When I first started out in my self employed career I was running a wedding stationery design business, if you could even call it a business!
Like many I started whilst on maternity leave with my first child because going back to my full time job in a design studio wasn’t an option. I created some designs for friends and loved it so I did the typical thing of ‘hey I can make a business out of this!’.
Within a week I had my business name, logo, a couple of ideas for designs and was building my own website (on Wix!). It was all very low budget ALTHOUGH I did waste a tonne of money buying print samples for the designs I was creating because I needed samples to send to clients right? I jumped onto Instagram and Facebook and was posting all sorts of images just to build my audience and get those all important likes and follows.
Like many creatives I jumped straight into the visuals without doing all of the essential work beforehand to create a brand for my business. At this point I never intended for it to be a ‘proper’ business (whatever one of those is because what even is a ‘proper job’ these days?!). It was simply something I really enjoyed doing and I could make some money out of it and fit it in around my baby.
When I first started I chose a name that sounded nice and worked but that was it. Sugar and Spice Designs. I didn’t love it and I didn’t put enough thought into it at all. I actually ended up hating my business name and feeling really embarrassed by it. To the point where when I was at a networking event I would mumble my business name because I just didn’t like it. I was hiding behind my products and name because I guess I felt too embarrassed to come forward and show who I was.
This is where I went SO wrong and where I see hundreds of other women doing exactly the same thing and wondering why they’re not making enough money or why they’re not getting the engagement on Instagram or attracting the right people. Yet they see their competitors doing so well which just causes huge imposter syndrome.
Don’t worry! If this is you, I speak from experience and I know 100% that YOU can turn things around and your business will be a success, but you HAVE to put the essential work in first to get there.
Well, within a year of launching my ‘business’ (or let’s say hobby) I had invested in a course, joined a membership group, rebranded my business including a name change with a new website, found my niche, more than doubled my prices, was attracting the RIGHT clients with ease, I had so much confidence in my business and stopped hiding, I also stopped comparing myself to others because I had no need to. I was focused on my own path that it didn’t matter what anyone else was doing because I was doing what I loved to do and brides were booking me because they loved my work.
So, here are the 10 things I did in order to transform my hobby into a multi award winning, successful business…
One of the first things you should do as a business owner (and this is something everyone needs to know no matter what stage you’re at in your business) is, what is your brand message?
Your brand message is what your audience and customers can relate to and it tells your story. It’s the core value of your business that makes you, well, YOU!
In order to create your brand message you need to think about what it is you want to tell your audience. What is your purpose? What is it that you do and why? Your brand message will be a short statement that defines what you’re all about.
Ideal client, dream client, whatever you can it, it is absolutely essential that you know exactly who it is you’re targeting. This is one of the biggest mistakes I made with my stationery business to start with. I was trying to appeal to everyone. Creating a design style to fit with a whole range of wedding styles rather than creating a style that fits with one type of client.
So, who do you want to work with? Who do you want to help? It’s really important to know who you’re targeting so you can create a brand that will resonate with them and make them want to buy.
As an example, for my wedding stationery business my ideal client is a bride to be in her mid-late 20s who is planning a wedding in the Mediterranean surrounded by olive trees and who is putting so much thought into all the little details to create her perfect day.
Now, does this mean I’m going to miss out on a whole load of bookings because I’m only targeting these brides? NO! It means I’m completely speaking to this type of client making it an easy decision for them to book me because my style and brand is targeting them and solving their problems. It also means that brides who are planning a country wedding in the UK or other destinations and are inspired by the Mediterranean or perhaps just love my style will also book me because they want wedding stationery just like the designs I create.
This was a massive change for me to take my hobby to a business but a really key step because without knowing this it’s impossible to know who you’re speaking to with all of your messaging.
When it comes to having a business where you’re making your products it is so important that you love the making and designing part! Many people lose the love and feel like a conveyor belt because they’re churning out multiple orders for items they don’t really enjoy making just because they’re good sellers.
Always focus on what you love to do! If you could create the same product or type of product over and over again what would it be? If you offer a bespoke service such as cake design, stationery, jewellery etc what would be your dream project to work on?
If you focus on creating products that you’re passionate about this is what your customers will come to you for and what they’ll start to recognise you for. It will form your niche to help set you apart from your competitors.
For those products that you don’t enjoy but sell well, increase your prices if you don’t feel comfortable removing them. People will still pay for them but you won’t have to create so many.
Once you’ve done the first 3 steps, now is the time to review your branding. Your branding essentials are your brand identity design which includes your logo design, colour palette, typography/fonts, graphics, textures and backgrounds.
These are the essential assets every business needs in order to create a consistent look and feel across every touchpoint. Without these assets you can have a logo but this doesn’t give you the tools you need to be consistent.
Your brand identity is what your audience recognises. It’s your mark/stamp that tells them who you are.
If you’re working with a designer to create your brand identity design, make sure they ask questions about your business. They should be asking who your ideal client is and what you’re looking to achieve in your business so they can create these essential assets to fit for your business and will attract those dream customers.
There I said it. This is one of my absolute pet hates! When I see people that have so much skill and have spent a huge amount of time creating their products, they then undersell themselves with rubbish snap shots!
Your photos need to make your dream customers want to buy from you. If you’re sharing images that don’t fit with your brand aesthetic or that resonate with your dream customer it’s going to be much harder to convert them into a paying customer.
With good photography that shows your products in their true light and shows all the details with close up images it can be the difference between getting that sale or not. Anyone can transform their snap shots into scroll stopping images, you just need to practice and ensure you’re being consistent.
When it comes to pricing this is a tricky one to work out BUT one thing I have learnt over the years is there is no such thing as industry standard!
Just like every large company out there will pay their staff a different wage, product costs for business owners will differ too so do not compare your prices to others.
You have to be charging your worth! When I say this, I mean you need to be charging for your costs, the time it takes you to fulfil the order (from start to finish, so including email communication, time making, packing up and even that trip to the post office! This is all YOUR time so you should be charging for it!), plus charge for your expertise!
You have a skill. You have spent time and perhaps even money learning how to make and/or design your products so you should be charging for your expertise! Also think about how many hours you can physically work each week or month. If you can only work very limited hours your prices will be higher. Someone that works full time on their business can afford to charge less because they’re working more hours so never compare your prices to others, you don’t know their process/outgoings/working hours.
This is essential for any business. Yes you May sell on Etsy or another marketplace website. Perhaps you just sell via DMs on social media. However you are currently selling you 100% need a website BUT you need a website that works!
The majority of customers will browse your website and even buy on their mobile phone so you have to have a website that looks just as amazing on mobile as it does on a desktop. It also needs to be search engine optimised (or SEO) so people can find it! This includes using the right keywords and phrases as well as naming your images and pages correctly to make everything searchable.
My lovely friend and SEO whizz has tonnes of advice so go check her out here: https://brilliantlyvisible.com
Always have any other marketplace or online platform as a secondary option to your own website.
To get those all important reviews you need to create an enjoyable experience for your customers. Think about every single touchpoint of their journey with you. From the moment they first find you, to buying from you, receiving their order and if you follow up with a thank you. Each step needs to make them feel good! Get them excited to not only order from you because they’ve fallen in love with your beautiful brand and message, but create a memorable experience throughout.
Branded stationery and packaging makes a huge difference when sending your orders. Handwritten notes on luxurious branded notecards to thank your customers for their order adds a personal touch and even following up to ask how they found their experience so you can get a review and make any adjustments to improve your service will only allow you to grow as a business.
Building your audience is so much easier when you know who you’re targeting. Connect with those who your ideal customer would be following and buying from. This can be famous people on social media, other businesses, even others in your industry that may have a very similar dream customer.
As an example, for my wedding stationery business, most of my clients find me through Instagram so it’s important to focus on this platform and build my audience by connecting with the right people. This includes destination wedding suppliers, venues in the Mediterranean, businesses they would buy from and even celebrities.
Connect with people who also help your dream customers. This could be a local business that you can build a relationship with. Perhaps look to join a smaller membership group where you’ll be able to get support and have some other business owners to be your cheerleaders!
If you’re in the wedding industry, working on collaborative styled shoots helps to build your audience, boost your visibility and also gives you some extra beautiful images for your business. Just make sure you see a moodboard and know who else is involved in the shoot so you can ensure it’s the right fit for your brand.
The key to having a strong brand and recognisable business is to be consistent. This means having a curated social media feed and gallery, being true to who you are, only showing products you want to sell more of and creating a consistent luxury brand experience for your customers journey with you.
Consistency is absolutely essential so if you’re ever unsure about sharing an image on social media because it doesn’t quite fit, don’t share it! Or if you do, stick it on stories, not on your main feed!
Follow these tips and you’ll not only have more confidence but you’ll also have a clear and identifiable brand your dream customers will find irresistible!