try not to get too complicated with things, it’s usually better that way.

So now that you know the 5 key areas to focus your time on, it’s time to get started on acting on them. Grab a piece of paper and make some quick notes on these areas and which ones you need to focus more on. If you found this article useful, then you might want to also sign up for my free business newsletter.

Hope you enjoyed this and I’ll be back with more cool tips for your business real soon!

xx, Andi


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