THERE ARE ONLY TWO WAYS YOUR BUSINESS CAN GO: UP OR DOWN.
One of the main issues I faced as a creative entrepreneur was defining how to grow my business. (I do this every day) What is meant by "growing up"? You can develop your company by increasing your workforce, diversifying your activity, extending your means of distribution for your products or services. I realized that before going one direction or another, I had to question myself, question my business model to know how to develop my activity and my brand. Still, as creative entrepreneurs, we must ask ourselves the right questions and define the right actions to implement.
Here are 9 simple steps that will help you answer the famous question "How to grow my business?"
1. MAKE AN INVENTORY OF YOUR ACTIVITY
You should ask yourself the right questions:
What are the strengths and weaknesses of my business?
What makes my business and product different?
What is my financial situation?
What should I do different this year?
What do I want to stand for?
What are my business weaknesses?
Having realized your handmade business's state of affairs, lean on the positive elements of your company to create your development strategy.
As for the weak points you have identified, consider how you could improve them in order to develop your business and grow as an artisan and maker but also a business owner.
2. OWN THE REALITY OF YOUR BUSINESS AS IT IS TODAY
A novice business owner (and this is where almost every entrepreneur begins) believe that, “if you build it, they will come.” At this beginner stage, you set up a shop and expect customers to find you and buy what you have to offer. When I launched my business, I was also naive to (or in denial of) the necessary long-term efforts and sacrifice I had to make. As a serious business owner, you have to take full responsibility of your business’ success and understand the value of each brick making the foundation of your creative business. Understand what difficulties you have to overcome in order to take it to the next level. And know that it is ok to be where you are now.
3. SET GOALS
To move on and do better, you have to define SMART objectives for your business :
Simple to explain and understand
Measurable to know when it is reached
Acceptable for yourself and those around you
Realistic with the strategy chosen according to your abilities and your environment
Temporal and fixed in time.
My advice is to keep in mind that no prospect of development or improvement is too small. Over time, I realized that even the smallest can make significant gains. Keep an open mind and sit down right now and make a list of your goals. I was given a book by my pastor's wife and my dear friend Karen, How to Eat That Frog: 21 Great Ways to Stop Procrastinating and Get More Done in Less Time and this book is a great place to start. Basically, you need to sit down and make a list of goals...and an actionable plan to get there. I promise you will thank me.
4. BE DEDICATED BUT DON'T FORGET TO BUILD RELATIONSHIPS
Everything happens for a reason. My belief is that God puts us right where he wants us. He also puts people in our life at the right time too. I believe in building relationships, learning and growing with others, and leaning on the shoulders of other businesses like yours. Be dedicated but don't forget relationships. If you want to take your business to the next level, you must dedicate all your time and energy to it and somehow manage to build friendships and relationships because that is how you grow as a person and as a business.
In the past years, I have thrown more energy, time and money into my business, adding more services and taking services away, experimented with new designs, marketing efforts, and tried social media but nothing works better than building relationships. Even when I came to the point when I needed to hire and outsource some work I have to build relationships with my team. Building and tending to relationships will help you stay dedicated but with focused values, and I believe that will grow your business.
As a full time working stay at home mom with two toddlers, I realize that it's important to be able to spend time with family too…so now I hire qualified professionals to take some of the load off of myself and my family. I know that is either I pay for a sitter or pay a professional. As a result, my business is growing, my relationships with my family and my clients are growing. Taking things seriously and committing personally and financially to your creative activity is crucial if you want to make a living out of it and don't be afraid to make new friends along the way.
5. BE WILLING TO INVEST IN YOUR COMPANY
You’ve all heard the old saying, “It takes money to make money.” Another way to put it is recognizing that if you do not invest everything you’ve got in your business, there’s no reason somebody else will. I’ve also learned that the bigger my investment is, the bigger the return. Investing money, and not only time or energy is a powerful way to force yourself in taking your business seriously.
Investing monetarily isn't the only way to invest in your business either.
Start by taking a new class or learning a new skill. Try something different.
Investing in your company can take quite a few different forms. I have been thinking for a few years about going back to school for development and I might start at a local college and just take a few classes to start...but it's an investment in my business but also myself. You cant lose.
6. HIRE A PROFESSIONAL
You can’t always make it on your own, don't be afraid to hire someone to help. Entrepreneurs who succeed, hire graphic designers, and brand strategists (like me :), mentors, virtual assistants, coaches, copywriters and community managers to help them take their business to the next level.
If you are not an expert at marketing, photography, advertising, design or copywriting it makes sense to hire a professional. I have learned you cant do everything yourself. Especially as an artisan. How do you make the art, sell it, keep track of finances, market, build a website, go to shows, and do everything yourself? You cant do everything well. Something always falls to the wayside. You have to learn when to throw in the towel and pay someone who knows what they are doing. Don't go crazy trying to DO ALL THE THINGS. If you do not have the financial means to grow your team yet, find friends who are willing to help you for free, hire a trainee, or solicit the help of freelancers for one-time projects.
7. WORK ON YOUR BRAND
Your ‘Brand Identity’ is how you want your customers to perceive you, your product and your business. The components of your brand identity include your name, logo, copywriting tone, tagline, typography) Use it to influence the perception your customers have of you. This is why visual branding is so important to me.
Whether you’re knowingly influencing it or not, your audience is always defining your brand. If the visual that represents your business does not match your values and your identity, it will confuse, and alienate your audience. As you can see, a visual brand identity is more than just pictures of your products, or of yourself. It’s the sum total of everything your audience can see when they look at you and your company. Together, all of those visual elements tell a story of your brand. That story should re-affirm your values and not take customers away from them.
Really, branding is much much more than just your visual identity or your logo…it really is the feeling that a customer gets when they walk into your booth at an art show, type in your web url on the internet, how you respond to an email, the receipt they receive after they purchase an item, the emails you send out or your newsletter (how it looks and sounds), and even how you answer the phone. Branding is all inclusive of how your company feels, functions, and the product. People don’t just buy a product they buy why you do it...
8. FIND NEW WAYS TO SELL
Forging new effective sales channels for your brand is crucial if you want to diversify and attract more customers. This is your lifeline if one of your product, sales channel or marketing strategies does not work. As small business owners we don’t have to put all of our eggs in the same basket, we can create a safety net. Always be willing to try new things, expand your brand horizon (while staying true to yourself), have a willingness to learn, grow and open your eyes to new relationships potential partnerships and exciting changes for your business.
9. JUST GO FOR IT
All these tips will be useless if you do not take a leap of faith and implement them.
Get out of your comfort zone every day and direct all your actions towards your business’ success. Don’t be afraid to network and go to new places, try new things, experiment, fail and keep on doing your thing. I promise you can do it.