Wednesday, 7 January 2015

Being your own boss and what to expect

Many people email me asking for advice on how to start their own crochet business. The short answer is usually just do what you love and the rest will fall into place, but the long answer will definitely require a little more advice on what to expect.

This post isn't so much about how to start your own business, you can read a post I wrote about that here if you would like, but more on what to expect and what you will need to think about skill set wise. Any areas you don't have skills in you will have to think about outsourcing those roles to someone else, which can incur costs.

The Designer

I often believe that the best days of starting your business and being your own boss is preparing to start, as your only job role at this time is designer. At this time you are only thinking about your product, but you will soon find that you will need to develop skills in sales and marketing as you begin to think about how you will sell your product. The questions you need to ask yourself are;

1. Who is your target market?
2. What means of selling will I do? i.e craft shows or online, if online, what websites?
3. How will I get my name about?
4. What will your brand identity be and will I have a logo? Will it be your name or a company name?

and lastly;

5. THINK ABOUT THE FUTURE!

I say 'think about the future' because companies develop over time, change and merge into different things. What you are selling today may not be what you are selling tomorrow, will your brand identity be able to move with you? I know quite a few people who have set up a Facebook page and then wished they could change the name of the page, which can be hard to do, so think now what you want to be in 5 years time as best as you can.

IT, Sales and Marketing Manager

Once you've wrapped up your initial launch marketing campaign you will quickly find you will need some IT skills because now comes the time when you will need to think about setting up social media pages, or a website or an Etsy shop. You will need an email address that is suitable for your business. If you have brought a domain name such as www.craftwebsitenamehere.com then you should get some free email addresses with that domain i.e bettysmith@craftwebsitenamehere.com.

If you don't have any IT skills and are daunted by this prospect then now is the time to ask the IT guru nephew or get a web agency in to help you. I warn you though, web agencies who build websites are expensive and start-up costs in a business should always be kept to a minimum in case you fail! Of course you don't plan to fail but it's something you need to think about. Every initial start-up cost is eating into your profits before you have even begun so if you are not good with IT and don't have an IT literate nephew, then now is the time to get studying the ins and outs of advertising online. A simple Google search will bring up lots of help pages and articles on what you need to know.

Customer Services

So now you have become the designer, the saleswoman, the marketing manager and the IT techy, so what's next on your job role list? More than likely it will be customer services. This may sound easy but you need to develop a thick skin. You will inevitably get customers who will contact you with those most bizarre of requests, that to you may sound simple but to them they don't have a clue, even if you have taken the time to write up help pages you will be guaranteed that people will still not read them and want you to answer them directly.

Enjoy this experience, don't get annoyed with it. This in turn will give them a positive experience and they will go away telling all their friends how nice and helpful you are. The same goes for angry customers, even if you are not at fault, apologise for their inconvenience, don't get angry back at them, it doesn't achieve anything other than bad customer feedback online and offline. As the old saying goes, the customer is always right (even when he's wrong).

Another thing to remember is to answer your emails in a good time frame. I find 24-48 hours is ok. Even if you can't help don't ignore them as people like to feel valued or they will go elsewhere.

The same goes on social media, of course you will discover as you grow that you can't answer everyone so try to pick out what you think is important to answer, otherwise just re-direct people to your FAQs. Try to develop a community by talking to your customers, treat them as individuals not just a mass of customers, make people feel valued even if they don't buy anything because one day they might buy something! Developing an attitude of 'why should I help them when they have only downloaded a free pattern' is NOT the way to go.

Being the Boss!

You will also discover that becoming your own boss still means having a boss, YOU! you will need to develop good skills in time management. Sitting on Facebook all day checking your likers count is not going to help your business grow, so dedicate time to being on social media, checking your emails and designing your products. This is very important and even something I still struggle with. If you get a lot of emails then just turn off your email program and come back to it.

So as you have discovered being your own boss requires a huge skill set but it is doable. Have faith, be nice and just be the best you can. Don't expect to be rich tomorrow, focus on what you love and you should do ok. Most of all, ENJOY IT!

The Diplomat

Oh! and before I go, you may also become known as someone who stays at home and doesn't do anything to all your friends and family as people sometimes confuse self-employment with unemployment but this comes with the territory. It can be a lonely road being your own boss as your time becomes taken up and friends may not understand why they can't see you even if you are at home so if you are a workaholic like me then it is very important to think about a good work and life balance although as one person once said to me, my work is my life so I just do what I enjoy!

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