Making Scary Decisions is Part of the Business

Being an entrepreneur is scary. If owning your own business was easy, everyone would do it.

No one tells you what to do, which means you get credit for your successes and the blame for the failures. Every decision falls on you to make, big to little. Even writing this is giving me butterflies.

So how do you get anything done?

Obviously there is no perfect answer to this, but I will tell you what works for me; a combination of research and personal experience.

I recently decided to expand my business. I have been knitting custom golf club covers for years and have become quite successful at it. My customers love what I make and I enjoy making them. However, I have hit a plateau. I needed to change what I was doing to move my business in a positive direction. Did I want to start selling wholesale to golf clubs? Did I want to expand my product line? Did I want to invest in advertising and licensing? All of them would require investing time and money on things that I could not guarantee success.

I took all these options, looked at what I already knew about myself and my business, then picked one. Which one? I am currently expanding my product line and services. I now host knitting parties, where people can learn to knit one of my patterns. I sell supplies and accessories, things I know knitters and knitting fans want and are not always easy to find.

Honestly, I just picked one.

Once you make a decision you have to follow through. Give yourself a timeframe. Set yourself tasks and goals. Set a budget! Break it down into bitesize pieces. Seek out support. Give this choice every chance for success. Stick to it, then look back and see how you did.

What change do you want to see in your business? What fears are holding you back?

Lessons In Sales From My Cat

Crazy Cat Lady Alert!

Being a soloprenuer, the cats of my home are my friends and co-workers. They may not work very hard, but they do work smart. They get what they want and know exactly when to ask for it. There are so many things I could learn from them as a salesperson, here are a few of the best:

  1. Know what you want – Food is generally her target‚ but not always. Sometimes it’s a good scratch she is begging for. She knows what she wants‚ when she wants it‚ and where or who she can get it from. If you don’t know what you want from your customer‚ how are you going to going to get it?

  2. Know your audience – The cat never goes up to my children to ask for food. Why? Because she knows they are not going to feed her. She also knows that if the person who feeds her is in the kitchen she is most likely to get what she wants. If your know who your customer is‚ and where they are located‚ chance are you are more likely to get their attention. Stop chasing everyone‚ and concentrate on the people that matter.
  3. Keep them interested – Playing with a ball of yarn on the floor by my feet is more then just cute‚ it’s marketing. It makes me want to take care of her. A little interaction with your audience makes them want to do business with you.
  4. Don’t be afraid to ask for more – Almost every time I am in the kitchen‚ the cat is at my feet begging for food. There is always the chance in her mind that I will give her a little extra. There is nothing wrong with reminding customers you are there if they are in the mood to make a purchase‚ that little extra May come your way.

What lessons have you learned from observing others? Please share them‚ I would love to hear!

5 Twitter Tips From Trump

Love him or hate him, you have to admit that Donald Trump is good at twitter. He is able to make a statement, give an opinion in just about every tweet and make it engaging. He knows just when to pump up the volume to get more attention.

So what can we learn about using social media, and more specifically twitter, from Trump?

  1. Post something every day. Trump’s twitter feed is updated daily. In this way he stays at top of mind for his millions of followers.
  2. Post several times a day. He never knows when his followers will be online so he is sure to catch them by writing something at various times.
  3. Make a statement, then add your opinion. Trump has a very distinctive writing style which always includes these two things. Tell your followers what you want them to know, then tell them how you feel about it, or how they should feel.
  4. Be concise and consistent. His statements are always like newspaper article titles. They give you just enough information that you know what he is talking about. You only have 140 characters! Also, try to keep these statements to the same style so people know how to read them.
  5. Get excited. Trump is now afraid of exclamation points. It makes you feel like he really believes what he is saying. His enthusiasm gets people talking.

Now I just want to point out that you should not follow his lead on many of his twitter habits. It is not ok to call people names. It is not ok to make generalizations about entire groups of people based on race, religion, sex, or place of birth. Of course if that is your brand, go for it! You could run for President!

 

Photo Credit: Twitter. Screenshot of Donald Trump’s Tweet

3 Reasons To Complain

If you are reading this article, you probably have a lot to complain about. You are a small business owner and you are not making as much money as you would like. Or one of your clients is asking for way more than you bargained for. Or your child got sick, making a deadline next to impossible for you to accomplish. These things suck, I know, they happen to me all the time.

I have been noticing a trend, however, amongst people I know. It is a phrase that burns when it hits my ears. “I have no right to complain.”

The reasons people say this range from being financially sound to having good health. I have heard a mother say this about her child, and a man say this about his country. They are talking to themselves, trying to convince themselves that in the grand scheme of things they don’t have it so bad.

And they are right, things may not be so bad, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t complain. “The squeaky wheel gets the grease” is another saying. It is the saying I like better. Here are the reasons I feel keeping quiet when things are tough is a mistake:

  1. Complaining could be all you needed to feel better. I will often sit with my husband at night after the kids go to bed and talk about our days. Sometimes it is funny stories, sometimes it is annoying customers. When we are done, we feel heard and validated. Nothing changed other than getting the bad stuff out of our system.
  2. Complaining can be a bonding experience. One of the great things about the Entrepreneurial Think Tank for Women is our meetings where we share our celebrations as well as our challenges. That is a nice way of saying we get a chance to let off steam. We talk about how we have dealt with similar situations and connect on a deeper level. No one is dismissive and are more then happy to help with solutions.
  3. Complaining to the right person could make change happen. It could be as simple as getting your order wrong in a restaurant, if you wanted the chicken but got the fish, you would say something, right? Tell your waiter and you get what you wanted. You don’t need to be rude, just ask for what you need. Of course this is a lot harder in personal situations but the same rule applies.

So I want to hear, what do you have to complain about?

3 Ways To Keep Up The Good Work

It can be hard to stay positive when you are a solopreneur. There are so many days that I sit alone, knitting my custom golf headcovers, and have trouble seeing how any of this matters. I rarely have face-to-face interactions with my customers as most of my sales are online. I also do not have a staff to work through ideas or keep myself on track. The struggle is real.

So how do you keep on keepin on?

I have found a few strategies that help me stay or get back on track when I stray from the path.

  1. Set up a Schedule: Every morning you wake up and get to work in your pj’s. It is a lot easier to define “work” and “home” when you leave to go to an office, but that is not what you do, so setting up a strict schedule can be a lifesaver. I am a morning person so I try to get as much done for work first thing in the morning as possible. This way, when I start to lag in the afternoon I know the important stuff has gotten done. Learn your own productive times so you can take advantage of them.
  2. Check Your Stats: When you are not getting feedback on a regular basis it is hard to stay focused. Numbers are your friend. Knowing what is drawing in your customers will help you learn how you should be spending your time. If you have a website you should absolutely be using google analytics. Its free and will give you tons of insite. If not, you need to be keeping records of what your customers purchase. Find common threads in their wants and needs. Just looking at the numbers can be encouraging, you are doing much better than you think.
  3. Find a Support System: Sitting at home alone can make you feel like you are the only one struggling. Get out and talk to other people in the same boat!

When I found ETTWomen a few years ago it was just what I needed. There I found a group of business women who wanted to connect and support each other. It gets me out of my pj’s. It also gets me out of my own head. When I have new ideas I can use them as a sounding board. I can in return help my fellow members with their own issues.

How do you keep up momentum? What tips or tricks do you have that help you stay on track?

A New Way to Run Your Business

My daughter was recently invited to a friend’s Bat Mitzvah. She is 13 years old and this Jewish right-of-passage is a regular occurrence this year. I dropped her off for the ceremony and expected to hear the usual tale of how well her friend chanted Torah upon picking her up. How wrong I was! My daughter regaled me with a story about a service in Spanish with just a few prayers in hebrew, traditions she had never seen before. I asked so many questions she was not able to answer. How was I just learning that this even existed?

I realized that this could be directly applied to my business. For years I have been refining the way I run it, learning new things but pretty much staying in the same lane. Is there something that is already out there, parallel to my own strategy, but different in ways that I had never experienced?

There is no one right way to run your business. Personally, I have found great success selling hand-knit golf club covers online, through my own website as well as through the handmade marketplace Etsy. Local fairs, a staple for most crafters, have been a waste of time and money for me. However, I have begun doing better research and investing in events that attract more of my target audience, significantly increasing my success rate.

Is there something you haven’t tried or failed at that other people in your industry are doing? It may be a matter of tweaking it to make it work for you.

You May Be Searching All Wrong

Recently, my Mother in Law came to me with a problem because she knew I was a knitter. She was having a hard time finding a pattern she liked. She wanted to make a sweater for my niece with a cute animal on it. If you know anything about knitting, making baby clothing is one of its most popular options. Why would she be struggling to find something so popular online? After a few questions I figured it out: search terms.

Search terms are not always so clear cut. You may think that “Animal Sweater Pattern” would bring up a Noah’s Ark of choices, but it was in fact the word Animal that was holding her back. When I limited that search to Bunny Toddler Sweater Pattern, the search results were 10 times greater.

So how does this apply to you?

  • The words you are using for your product may be too general. How to Knit is not as effective as How to Knit for Beginners. The first will certainly get you listed, but the second will get you a higher ranking on Google and therefore more likely in front of your target audience.
  • Your words could be too specific. Sometimes trying a similar term can increase your chances. How to Knit for Beginners could be Easy Knitting Projects or Beginner Knitting Pattern. Make sure to include these different phases in your content as well as the more generic ones to cover all your bases.
  • You could just be wrong. Using the wrong term could very well be the problem all together. She didn’t want a sweater with Animal from The Muppets. She didn’t want one with all the animals in the zoo. She wanted a cute bunny or teddy bear. When we use the right words, we get the right results. The easiest way to know is to do a google search using your terms. If the results are similar or too dissimilar you have your answer.
  • Things mean other things. You know how some kids will look up pictures of chicks and get results that are NOT appropriate? Yeah, that. “Hooker” is a term crocheters use lovingly to describe themselves, you can see how that could cause confusion. Just be careful, ok.

Now all you have to do is sprinkle these keyword phrases throughout your content and let google do the rest.

Top 5 Lessons From #TheDress

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Have you been living under a rock? I didn’t think so. This means you have seen/participated in the global phenomenon that was “The Dress”.

More than Kim Kardashian’s behind, more then Ellen’s Oscar selfie, the dress sparked shares and conversations around the world. Was it a trick? Was it a clever promotion? Nope, just a woman taking a picture of a dress to share with her daughter in consideration for a wedding.

As a small business owner, it is my dream to have something I share make this much impact. So I have been studying what we can all learn from it.

Here are my top 5 Lesson from #TheDress:

  1. Perception is reality.
    Blue and Black or White and Gold, it didn’t matter how you saw it, it was right. If your customer’s see your brand differently then you do, it is time to either adjust your own thinking or your focus to put you both on the same page.
  2. Conversation is key.
    It’s a dress that got people talking. If you are in product based business, putting your items into unusual environments might garner the wanted results, service based businesses may want to discuss misuse or abuse in your industry and how you don’t do that.
  3. Use what you have.
    All she had was a picture of a dress, posted it on tumblr and asked a question. Engage with your audience where they are. Ask them questions, give them advice, play games. You don’t have to do this everywhere either. If you love pinterest, use that. I am most comfortable on twitter (@traceyknits) and talk there more than anyplace else.
  4. Trending.
    You can tie-in anything. Note how I took the topic of the dress and turned it into something else. If everyone is talking about it, it is easy to get people to be interested in what you have to say about it.
  5. Keep it simple.
    A dress and a question. For you it could be a picture of a grumpy cat and a tagline about your business. Don’t overthink it, you never know what is going peek someone’s interest, just keep trying different things.

So what color did you see? And what did you take away from this viral sensation? Would love to know, leave me a comment below!

Tracey Rediker is owner of Tracey Knits,
maker of playful hand-knit golf club covers.
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Photo Credit: Buzz Feed

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