Why I Don’t Have a Free Facebook Group for My Business

 

Do you want to start a Facebook Group for your business?

Perhaps you already have one. Perhaps you’re thinking about it. It’s something I’ve considered many times over the years.

With the changes to the Facebook algorithms this past January, Facebook groups are being touted by many as the saviour of Facebook marketing for small business.

It makes sense, in a way – with Facebook more heavily emphasising community and connection with friends and family, posts from groups are being shown way more in our feeds than ever before.

But I’m still not going to start a free Facebook group.

I made this decision many years ago, and I’ve stuck to it, despite the changing landscape of Facebook.

With the rise of groups, and many people encouraging businesses of all stripes – including makers – to start and grow their own groups, I wanted to share my thoughts on the topic, and discuss why I choose not to have a free group – but why you might.

 

Time

 

This was always a huge deciding factor for me, and it’s only been reinforced lately. I’ve seen a number of folks who invested immense amounts of time into growing huge Facebook groups who have since had to shut them down.

Why?

Because they simply didn’t have the time to manage them.

Some of them had to hire multiple moderators to help them. But even then, it got to the point where they had to let the group go.

Now, I have a couple of Facebook groups.

I’ve had my Set Up Shop group since I started running that course in 2013. I am only active in that group when I’m running a live course, usually twice a year.

I have other groups for other courses.

My main group is, of course, my Thriver Circle group, which I am active in every single weekday.

So I know, from personal experience, how much time groups take to run.

If you’ve never run one, this is a really, really important point.

They take a LOT of time. I cannot stress this enough.

Not only do you have to manage people joining, moderate conversations, enforce your rules… you also have to work hard to keep the group engaged and lively.

With a free group, there will always been tons of competition – tons of other similar groups that your members could easily end up spending their time in instead of yours.

Of course, that is true with my groups, too… but the difference is, I am being compensated for the time I spend on them, because all of the people in them have paid to have access.

Now, to be clear, they haven’t paid to have access to the group per se. They’ve paid for access to my courses, or to my community, and Facebook is simply the platform I choose to use to run my community forum.

If Facebook turned around tomorrow and shut my groups down? I would just take those people elsewhere. Because they aren’t there to be in a Facebook group – they’re there to be part of a community I’ve created.

 

Access

 

This definitely follows on from number 1.

I have limited time. I run 2 businesses. I have a life outside of my work!

When I started the Thriver Circle, I decided to use Facebook as the place to host my community forum. I chose it because I knew it would foster interaction, because when you have your forum elsewhere (such as on your stand-alone site) you have to work a lot harder to remind people to come over and participate.

I wanted my members to have access to me, and to each other, in a simple, easy-to-access environment. It’s easy for them to access the group, and each other. This is a big upside of a Facebook group, and why they’ve become so successful.

Moreover, one of the benefits of being part of the Circle is that members have direct access to me.

They can ask me questions, and they know I’ll answer.

They’ve invested in me – and I’m invested in them.

I knew that I would not have the energy to give myself constantly to people in a free Facebook group. I wanted to save my energy for the people who have invested in learning from me. Because when people make an investment in learning from you, I believe they dive deeper, and put more of themselves into the process.

Following on from this: if I had a free Facebook group alongside my course and membership groups, I don’t believe it would be fair to my students.

The ones who have paid for my time and expertise.

I believe I’d be doing them a disservice.

This is a very big part of why I still choose to not have a free group. Because I owe my paying students my energy and guidance, and I want to make sure they are getting the best of me.

 

Ownership

 

You do not own your Facebook group. Facebook owns your Facebook group.

Herein lies the risk of building your community or marketing on a platform that you do not own. There is always the chance that it can be taken away from you. Or that it won’t work so well any more when they change things (just look at what’s happening to Facebook Pages and Instagram feeds).

If you invest enormous amounts of time in growing your community and presence on Facebook, it could definitely have wonderful benefits for your business.

The reason it works well is that people are on Facebook anyways, so if they are in your group, and get your notifications, they are consistently reminded of your business.

But you do not own it.

What do you own?

You own your own website.

You own your mailing list.

You own your business.

That’s about it.

Really think deeply about this when you’re making the choice of where to spend your limited marketing time and energy.

If you want to build a business that is based around community – where it’s important that the community have access to each other, not just you, then a Facebook group or something similar may be a great choice for you.

But I would strongly recommend that you spend at least an equal amount of time fostering and growing your mailing list. The thing you own.

You can combine the two! Use your group to promote your list. Let people in your group know about special deals that they can only get if they are on your list. That is a strategy that could work really well.

But don’t fall into the trap of spending all of your time growing a group that you don’t have ownership of. Move those people onto your list, so that no matter what happens to Facebook, you will still have a way to connect with them.

 

Should You Have a Free Group?

 

Am I a member of free groups? Of course! There are a number that I am a member of, and participate in semi-regularly.

I’m not anti-free-Facebook-groups.

They’re simply not the right choice for me, at this time.

They could be a great choice for you, but just keep in mind the three issues I outlined above: time, access, and ownership.

Make sure, if you do start a group, you’re going into it with eyes wide open so you can make your group an asset, rather than a liability.

 

 

My Yearly Review – 2017 Edition

 

Since I’ve been sharing the #LookBackMoveForward process and course with you this week, I decided to also share some of my own review findings from the year just gone.

I decided at the beginning of 2017 that this would be a ‘consolidation’ year – my year of not starting anything new.

Pretty much every year since I started business – back in 2008 – I’ve started a major new project (or multiple new projects!).

This year, I wanted to solidify what I had done, and take a bit of a break from creating anything new. This was our first full year in our new home, and I’ve been loving just enjoying my home and family.

Funnily enough – alongside this, I inadvertently did the same in my personal life. I usually have at least one personal ‘project’ going at any one time, but this year, I haven’t – I’ve just been enjoying what I already have in my life.

Taking the pressure off has allowed me to have more space in my life – more time to relax and enjoy the lifestyle that my businesses allow me to have.

Now, as the year draws to a close, I’m feeling a new surge of energy, and I’ve got tons of ideas of where I want to take my work into the new year and beyond.

Let’s have a look at how my businesses went in 2017.

 

Epheriell

 

We saw sales slow down a little in the jewellery business this year, and there have been a couple of reasons for this:

 

  1. We have had 2 major vacations this year – a 3-week trip to Japan, and a 5-week trip to the UK. We had to close up shop for 5 and 7 weeks respectively for these holidays, so that was almost 3 months of the year where we weren’t earning any income from Epheriell.
  2. We released literally zero new designs in 2017. All of our orders have come from pre-existing designs.
  3. We closed the shop on our own website in October, and since then we’ve been working on a re-design, with a planned re-launch in early Jan 2018.
  4. I took a bit of a step back from marketing this year, so most of our sales have come strictly via organic traffic and searches.

 

I was originally considering taking a sabbatical from the jewellery business this year, but ultimately, decided against it. Instead, we kind of set it on auto-pilot.

Sales have still been good (a solid few thousand dollars a month) but I can, by now, see the results of this approach (i.e. a slow decline in sales), and am ready to step things up again!

I’ve put together a plan for the new year – incorporating monthly marketing tasks, regular releases of new designs, and an increase in social media and blogging.

I’m most excited about a new range of wedding rings we’re releasing in January. For those outside of Australia, you may not know, but same-sex marriage has just been (finally!) passed into law here, so we’re going to celebrate that with our new release, and we’re planning on donating a percentage of sales of this line for a period of time to a LGBTQI youth charity.

 

Create & Thrive and the Thriver Circle

 

The biggest change during 2017 was that I moved away from doing monthly video workshops, into running monthly projects for my membership community, the The Thriver Circle. This has been super-fun, and it’s been a great way for the members to work alongside each other to move their businesses forward. However, I started to feel like I wanted to get back to offering more fresh content to members each month, while only doing a few video workshops a year.

 

There are a few big changes happening in 2018:

  1. I’ve decided to experiment by moving from having membership windows to having evergreen membership. That is – rather than the doors only being open a few times a year, the doors will be open all the time! This means people can join the Circle when it suits them, rather than when it suits me. There are a number of logistical reasons why I’ve avoided doing this up to now, but I’ve decided to give it a try and see how it goes. I was getting a bit of launch fatigue (running effectively the same launch 4x per year) and I’m sure a number of my email subscribers and community were feeling the same. This way, I won’t be running so many big launches – I will be, instead, consistently reminding folks about the Circle and all the benefits of membership via the podcast, blog, email list, and social media channels, while still aiming to produce top-quality free content for everyone.
  2. I am moving from having a weekly podcast to having a twice-monthly podcast. Mostly, this is so I have more time to spend on other content. I’m going to be releasing a Q&A video on YouTube at least once a month, for example – and I plan on uploading the audio of that to the podcast feed, too. Also, it’s because I’m not sure a weekly in-depth podcast was even necessary. After all, everyone is busy! By balancing the longer, in-depth episodes with shorter bite-sized videos, I’m aiming to draw in some new people. I’m also hoping to get back to creating proper written content once in a while! This is the first proper written post I’ve done in a long time.
  3. That said, I am still going to be producing 3 meaty podcast episodes a month – but the third one will be members-only for the Thriver Circle. As I said above, I love doing the projects, but I felt that the long-term, loyal members (the ones who’ve taken all the workshops and completed the Your Year to Thrive Program) might have been missing out due to the lack of new teaching content. So – this is my way of bringing that back to the members: making my best episode each month for them, because they are the ones supporting me, and without them, the free podcast wouldn’t exist.

 

I also did a re-design on the Thriver Circle website this year, which I’ve been tweaking consistently – and will probably continue to do so until I’m completely happy with it. The Circle has been running for 3 years now, and I felt it was time for a re-fresh of the look and feel of the site.

My aim is to also update the Create & Thrive site to bring the design up to ‘the now’, since it hasn’t changed since I launched in 2013, and I feel like it’s a bit dated. My goal is to have this complete by April 2018.

I don’t currently have any plans to launch new courses in 2018… but this may change, as I’m currently going through a period of growth and ideas, so I’m open to what might arise out of this.

2018 is also the last time I plan on running the Wholesale Know-How course ‘live’. After this, I’m aiming to convert it into a self-study course.

I’m looking to work directly with more makers via my Shop Scrutiny services. (P.S. If you’re a Thriver Circle member, hold off on purchasing one of these until February… you guys are going to get a special deal!). I really love helping people improve their shops and websites, so I want to be a bit more vocal about the fact I offer this service, as I very rarely talk about it!

Finally – I will be running Set Up Shop twice in 2018 – probably March and October, though I haven’t yet set concrete dates.

And that, thrivers, is that!

I’ve been teaching this stuff here on C&T since 2013 – and for even longer on my old blog. I’m in the absolutely wonderful position now of seeing a number of makers who found me at the beginning of their businesses journey’s making a full-time living from their craft.

I’m really excited about what 2018 will bring, and about helping even more people to realise their dream of growing a thriving, profitable handmade business.

Here’s to a wonderful new year! 

~ Jess x

P.S. If you’re reading this before January 8th, and you’d like my help to set yourself up for the best year your biz has ever had, don’t miss the Handmade Biz Bootcamp. It’s a 21-day program that will help you find your focus for the year, gain clarity about the purpose of your biz, and create a rock-solid plan for your business. If you sign up now, you can get the whole bootcamp for just $15!

[131] #LookBackMoveForward: A Yearly Review Process

 

Welcome to a new year of the Create & Thrive Podcast!

 

In this episode, I outline a series of 10 questions that will help you review your last year in business.

 

I’m also running a mini-course to take you through these questions – head on over here to sign up for that (it’s free!) if you’re not already on the regular Create & Thrive email list. (If you get my emails about the podcast, you are on the list).

I’ll be sharing each lesson in the Thriver Circle FB group so we can discuss it, and I’ll also be running a FB live each day of the course on the public Create & Thrive FB page.

 

Further – in this episode I explain some changes that are happening with the podcast in 2018.

I will outline them in a blog post soon, but the most important change you need to know about is that I am moving from weekly to twice-monthly free main episodes.

There will also be a third members-only episode each month, which will only be available to members of my community for makers, the Thriver Circle. Members of the Circle also get all the main episodes a week early, AND promo-free.

There may also be some mini-eps each month! I’ll be doing some Q&A videos, which will be published to Youtube and Facebook, and I plan on publishing the audio of these to the podcast too. They’ll be pretty short, about 5 minutes max.

So! If you want to make sure you don’t miss an episode, head on over and sign up to become a member of the Thriver Circle.

Oh, and there’s also new podcast artwork, so don’t get thrown when the picture changes! 😀

 

 

 

 

Highlights and quotes from this episode:

  • Your end of year review does not have to be an overly onerous task – grab a notebook and pen and tackle the prompts in small chunks.
  • Begin your annual review with these reflection questions:
  • The Big Three of Success and Failure
  • Ensure you analyse both the wins and losses from this year – don’t just focus on the negative.
  • The analysis of these moments is as important as the actual wins and losses.
    1. What were my three biggest successes this year and what did I learn from them?
    2. What were my three biggest mistakes this year and what did I learn from them?
  • Risk and Hindsight
  • If you are going to grow a successful business you need to get comfortable with feeling the fear and doing it anyway
  • If you can’t bring ourselves to take risks you will often stall and stagnate.
    1. What risks have I been avoiding and why?
    2. What would I do differently if I had the year over again?
  • Money
  • Keep track of your income and expenses and review these regularly.
  • If you are avoiding looking at the money because you know it is not doing well – that is the time to look at it.
    1. What was my business revenue and what were my expenses for the year? How does this compare with my expectations and goals for the year?
    2. Am I spending more money than I should be and/or am I spending it in the wrong places?
  • Vision and Time Management
  • We all have a vision on where we want our business
  • Time is our most valuable business resource – you can always make more money but you can never make more time.
    1. How does my vision of where my business would be by now compare to where it actually is? Keeping in mind my previous answers in this course, why do I think that is?
    2. How was my time management? Did I choose and stick to strategies and systems that work for me?
  • Sales and Marketing
  • This process helps you see where you are and the potential on where you could be.
    1. How did my sales this year compare to previous year? Furthermore, how did my sales this year compare to my expectations?
    2. Where did I focus my marketing strategies? Were my chosen marketing strategies effective or should I change my strategy for the coming year.

 

Don’t miss the FREE #LookBackMoveForward mini-course!

Sign up here.

 

[117] Round Table Q&A with Thrivers in Winchester, England

 

This week, I’m bringing you something special!

When I was in England recently, I had a Thriver meetup – and 5 wonderful makers (who also happen to be Thriver Circle members) came along. We spent 2 hours talking all things creative business!

In the first part of the session, each maker had 15 minutes to ask questions about their business. In the second session, I opened the floor to general handmade biz questions.

I did record everything, but alas, half of the first session didn’t save (darn technology!) so today I’m sharing with you that second session – the open Q&A.

We cover some important topics – from pricing to finding and marketing to your ideal customer, to collaboration and SEO. We packed a lot in this short session!

Enjoy, and a huge thanks to my guests for not only coming along and being awesome, but being willing for me to share this with the world via the podcast. Their names and details are below – do check them out!

 

My Guests

 

Quotes and Highlights:

  • Adela sought advice on marketing her card-making business for adults, Della by Design.
  • Try bundling and marketing kits for events – hen’s parties or girls’ craft nights in.
  • Market these event packages on the website separate from the individual kits to increase reach across audience markets.
  • Victoria, of Toria by Victoria Jowett, asked about establishing a creative partnership.
  • Approach your potential partner with a concrete proposal package.
  • Ensure that collaborative partnerships are formalised in a written contract.
  • “Remember, when you’re working with someone else it doesn’t just double your problems it multiplies them as there are two people wanting to get things done.” {Jess}
  • Jo, of Stitches to Treasure, enquired about how to establish a business focus.
  • “You don’t just have to have one group of target customers. You make different ways to engage the different groups.” {Jess}
  • Use a variety of marketing messages and customers will connect with the ones that resonate to them.
  • Suze, of Suze Harris Decorative Woodwork, sought advice on how to set an hourly rate.
  • Ensure you cover all of your time not just the making.
  • In the early stage of a business your time will be skewed towards learning lessons. This will shift as you gain experience.
  • “You can do all the maths you want with your pricing but at the end of the day it’s just the starting point. It’s not the end point.” {Jess}
  • Remember business is about experimentation. Take risks. (Jess shares an anecdote about product lines that have been trialed and retired)
  • Victoria is looking to boost her SEO.
  • Ensure photos are saved with key words and your business name in the title.
  • Mix up your key words and utilise the power of the Alt Tag.
  • Adela wants to run an Instagram Christmas promotion featuring styled images with objects from other businesses.
  • Try working with a different maker each day to increase reach and build relationships.

 

Download or listen to this episode.

You can also subscribe to the podcast and listen to this episode on iTunes + Stitcher)

[115] Business Intensive with Steph Wallace

Sometimes, we just need to share our thoughts with someone else.

It gets us out of those endless loops inside our mind – where we go round and round on a decision without actually making one. Getting those thoughts out of our heads and sharing them with others can be just the ticket to finally breaking through and moving forward.

This week, I’m sharing another Business Intensive with you. You may remember this one with Judy Carlson from episode 110. This week’s guest is Steph Wallace from Mostly Miniature.

She discusses some challenges – such as the fact that she has been getting too busy in her business, and that this, along with caring for her child, is causing stress – as well as some ideas she has for alternative income streams.

It’s another fascinating opportunity to get ‘behind the scenes’ of another maker’s business!

 

Quotes & Highlights:

  • Steph Wallace is the founder of Mostly Miniature, creating handmade modern furniture for contemporary dollhouse renovations.
  • Mostly Miniature has reached a point of performing better than anticipated however Steph does not have enough time in the day to grow the business in its current state.
  • ‘Even if I had my child in childcare, a point would come where I have no more hours in my day to trade for money.’ {Steph}.
  • Consider bringing on employees to train and produce your products to free up valuable time in your day.
  • The choice comes down to, do you want to keep growing or do you want to maintain the business in its current state?.
  • ‘If you have reached the point where you are going to bring on someone there is an adjustment period that is painful because you have to spend the time not only making the product but teaching someone else to do it.’ {Jess}
  • An alternative option to employing people is to consider outsourcing components of your business to give you the freedom and flexibility to focus on your core strengths.
  • Other product options for your business may include digital products, craft kits or eCourses that do not consume as much time as your current product.
  • Start small and learn from that!
  • Having another business option is a great idea as it gives you another income stream and variety in your work.
  • ‘There is something we are passionate about, something we really enjoy and we want to share it with people. However we share it with people is what we need to decide’. {Jess}
  • Picture yourself in the future and determine which decision is going to give you the results you want!
  • ‘Making is secondary. It’s the running the business, forming communities and doing the marketing/storytelling that lights me up. The product is secondary.’ {Steph}
  • There is nothing wrong with capping your growth if you decide that you don’t want to employ people and expand.
  • ‘Sometimes it’s difficult to ask yourself those questions, you can get really good at avoiding them’ {Steph}
  • You are the only person that can make the decisions in regard to which direction you want your business to take – determine your overarching core values and make those decisions that support and reflect them!
  • Check out my past podcast episode with Steph here – How to Grow your Instagram Account.

 

Download or listen to this episode.

You can also subscribe to the podcast and listen to this episode on iTunes + Stitcher)

Pin It on Pinterest