Two months ago I left my corporate job to become an independent creative. I jumped into the digital marketing world head over feet, with only my heart (and a gut full of bourbon) to guide me. Since then, I’ve gained a couple of digital marketing clients, opened my Etsy shop – selling a whopping 8 orders in my first month – and gone through the emotional gauntlet from stoked to simply panic stricken. Now comes the hard work. Time to buckle down and sort my shit out; luckily I’ve figured out a few things along the way. Here are my top 5 tips for building your successful creative virtual enterprise.
1. Build a quality product with added value that will make you stand out from your competitors. This is true in the real world as much as it is on Etsy. You walk into two stores selling the same product for the same price – one has a bonus perk that the other doesn’t. This might be cute and thoughtful packaging or digitally, a couple of social media icons. Instead of charging an extra 4 dollars, add it to the product automatically. In a thoroughly saturated market – and all markets are these days – you need to find ways to make your product pop.
2. Engage with people the “right” way. This means responding to comments and questions in a timely manner. The general rule seems to be 2 days – I say do it within 24 hours. People are impatient and want results NOW – you don’t want to wait to connect lest someone beats you to the punch and takes your sale.Utilize the tools available to you – Etsy teams, social media platforms, blogs, (e)magazines – and promote your brand. Anytime someone interacts with you in any way, ensure sure you make them feel special. Look at their profile and find something nice to say. Or better yet, instigate the connection and reach out to them. And do your research. Make sure you follow social media best practices. If you don’t have the time (or energy) to learn these – hire someone to coach you. Engaging the wrong way is worse than not engaging at all.
3. Collaborate. An integral part of selling goods is being a part of your business community. Social media engagement will help foster networking but directly reaching out to people and asking to work together will increase sales and drive traffic to both of your businesses. This can include giveaway swaps, guest blog posts, product placements, advertising, re-shares and re-tweets and even cross-product enhancements. Ask questions and share with each other. Your competition is your closest ally.
4. People are gonna want stuff for free. Like anyone else, I dig a free lunch. But when someone tries taking advantage of my natural inclination to help out it makes me a wee bit pissy. Not only does it say they don’t take my business seriously, they’re also wasting my time – time that could be better served engaging or collaborating with productive people. Giving it up is essential to brand development – especially in the early stages when you might not have a lot of clients. This will take a bit of experimenting but go ahead – give it away… Just don’t give them the whole cow. A bit of advice, a small trinket or even an item for a giveaway is entirely warranted. But learn to know when someone’s taking you for a ride and then respectfully decline.
5. Do it. Dine out alone – trust yourself to be good company. Bring a book to dinner (do your research), chat up a stranger at the bar (reach out & engage) and don't be afraid to let them buy you a drink or vice versa (collaborate). Develop your brand and stay true to you. There's a market out there for anything and everyone – you just need to find it. Failure just isn't an option – delete it from your thought process. Starting your own business will take time and there will be set backs and slow times but stick with it. You'll be successful. I know it.
What are your key strategies for creative entrepreneurship? Do you agree with mine? Disagree? Have any advice for me?
Kristy Gardner's business – ohksocialmedia – is an independent one stop, boutique social media shop that specializes in the full scope of digital marketing and blog design. She also writes and photographs freelance for various publications including Swallow, Daily Relish, UrbanDiner.ca and Edible Vancouver.