Sometimes thinking big means starting with the basics. For me, this was digging deep and getting to the heart of what is going to make my business thrive: my audience and their needs. Through the design of a new reader survey, I was able to uncover part of the reason why conversions have been so weak and left me rethinking my entire business model. While these revelations can be scary, they are a necessary part of the process that ultimately leads to your success.
This week I tried something new— recording this diary in vlog form. It was certainly a step outside of my comfort zone, in both recording and video editing, but it’s all in the name of embracing new challenges! The toughest part was knowing that it wouldn’t be to the production quality of the YouTubers I admire, but this will just mean that there’s lots of room for improvement. In the meantime, I hope you’ll bear with me through the awkwardness. If you prefer to consume your content through reading, you can still find all of the written entries below.
Do you ever wonder what your fellow creative entrepreneurs are up to? In between the big wins, product launches, and collaborations are the small steps (some forward, some backward) that lead to those turning points. Here’s a transparent account of a week in the life of a gal in passionate pursuit of business growth, personal development and those magical milestones.
Monday, July 17
Whenever I do any prep work over the weekend, it gives Monday an entirely different vibe. Rather than feeling frenzied, I feel like I know what I’m supposed to do, and I can execute without second guessing. I don’t think it’s healthy to work every weekend, but when I’m home, and I’ve got nothing going on, I use this as a time to get ahead, so I can thoroughly enjoy those weekends (and weekdays) of rest.
A new habit I’m trying to implement is thinking “big picture.” I tend to get caught up in the details, which leaves little time to do anything of great impact. I’m hoping that weekend work time, coupled with implementing various systems for faster processing and outsourcing will allow for that margin I need to make the big things happen.
My first order of business Monday morning was sending out emails to a list of fellow creatives, inviting them to be interviewed for this blog. On this list were several industry friends, a few acquaintances, and even some bigger names that were a bit of a stretch. I can’t wait to share their stories with you in upcoming Expert Advice features.
Two tips for making these types of requests:
1. Take the time to get to know the person before reaching out to them. If you haven’t had contact before, do a little research, so you can make your message more personable.
2. Make the process as easy as possible. Include directions that are clear and concise, and above all make it worth their time. If they are helping you out in any way, go above and beyond to let them know how much you appreciate it!
Around lunch time I was treated to a Skype call with my friend Tom Ross, who owns one of my favorite sites, DesignCuts. Like me, Tom is a creative entrepreneur who has a great passion for small business and seeing others succeed. In his generous spirit, he took time after work hours (in the UK) to take a look at Elegance and Enchantment‘s site data and gave me some pointers to help improve the overall performance of the site and to increase sales conversions.
He suggested that we get to the root of my issues, which is figuring out exactly who my audience is, so I can better serve them. As someone who rarely takes surveys, and who is a bit of a skeptic, I had been dragging my feet on conducting my own. The last one I sent out was two years ago—and I feel like so much has changed since then!
In efforts to set the direction for an upcoming Facebook ads campaign, I tried to beat the system by sending out a mini survey— just four questions, to my email list (just the week before this conversation with Tom). It was effective, but I knew that I’d need to follow his advice in digging deeper if I wanted to uncover a clearer picture of my audience. This survey would become my priority of the week.
In the afternoon, I sent out another wave of emails— this time to potential influencers for The Enchanting Mondays Library. Mandy, my VA did the leg work in tracking down this list of educational bloggers, and even scheduled social media posts highlighting their articles, just to let them know that we love what they are doing and to create that first point of contact. It was my intention to follow this up by getting to know them even better via social media before sending them an email request, but alas I ran out of time, and I wanted to make sure my message got out to them before they started planning their classrooms.
We’ll be working on forming relationships and bringing home decorator bloggers on board as well, later this fall.
Tuesday, July 18
My conversation with Tom about getting back to basics, and getting to the root of my audience’s needs prompted me to download Pat Flynn‘s audio book, Will it Fly? As a long time fan of Pat’s, this book was on my radar, but I couldn’t help thinking that this book might not be for me. Testing out ideas before building them to make sure there is an audience demand is not the most glam topic, especially because it involves patience. Plus, I have had my business for years, and I wasn’t exactly starting from scratch.
I was so happy to be proven wrong, as I got into this book, and began to absorb Pat’s wisdom. What I loved most was an exercise deemed “The Airport Test,” shared at the beginning. It is intended to ensure that your “big idea” aligns with your ideals, and what means most to you in life.
The “airport” name comes from a tactic Pat uses to make this exercise more memorable. He asks you to imagine you are in an airport five years from now when you bump into a friend you haven’t seen in forever. You then proceed to fill them in on what your life looks like and invites you to write down this exact verbiage on a sheet of paper.
In the end, you are left with a list of goals that are written in a way that sounds like you’ve already accomplished (which makes you feel more committed to them). For example, “I have a million dollars.” Or “I wrote a NY Times Bestseller.” Powerful!
I spent the rest of the morning tending to a couple of projects that were not aligned with my big picture goals— but still needed to be done. Covering for a friend in helping out with a freelance project, and stepping in to help my sister with a few Etsy orders, which exceeded her design expertise.
After lunch, I shifted my focus to working on creating bundles of art printables to be sold in my Etsy shop. This is something I decided to experiment with as an alternative to The Enchanting Mondays Library— in giving people the opportunity to purchase at a lower price point and without the subscription aspect.
Since all of the artwork and files had already been created for The Enchanting Mondays Library, I anticipated that this process would be an easy one. Wrong! Gathering up files in various sizes and formats under an entirely new organization wasn’t just tedious, but time-consuming. The entire project spilled into the evening and left me wondering why I hadn’t thought to outsource it.
Whenever DesignCuts rolls out a new bundle of fonts and graphics (every two weeks), I like to take a few hours to craft all of my promotions in one sitting. This process involves writing three promotional emails along with social prompts. This time around, I tried to add an extra layer of value to that last of the three emails, by providing a personal story and a call to action. I have a hard time writing emails with the sole message of “buy this, ” and this is my way of keeping it real, and hopefully worthwhile for you to open when you see it pop into your inbox.
Wednesday, July 19
This morning was all about getting those Etsy listings prepped and published. Having finally finished getting the file organization part completed the night before, all that was left was zipping them into manageable file sizes for purchasers to download, and creating preview artwork showcasing the designs.
I hit a bump in the road when I realized that my files were way too large and exceeded Etsy’s limits. I scrambled to come up with an alternate way to deliver these files to customers and ultimately created a one-sheet PDF with downloading instructions and a link to access their printables, which I ended up hosting on my Dropbox account.
Once that headache was over, I created preview artwork— a task that I always think will be more fun than it is. After coming up with a template, I duplicated it for each bundle, to keep things simple.
In the afternoon, I had to return to some freelance work commitments but didn’t let that stop me from researching at the same time. I pulled up YouTube to study the likes of Amy Schmittauer, Sunny Lenarduzzi and Marie Forleo in all of their vlogging glory.
I found it most helpful to tune into some of Marie’s earliest posts to remind myself that she didn’t stroll into her professional studio with her hair and makeup team on Day One. I’m trying to find patience in this process of learning to vlog, but it’s so tough when you’re right at the beginning.
Thursday, July 20
Working from coffee shops has become a favorite pastime of mine, but only second to meeting friends there! It had been awhile since I caught up with my friend Muriel, a local photographer and fellow creativepreneur, so we headed out to my favorite spot here at the beach, and got to chatting! Working solo can definitely be lonely, and I’m ever so grateful for the friends that this business has brought into my life— in real life and online.
I snuck in a quick to do list item during lunchtime: outlining topics for potential guest blog posts. Contributing to other (bigger) blogs in the entrepreneurial space is a personal goal of mine for the second half of this year, and I’m trying to not let that fall by the wayside. I have no problem dropping everything for someone else, but often fail to give myself that same respect— something I’m working on!
After lunch, it was back to work, and today, it was diving deep into those survey questions for Elegance and Enchantment. I decided to create two different versions— one for current Enchanting Mondays subscribers, and a second for my bigger, main mailing list.
Inspiration is everything! To feel better equipped to ask the right questions, I pulled up some resources: a survey that DesignCuts had sent earlier in the year, The “Ask” Formula from Ryan Levesque, and this podcast episode from Amy Porterfield.
Amy is one of my unofficial mentors, and her style and language always speak the clearest to me. I encourage you to find your own “Amy” (or we can share). It’s so helpful to look to the experts instead of trying to figure it all out on your own!
Friday, July 21
With the actual survey content complete, I shifted my focus to designing it, using a fantastic platform called Typeform. I had a bit of a slip-up as I spent way too much time adding something extra to my survey questions (animated gifs featuring my favorite movies and tv shows). It was intended for the survey-takers enjoyment, but it ended up being much more self-indulgent than anything else. Work should be about fun, but this just wasn’t the best use of my time.
I was anxious to get the survey out, and as soon as it was ready, into my reader’s inboxes it went. I was amazed at how quickly they responded (300 within the first hour alone). What surprised me more was learning how far off base I was in what my Elegance and Enchantment audience is wanting.
This threw me into a bit of a tailspin and I began second guessing everything, but mainly— where to go from here? I had a lot of thinking to do, but instead of trying to solve that bigger problem, I hunkered down and spent the remaining hours of my work week ticking off those little to-do list items.
Ironically, I ended the week the same way it began—getting those small things out of the way, so I would have the space to focus on the big stuff that matters. I have some important decisions to make regarding Elegance and Enchantment in the coming weeks, and I’m going to need that margin more than ever.
Lesson of the week:
Understanding your audience is the key that unlocks all other doors. If you want to think big picture, you’ve got to start with the basics.
What I’m reading:
What I’m watching:
Mr. MHD and I are making our way through a re-watch of one of our favorite series, Psych.
What I’m listening to:
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