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Just Starting Your Business? How To Deal With the Overwhelm and 3 Things To Prioritize

Just Starting Your Business? How To Deal With the Overwhelm and 3 Things To Prioritize

Welcome to another edition of my Weekly Journal! I use this space to share about my journey from lawyer to jewelry business owner. This week's journal entry is a practical post that newbie (and aspiring!) business owners will find helpful. I know a lot of people used their extra downtime over the past year to build a website and work on their business dreams. If that's you, bravo! That's so exciting! But once you have the wheels moving, it can start to feel even more overwhelming than it did at the start. Am I right? That's because you're really in the thick of it now. Your business went from this idea in your head to a real thing, and you're really starting to understand how a small business works and how many moving parts you need to juggle. From building your social media following, to managing inventory, to setting up an email system, to hiring help, to creating a logo, to deciding how to price your products or services, oh the tasks are endless! Take a breather for a second and read on because I want to share a little strategy, as well as my top 3 things to prioritize. I've avoided the obvious things (like design a logo) and instead focus on 3 things you might not realize the importance of yet (but you'll thank me later!).

If you are feeling overwhelmed and in over-your-head, I want you to first embrace the idea that you cannot possibly get everything done now or even this year. Building a new business is a longer journey - a marathon, not a sprint. For example, I purchased a Pinterest for Business online course in 2018 and I am just now, in 2021, really focusing on that course and building my Pinterest presence. I should have done this already since I sell wedding jewelry and many brides plan their weddings on Pinterest. But it just hasn't happened yet. And that is okay. This will happen to you too (not necessarily with Pinterest but with other things) because there are only so many hours in a day. So accept that fact at the get-go, rather than beating yourself up for all the things you aren't getting done every single day.

Second, make a list of all that needs to be done. Do a complete and total brain dump. Keep your list handy over the next few days so you can add to it (you'll think of more and more and more things...). This exercise will help you feel a little less frazzled. It always feels good when you get those frantic, random thoughts out of your head and onto a page.

Third, after a few days have passed and you're relatively certain that you've captured all the "to do's" running around your brain, begin to prioritize the items on your list. This step will give you a clearer vision of the big picture and allow you to see how the puzzle pieces fit together. Regardless of the type of business you've started, there are 3 major things that ALL business owners should prioritize at the very start. I'm going to skip the obvious things (like designing a logo) and instead list 3 things that you may not realize the importance of yet, but you will shortly. Here they are:

1) If you've set up your shop on a platform like Etsy or if you're just selling items through your Instagram account, prioritize setting up your own website

I cannot stress this enough. That is why it's number one on my list here. Platforms like Etsy, Instagram, etc can disappear tomorrow. And you know who owns all the data pertaining to your sales and customers? NOT YOU! That is a huge area of risk. Let me explain. Let's say you've set up an Etsy page and items are flying off the shelf. You've made 5,000 sales in your first month. Well, if Etsy disappeared tomorrow (or - in the more likely scenario - changed its terms of service in a way that negatively impacts you) you can go from 5,000 sales per month to zero real fast. And it would be completely out of your control. Etsy owns all the data about those sales and those customers and you own none of it. Where would you go from there? You wouldn't even be able to contact these 5,000 people and tell them where they can find you next. You'll have to build your own website at that point and start over from scratch. So just do this from the get-go. It's okay to run a website and an Etsy page at the same time, but make sure the people you sell to know about your website. For example, when you ship their Etsy order, include a little notecard about your website and perhaps offer them 10% off their next purchase from your website. This will encourage them to interact with you directly, and not through Etsy (that'll also mean higher profit margins for you because Etsy won't take a cut!).

It is so easy and inexpensive to set up a professional website these days. Try Squarespace or Shopify. There are beautiful website templates on these sites with easy drag and drop technology so you don't have to worry about coding or designing. In my opinion, avoid Wordpress in the beginning. It's more difficult to navigate which means you're going to put it off longer and this is not something that can wait. You can always upgrade your website down the road. Don't forget that! So just get going as quickly as possible with a website platform that's user-friendly. I use Shopify and highly recommend them! 

2) Get an email system and build your email list from the very start. This is somewhat connected to task number one. The contact information of the people who are interested in your products or services is very valuable. It is perhaps the biggest asset you have. Why? Because you can communicate with these people! And they are likely to buy! They are already at least somewhat interested in what you have to offer so you want to be able to explain your products or services to them in greater detail, advise them of upcoming sales, etc. Once you have a decent sized list, you can also use this information to do other things in your business, like run ads on social media platforms (that's a topic for another day). And trust me, once you get to those more advanced tasks, you are going to be WISHING you had set up an email system on day one. Once you set it up, it runs automatically in the background and you never have to worry about it.

Listen, you don't even have to email these people right away, ok? Just promise me you'll collect their emails. You can come up with on-brand emails and sale announcements down the road if you don't have time now. Even if it takes you a year to come up with emails that you think will be of service to your potential customers, you will be so grateful that you started collecting their email addresses from the start. 

Think about it in relation to point number one above. If Etsy disappeared tomorrow, with a few key strokes on your computer you'd be able to email the 5,000 people who bought from you to tell them about your website. Your business wouldn't die on the day that Etsy pulled the plug. That's a really easy risk-management step to take, don't you think? I think so! Here's another thing to think about. There are a lot of issues with Instagram and Facebook right now - everything from censorship to privacy concerns (there is a big privacy change that Apple is making to iPhones this year that is going to impact the way Instagram/Facebook operates). And I have a strong gut feeling that big changes are coming to social media platforms in the next year or two. So don't bank on them being around in their current form forever. Start now. Build an email list so that you don't have to rely exclusively on these platforms to communicate with your customers and potential customers.

So how do you collect emails? You know those pop ups you see when you go to a website? You know, where they offer you a discount in exchange for your email address? They're not just being generous there. They're offering you something substantial so that you'll want to give up your email address. A discount is usually the best offer (who doesn't love a discount!?) but you can also offer a free guide or something else creative. Just make sure it's good enough, or you are going to have a hard time getting people to give up their email address. Then set up a pop up on your website, just like the ones you've seen on other sites. How do you do that? Read on - I'll tell you at the end of the next paragraph.

The email platform I would recommend is Flodesk. I've used Mailchimp in the past and researched other email platform services but, in my opinion, they are not user-friendly. Unless you know how to code, it's hard to make on-brand, pretty emails. And when you think your business emails look like crap, you don't want to send them. And therefore you completely lose the opportunity to communicate with the people who most want to hear from you! Flodesk finally fixed that problem. You don't need to know how to code and can simply choose from their templates and customize them with drag and drop technology. Flodesk is also incredibly affordable. I was paying way over $100/month on Mailchimp and now I'm paying $19/month on Flodesk. You can also set up a pop up through Flodesk to collect emails very easily. Just go to the Flodesk help section and they'll walk you through it. If the instructions don't make sense to you, go to YouTube and search for a video that walks you through the exact steps. Sometimes you just need a person to show you each step!

3) Last but not least, my third recommendation is to set up your Facebook Pixel on your website. Just like collecting emails - you don't even have to do anything with the pixel right away, ok? Just promise me you'll set it up.

What is the pixel? The pixel collects data related to your website. It allows you to see who's visited your website and whether they "added to cart" and much more. When you have this data, you can use it to run highly effective ads. The pixel, in other words, is the basis for starting ad campaigns on social media. I don't really know anyone who's wasting money on magazine or newspaper ads these days - any savvy small business is running social media ads because they are WAY less expensive and WAY more effective. I would highly recommend you take a course on social media advertising early on in your business or - if you're not ready for that - regularly listen to some podcasts on this topic so you can begin to learn about it.

If you have a platform like Shopify, it is so easy to set up the pixel. It's literally a matter of cutting and pasting. Go to your website platform's help center and search "how to set up the Facebook Pixel" or head on over to YouTube and search "how to set up the Facebook Pixel on {insert the name of your website platform whether that's Shopify, Squarespace, etc}." Then, when you're ready to run some ads - even if that's two years from now - you will have built up two years' worth of data that you can then use to run effective ad campaigns.

Two side notes: (1) you need to have a Facebook Business Page in order to get a pixel (it takes a matter of minutes to set up a page so just head to Facebook or YouTube for instructions if you can't figure it out yourself) and (2) you cannot set up a Facebook Pixel on an Etsy page or another similar platform. You have to own the website in order to place a Facebook Pixel on it. That's another reason you want your own website and don't want to rely on Etsy!

Let me make another little note since it seems appropriate here: in the beginning, you might just be selling to friends and family. That's great for now. And maybe that's why you don't understand quite yet why it's so important to collect emails, design your own website, and set up a pixel. But selling to friends and family is not a long-term business strategy. At some point, you need to start selling your products or services to strangers. How do you do that? How do you sell to strangers? Word-of-mouth (but that tends to work pretty slowly), attending conferences or pop up shops or craft shows where you can sell your products or services, and running advertising campaigns that target people who are most likely to enjoy what you have to offer. Marketing and advertising might seem overwhelming at the moment but you'll get to it soon enough. For now, just set up the systems (an email list and a pixel) you will need to set up effective advertising campaigns later on.

I'll end on a positive note! Of this list, 2 out of 3 items should only take an afternoon. It doesn't take long to sign up for Flodesk, set up a pop up form to collect emails, and set up your Facebook Pixel. And if you don't have your own website yet, that really doesn't take a long time either if you are somewhat tech savvy. If you're not, consider hiring someone to build a basic site for you (you can always upgrade it later) or set a goal to spend 2 hours per week working on it yourself. Even if it takes you 12 months to complete it, at least you'll be well on your way to having your own website. 

If you'd like my Weekly Journal sent straight to your inbox every Monday night, click here to subscribe. I hope you're able to learn something from my experience and also my mistakes!


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