October-In-Review

October... I thought I was hustling hard in September but I really upped the ante this past month! However, in my focus on my work, I neglected the analytics a bit in the sense that I didn't pay attention to collecting all the numbers. Even so, I know there was growth - my personal growth, my business growth. Those of you new to the blog who haven't followed my previous month-in-reviews, this is when I give you a little synopsis of what it's like, for me, starting a business from a homeschool-mom, no investor, small business point of view. Hopefully this will be a good resource for those of you who either have your own small businesses in the early stages, or who are considering it, especially while being the primary caretaker of your kids and with little money available for investing. Plus, it allows for a bit of transparency, a behind-the-scenes look at what goes on behind all the work. I learned SO MUCH, some personal fails included (well, fail in my eyes but not business-wise I guess you could say).

Things I accomplished

Me hanging out at Oktoberfest. Sorry if you've seen this in an earlier post, I'm a bit sleep deprived and my memory's shot.

Me hanging out at Oktoberfest. Sorry if you've seen this in an earlier post, I'm a bit sleep deprived and my memory's shot.

  • I did my first ever festival with the Oktoberfest in Ambler
  • I added quite a few more blog posts. I was only doing a once-a-week post  (Inspiration Sundays) - I changed that to Motivation Mondays, changed Inspiration Sundays to share inspirational things, and added Felting Fridays.
  • I learned how to dye my own wool
  • I got over my huge discomfort with being on video. I know I had done other videos prior to October, but none of them show my face or have my voice. Being on video is definitely something I needed to get over in order to see more growth with my business, especially in this day and age of Youtube, Snapchat, Facebook live, etc. Maybe one of these days I'll finally sit down and watch (and edit) my wedding video. It's been 7 years. Haven't seen it yet. I don't have Snapchat yet because I have a really crappy, cheap phone that I use for emergency purposes only. I do the majority of my communication on my computer because I'm home most of the time (and when I'm out, I'm trying to pay attention to other things than my phone). I think I'm going to have to break down at some point and get a decent phone again. The data on this pay-as-you-go sucks, I can't get on facebook or anything with it, but I know that when it comes to marketing these days, a working smartphone is a must.
  • I published my first paid tutorial (actually, two of them) along with an intro on youtube, a preview for the whimsy houses tutorial and a free one (how to make a Snorlax ball). 
  • Earned revenue on Etsy for the third month in a row, and a bit more than the previous two months.
  • I gained more followers across the board, but mostly on Facebook (where I do the majority of my communication)
  • Started a new thing on Instagram: my daily self-awareness journal prompts. 
  • Posted my first Facebook ad.

Things I've learned

You get back what you put in, but not in the quantity you might expect. That is directly proportional to how many followers you have and the level of interest they have in what you're marketing. If I was making tons of widgets that everyone wants (using the term my Economics teacher used), then I would have more sales compared to how many followers I have. However, there's the issue of the widget being so new, or different, that you're really trying to find early-adopter-consumers. How long did it take for the iPod to take off? I'm finding the same issue with needle felting. I really think it's going to be a huge hit in the arts & crafts market in the next 10-20 years. But for the time being, it's so new that if you were to walk into a craft store, the space allotted for it is about the size of an end cap. The wool you can get in store is about the size of a quart-sized ziplock bag, and it's not even good quality wool! It's cheap, scratchy, and incredibly OVERPRICED. Which in some ways I can understand. If you don't have a lot of sales in something, you need to make up for the production costs, the cost of shelving it, etc. However, if you make a crap product, and you make it expensive, you're hurting the chances of people trying it out and becoming interested in it. What I'm trying to do is expand the market. To ramp up that interest, to show people how to do it... but it's really hard when people look at you like you've got two heads when you mention needle felting. Hence the tutorials. The videos. The insane amount of time spent marketing it. Teaching local classes, especially to younger generations. At some point, as there is a greater market for it, there will be more suppliers, you get supplier competition which brings more realistic pricing, better quality, availability, etc. We need to make this viral. Fashion designers, I'm talking to you too... (I'm looking at you dear brother, Nicholas. Make it a DIY upcycling fashion statement, it'll be the next big thing. Listen to your bis sis for once ;) Love you!)

Planning is essential. Ironically, one of the things I love doing and is extremely helpful is also the thing that got put on the back burner, that being my planner/bujo love. I didn't make the time to sit down, plan things out, especially as things became more chaotic. And guess what? I learned that even my excellent memory started to fail, especially as I was losing out on sleep (I'll get into that in a minute). I started to forget things that needed to be done. My car inspection was due last month. I'd forget to make dinner at times - which by the way, I've learned that PB&J sandwiches are perfectly acceptable from time to time, and your kids will love you for it. Besides, peanut butter is a great healthy source of protein, just don't forget your whole grain bread and use jelly without HFCS. Laundry, though clean, would get piled up on the bed... I'd just shove it aside to make room to sleep when I did finally make it to bed. Can't tell you how many times we missed trash-day, so it's a good thing we have giant cans and can go a week or two without having it taken away. The house is kind-of picked up, but definitely needs more work. The legos have somehow migrated outside of their designated area so the whole first floor is a landmine. I knew it was time for me to get my ass in gear and pull the handy dandy planners back out, make time for real life and get back on track with all my other thousands of responsibilities. I'm all for Gary Vee's hustle and putting in 18 hour workdays, but I'd guarantee he's not changing diapers, cleaning house, doing laundry, grocery shopping, and putting out fires at home among other things. I was trying to match that and realized that my house started looking like the aftermath of a college frat party if I didn't do something about it. It might have something to do with the fact that I don't have a nanny, or a cleaning lady, or any of that other fancy stuff. 

Go get some sleep already! One big thing I learned, mostly in the last two weeks, is that there's only so long you can do 5 hours of sleep without paying for it. Your memory goes. Your focus goes. There have even been studies done on how sleep deprivation leads to the same level of impairment as being drunk. It's probably why I also sounded like I'm on something in my intro video, which I'll likely need to redo after I catch up on some Zzz and improve my self-confidence-on-camera. Seriously though, pulling long hours when you're tired is NOT efficient. You are not more productive. You spend more time trying to figure out what it is you need to do and finding the energy to do it than you would if you got some R&R and attacked it the next day. Oh, and get a good meal in from time to time, because it's really hard to be productive when you're tired AND hungry. My instant pot and crock pot have definitely been getting a workout.

Relationships suffer, and it's mostly your fault. Yeah, I get that in some cases some friends become jealous over your successes and your relationships suffer for that reason, but I'm going to be honest here. Most of the time, I bet it's not the case. I bet that you're so caught up in your work that, first of all, you can't hold a normal conversation without talking about your business at least some of it. Or most of it. Second, it's because you're "too busy" to show interest in anyone else. Relationships are give and take. Dale Carnegie said "If you want to be interesting, you have to be interested." And it's so so so true. I need to apologize to my husband here (and my family), because no, I haven't been interested as much lately. I'm sorry. I totally acknowledge my fault in this. And to my friends too, I'm sorry I haven't been reaching out to you as much and asking how things are going and how are your kids and what you've been up to. I've been pretty sucky this past month, I know, I'll try to do better. 

Along the "interested to be interesting" lines, if you want to get more people interested in your stuff, more likes or followers or whatever you want to call it, go out and show interest in other people's content. Follow people back (if it's worth it, I mean still, you gotta have some expectations). Thank them for adding you, for retweets, for shares. Reply to their comments. Go out of your way and look for things that inspire you, comment on it, follow them first. And don't just leave a shallow "good job" or "looks great," leave a valuable, thought-out comment that shows you were actually paying attention. Find something you liked about it and point it out. I've gotten far more people interested by showing interest in them first. And don't neglect them once they do follow you (referring back to the paragraph on relationships).

If you've got kids, work side by side. You can actually multitask, even run a start up while homeschooling your child if you work side by side. My daughter has space on my desk where she can pull up a chair, color, work through her workbooks. We chat as we work on our individual things. And honestly, she's more interested in her workbooks now because she gets a little extra one-on-one time with me... not that I don't spend time with my kids, but when I do need to get some work done, my son isn't near old enough to be allowed in the office. Too many cables, breakable things, tiny legos and other choking hazards... so she gets some extra mommy time to herself when I'm here working.

If you're just starting out, forget about affiliates. So one of the things I did when I first started out blogging was sign up as an affiliate with two sites. I didn't want to run ads on my website (nor do I want to) but I figured if I put in a product review here and there, if someone went and bought it I'd get a bit out of essentially "free" advertising for that product. Except, it only works if you have a ton of readers and, out of that, a ton of consumers. Both affiliates now have emailed me saying that they're going to deactivate my accounts for not making any sales. And, honestly, I'm not bothered by it. I'm not blogging to review products, and my blog isn't my money-maker. It's a form of communication, a way to give value to my readers by sharing my thoughts, my experiences, my wins and my fails as I stumble along starting an art business, and everything I know especially when it comes to needle felting. I only share that which I love, and that's the biggest reason why I'm not putting ads on my site (unless it's something I really really love and they ask me to). There's plenty of advertising everywhere else on the internet, I thought you might appreciate not having to navigate around stores seemingly stalking you on every page you visit and dodging pop-ups. Which, by the way, good news! Google is changing it's algorithm soon so that sites that force content-blocking popups get pushed further down on the search results. So soon, you might not have to worry about going to read an article and having to agree to some bullshit just to read it.

Anyway, that's what I've got for you this month. I need to go and get back in touch with real life, get some shopping done, do some cleaning, laundry, dinner, and finally catch up on some sleep because Halloween's over and I'm still looking like a zombie.