7 mistakes new handmade businesses make and how to avoid them

Are you committing these 7 common mistakes new handmade business owners make? Discover how to avoid them and click through to read the full post!

Happy 2018! Can you believe we’re at the end of January already?! During the Christmas/NY break I reflected over everything that happened in 2017, the lows, the successes, the mistakes and wins, it’s been 2 years since I finished my jewellery studies and started giving this business thing, a real crack! My, how time has passed so quickly, I realise I’ve learned so much but there’s still so much to learn. This year, I want the blog to become a place where more honest conversations are shared. Being a small business owner is a tough journey and we need more realness in our conversations, so we don’t fall into the comparison trap and feel crap if we’re not achieving massive success like we see others achieve. Besides, what gets shared on social is usually the best highlights, so don’t try and compare your path to someone else’s! Your journey is unique and special. Today I’m being honest and raw with you about the 7 mistakes new handmade businesses make (myself included) and how to avoid them.

 

For complete transparency, I’m sharing why I might earn some pocket money for some ice cream from this post… 🍦
Some of the links in this post are affiliate links which means I may earn some pocket money for ice cream (but not enough for a pug) if you purchase through these links. The pocket money I may earn will be at no additional cost to you. I’ve bought these products and currently use them in my businesses. I would never recommend anything to you my Nerd Burger friend that I haven’t found to be helpful for my businesses.

Mistake 1: Work by yourself and don’t build relationships

You’re the product of the 5 people you hang out with most. Does this sound familiar to you? But as a solopreneur, it can be super easy to work in a silo and not interact with anyone for the whole day (or even days) – especially if you’re working from home. For some introverts, this may sound like heaven and for a long time, this was me too. I loved to settle into my own groove, undisturbed and just smash out some work. Although I had done some collabs and kinda tried the networking thing and had seen some pretty cool wins come from it, it was never a consistent effort. But no more in 2018! Scouring through threads in the online entrepreneurial groups I’m in, I realise I’ve been missing out. On a lot. People were sharing their successes from collaborations, how their business had grown so much by being brave and reaching out to others consistently. So although, as an introvert, it may feel uncomfortable to be continuously reaching out or self promoting, but in reality, people do not take notice of you as much as you may think, you have to learn to get comfortable marketing yourself and your business and may take up to 7 times or more seeing your product until they’re ready to come to a buying decision. So if you’re not your own best cheerleader, who will be?

Don’t be afraid to reach out to others to collaborate too! Whether this is a physical shop, an online shop or even an influencer. They worst that can happen is that they say no right? In these entrepreneurial groups, there are loads of other people, hungry to collaborate and help. After all, we’re in this together! There’s no point being bitchy, snippy and pulling each other down, in an effort to lift ourselves up or make ourselves feel better. Work on your mindset and imagine the opportunities possible from a mindset of abundance. There’s plenty of space for all of us to succeed, so be generous and kind. You’ll never know when your generosity is repaid tenfold.

Search on Facebook for relevant entrepreneurial groups in your town/city – get active in the threads and be genuinely helpful, sharing your experiences and knowledge. Being kind and generous is 100% free and I’m sure other people within the group, would be more than wiling to pay it forward, shall there come a time, if you’re in need of some help. You’ll establish your authority as an expert in your niche. Whether you’re a wellness coach, a yoga coach or make beautiful and delicious cakes, people will be coming to you, because you’re well known in your niche for your expertise and skill! Sounds good yeah?

Surround yourself with like-minded individuals. As much as you may try to explain your business frustrations to your bestie, partner, family or friends – if they’re not hustling to build up a business, they will never be able to 100% empathise – because they’re not going through the same thing! But when you develop relationships with people who are trying to build up their business too, they’ll know exactly what you’re going through – even before you’ve finished your sentence. They. Just. Get. It.

I love Creative Womens’ Circle (and I was previously a Contributor for them – they run a bunch of cool events in different cities around Australia and have loads of awesome resources for creative business ladies) and Business Chicks’ events! I crewed with them for the 9 to thrive expo last year in Sydney. I had a total blast, helping out behind the scenes and I got to meet a tonne of cool like-minded ladies and catch a few speakers (Kayla Itsines!) speak! Highly recommend checking them out.

 

Mistake 2: Never ask for help

When you first start your business, it’s completely normal that you don’t know everything. Whether that’s learning to navigate how to use Etsy promoted listings, how to SEO your listings, setting up a website, product photography, graphic design, engaging with your target audience and growing your social media and building your email list. It’s totally OK to not know everything, yet a lot of the time we beat ourselves up over our ‘lack’, slaving away, scouring the internet for any bit of relevant information we can find – only to find a lot of stuff is now outdated or just fluff and we’ve just wasted a truckload of time and energy.

But if you just asked someone for help, it would cut down so much stress and wasted time. Whether this means trading your skills for someone else’s skills through an entrepreneurial networking group on Facebook like Like Minded Bitches Drinking Wine or asking for recommendations for X, Y, Z, reach out to your network and ask, because they could probably make a great recommendation that would save you hours and hours of research! And that means more time to actually get on with it. :)

‘Networking’ doesn’t have to be a dirty or sleazy word for Introverts. It could be as simple as reaching out to likeminded individuals through a Facebook group and building up your contacts and confidence behind the safety of your computer (haha!) Jokes. But as a serious introvert myself, let me tell you, it’s only when you’re out of your comfort zone, is where the magic happens, so look into going to a Meetup or two!

Perhaps the Facebook entrepreneurial group you’re part of, is hosting an event – attend! Making face to face connections is priceless and helps so much to put a real life face and voice to a name and picture. So challenge yourself, stay 30 mins, 1 hour – and just say hi to someone next to you. You never know where the conversation may lead and before you know, even though you were nervous in the beginning, you could be staying until the venue is closing and trying to kick you guys out and made some cool new biz friends!

If you’re based in Sydney, Mentor Walks Australia hosts a monthly event, where you can literally walk and talk with someone more experienced in business and share some nuggets of wisdom and it’s FREE!

Which brings me to the next point…

 

Mistake 3: Don’t invest in your yourself and your business

Now I get that money can be tight, especially when you’re just starting out. But seriously, if you’re not willing to spend money (even just small amounts) in the beginning, you’re setting yourself up for a lot of unnecessary work and wasted time, when really, if you had spent some money, you’d be able to reach your goals so much faster and move on to the next thing. I can speak from experience. For the longest time, even though I knew growing my email list should be a priority for my business, I was too cheap to invest in an email service provider that would grow with me (not just in the short term) but at least in the medium to long term.

So like a lot of others, I started off with Mailchimp because they offered a free plan for up to 2000 subscribers. Great! (Or so I thought.) Although the interface is cute and it feels good, when you send an email off and the monkey fist bumps you – in reality, as my business grew and became more complicated, there came a time where I needed more sophisticated tagging and automation features. So I was spending so much time ‘hacking’ Mailchimp and using all these complicated methods to try and tag subscribers according to their interests and complicated email automation sequences were doing my head in. Not to mention questionable deliverability issues which resulted in a lot of people not even seeing my emails, or the emails landing straight into people’s gmail promo tab or worse, being marked as spam by some email hosts. ICK!

When I finally realised I couldn’t keep doing this, because it was just way too time consuming and crappy for business, I made the scary decision to invest in Convertkit. As a relatively young business, it was hella scary knowing I’d have to keep paying a monthly fee for the service, but holy crap, after switching over it just makes list building and nurturing my audience and getting to know them, so, so freaking easy. If you’ve heard a lot about them, but you’ve been hesitant, I encourage you to at least go check out Convertkit to see what they’re about. They have some very affordable plans and makes email list building an easy walk in the park. Best decision to change over. You’ll be kicking yourself for not having invested sooner.

I hear a lot of handmade makers say that “because they’re not making many sales” they feel they “have no money to invest in their business and in themselves”, but this mindset is bad and is holding you back! You’re living in the scarcity zone. You’re afraid that any money going out the door will never return again and don’t trust that the goods or services you’re paying for will actually help your business be more efficient and free you up, so you can actually work on other things that will bring in the money! If you know you need money mindset help, you’re gonna love Denise Duffield Thomas’ book: Get Rich, Lucky Bitch. She will blow up your money mind blocks in no time!

So when you don’t know how to do something – ask someone to give you some pointers, invest in an online course or even coaching. Investing in education is never a waste, after all, you are your business’ best and most important asset! When someone else has been before you, gone through the hard yards and figured out a strategy that would get you from A to B – please, for the love of all things good and pure, spend that money and invest in that course. Whether you’re scratching your head and pulling your hair out, because you don’t know how to drive traffic to your website in hopes to generate sales or build your email list, skip the headache and the weeks, months, maybe even years of wasted time trying to figure it all out on your own. Instead, learn how to turbo charge your traffic and get excited and super targeted eyeballs to view your website with Pinterest through Pinfinite Growth by Melyssa Griffin.

Or if you’re struggling with Instagram engagement, finding your people online and growing your following to build your email list and generate more consistent sales, perhaps Hashtag Hero by Alex Tooby is the solution you’ve been looking for?

If money is truly tight, consider getting a casual or a part time job to fund your business. There’s no shame working for an employer whilst you’re building up your side hustle. But seriously – if you’re not willing to spend some dollars to make some dollars, maybe you should reevaluate whether or not you should even be in business. #toughlove

 


Loving what you’re reading and looking for some more amazing and FREE resources to grow your handmade business?

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Mistake 4: Build your social followings and forget about an email list

I’ve written extensively about this topic and as you may know, although social media is great for gaining exposure, you’re still building your empire on rented land. So what do you mean by ‘rented land’? You don’t own Instagram. You don’t own Facebook. You don’t own Pinterest. You don’t own any of your followers on your social media channels. You’re subject to ever-changing algorithms, forced to pay to play, your account could be hacked, you could be banned and you might never get it back for unknown reasons etc. But if you take the time to set up your systems in the beginning and be strategic in building an email list – it’ll be a game changer! I promise! The email list is yours. You’re in control. Whatever crazy changes happens in the social media world, you’re safe. Online platforms come and go, do you remember Geocities? Angelfire? Xanga and Myspace? Where are they now? But if you have someone’s email, you get to speak directly to them through their inbox, their own private space, without any distractions. If they’ve subscribed, they have invited you into their space and it’s rare people change their email addresses. So make the most of this personal invitation and treat their time and inbox space with respect by providing immense value each time you email them.

I personally love Convertkit and I’m so glad I moved from Mailchimp! I should’ve started on Convertkit in the beginning, because when I was migrating my list over, it was such a pain in the butt and took so long to change everything over, when that time and effort could’ve been better spent elsewhere! Even after days of what I thought was a complete migration, I’d still get email notifications that someone had joined my email list on Mailchimp and I had no idea where the rogue Mailchimp signup form on my website was! ARGH. And that mistake was because I was too scared to invest as little as $1 a day on my business. Silly right? Convertkit is so simple to use, intuitive and easy to track and tag my tribe, and send some cool email sequences to generate sales even whilst I’m asleep. #winning. (Best feeling ever waking up to new sales in the morning!)

So if you’re finally convinced you need to start building an email list, but have no idea how to – Your first $1k by Mariah Coz of Femtrepreneur is the Queen of list building. She’s helped thousands of students from all different niches including wellness coaches, yogis, physical product sellers and service providers, no matter what niche they’re in, she’s helped them build their list from 0 to 1000+ and a digital product that you can sell again and again in 90 days. She’s a genius and so generous in her free trainings and workshops, so you don’t need to imagine how much more kickass and detailed her paid content is – because I’m telling you, this course is FREAKING. WORTH. IT.

 

Mistake 5: Only multi task and never single task

As a solopreneur, I can understand how running a business can seem very overwhelming. Not only are you a maker, marketer, designer, accountant, tech support, graphics designer and goodness knows what else – it can feel like you’re being pulled and stretched in all sorts of directions. And as we’re living in a tech obsessed world, our smart phones are always 1 ding away from being a distraction, pulling us away from important work and before we know it, we’ve watched 6 hours of cute animal videos on Facebook when we originally were gonna have a “5 minute break”. You feel me?

So what I like to do, is plan. I use a Quarterly Excel planner to break down my quarterly goal into monthly, weekly and daily tasks that sets me on a path to achieve my goal. I know exactly what I should be doing everyday, that will take me baby steps closer to achieving my goals. There’s no more mad hustling day to day, doing things without an end goal in mind. Posting on Facebook for marketing’s sake. Throwing up a blog post with no connection to a larger strategy for blogging’s sake.

Check out the video below as I walk through the exact Excel Planner I use. Feel free to recreate the spreadsheet, otherwise, if you’re keen to save yourself some hours fiddling around in Excel, get your copy here and spend that time planning to smash out your goals instead!

On a daily basis, I open up my Excel planner where I’ve already populated my weekly tasks and map out the most important things I need to do for the day with a physical productivity planner. I’m obsessed with the Productivity planner by Intelligent Change and highly recommend you get it to stay organised, productive and inspired on a daily basis!

 

Mistake 6: In the beginning, expect that everyone will know or care about you

No one will know or care about you in the beginning. A bit harsh huh, but so totally true. As a newbie on the block, anyone who comes across your site may not have any reviews to go off of and in a way, buying something from you could be perceived as a bit of a ‘risk.’ But although in the beginning, it can be a little tricky to get the sales ball rolling there are other things you can do that would reduce the subconscious ‘risk’ associated with a purchase from you.

Be consistent. Whether this is adding new listings into your shop or posting on social media, if you keep showing up consistently, people will know what to expect from you. People like consistency and routine. They get confused and will not buy with a confused mind, if they never know what to expect from you and they can see that you haven’t added any new products or you post very sporadically on your social feeds.

As a business owner, it’s understandable that you’re attached to your business and your products. It’s your baby after all! But, in the beginning, no one will care about you or your business, unless your product can legitimately solve your customer’s problem. What’s in it for them? That’s all your potential customer cares about. Which is why, it’s so vital that you capture their email, so you can learn from them, in turn educate them, show that you understand their pain points and present your product as the solution to their problem.

Just because you make it or build it doesn’t mean they’ll come. A lot of makers start up their business, because they love to make. That part is obvious enough. But another facet of this, is that a lot of people make stuff and then magically think that people will come in flocks, clamouring over your goods and fight tooth and nail to buy your goods. Then you get disappointed that you’re met with the sound of crickets. Spend the time and figure out who your 1 dream customer avatar is. What does your target customer want? Do your market research. What’s popular now? What’s an emerging trend? What’s working for your competitors? Don’t copy them of course! What makes your business unique? Use your email list to really get to know the individuals in your tribe. If you keep nurturing your tribe, in time, they will tell you exactly what they want – content wise and product wise, then it just gets easier and will suck less or stop sucking altogether! Woop woop!

 

Mistake 7: Give up quickly on your small business dreams

Overnight successes rarely happen overnight, but rather over the course of many nights over many, many months, if not even years or decades. This can be a hard pill to swallow, especially if it seems like all you you hear or read about are all these seemingly ‘overnight’ successes online. Remember what I said in the beginning and not falling into the comparison trap? Don’t compare someone’s point S to your point B OK?Knowing and believing in the why behind your business will make all the difference. If you truly think it’s your life’s calling, this will keep you going, even when it gets tough and it seems like no one is listening to you and your business is making no progress. If something’s not working, learn to pivot.

Don’t chase the money. Money is just a byproduct of how well you’re serving your tribe. Keep blogging, keep posting on social, keep creating new products, keep networking with likeminded individuals etc. Measure and record everything with your Quarterly planner. Don’t be afraid to try new things and pivot. The old tried and tested methods, may not always be applicable and relevant in this increasingly more technological world we live in. Every step forward, is forward momentum that keeps growing your snowball. Your job is to keep pushing forward and growing the snowball, until it achieves critical mass. You never know when you’re just 1 product away or 1 collaboration away, where your whole business transforms. Keep believing in yourself and stay committed. The world needs more of your Nerd Burger Magic and is just waiting to show you off, you can do it! You’ve just got to stay committed to your cause. Good luck!

Holy dooley, this has turned into a mammoth post! I hope these insights have been helpful and insightful for you. I’d love to hear your thoughts. What’s been your biggest struggle or mistake so far? What’s been the biggest lesson you’ve learned since you started your business and your ultimate goal you want to achieve this year? Share your thoughts in the comments below and let’s chat!

 


Loving what you’re reading and looking for some more amazing and FREE resources to grow your handmade business?

Join The Nerd Burgers Resource Library!

Join and gain instant access to The Nerd Burgers Library for creative and handmade business owners, packed full of free worksheets, templates, cheat sheets and more to help you launch and grow your business!


Monica is a corporate cubical escape artist turned jewellery maker, designer and creative business infopreneur. She helps fellow artists, designers and makers launch and grow a handmade business they love.
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