What I wish I’d known a year ago about running a small business….

 So just over a year ago I was so excited, poised and ready to hit that ‘share’ button on my first Instagram post. My journey as a new small business was about to begin! I was excited and in my naïvety I actually thought that by pressing that button I was going to be inundated with comments, likes and sales…. I remember I got a compliment in the comments section only a few moments into my first post and I thought, wow, this is amazing this business lark is so easy… oh how wrong I was 

Only 12 months ago I was posting to Instagram with what I can only describe as pretty rubbish photos and actually, when I think back to the photography I launched my website with, OMG, I now cringe;  I had no idea what I was doing! I’d never ever heard of SEO, having a marketing plan, a social media calendar or even how important those photos are. I was stumbling around in the dark, trying to figure out what to do next and learning as I went. I know there is no perfect time to start a business and I’ve since realised that it’ll always be a work in progress and that I’ll always be striving for the next goal, always wanting to improve and do better. I still have so much work to do with regard to the above, but, throughout this past year, I’ve realised that it’s also healthy to stop, breathe and pat myself on the back for what I have achieved so far. It’s very easy to compare myself to other, bigger, more successful businesses out there, however, celebrating the small wins needs to be considered by myself too. 

I think one of the mistakes I did make at the start was rushing into printing some designs that actually, weren’t that good. It might seem honest to admit that, but I feel now, that I was in such a hurry to launch everything that some of the design was rushed too. My impatience was my enemy and a hindrance, but, I have learnt from that. I have learnt to take a step back and ensure that anything I send for print, I’m 100% happy with. I now know that I need to tame the impatient person inside of me and take my time. It may seem like the world is waiting for my next creation, but in reality, they’re really not. It’s ok for me to take my time and make sure I’m super-proud of what I’m putting out there and there really is no need to put unnecessary pressure on myself. 

Now, let’s talk about Instagram! I was pretty clueless when it came to Instagram and how to build any kind of following or engagement. I actually had to be reminded by my brother-in-law to use hashtags when I posted for the first time; I mean CLUELESS was the word! I remember realising that I needed some ‘influencers’ to help me spread the word and I contacted a few people, some with a smaller following and some slightly larger. I waited full of hope for these people to reply; some did, some didn’t. I remember feeling disappointed but now, one year on, I understand the game a bit better. I’ve learnt to adopt a stronger approach to this side of social media and have a thicker skin. Some will reply and might genuinely like my products, but others might not look at my message at all, and that’s ok. The same goes for losing followers, we just have to accept it’s the name of the game and ride that wave without stressing. Sometimes easier said than done though, I know, especially when you’ve spent ages perfecting a post and it gets completely lost in the algorithm Ugh.

I also now understand how important the word ‘social’ is in ‘social media’ and how building rapport with people, commenting, liking and watching their videos is key to your own success and growth. Being genuinely interested in other people’s lives is such a big part of a platform like Instagram and I’m so happy to say I have made some lovely friends, contacts and supporters over the past year, which feels amazing. It’s not all about selling, it’s about adding value to people’s lives and thinking about how I can help them too. 

I know my brand doesn’t have a huge following and it’s growing slowly and organically. The algorithm on Instagram can be a bit of a beast to tackle, so I’ve begun to think of other ways of getting my business ‘out there.’ A year ago I wasn’t even thinking about blogging or Pinterest as ways of driving traffic to my website, but now I know it needs to be part of my daily/weekly/monthly routine (when I can find a spare 5 mins!) Finding interesting topics to focus on can be hard, but being able to evoke emotion in people, help someone overcome a problem or impart some kind of wisdom I’ve learnt, is crucial to building a brand and a following. Blogging can also drive traffic to your website if you pin your blog on Pinterest as well. This is definitely an area that I am still very new to and it does take time and dedication to continue increasing your monthly views, however, as soon as I realised that Pinterest is a search engine and not just a picture book, it became obvious that it was something I needed to put time into. 

My website is still a work in progress (just like everything else), however, I’m conscious of the fact that everything is always evolving and can improve slowly with time. Rome wasn’t built in a day after all! My email list is underway and that’s another thing I hadn’t considered a year ago. It’s so important to have that list of contacts who love your products and your business and I always have the best of intentions and try to send them out a nice discount code or free printable on a monthly basis.  

I’m well aware that Ta doodle dah is still in its infancy and most of the world have never heard of it, but I feel like I’m so much wiser than a year ago. I’ve listened to podcasts, read copious articles, researched ways of doing things and I know so much more. Granted, I’m still learning, but I feel proud. Having a small brand is a rollercoaster; one minute you’re high because you’ve had a few orders and the next minute you’re low because someone you really wanted to reply and say yes to something, never did. My brain is constantly buzzing with new design ideas, or thinking about what I’m going to post/say/do next….! It’s hard work and sometimes the last thing I feel like doing is writing a witty caption for a post, but I do just get on with it. It sounds pretty cheesy, but I stick at it and don’t give up because it’s all mine, my ideas, my baby and I want it to succeed. 

So that’s me and my huge learning curve. I’m not trying to say that everything in this blog post is the be all and end all, it’s just some of what I’ve become aware of so far along the way. I say 'some' because there are sooo many other areas I haven't really touched on that I've learnt about. I can’t believe it’s been going a year, but here’s to the next one and I’m looking forward to everything I’ll learn and do before April 2020!  

And finally, one of the biggest lessons I’ve learnt is that I can do it. If other mums like me are out there juggling the kids, the house, the every day comings and goings, plus a business and succeeding, then why can’t I?! You never know if you don’t try, right? 

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Plus if you check out my Pinterest there is a ‘social media tips’ board you might find helpful.