On Wednesday, I celebrated my 3rd year anniversary being self employed! Hooray!
The time has literally FLOWN by, and I am so happy that I am making this work, and that the popularity for Dolly Cool is growing, and feel so lucky that I can do something that I love for my full time job!
I thought that I would share a few of my tips for helping you and your business grow, even in the current tough economic climate that we are in. I hope some of you find it useful! I will try and not repeat myself from last year’s post, which you may also find interesting, which is about starting a business in the recession.
And so on to my tips – remember that this is just my viewpoint on things. Feel free to add anything else you think is relevant in the comments!
1. Save Money
I cannot stress this enough. The best way to make money is to save money. You can NEVER have profit if you have debt. My dad told me that years ago, and he is right! I am by no means saying cheapen your product, I’m saying save where you don’t need to spend. Do you REALLY need that iphone4 that will cost you £45 a month? Do you REALLY need that fancy new laptop, or to spend 2 grand on a fancy new website or getting promo photos done? Ask yourself how can you reduce your everyday costs.
2. Embrace Social Media
If you are a small business owner, especially one with a web based presence, and you are not on social media sites, then not only are you missing out BIG TIME, but you are also a bit foolish! Social media platforms such as a Blog, Twitter and Facebook are an invaluable resource to market your products (for FREE I might add! – see point 1!) but they are also a great way to connect with your customers, and likeminded folk – many who are also in the same position as you. I cannot imagine that Dolly Cool would be what it is today without them, and I have met and kept in touch with so many lovely people from all over the world using social media. Free and Fun – what’s not to like?
3 Be Nice
The industry I am in (where the
is concerned anyway) – the Rockabilly/Alternative scene - is a small one. By doing shows and events you get to know other people who also trade at these events, and it makes sense to be friendly and get to know them. Even if they are directly competing with your product, it doesn’t matter. Its great to show up somewhere and be greeted with a friendly face! I also keep in touch with the people I have met on FB and Twitter, and its good to share forthcoming events and tips with likeminded people too. As I have quite a few years trading experience behind me (10 years since I did my first ‘craft fair’), I’m always happy to give advise to newbies on how they can help themselves and their business. Make sure you don’t share all of course! I NEVER reveal where I source my materials from, or how I make my products. General biz advise though – fine! We all have to start somewhere, and I have been given great advise by fellow traders in the past. UK
NEVER fight fire with fire, EVER. Never, ever. Not even if you get a really sh*tty email off someone. Take a break, walk away – and reply when you can be professional. Not that this happens to me hardly ever mind you – and its usually an oversees customer who is waiting for a shipment that is taking a while to arrive. If anything, be SUPER nice. I have even had people apologise for their rudeness after my super nice, super polite replies! Oh, and never slag your customers off on Social Media either. Remember that ANYONE can read those things, and you just look bitter, pathetic and very unprofessional. Really not a good look. Have a rant to your other half/dog/cat etc instead!
At the 1st Vintage Network Meeting
Kind of follows on from the social media thing, and making friends with fellow traders in your field. On social media, follow people who interest and inspire you, and also things such as – in my case – craft and design networking sites. You find out first about any business courses, and classes (sometimes free!) that can be of use, you can find out about shows that you might like to trade at, or attend first. Through networking I have met some really interesting people, joined a local Vintage Network Group – the opportunities arising from this in itself is really exciting – and also been invited to partake in photo shoots, met lovely people who model for me and appeared in magazines. Also promote others too in your field – but who are not direct competition with you or your business. Once you get the ball rolling you will be amazed at how quickly interesting things start coming your way!
6. Decide if you are an ‘I’ or a ‘we’
I know a lot of sole traders, who refer to themselves in the 3rd person. This makes the company appear bigger than it is, and is perceived to be more “professional”. In my case, I am always an ‘I’. This is because I am proud to be an individual designer/maker and I want people – retail and business customers alike – to know that I am an ‘I’. I am not, and will never be a big company - or a 'we'.That is because I don’t want to be and am happy to retain my exclusivity and supply individuals and small independent traders rather than big chain stores. Not that there is anything wrong with referring to your brand as ‘we’ – if you do this though, you need to be consistent. If you are a ‘we’ you need to make sure that everything you publish or have written about you is in the 3rd person, or you start to confuse people!
7. Support your local economy.
Everyone is struggling at the moment so support your local economy where you can. I may source my cool hairtie fabric from oversees (we just don’t have any cool fabric being produced in this country!), but for my sundries such as plain fabrics, threads and needles – I get them from my local haberdashers. Like wise my clays, varnishes, a jewellery findings – I get them from local places where I can. Hopefully the Karma will come back my way! J
Well, I think I have bored you all enough by now! I hope you found it useful!
Thank you all for reading my blog by the way, and your supportive comments on my sewing class post last week. Have a nice weekend y’all!