Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Starting Out: Not your average advice

Over the past 2 weeks I've gotten several emails asking how to start a business/blog. I'm flattered because I haven't been doing this for very long. Sometimes though, I think that when you're first starting out everything is fresh in your mind. Some of the best advice I've gotten is from those who were in the same positon I was.

So here are some things I've learned. Most aren't traditional bits of advice, but things that I still think are important to consider.

1. You'll have to let some things go. If you are serious about starting a sustainable business, some parts of your life are going to have fall to the back burner. Decide what your priorities are. With that said, even your biggest priorities can quickly move to second place. This might sound bad, but there are some days when I really have to make an effort to remove myself from sanding, blogging, emailing, etc to go play with Rhett- even though I adore him. I promise you your house will be dirtier, you will probably lose a few pounds because meal time becomes more sporadic, and you won't sleep as much. With that said, you will find a rhythm and even though you'll just keep getting busier, you will find a way to manage it.    

2. You're going to need $$$, no matter what kind of business you're starting. It doesn't need to be a ton, but if you are serious about becoming big, you'll need some. We started out investing $350 of our own money into 551 East. We bought some furniture, paint, sander paper, a paint sprayer, sanding block etc. Now when we sell a piece the profit goes into one account and the cost money goes into another. That way we always have that $350 to keep investing in 551 East.  If you are also trying to build a blog you'll need money to either use for sponsorships on other blogs to get your name out there, or you'll want to host giveaways to build your readership. Most likely you'll need to host your first couple giveaways so you'll need to provide something to give away. A side note about this. Make sure what you are giving away will attract the most types of readers. We did a $25 dollar cash giveaway at the beginning and it produced a great increase in following. I'm not saying that this is the best way to do anything, but it worked for us. If you don't have cash to invest, DON'T GO INTO DEBT. Because there is absolutely no guarantee that your blog/business will work, you don't want a credit card debt. Start with what you have. Talk to family or friends if you need a little cash, but if others are going to invest in you, be worth investing in.

3. Plan to spend a decent amount of time in front of a computer. When I started 551 East, one reason was  because I felt like I was spending too much time on the computer and I wanted a hobby/outlet. Ha! You'll spend a lot of time trying to create the look of your blog, commenting on other blogs to get your name out, posting, researching, editing, responding to emails, sending thank yous, etc etc etc.

4. You won't be able to do it alone. Have the support of your spouse or a great friend. You have a lot of work ahead of you. You probably will be giving up some social time, conversation on subjects other than your business, and you'll need someone to bounce ideas off of. A supportive influence is worth so so much.

5. You're going to need to become proficient in more ways than you're anticipating. Probably the biggest shock to me was how tech savvy I was going to become. You'll need to be able to see ahead and anticipate what you need to be doing, before you need to create it/post it/ say it. You'll need to to learn how to take quality pictures, how to market, how to budget, how to produce quality products, etc. It's still a sharp learning curve for me, but you learn quickly from your mistakes.

6. Be relatable and personal. I don't necessarily mean that you have to tell your life story, but let people get to know you. I personally think it's OK to occasionally combine business and family. Show people that you have a life outside your business. And this will also help you keep your life from being overtaken by starting a business. Help people feel something and you can make some real friends through it.

7. Find what makes you different. We chose to put a picture of me on our masthead because almost no other blogs in our sphere had anything like that. Don't copy other people. Use them for inspiration, but create your own style.

8. Dream BIG. Do I want my own show on HGTV showing people how to thrift and repurpose furniture? Heck yes! Am I a tiny little blog in a world full of people more talented and knowledgeable than me? Heck yes! And that's OK. One day I want to be as talented as Miss Mustard Seed or Made by Girl or Miss James at Bleubird Vintage. And one day I will be. :) But if I'm not, I'm Ok with that.

9. Know why you want to do this. Write it down so you remember. Be determined.

10. Don't be afraid, but know you'll make mistakes. It's OK. Everyone will do it. It's frustrating to know you've lost resources and time, so learn and move on.

11. Get your name out there. This is an ongoing process. Follow other peoples blogs, leave LOTS of comments, join link parties, start a Facebook page, ask people to guest post for you and if you can guest post for them, have giveaways, create a button for your blog, and ask you friends and family to put your posts etc on their Facebook page, email, blog whatever. 

12. Always say thank you. This is SO important. If someone leaves you a comment, send an email or comment on their blog. Kindness goes along way.

I hope this helps! I love doing this and I'm so grateful for those who have supported us. :) 

P.S. Here's a sneak peak on a piece I'll post this evening. 

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  1. This is such a great post! I am a newbie and I am just going full force, even though it is all very intimidating. It is funny that you mentioned your header, because I always remember your blog because your picture is fabulous!!

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. Thanks, definitely some great points. My reason for starting? I needed a hobby too. I wanted a project to invest in, something that would challenge me in multiple ways. We'll see how it goes. Thanks again for the advice!

  4. Thank you so much for this wonderful post. I so appreciate someone taking time out to give this kind of advice. The blog-sphere can be so competitive.
    I have just recently begun thinking about sponsorship and/or an Etsy shop. I'm definitely small on the follower scale and was wondering when the right time was to move this "hobby" to something more.

  5. great advice! I'm still trying to figure out what I'm even doing, by blogging lol I think most people hope to make money by starting a blog business, and of course I would like that.. i think i'm just needing some pushes in the right direction =)

  6. Great Advice. Thanks for the sneak peak.

  7. I'm slowly in the process of starting my own business. I'm working on building up some inventory right now. Thanks for the great advice. I do have a question for you. I plan to do something similar and sell through my blog. Do you sell locally only or anywhere. If anywhere, how do you ship your furniture?

  8. i love this post. it's so relatable and i feel like you're talking just to me. you're seriously such a doll!

  9. just found this fab post as i perused your blog. oh, how right you are about being tech savvy and spending time at the computer. and it's such a balance with children, HW, husbands, lax practice, etc. plan, plan, plan!

    thanks for your honesty!

  10. great advice! Just found your blog, I love it!

  11. Great advice from someone who has been there recently! Definitely a little intimidating to look at, but very motivating at the same time. I'm not great with computers and I'm a little overwhelmed by this whole blog/seo/internet marketing thing, but with helpful people like you out there I think i can learn! thanks!

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