Why Fear of Failure is So Funny

huge owl in living room

{Photo by Tim Walker}

I want you to ask yourself: What’s the worst that will happen if you fail at your business?

Be honest and write it out:

  • Deplete savings account

  • Have to go on food stamps

  • Have to sell the car

  • Have to move back in with your parents

  • Have to move to a smaller apartment

  • Have to go back to an old job/get a job

  • Have to take your child out of daycare

As you’re writing out your worst case scenario, are you realizing how unlikely it is that it would happen?  I’m betting you would come up with quite a few steps to take before phoning your mum to ask about the state of the basement.  Yes, you MAY have to move into a smaller apartment but if that’s your worst case scenario, you have it much better than most people in this world.

When we have a big decision to make and the fear of failure confronts us, we tend to overreact.  Sort of like how a chair with a coat on it becomes a short axe-murderer at night.  Suddenly that little voice in your head tells you you’ll never make as much money as you need.  You’ll sell one of your newest product despite all the time and money you put into it.  Or worst of all…you’ll never sell anything ever again.

So let’s get real about fear.

I’m going to be honest here and tell you something that most ‘successful’ entrepreneurs will never tell you: we all suffer from fear of failure and it’s definitely not a pretty time for us.  Every three months I fall into this pit of despair.  It’s always after a hugely successful week or sale or show.  I get this overpowering fear that I will never be able to replicate what I just did.  Then I’ll go two days without a sale and suddenly I feel certain no one will ever buy from me again.  I’ll have to live on the streets while handing out frozen yoghurt at the nearest TCBY.

It’s not till I say these fear out loud (usually amid sobs and a cuddle with a pillow) that I realize how stupid and unrealistic those fears are.  (Plus how silly it is to be crying into my pillow and not my boyfriend’s.)  Almost immediately I grit my teeth and come up with a dozen new ways to market my business.  I refuse to fail.  I refuse to give up.  The universe always seems to be listening because, without fail, the next day I’ll receive an email that knocks my socks off.

Fear of failure is an inherent part of working for yourself.  How you choose to confront that fear is what determines if you stay in business or close up shop.

If you do fail, at least you went down fighting.  Plus, there is nothing that says you can’t get right back up and start again.  If I had to go to work at TCBY, you can bet I’d be plotting out my next adventure away from frozen yoghurt almost immediately!

 

If you had to sum up your business in 60 seconds, you’d say…

Elevation

Have you heard of an ‘elevator pitch’?

Basically, it is a statement that sums up what you do in your business that can be delivered in the time it takes to ride an elevator – about 60 seconds or so.

I don’t know about you, but often people will ask me – “so what do you do?” And I’ll sit there tongue-tied for a few moments while I work out just what the heck to tell them.

I still suffer from a fear of telling people that I’m “just an artisan/crafter”.

Which is, really, rather ridiculous. I guess I’ve got a little hubris going on, and am afraid that people won’t take me seriously like they did back when I could say “I’m studying to become a scientist” or “I’m a teacher”.

The fact of the matter is – yes, I am an artisan, a maker – but I’m also much more than that, and I’ve struggled to fit all that I do into a short paragraph when confronted with that question.

I decided it was about time for me to come up with my own ‘elevator pitch’ so I didn’t need to sit there tongue-tied in future.

My elevator pitch is:

“I’m a creative entrepreneur and silversmith. I create sleek, modern, eco-friendly sterling silver jewellery under the brand Epheriell, and I teach people how to have a successful online handmade business via my site Create & Thrive. I’m passionate about helping people realise their dream to have a lifestyle and business they love, like I do!”

I’m happy that this statement does a great job of summing up not only what I do – but how I feel about it. It’s probably a little ‘close-ended’ to be a traditional elevator pitch – but hopefully this statement would leave the listener wanting to know more about me and what I do…

So – what would be in your elevator pitch? Consider:

  • what you do
  • who are your customers/target market
  • what makes you special/sets you apart
  • what’s your story
  • what emotions do you want to convey

Need a little more help? Why not try the Harvard Business School elevator pitch builder

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{image by Stefan Witte}

C&T Q&A – How Do I Drive Consistent Sales in my Online Shop?

1-yin yang chevron necklaces

Today’s question is from Kate, who writes:

Hey Jess!

My biggest dilemma is getting consistent sales. It’s so hard to predict, there may be weeks where I get 3 sales and then a period where there is none. I know you are a consistent blogger and tweeter, so your online presence is really strong, but do you think that’s what constantly drives your sales? Or is there another avenue that you see more results from?

Are the majority of your sales from repeat customers?

Thanks heaps.

 

This is a really fundamental question – because without consistent sales, you don’t have a business that can support you.

To bring in consistent sales, you really need to be bringing in new customers consistently. Because yes, repeat customers are awesome – but depending on the nature of your business, they may only account for a small part of your overall sales.

If you sell handmade soap, for example, repeat customers might be a big part of your business – because they fall in love with your soap, and come back to buy more again and again. Soap runs out, after all!

However, if you’ve got a business like Kate and I (jewellery) repeat customers will be a much smaller minority.

For example – sterling silver wedding bands have become a huge part of Epheriell’s business nowadays  A wedding ring is (hopefully!) a once-in-a-lifetime purchase, so it’s not something they’ll need to return to me to buy again. Of course, I hope that they are so impressed by my craftsmanship that they do come back to buy other jewellery from me! But you get the idea.

So. Bringing in a consistent flow of new customers – while treating your return customers like the absolute gold they are – should be what you’re aiming to do.

Working out how to do this effectively is the Holy Grail of all business.

Everyone does it differently – so I’m going to share what works for me and my business in the hope that you’ll get some ideas!

Epheriell is marketed solely via blogging, social media, a mailing list and renewing listings on venues like Etsy and madeit.

I do maybe 1-2 markets a year, and I can’t remember the last time I bought any advertising.

When you market like I do, you rely on one thing to keep the ball rolling – consistency.

To reply to what you said Kate, I do think that my daily, consistent, regular effort to be visible online is what keeps my sales coming in.

In fact, I know it is the case – because when I’m offline for any length of time (days etc) and I’m not doing my regular blogging/social media/renewing etc, my sales drop down. They don’t disappear, because I have built up a certain level of traffic to my shop via search engines etc, but they do slow a little.

Here’s a little breakdown of some of what I do to keep Epheriell visible and therefore keep the sales flowing.

Daily

  • Share at least one photo on Instagram – preferably of what I’m making that day, or a new design. I also share this image on my Epheriell FB Page, via twitter, and sometimes on G+
  • Tweet regularly throughout the day. I use Buffer to help me load up a stack of tweets in one sitting, but I also tweet organically as the day goes on
  • I try to remember to Pin at least one product from my website every day
  • I share at least 3 pieces of content per day on the Epheriell FB page
  • I spend a little time on Pinterest re-pinning interesting stuff
  • I renew products in my Etsy shop every single day. Usually twice a day (morning and night) and usually at least 5 products at once. I view this as a form of advertising, and budget for it accordingly. I try to remember the same for my madeit shop, but will sometimes forget 🙂

Weekly

  • I try to blog on Epheriell Designs multiple times per week. I haven’t been as consistent with it this year because I’ve had C&T to run AND I’ve been so busy with orders. But once a week, bare minimum
  • I send out an email to my Silver Service subscribers, telling them something useful, sharing a story about my work, giving them a special treat etc.
  • I make sure to sit down and have a good session Pinning relevant things on Pinterest – things that reflect the Epheriell brand. Usually from Etsy

Yes, it’s a lot of work.

But without it, I wouldn’t have a business.

I spend at least as much time marketing my brand as I do actually making jewellery. The balance has shifted over the years – when I started out, I reckon about 90% of my working time was spent on marketing and ‘business-y’ stuff, whereas now that I have an established brand, I can spend much less time on this, and more time making jewellery (or working on other projects!).

If you’re not currently devoting a decent amount of your time to the marketing side of your business, you’re shooting yourself in the foot.

If you’re yet to discover what combo of marketing activities works for you – keep experimenting! It’s the only way to figure it out.

And, of course, at the most fundamental level – make sure you’ve got a gorgeous online shop full of products people really want to buy before you do anything else.

How much time do you spend marketing your business?

What’s the balance between making & marketing for you right now?

 

4 Ways to Get Past Creative Roadblocks

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{photo by Victor Borst}

Oh dear, it is truly the pits when you hit a creative roadblock, isn’t it?

It is not news to anyone who works for a living that even when your work is something you absolutely love to do, you can still feel burnt out by it from time to time. Especially after super-busy periods, like the holidays, you can really begin to feel drained creatively. We all know that no-motivation-to-do-anything-other-than-sit-around follows periods of creative burn out.

The good news is that everyone experiences this and it is usually fixable.

Here are some of my tried and true ways to torch creative roadblocks.

 

One: go to the library, book store, or magazine rack

The library is a great resource, and you very likely have one less than 15 miles from your home, office or studio. Head on over to your local library to browse the racks – all the access to other creative and visual works will likely get your wheels turning. Bring some spare change to make photocopies of anything that really strikes you and add it to your inspiration file/dream board. Bonus – peace and quiet. It’s amazing what a few hours in a new and quiet space can do to clear the cobwebs of the head!

Two: take a class

Sometimes learning a new skill can really spark your inspiration If you are a paper artist, maybe you’ll take a quilting class! You are basically guaranteed to get new ideas and bring your mojo back to life when you take the time to learn something new. Not only will you gain a new skill, you can add that skill to your current work, you can chat with other creatives, get out of the house and work in a new space. All of this is essential to overcoming creative drain. You’d be surprised how much good a 1 hours class can do.

Three: work on other creative or hands on projects that have nothing to do with business

I’m not talking about organizing your receipts, but if that’s something that has to get done, then sure – it is a time filler. I’m talking about creative, hands on things that are separate from your work. Is there a home decor project you have been putting off? A wall that needs to be painted? A recipe that you’ve been meaning to try? Hands on projects like gardening, cooking, mending, building or decorating  will get your brain into creative mode again!  Be sure to pick projects that can be done in one or two sittings, you don’t want to end up adding another unfinished project to your list.

Four: purge and organise

If all else fails, or if you simply cannot bring yourself to do anything else, purging is the next best thing to torch creative road blocks. Sifting through materials, cleaning out supplies, testing dusty pens and organising your workspace will inevitably remind you of all the projects your meant to start, the ones you never finished and spark a few new ideas for using that stuff you’ve been hoarding. An organised space is an inspiring space. get to it.

What do you do when you feel drained and running on empty creatively? What has worked for you?

Success Stories ~ Cath of My Bearded Pigeon

Portrait

Cath of My Bearded Pigeon amidst her wares

When I first started selling on Etsy, I quickly found the shop of My Bearded Pigeon, one of the top sellers.  Her pillow covers  were so beautifully photographed, it was easy to see why everyone wanted on them for their home.  When Jess asked me to come up with a list of full-time makers to interview for Create & Thrive, I knew this Aussie seller HAD to be right near the top of my list.  I’m so happy today to share the advice of Cath from My Bearded Pigeon.

**Cath also wanted to give Create & Thrive readers a special treat!  Use the coupon code CTFRIENDS in her Etsy shop for 15% off!**

Can you take us on the journey of your creative career path so far?

I have always liked making things, from a really young age I loved craft. It was always what I did but because I was never good at drawing in the sense of ‘draw this bowl of fruit so it looks exactly like the bowl of fruit’. I never saw myself as artistic. Looking back I would have loved to study fine arts after high school but due to my lack of drawing skills, I didn’t.

Fast forward a hundred years and a move from the inner city of Sydney to a town of 2,000 people, and I find myself at home with a baby. I am a bit bored. I am completely in love with my baby and so happy but I feel so idle, and I keep looking at baby toys and clothes and thinking how all the stuff I can afford is so hideous and all the stuff I want is so expensive. So I start sewing simple clothes and toys for my baby and I discover crafty blogs and Etsy and chunky chooky  is born…. as my baby became a toddler and then a little girl I realised I wanted to do something for grownups. Then one night I had the idea of putting maps onto cushions and My Bearded Pigeon was born.

What has been the biggest challenge you’ve overcome so far in your business?

Actually seeing it as a real business. When I started My Bearded Pigeon I was still in lala land about record keeping, etc.  I was quite half arsed about it, but very quickly My Bearded Pigeon got busy and I had to get serious about keeping records of expenses and GST and get ready for BAS, etc. SNORE!!! After a visit to the accountant – who is great – he suggested I make my husband my business partner and he could cook the books so to speak (he is a chef, see that hilarious pun). I think the accountant saw my eyes glaze over every time he started to explain things to me…

bp 4

Giant Vintage World Map Floor Cushion

What has been the biggest ‘fist-pump’/successful moment for you so far?

Having my cushion featured on the front cover of Real Living magazine.

Featured seller on Etsy was also so exciting – although the timing was horrific I had the worst morning sickness/ tiredness and it was so busy – there was a lot of tears! But it was great!!

Having 2 of my cushions in the Taubmans’ ad campaign which meant huge exposure with my cushions in the paint sample books in every Bunnings Australia wide.

Do you ever have doubts as to your future creative direction? Are there things you yearn to achieve, but haven’t yet found the time for?

SO MUCH!!
I want to improve my photography skills.
I want to be a whiz at Photoshop and Illustrator.
I want to learn graphic design.
I have an idea bursting in my head but it’s beyond Etsy really….. And I am still looking at HOW to do it in an eco way.

Are there times when your creativity and inspiration seem to disappear? How do you handle that?

Not really, I always have lots of ideas… It’s important to let you mind wander I think… I spend a lot  when it’s just the baby and me in silence. No TV, no radio, etc. I think that helps new ideas float into your head.

bp 2

Hangry Decorative Pillow Cover

How do you balance your work with the rest of your life ~ what does a typical day in your life look like?

BALANCE is typing this one-handed on my iPad while I breastfeed the baby.

A typical day is:
Awake  to baby gurgles, crawl from bed and start encouraging the 6 yo to get dressed, brush her teeth, etc. while shoving food and coffee into me and simultaneously reading the SMH online, breastfeeding, and getting ready to leave the house. Walk to school which involves a big hill.

Then I collect stock from the studio (We built an amazing studio for me so the baby could have her own room. I don’t get to go down there much at the moment as it’s too far from the house to leave her in here asleep by herself so I go to and fro a lot and she sleeps with us but I am so glad it’s all finished!) to either cut fabric for sewing or pack orders.

Then it’s just all that mum and baby stuff: feeding, playing, reading, singing, taking photos,  having silly and inane texts with Neil that make me laugh, reading articles online so my brain doesn’t stop working, reading blogs… more baby stuff…..checking emails, maybe meet a friend for a coffee. If the baby has a sleep in the afternoon, not on top of me, then I will do some more MBP stuff as well as running around like a crazy person washing dishes, wrestling the washing piles, sweeping up the tumbleweed size dust balls. Neil gets home with our daughter at 3:30 and the whole homework, reading, feeding, bathing, etc. routine starts again. Once my daughter is home from school MBP is on hold until the next day.

What has been the best marketing move you’ve ever made for your own business?

I am not a fan at all of Facebook. I don’t like some of the groups they allow and I hate the bullying that can go on so I am not great at maintaining my Facebook page and I am often confused about how it all works…. but from a marketing perspective, it is potentially amazing!

However, I do like twitter. Yes, there is the same amount of bullying but you don’t see it in the same way. You only see the comments made by people you follow (except for re-tweets) but I just find it a lot less frustrating than FB and I have had some great exposure. I ending up talking to Shaynna Blaze one night on twitter and she  used my cushions in a nation-wide Taubmans campaign. I have also had a few people with a lot of followers RT something I have said… this CAN lead to people looking at your profile and then hop skip jump to my Etsy shop, or they start following you and will work out what you do eventually….. so  I would have to say Instagram as well has been great marketing. I put all new products on there and I get instant feedback and a lot of sales from the people I know via instgram, many of whom I met through blogging.

I have heard twitter and instgram referred to as microblogging, I agree, I do like that about it but, you cant just tweet or IG your wares, its so boring when people do that! Did I answer the question? Yes: twitter and Instagram but see below!

bp 1

Pixel Rose Decorative Pillow Cover

What is one piece of advice you’d like to give fellow makers about running a successful creative business?

I can’t stop at one!

Ask yourself :

  • Is there a market for what I am making?
  • How many other people are making stuff like this?
  • What is my point of difference?

Have excellent branding, logos etc. if this means paying someone then do it. I met the graphic designer I still work with via etsy, she helped me with my chunkychooky logo, 5 years ago. I cannot stress to you enough how important I think this is. Have things professionally printed, business cards ( I use moo) which I put a hole in and also use as hangtags. I have sew on labels made too. Have everything consistent with the same name. So your twitter, FB, IG, blog etc all has the same name. The name must be catchy I think. Easy to spell and easy to remember… Think outside the box a little you are creative so be creative with the name! If I called my business Cath Young Homewares… its just not very interesting is it? When you come up with something Google the name to see if it is taken!

This horrible word ‘networking’ I do not like this word. I heard someone describe it as you need to form relationships with people and be authentic. Be real. I totally agree. I get regular sales from people that I ‘know’ via social media, its really nice, I buy there stuff too. I think if you are going to be running a handmade business its great to shop handmade too and generally support handmade.

Where do you see yourself in 5 years time?

(My baby will be starting school and I will be crying!!)

I will still be learning and hopefully my business will still be growing. To be honest I don’t really know, but that’s exciting I think!

You can find more of Cath’s work on her website: My Bearded Pigeon

In her Etsy shop

On Facebook: My Bearded Pigeon

On Twitter: @mybeardedpigeon

On Instagram: My Bearded Pigeon

In her sometimes shop of random goodness

And on her blog: Chunky Chooky

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