8 Lessons From My First Year of Business

This month marks my business turned 1, so I want to share with you 8 lessons from my first year of business.

Yep, I made it to the 1 year mark, and I am so stoked that I made it. I feel like all business owners hear the stories of not many making it through the first year. Interestingly in Australia the stat is 14% of new businesses call it quits before hitting the 1 year mark.

This is much lower than the 70% rumor I heard when I first started my business. Perhaps this exaggerated stat was confused with another country like America or the UK, or perhaps it’s after 3 years of running a business? (- I still can’t find this stat, who knows?)
Either way, us Aussie are a dedicated and hard-working bunch – and I know, the new business rollercoaster is real, and has tested me constantly this year. You really get tested on how much you want to run your own business, that’s for sure.

If you’re on this rollercoaster currently and are experiencing the highs and lows of entrepreneurship, keep holding on! After a year of the ups and downs, I still haven’t been able to get off of this crazy ride. Instead I’m crafting how those tracks are laid (a.k.a. creating the life I want).

This entrepreneur life will test your mental strength daily, so I thought I’d share with you what I’ve learned in my first year of business and 8 lessons I’ve learned this year, kept me motivated and enjoying the process of running a business.

So here they are, the 8 lessons I’ve learned in my first year of business:

1. Location matters

Starting my business I thought working from home would be great. I could sleep-in, wear my pj’s for most of the day, eat when I wanted and make my own business hours. In my mind it was going to be super chilled and I’d pump out the work like a queen.

But after a couple of months of working from my bedroom or coach it became a nightmare. I rarely left my apartment, I barely moved or ate or drank anything (apart from coffee) – I was not in a good way.

My four walls started to get claustrophobic, yet at the same time my anxiety levels were super high and I felt like I couldn’t leave my flat. I was stuck.

During this phase, I told one of my best friends what was happening, and she suggested I should work from a library, café or co-working space.

As I had very little money (#smallbusinesslife), so I looked up all the libraries in the Melbourne area, and discovered they not only have a table I could work from but free wifi too!
I’m not going to lie, it changed everything for me. My anxiety lessened because I was away from those four walls that had been smothering me. I also didn’t have to hunch over my laptop either, like I did when I was working from my couch.

I now mix it up by working from many different libraries all over Melbourne, local cafes and next year I plan to invest in working from a co-working space.

These different environments allow me to be way more productive than working from home.

2. Exercise

I mentioned before how my anxiety spiked when I started my business. Well, exercise has been my saviour.

Whenever my mental health has strayed away from the norm, I go on a walk. If I am doubting myself, I have a bad case of comparison, or if I’m not feeling creative, I put on my runners and hit the path.

I am not a runner by any means. I walk. I walk everywhere. I’m lucky enough to live near beaches, rivers and beautiful parks.

I have made it a habit to walk the long way to wherever I need to go, getting into nature or near it and get my heart-rate up. This way, I get a minimum 30 minute walk in before I start working, have a meeting or catch up with friends.

After these walks I feel like a reset button has been hit and I’m motivated, focused and clear on my goal for the day. All the hard tasks I’ve been stressing about now seem possible and achievable.

3. Good Tunes

If you haven’t curated a motivational playlist for when you’re on your way to work or for while you’re working in a communal space, do it now.

Most days I am dancing and singing along to my different playlists. I have playlists for motivation, focusing or relaxing.

For example, if I need to concentrate I’m not going to play Destiny’s Child ‘Survivor’, because I’ll be singing all the lyrics to that song, I need something along the lines of Hermitude or Petit Biscuit, something with minimal lyrics and an upbeat tempo to keep me focused and motivated.

I find the right type of music cheers me on to work harder and faster, than without music.

It’s also great as you’re getting ready for your day. I’m not a morning person so if I have a good beat it gets me moving much faster. It’s also great when I go for a walk before starting work.

What tunes come to your mind that get you moving? Create a Spotify account and start creating a playlist for your work day.

4. Grit/Tenacity

I feel this is possibly an American phrase, but if you want to start a new business, you will need some of this. Simply it’s defined as “courage and resolve. Strength of character” (- thanks google).
To me it’s not being defeated when you’re hit with daily problems, instead being resourceful and finding an answer or a way to fix the problem.

Small business life is not all sunshine and rainbows (no matter how good it looks on Instagram). There are many days over this past year that I have questioned if I’m cut out for small business life, but I must be stubborn because I keep going.

Perhaps another definition for grit is being mentally strong enough to keep going no matter how hard it gets, and believing in your business idea when know one else does.

Small business life has shook my confidence, finances and my approach to hard situations. And I’m not going to lie, if I didn’t have the tenacity or grit to push through those hard times, I would have packed my (metaphorical) bags pretty early on.

5. Social Media

Just like networking, social media has been a great source of leads and sales. But also like networking, the more you show up, the better the results you’ll get.

In contrast to this, social media has also been a source of much comparison and anxiety. And for that reason, I’d advise any business owners to put daily limits on your social media usage.

As I am writing this I haven’t posted on Instagram, Facebook or Pinterest in 3 months. I have been stuck in a “who am I” paradox of not sure if I am being myself, my brand or what my customers want/need. I’m putting this down to information overload and searching to find clarity – I’m in my first year afterall, I feel like these moments are going to happen and I shouldn’t put so much pressure on myself, right.

So if you find yourself in the same position, be kind to yourself. You’re just starting out and trying to find what works for you and your business. Don’t feel the need to be like anyone else. And not to be cliche, but you do you.

In 2020, I plan to only post during work hours (Mon-Fri between 9am – 5pm) and during these times I will restrict how long I’ll engage with my community, and what times during the day (e.g. 20 mins at 9am, 1pm and 4pm).
I hope I’m able to, because when I do I get such a lovely response from other small business owners, networks and friends.

6. Networking

This old school technique is one I need to work on the most (#introvertanxiety), but surprisingly it’s been the one that’s gained me the most business.

I have found that when I network and meet people face-to-face I make sales easily verses email or social media.

I found many online and offline groups like Meetup, Business Chicks, LMBDW, and other paid female-based networking groups (my businesses target market). Think about what networking groups would be supportive for you and your business?

The mantra I’m going to use for 2020 is “move towards what scares you”, so for 2020 I have decided to networking like a crazy person in order to attract more business, create new business networks, and get my business to the next-level.

7. Niching

When I started my business I thought this was crazy. Why would I turn clients away? I wanted to help as many small business owners as I could.

And then I got my first bad client, and the case for niching hit me *palm-face*. This is why niching your business is so important, so you don’t waste your time on someone who doesn’t appreciate or respect your hard work (a.k.a your blood, sweat and tears. Literal tears).

My hardest lesson was, you’re not always going to be everyone’s cup-o-tea (the people pleaser side of me took a long time to accept this). Instead, look for clients who love your work, the ones who are super excited to work with you and share the same values as you do.

So from one business owner to another, please take note of the clients you enjoy working with. Understand what it is about these clients that make it enjoyable for you? And if there’s a common thread between these client experiences, make these lovely humans your new niche.

8. Gratitude

Gosh this is a good one, it makes such a big impact on my day, outlook and vibes I put out into the world.

Daily I try to be grateful for my life, but there are definitely days I’ve forgotten to be grateful for the opportunities I’ve been given, and my life seems dull and grey.

So, let’s get the ball rolling on gratitude. I am grateful for this beautiful country I live in, the opportunity to start my own business, for the resources I have to build it (laptop, phone, notepad, wifi, Spotify, Keepcup, libraries to work from, and my backpack – so I can carry my life with me between my home and workspace, like a little turtle).

If I’m in the afore mentioned anxiety spiral, gratitude makes me stop and laugh off all the crazy thoughts circulating my mind and allows me to realise that I’m actually doing better than okay.

If you have a roof over your head, food in your fridge and the ability to feel safe throughout the day than you have a lot to be grateful for.

 

Share with me in the comments what your biggest takeaways from this post was? And what you’ll do in 2020 to make it your best year yet? Or join the community of wonderful business owners on Facebook or Instagram.

What To Do First, Create a Website or Branding?

When it comes to starting a business where do you start? This is one of the most commonly ask questions I get from small business owners, and it’s a very valid question.

I have seen posts debating whether investing in branding or a website, is the most important tool. I don’t want to give you a biased opinion so I’m going to talk about both of them and what each of them does. So hopefully, by the end of this post, you can make an educated decision on which you should invest in first for your business.

Having a Website Vs. Getting Branding

So let’s jump in “Is it important to have branding or a website first when starting your own business?”. This is such a complex question. Both of these elements are just as important as each other, but it got me thinking…
Which is the most important to invest in first? It’s like asking that age-old question “What comes first, the chicken or the egg?”. Legit! Some people are going to differ in their opinions to which is more important.

It’s actually a silly thing to compare because I truly believe they’re both crucial to the success of each other!

What Is This Branding Business Anyway?

Most people see branding as having a good company logo, but I believe branding is so much more than a pretty little icon. When you get branding done correctly, it’s magic!

Great branding evokes emotion when you come into contact with a company. Don’t believe me? think of Coca Cola for a moment, what do you instantly think of? can you see the bright red can, and bubbly brown soda, sweet delicious taste mixed with caffeine… How does it make you feel? Happy? energetic? Cool? – because all the cool kids drink coke, right? …Coca Cola did all that with great branding!

For a moment think about your favorite company. What is it about them that makes you like them? How do you feel when you think of them? Now, do you see the power of branding?

Why Am I Talking to You About Branding?

Because being online and having a brand go hand in hand. Good branding shows your company’s personality. While a website shows customers how, what, where your customers can find information about your business and understand exactly what you can offer them.

If I break it down, a website without a brand can still be beautiful, SEO optimised and be a professional platform for your customers to visit.

On the other hand, if you do decide to invest in getting brand marketing first, you can create a beautiful purpose-driven company with a specific voice that connects with your audience.

And if you’re at a crossroads because you choose one but not the other, consider putting money aside so you can invest in the other element. It’s important to ensure both online and offline marketing is consistent in its style and messaging. Otherwise, your poor customers will become so confused that they’ll end up taking their business elsewhere, which is not the outcome we want!

So Which Comes First, A Website Or Branding?

In summary, branding is great. Having a website is great too. You just have to prioritise what is most important to you and your customers at this moment in time. After reading this I’m sure you can see that both branding and having a website are just as important as each other.

Do you see our chicken and egg scenario? What are your thoughts on branding verse being online? I’m interested in hearing your thoughts, leave a comment below or send me a message on Instagram or Facebook. ☺

Why Websites Are Important for Business

Call me biased, but marketing your business online in 2019 is essential for it to grow. If you are a small business owner and do not have a website, you are missing out on a lot of customers finding your business!
…But don’t worry, I’m here to advise you on why a website is important for your business and the different online marketing tools out there. At the end of this blog, you will be able to choose the right strategies for you and your business!

I understand, learning how to market your business can be super confusing. There are so many ways to do it! There are books, blogs, podcasts and influencers who tell you to use a particular platform but not actually tell you why you should use that platform for your business. Don’t get me wrong, all their advice is probably right, but I’m here to tell you why.

This year I have made it my mission to give you easy-to-read marketing advice, so your business can thrive in 2019! This marketing advice will breakdown what each tool does so you can decide which platform or tool is right for you and your business.

Where to start? Well, I’ve put together some key points on what I think is the most important online tool, a website!
Why is it important to have a website? Let me tell you…

1. A website creates trust between your customers and your business. When a customer first comes in contact with your business, via Google search, an advertisement or your physical store, their next step is to research your brand.
Customers will research brands before they decide to make a purchase. The research stage is a crucial stage for your business because this is when customers want to learn more about your business and what it can offer them. This interaction with your business is where customers gain trust and decide whether to purchase your product or service.
If a customer researches your brand and finds no online presence, they will be less likely to purchase a product or service (KPMG, 2019).

2. A website is a professional platform where customers are able to gain a detailed understanding of your products or services. You can also show your customers what your business brand is all about. Show some character, give them your best marketing pitch and tell them why your products or services differentiate from other businesses. Allow your customers to connect with your business brand and establish a relationship with it. Again, you are creating trust with your customer.

3. Where there’s a website, there can be Google Analytics. This will be your business’s secret weapon! It can give you demographics on who your customer is, how they found your business, what words they searched and what device they used to find your business.
This will strengthen your marketing strategy because you will begin to understand who your customers are an how to attract them to your business. Once you have gained this knowledge you can fuse the customers’ likes and interests into your marketing campaigns. Warning: You may fall in love with Google Analytics! – I did.

4. Websites are also a great place to sell your products or services. If you are a small business owner selling handmade jewellery, beauty products or an ebook, your business website is the best place to sell these items. Customers can easily purchase these items without leaving the comfort of their homes. Convenience is every!

If after reading this you’re thinking “I can’t afford a website right now!”, that’s okay. You can easily create a business social media page and gather a following until you have the money to invest in a website. Websites are important, but having your business online is better!

I hope you have gained some understanding of why all businesses, big and small, should have a website. My next few blog posts will focus on how to get customers to visit your website. If you have any requests for a particular subject, please send me an email or submit a comment below. See you back here soon!

Why I’m Starting My Own Business

Hello and welcome to my very first blog post!

I thought I would begin by explaining what prompted me to start my own business and why web design and digital marketing?

I’m a nerd. I love to learn, and code always seemed to be that one subject that was intriguing but also super intimidating to learn. You have to be super smart to write code and build websites, right?

Well, maybe when it comes to the super complex websites, but learning to code is no harder than learning a language – you don’t even have to know it fluently, you just have to know the basics and build from there.

This is how I started, I learned HTML first, then CSS, next was Javascript, and now I code in PHP too.

Where did this all start? I would have to admit it was MySpace, *cringe*. I remember being 16 and building my profile using lines of code I had learned or copy code from a design I liked. I would customise my page (sometimes weekly) changing the background, my profile picture, adding my new favourite song, adding marquees and even changing the cursor icon.

Six years later, I joined an online product team. I was the go-to person for the tourism community, I upload their business information, give them search engine optimisation tips and tricks, content marketing advice and provide analytics reports. I’m not going to lie, this job piqued my interest in web design …but the thought of me being a coder seemed impossible, and laughed that thought right out of the room.

A year later I became unemployed and decided the best thing to do was to go traveling. I already had friends traveling the world who encouraged me to meet them in Argentina to start a tour of South America. During my time backpacking I become poor, I mean very poor! So I did what all broke backpackers do, worked in my hostel for a free nights accommodation.

My job was to clean the hostel, you know, sweep floors, clean rooms, make beds, that kind of thing. While another backpacker, experienced in web development, earned his money by updating the hostels website. Here I was, breaking my back cleaning this hostel and he did a couple of hours ‘tinkering’ with a website?! This was my motivation. I needed to learn code.

Once arriving back in Australia it took me two years to complete my study of Front-end Web Development and WordPress Development. Once they were completed, I left my job and I decided to start my own business (because who wants to work in an office, when you can work from home? Am I right?).

Now you’re probably thinking I am crazy. Who leaves full-time employment to start their own business, shouldn’t it already be thriving before taking the leap? Yes is the answer to all of those questions! But honestly, I had a now or never moment. Either I would leave my job a start my career in tech, or I would never start and the last two years studying would be for nothing.

Noticing a gap in the market to help small business owners, I wanted to start there. I live in Richmond which is start-up city! I see so my tech companies moving into this suburb and all have a focus on the big brands that are already doing great things, and taking those successful brands further. Now, don’t get me wrong, good on those agencies for working with these amazing brands. They have the flexibility to pick and choose who they want to work with, and some of these brands are names you would be crazy to say no to anyway!

While on the flip side of the coin, no one was paying any attention to the little guys. The small business owners or entrepreneurs, who have big ideas, were being ignored. I want to solve this problem.

By creating a great presence online, it creates that “all important” first impression between a brand and its customers. I want to be able to help the growing community of small business owners and entrepreneurs make an impact on their industry that is meaningful, unforgettable and ever-lasting.

Last month I took that leap to start my business, and I want to encourage others to do the same.