When I started working one-on-one with clients to create marketing strategies with them, I didn’t anticipate how frequently pricing and self-confidence would come up. But I have learned that it is something nearly all my clients deal with - and we must addresses it before we can start talking about their marketing strategy!
It comes up so often, I even wrote a blog post about why you shouldn’t apologize for your prices.
I frequently see posts in online discussion groups from new business owners asking, “What would you pay for this product or service?” I understand why the question is being asked, but the process is backwards.
Instead of asking “what would you pay?” they should be asking “how much does it cost me to make this?” and then basing their pricing on that.
Some costs to consider
Cost of materials
How much time it cost you to make it - in my experience, this is the one most people overlook – especially artists and crafters.
How many/how frequently you can reasonably create
Cost of delivery (if applicable)
Business cards & other marketing materials
Rental space – if used to create your product
Misc. marketing costs
Taxes – state, federal, and any local taxes you may have.
Licensing costs (and renewal costs as well)
So when it comes to pricing your work, be aware of those costs!
First I’m going to talk about handmade items and then I’ll cover services.
Let’s say an item you will make costs $20 in raw materials, plus three hours of your time. If you charge $20 for it – you are breaking even on money and losing three hours of time.
If you charge $40 for it, you end up making just over $6.70/hour - which isn’t enough to cover time, licenses, & expenses like taxes, etc.
If you charge $60 for it, you end up making $13.33/hour. Which may be enough to cover expenses, but if it costs you three hours of time to create, how many can you make in a day to sell?
You’ll have similar expenses to the ones listed above, plus (maybe):
Subscription services for your business
On-going training costs/certification
Depending on your business, your service may be something your customer sees first hand – like massage or acupuncture or some other kind of on-going face-to-face service. Which means your customer can look at the hour of time they spent with you and say “it cost that much” and move on.
If, however, your service is slightly less tangible, a customer will have a harder time seeing the value and understanding the price if they only see the end result. It doesn’t mean the value isn’t there, it just means you need to be more clear about communicating what it is and how it impacts your client.
So, if you ask friends, family, random strangers on the internet “how much would you pay for this thing?” they aren’t taking any of the above into consideration. They are thinking about their bank accounts, whether or not the thing/service has value to them in the moment, whether or not they could possibly do it themselves, and many other factors that don’t have anything to do with your work. And, yes, they each have their own money hang ups they may or may not even be aware of.
Someone who says it is worth $30 and someone who says it is worth $75 are both speaking from their experience, budget, and expectations- which is why it is so important to start with your costs first.
So what if you want to charge $80 or $100 or even $300 for your thing?
* Educate your clients. If you only make one version of the items you sell, your clients need to know that. If you only use organic products, your clients need to know that.
* Share the value and perspective you bring.
* Explain things they might not understand - When it comes to handmade items, unless someone has tried to create it, they likely won’t understand the complexities or time involved, and that’s fine.
* Don’t get hung up on what someone else charges because you don’t know their costs any more than they know yours.
* Remember that if the only thing someone cares about is a rock-bottom price, then they probably aren't going to be an ideal client for you.
Under charging comes from a couple of different places – fear, lack of self-worth, being new and not understanding how important proper pricing is, wanting to be “assessible” to many people, and there are usually some other money hang ups in there as well – passed down from our families, media, our culture, and our own experiences.
Its ok to have these hang ups – everyone does. But be aware of what they are and recognize when they are getting in your way.
Happy Price vs. Sad Price - one of my favorite pieces on this topic
List Your Prices (the right way) - "Expensive for a good reason" is my favorite line
10 Things You Shouldn't Say When Pricing Handmade Items - read it
Know Your Worth, and Then Ask for It - Worth watching, probably more than once
You are thinking about creating a little video promoting your business.
Why? Because you know video, especially on social media, is a potent combination of marketing, messaging, and connecting.
Maybe you’ve been in business for a while and you’ve been managing the marketing, the website, and everything else, but you’re tired and frustrated managing it all yourself. You got into business to sell your stuff, not be a creative director and video editor, right? Or maybe your business is brand new and you are excited about the possibilities of launching your business with a strong message and voice.
The next question is how? How do you create a professional, creative, and polished video that shares your business and your vision?
This is one of those times when you need to call in a professional. Just like car selfies and cell phone pictures won’t cut when you need a professional headshot, a DIY video won’t cut it when you want to create a cohesive brand video.
I interviewed internationally-published & award-winning photographer and videographer, Jessica Clark, for this blog post since I’m a fan of her work and her desire to help business owners show up in the best way possible. Jessica and her RedFred Productions team have worked with the Portland Trailblazers, The MOB Nation, OHSU, and Capes & Crowns Foundation among others.
Jessica says it is helpful for business owners to have branding in place as well as a general overall idea of who their audience is before working with her. From there, she works with her clients to fine tune their ideas during story boarding.
What three things should a business owner know about their business before hiring a professional videographer?
“The first piece of launching a video is determining what the goal or purpose of your film will be. Is it story driven? Product or service driven? Do you want to feature testimonials? The next piece is understanding who your audience is. And, finally, how is this video going to represent your brand?
A clear understanding of the overall budget for the project will also help keep the process moving along because we’ll know what does and doesn’t align with your budget.
Why do you think video is so powerful when it comes to telling a business story?
Still images and headshots are like your signature while film gives businesses an opportunity to present your brand in a larger more impactful way.
Media companies, including Facebook, Instagram and even your local news station continue to shift to showcasing more videos because they recognize that video is eye-catching and in-depth information quickly without needing to browse through links and text. Overall, video just has more impact than words or images.
What questions do you find yourself answering over and over?
Similar to photographers who are asked to turn over all images from a photo shoot, videographers get similar questions about the extra and raw footage we shoot.
If we turned over raw footage there would be several camera angles, raw camera movements, no music, no color correction, no white balancing, no post image edits, no music, and audio files that need to be synced with the footage. Editing all those different elements together is the most important aspect of film making, it is where the story telling pieces together.
You might see my team working for four hours or eight hours – while we’re filming with you. But what you don’t see is the 20-40 additional post-production hours it takes to create a fully realized and finished video.
We’re also asked when someone should make a video. I think the best time really depends on your goals and your business model. If you are launching a new business, then a video makes sense because it puts your brand, whether that is a service or a product, front and center. If your business is offering a new product or service, that’s another great time to make a video.
Does the business owner need to appear on video?
Being in the video is not necessarily required for story-driven film models – those are films with story or campaigns, but it is good to put a face and connection with your brand if it is just a quick description of services.
New business launch videos that feature the owner are a terrific way to “break the ice" in introducing yourself to your community. These videos are often interview based and can also include early testimonials from clients.
What if the business itself isn’t interesting or photogenic?
That is why video is so cool! While still images can give your audience a summary of a "boring or ugly" industry, we can use video to give it a bit of excitement. By focusing on testimonials, the history of the business, or even creating more of a story driven film, we can make a “dull” business much more relatable and entertaining.
What do you wish business owners knew about what you do?
We are story tellers, first. A finished video is a collaborative project with the business owner.
Our films are not created from start to finish. We often we start from the middle, sometimes the end, and work backward. In the editing phase we are able to do the real story telling, small shifts and changes can impact video in a major way.
When an initial investment is made into a video, additional "spinoffs" can easily be created with extra footage and an updated interview or idea. This can match the growth of the business, and you end up with your own personalized stock video for your business.
What is the optimal video length for social media reach?
People have short attention spans, so a video that is one to three minutes long is generally the average viewing time for business videos. To keep a video from being too information packed, we can break them down into shorter, more impactful videos.
I have bad news and good news for you.
First, you’re going to fail. Second, you’ll survive that failure.
In 2008, JK Rowling gave a wonderful Harvard commencement speech. (you can watch it here) The parts about failure are my favorite.
One of my favorite pieces is this:
"You might never fail on the scale I did, but some failure in life is inevitable. It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all – in which case, you fail by default."
I love that she acknowledges that failure will happen. You can’t escape failure.
Most of my clients are like me – they are both moms and business owners. The topic of failure is always lurking. Not only do we have all the worries and work that come with owning a business, we also have the added weight of motherhood and all its complicated ideas, history, burdens, and expectations.
What does that mean? Well, it means we can fail at something five times before breakfast and keep going knowing another failure waiting for us around the next corner. It means we keep going because we have our families to take care of and our business to run.
Here’s the neat thing about failure – it gives us a chance to continuously learn and gain more skills. It teaches us things about ourselves and our work we couldn’t have learned in another way.
Sometimes that means we didn’t promote a launch or a sale enough, and we learn that next time we need to start earlier and plan better.
Sometimes that means raising our prices because we’ve learned that burning ourselves out trying to please everyone isn’t good for us, our family, or our business.
However, unless we’re willing to think about why something isn’t working for us, we can’t move forward. We must understand our failures to learn from them.
For Christmas, I bought myself a book called Tribe of Mentors. The book is short essays, in Q & A form, by famous and well-known people. One of the questions is “What is your favorite failure?”
I love this question because it invites us to examine our failures and see which one we like the best. And, to do that, we must reflect on what we learned from different failures and how they helped us grow. Instead of lamenting the path not taken, we get a chance to embrace our growth and celebrate where we are now.
If you think about it, that’s incredibly powerful. Instead of sweeping failures under the rug and never talking about them again, we hold a failure up to the light to see what it was made of and where we went because we lived through it.
Not every offer is going to land. Not every connection is going to work. Some ideas will seem great until they flop. And that is ok! If you hit a dead end, turn around and go a different direction.
JK Rowling’s failure led to her focus on her writing and embrace who she was and what she was meant to do:
"I stopped pretending to myself that I was anything other than what I was and began to direct all my energy into finishing the only work that mattered to me. Had I really succeeded at anything else, I might never have found the determination to succeed in the one arena I believed I truly belonged."
Other quotes from amazing women about failure that are worth remembering:
“You may encounter many defeats, but you must not be defeated. In fact, it may be necessary to encounter the defeats, so you can know who you are, what you can rise from, how you can still come out of it.” –Maya Angelou
“Just because you fail once doesn’t mean you’re gonna fail at everything.”
“For my first show at ‘SNL’, I wrote a Bill Clinton sketch, and during our read-through, it wasn’t getting any laughs. This weight of embarrassment came over me, and I felt like I was sweating from my spine out. But I realized, ‘Okay, that happened, and I did not die.’ You’ve got to experience failure to understand that you can survive it.”
“It’s failure that gives you the proper perspective on success.”
“Success is most often achieved by those who don’t know that failure is inevitable.”
“Failure happens all the time. It happens every day in practice. What makes you better is how you react to it.”
I recently joked that I hate sales funnels. Not only do I hate sales funnels in general, I especially hate the way they are sold as the only option to grow your business.
Just like growing an email list, reaching 100k Instagram followers, or hitting that “six figure income”, sales funnels are promoted as the perfect solution, yet I see them causing more fear, stress, and disconnect for small business owners than actually being helpful.
Despite my deep dislike of sales funnels, I do appreciate a few of the ideas behind them:
Does it help to have an idea of how someone moves towards working with you? Absolutely.
Does it help to map those paths out on paper (or an app if that’s your thing) so you can see where your customers are coming from and what they need? Absolutely.
Can it be helpful to systemize and automate some aspects of your marketing? Yes and yes!
And that’s the end of the list
Does expecting every person to take the same path make sense? Or even three or five or 10 predetermined paths? Not to me.
Why? Far too often, I find that sales funnels are limiting for both the customer and the business owner.
When you set up a sales funnel, you predetermine WHO you will work with and HOW they will work with you. You eliminate flexibility, creativity, and connection.
Does it really help you to reduce customers and potential customers to “pain points”, “prospects”, “targets”, and “conversions”? I don’t think so – I think that moves us farther away from truly connecting with our audience and building a real relationship with them.
Before we get too far into this, let’s look at what a sales funnel is so we are talking about the same thing.
A traditional sales funnel has four segments:
Awareness – make someone aware of you or aware of the problem they have (so you can solve it)
Interest – attract their interest (which shiny new thing do you offer?)
Desire – get them to want to work with you/buy from you
Action – move them to a sale or action
This general outline has been modified and expanded over the years – sometimes you’ll see extra steps or the titles will be slightly different – but the concept is the same.
A traditional sales funnel looks like an inverted triangle as your prospect moves ever closer to the tip or end of the sales funnel, and converts to a customer to finish the sale or the specific action you want them to take. (ugh. I feel like I need a shower after writing that!)
When planning a sales funnel, you usually start with the end result – what do you want someone to do – and then you move backward up the funnel to push someone down towards the bottom of the funnel to make the decision you want them to make.
Again, yes, it makes sense to realize who your best audience is, but does it make sense to completely shut out someone outside that narrow range of your “target audience”? What about someone who, for whatever reason, doesn’t opt in to your sales funnel?
For example, you can have people who are raving fans of you, your work, everything you offer and routinely sing your praises to everyone they meet, but because they aren’t the right client at the right time (or maybe they’ll never be a client), they won’t fit into your predetermined sales funnel box. If someone is a fan, but they aren’t moving to work with you – are they less valuable because they aren’t in your sales funnel.
So let’s look at sales funnels, where I think they fail, and some ways to think outside the sales funnel.
Funnel Problem One – Being Vague and Unfocused
Not everyone in the world is the best client for you – so capturing emails and contact information of people who wouldn’t be a good fit for you wastes everyone’s time.
Think Outside of the Funnel:
Who do you *really* want to work with? What kinds of clients make you happy to go to work in the morning? Those are your people. Don’t try to talk to everyone with a pulse – talk just to your people. They get you, you get them…its a beautiful thing!
Funnel Problem Two - Pestering People:
My biggest reservation about sales funnels is that they have one job – to capture someone and then push them through your funnel grinder. Your client (or potential client) has no control (other than to opt the heck out as soon as possible) – they are just helplessly falling through the process you’ve created.
Think Outside the Funnel:
I don’t believe you build trust by endlessly sending someone emails until they buy (and are then placed in another sales funnel to get them to do the next thing).
Is it a good idea to send someone an email every now and then to remind them that you are still around and available? Absolutely.
Does it help to have a schedule so you don’t forget? Yes.
Does it have to look like 3+ emails every single week? Not so much. Are you really building trust by filling someone’s inbox with “last minute offers” and “do you still like me” emails? No. You are building dislike and distrust – not the direction you want to go in.
If someone joins your email list, they’ve done you are a favor and your job is now to not waste their time. Be respectful of the space you take up in someone’s inbox
Funnel Problem Three – Doing the same thing as everyone else
You’re told that you need to create a freebie, a landing page, an ebook, a webinar, and who knows what else.
Is that something you want to do? Do you have a burning desire to speak in front of people? Then maybe a webinar makes sense for you. Hate video? Then don’t do a webinar!
Do you love to write and share your ideas with others? Then maybe an ebook makes sense. But only if your people would be interested in reading something from you. If not, your time can be better spent elsewhere.
Think Outside the Funnel:
What do YOU want to do? What do you think your audience would enjoy and value? Find the cross-over between what you are excited about doing and what your audience would be excited to see.
This is not a free pass to not do any marketing at all (for those of you who dread all forms of marketing). Instead, it is an invitation to think about which forms of marketing you can at least tolerate
Funnel Problem Four: Not Providing Value
And speaking of webinars and freebies….they are not all created the same. You won’t build trust by creating a lot of hype and promise around something that, frankly, isn’t very good.
Think Outside the Funnel:
You don’t really have to “create” anything, but if you do, make sure it is something you are proud to share.
If most of your webinar is selling your thing…that’s an infomercial, not a webinar. Go back to the drawing board and start again.
If your blog post/pdf/other freebie is something that can be found via any Google search, you aren’t providing value. Dig deeper and earn your audience.
Funnel Problem Five: Not everyone comes from the same place (literally)
If your entire sales/selling process is done via email & internet funnels – you are missing the chance to connect with a lot of people.
Think Outside the Funnel:
Don’t limit your marketing efforts to only one platform or path. Some people will prefer to connect in person, others via email, and still others only via referral. Don’t expect all of your customers to come from one place. Recognize that your clients are individuals with specific needs and not monoliths.
Funnel Problem Six: Not Building an Ongoing Relationship
If you capture someone’s email and shove them through your funnel and they end up buying from you…then what? Or if they “drop out” of your funnel…then what?
Think Outside the Funnel:
Stop seeing people as “prospects” and treat them like real humans. Talk to them, learn more about them, and always look for a way to be useful and helpful.
Let's face it, being visible in your business is scary for many of us.
Saying something, having a position, and being seen can be scary.
You are putting yourself out in the world without a net, and you don't know what will happen.
Will someone love it (or me)?
Hate it (or me)?
Will it be good enough (will I be good enough)?
All of that and more can come up because we are doing a new thing and we are outside our comfort zone. If any of the above sound familiar, you aren't alone! Everyone’s comfort zone is different, so while you may be completely comfortable in one aspect, like blogging, you may be completely petrified in another, like public speaking.
I’ve listed two very visible, and frequently scary, ways to be visible – blogging and public speaking. However, there are all kinds of ways to be visible and help your business.
Perhaps you think the only way to be visible to go to networking event after networking event. While that’s an option, being visible goes far beyond meeting new people!
A business can't grow and thrive by using just one of these methods and nothing else, but done together in different combinations? That's effective.
Levels of Visibility to try:
Small ways (you can wear your pajamas)
*Talking about what you do on your personal Facebook/social media page (sharing an insight, experience, etc).
*Sharing a post from your biz page to your personal page.
*Creating a post in a Facebook group.
*Looking for networking events to attend (if you are a networking person).
*Reaching out (emailing/calling) to someone new.
*Emailing/calling a former client (sending a newsletter, etc).
*Replying to a Facebook post, engaging someone in conversation on Instagram or Twitter.
*Updating LinkedIn profile and posting there.
*Making sure your contact informaton is up to date wherever it is listed.
*Writing a blog post.
*Joining directories in your niche.
Medium ways (you probably shouldn't wear your pajamas)
*Taking flyers/info to places it would be well received (if that is something that works for your business)
*Talking about what you do with someone you meet (see end note)
*Using streaming a video to talk to your people.
*Making a how-to video or something else that is useful.
Big ways (definitely don't wear your pajamas)
*Meeting someone new for the first time.
*Going to a networking event.
End note - I don't mean - corner someone and make them listen to your pitch. But make talking about your business a part of your life. It is so easy to separate business life from regular life, but for most of us, our businesses are our passion - we do it because we love it. Talking about what we do keeps it alive and fresh.
If you are like me, you already belong to more than one Facebook group. Why? Groups are a fun and easy way to stay connected with others who share a common interest. They also afford some privacy when it comes to sharing more personal struggles or questions.
In June, Facebook released a new mission statement declaring their focus on community – or more specifically groups.
Some of the neat changes they’ve added to groups:
Easy troll removal
Now you can remove a troublemaker, and all their posts and comments. This is a fantastic tool for groups that can get contentious or attract trolls.
We’ve been able to schedule in groups using tools like Hootsuite for quite a while. However, we didn’t have the option to schedule directly while in our groups until now.
If data around which posts do best and who is most active in your group are important to you, Facebook now gives group admins a way to see these insights.
You can also easily track growth, popular times and days, engagement, see which posts perform the best, who your frequent commenters are, and other demographic information.
Linking a group to a Facebook page
If you your group is an extension of your business, you can now link them together. This lets people in the group know who is behind the group and allows your page visitors to see that you have a group attached to your page (although they can’t see the group posts until they join).
You can now ask potential members questions before they join your group. This is a great way to eliminate spam accounts from joining, as well as learning a little bit more about members before they join.
Now that you know all the exciting options within groups, the next question is:
Should you have a Facebook group for your business?
The answer? It depends on your goals. Let’s look at the pros and cons.
Possible higher visibility
One of the reasons businesses are excited about groups is because they have a higher visibility than Facebook business pages since those posts are treated differently than Facebook business page posts in the algorithm.
A deeper connection to your customers
A private Facebook group can give your customers a deeper connection to you. You can ask questions, create polls, and otherwise work to engage your users to build your own community through your group.
Allows you to offer something special to select people
Within your own Facebook group you can run specials, discounts, and give members sneak peeks – since your group likely isn’t public, you have a little more control over who sees your offers AND you can make your members feel special since they get first looks and behind-the-scenes information.
You’re the boss
If you’re a part of Facebook groups already, you know each admin can set their own rules and guidelines. However, when you run your own group, you can decide what is and isn’t ok within your own group – you get to make the rules!
Choose your own adventure
You decide what you want your group to be! It can be just for VIP clients, open to anyone, or you can even use it to stay in touch with previous clients.
There’s no way around it. If you are including a Facebook group in your marketing plan, you’ll need to devote time to it to help it grow and thrive.
Depending on your group’s topics, you may have the added responsibility of settling issues between group members and dealing with other admin tasks.
More computer time
You may end up feeling more tied to Facebook, and you may feel “on call” more in your work since clients have easier access to you.
If, after reviewing the pros and cons, you think setting up a Facebook group is a clever way to get around Facebook’s business page algorithm, you may be right. For now. But you also need to remember that anything you do on Facebook is done on borrowed space – Facebook still makes the rules and may change the game at any time.
So, how can you use Facebook groups for your business? Here are four examples for made up businesses (and one real life example):
1) Craft related – use your group to encourage community among your crafters. Encourage users to share their projects while also sharing yours.
2) Health related – use your group to offer support and ongoing guidance outside of your business page or email list.
3) Fashion related – use your group to offer early access to new products, crowdsource information and opinions.
4) Food related – build and maintain interest in your product, share recipes, engage users and ask for feedback on new products.
5) Marketing consultant – use your group to share insights and educational links and ideas to help your clients with their marketing (this one is real – my group is called Adventures in Marketing).
A Facebook group isn’t the right option for every business, but if you are willing to put in the work, they can be a rewarding opportunity to create community.
At one time or another, you’ve probably looked at your business and thought “Ok, now what?”
Maybe it was because work stopped coming in. Maybe it was because you realized you were in a rut with no inspiration. Maybe it was because you reached a turning point in your business. Or maybe self-doubt and fear crept up on you when you weren’t looking. Whatever the cause, feeling stuck when it comes to your business isn’t unusual and that stuck feeling will resurface every now and then.
Since we are all individuals with unique businesses, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution to feeling stuck in your business. However, when I asked five fellow business owners what they did when they were feeling stuck in business, some common themes emerged.
Why did I ask these five women for their input? I’ve known them for several years, they each have a different kind of business, and they are experts in their fields as well as being thoughtful people.
Julie Jacob owns Traveling Julie Photography is a Portland family and maternity photographer. She also offers head shots and business photography.
Nedra Rezinas owns Blue Deer Forest. She is a website developer, business coach, and speaker.
Selena Maestas is speaker, coach, and the founder of the Love YOU More Project.
Abbi Wood is a Wordsmith and workshop leader. She helps business owners ensure their “biznality” (she is a wordsmith, after all) shines through in their writing.
Chelsey Craft owns Amethyst Bodywork. She is a Portland massage therapist and doula.
I asked them each a simple question "What do you do when you feel stuck in business?"
Take a break
When you’re feeling stuck, your first instinct might be to quit. You might also find yourself in a worry spiral that keeps you up at night and keeps you from getting unstuck. Instead, consider taking a brief break to clear your head. How you do it is up to you, but planning downtime regularly is vital to running a business and avoiding burnout.
You’ll notice the common theme is self-care and finding a way to temporarily change your view.
Julie says “I take my camera out for a walk. Sometimes just to see what I see, but often with the intention of taking self-portraits. Sometimes I have a plan and sometimes I wing it. Most often I have a plan that then flows and changes as I shoot. Since I’m both behind and in front of the camera, I’m not rushed or shy or concerned about looking weird in a photo. (I lost that worry years ago!) Sometimes the resulting photos are unexciting, but sometimes I'm really proud of them."
“Getting away from the computer. Taking a break from staring at the screen - it could be running errands or going for a walk,” says Nedra.
Chelsey explains “For me, it always comes back to self-care. I take extra time for myself, to nurture my body and soul. My first go-to is Epsom salt baths with some essential oils in a dark room, it helps me reconnect with my heartbeat, the rhythm of life. Getting a pedicure is another favorite. It allows me the time to sit still while also enjoying some pampering while caring for my feet, that take me so many places. Or even something as simple as taking a walk around the block. I find peace in solitude, allowing myself some space to just be and appreciate what is around me.”
Fall in Love Again
Sometimes being stuck is a symptom of burnout or feeling uninspired in your work. It may sound strange, but we’re in a (hopefully!) long-term relationship with our business and that means ups and downs are to be expected. Look at the things that inspire you about your business and what made you decide start in the first place in order to fall in love again.
Julie says “When I do personal, creative projects that I have complete control over, I feel even more exhilarated and excited than I usually do about photography. I think about the giant list of random ideas or visions for things *I* want to shoot. Two summers ago, I came across an incredible location and just had to do a shoot there. So, within two months, I found a model, put together several wardrobe options, and we created gorgeous images.
Last winter, I had a full, complete vision of another nature-based maternity image. I almost did nothing about it, but I had recently started reading Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert, so I forced myself actually make a shoot happen. It did, and it was amazing. After a client shoot last year, I had a ton of more creative ideas, and that same client became a model for me to bring those visions to life in a separate shoot, and I loved it!”
Falling in love also means getting your focus back so you know what to do to move forward.
“Nobody says it better than Nike. 'Just do it.' In the moment, of course, this is easier said than done because the thoughts of overwhelm and daily to-do lists consume your mind. So, you have two choices. One, dive in. Two, take a step back and evaluate. What is the most effective thing for you to do right now? Then do that.
It's easy to fill our days with busy details and short-term successes for quick wins. Where are your long-term wins? Look for those and direct your attention there. I promise you will feel equally accomplished doing something that your future self will thank you for," says Abbi.
One of the more challenging aspects of owning a business is feeling as if we should have all the answers all the time (hint: we don’t). A little self-doubt coupled with the sometimes over-glossy and over-rosy view others present on social media can send us straight into the mud.
Instead of feeling less-than, look for people, books, and podcasts that inspire you.
“One of the most common things I do is listen to podcasts that aren’t about photography. Since I spend so much time either doing photography, editing photos, thinking about photography, I don’t usually like listening to people talking about it.
However, I *love* business/creativity/entrepreneur podcasts! I find that I’m inspired by people’s stories who do different things than I do, and very often it gives me ideas or new ways to think about something—either visions of work to create, or ideas about marketing, or renewing efforts for things like writing and sending newsletters,” says Julie.
Nedra is also a fan of business podcasts. “I listen to "Breaking Down your Business" podcast while running or driving on a regular basis and I get lots of ideas from Jill and Brad. It's been amazing how many eureka moments I get listening to their advice,” she says.
Chelsey explains “I have an extensive library of books that I don't always give the attention it deserves. Choosing a few to revisit helps me get out of my head and put different thoughts in it, which is so helpful when I find myself playing the same record over and over. And on that note, keeping a gratitude journal is invaluable in my life so that I have a tangible thing to touch and see how much I have in my life to appreciate.”
It is also valuable to recognize when feeling stuck is a symptom of a larger issue that needs to be addressed. With my clients, I often see money issues, fear of visibility, and money fears pop up over and over.
Selena says “When it comes to being stuck, it's because we get in our own way. There is something inside of us that tells us, we aren't good enough, aren't smart enough, not "enough" enough.
Our inner critic is based out of our fear or repeating past experiences and our fear of our perceived future. None of it has to do with the NOW.
Your Inner critic, let's call that the EGO, wants you to remain stuck because it's easier. It's comfortable. It's what you know. Pushing forward in business goes against all of that, which causes the EGO to pull harder and scream louder - "Watch out! You don't want to fail!"
Now, no one likes to fail, but it's actually very important for your growth of yourself and your business. If you fail and survive, then you can show your Ego that it's OKAY to make change. It's OKAY to try something new. It's OKAY to move ahead.
Get out of the stuckness and into your success.”
Busy lifestyles and juggling, well, everything can also get in our way when it comes to successfully running our business. A little dedicated quiet time can go a long way.
“Giving myself a few hours each week of uninterrupted time gives me time to think about my business and work on internal projects. It's amazing what I can think about and change in that little time,” Nedra explains.
Too often we’re led to believe we need to do it all and do it all by ourselves to be successful. We know that isn’t true, accurate, or even possible, but those voices creep in despite our best efforts.
When you are feeling stuck in business, invite a friend out for coffee to reconnect and get support. This is especially helpful when you ask a fellow business owner out to coffee because you can be sure she needs some support as well!
Nedra says “I reach out to a colleague in person or over the phone. I really enjoying running ideas, problems, and brainstorming with them.”
“Reaching out and asking for help or attending more networking events. Connecting with my people, my tribe, to remind myself that I am not alone is so very comforting and uplifting. We're not alone in this journey and the more we can take care of ourselves, the better we are at helping others. I know it works for me,” explains Chelsey.
Regardless of which method you choose, remember to be kind to yourself. Feeling stuck is almost always a temporary situation. Look at what is going right in your business and which parts make you feel happiest. How can you increase those aspects?
It may also be time to examine your systems, work flow, and look at the things in your business you don’t enjoy or that make you dread doing them. Look for ways to outsource those, if you can. If you can’t outsource them, look for ways to improve either your response to them or looking into training or education to make the processes less miserable for you.
One of the first things I discuss with clients is their pricing. In nearly all cases, their prices are set too low to create a sustainable business they won’t grow to hate.
When I ask how they feel about their pricing, I get a range of reactions:
“They are ok, I guess.”
“I don’t think anyone would pay more.”
“I need to raise them, but I’m scared I’ll lose my clients or no one else will hire me.”
It isn’t unusual for my clients to even be reluctant to talk about their prices!
Why? Why Is talking about our prices and money taboo? Why do we feel the need to apologize? Why shouldn’t we be just as proud of our pricing as we are of the work we do?
Why we aren't our ideal client
Let’s break it down and examine the pieces. First, it is easy to imagine ourselves as our ideal client. After all, we love what we do, right! We’d be a perfect client! But! In most cases, we aren’t our ideal client at all. Take a moment and jot down the differences between you and your ideal client.
As an example, I love SEO and social media, so it wouldn’t make sense to hire someone like me to do what I do because I enjoy it and it is fun. My clients, on the other hand, would rather hand it off to me or have me help them through it.
I’m not a fan of most online courses, but one of my most popular “products” is my Build Your Marketing Muscles (an online course)!
On the other hand, I’m not a very crafty person, so paying an artist for their creation or paying someone to create a costume for my youngest is not only a great way for me to spend my money, it makes my life lighter and less stressful! And I have the added benefit of supporting another small business.
Remembering that we aren't our ideal client, especially when we're starting out and charging too little, is vital. I think it is even more important if we’re already coming from a place of money scarcity and feeling as if any sale is a good sale.
Can you "give back and still have a business?
My clients have good hearts and a desire to reach out to people who couldn’t normally afford their services. This is a wonderful thing, but in many cases, it isn't sustainable and is a fantastic recipe for burnout and exhaustion.
A good client doesn't want you to exhaust yourself! In fact, they need you to take care of yourself because they believe you are good at what you do (after all, that’s why they hired you, right?)
Can you still “give back” and have a business? Absolutely! But consider waiting until your business is stable and you have a clear idea of your boundaries so you can give back in healthy, long-term ways. I give myself permission to offer some free work in the form of consulting here and there, but draw the line at social media management because it is so time consuming.
Yes, I completely understand the desire to make what we do accessible to everyone, but you can't be so kind to others that you are damaging your health & relationships by running yourself into the ground trying to serve everyone.
You don't control someone else's finances
We need to let go of the guilt or responsibility around whether someone can afford what we do or what we sell. If someone can’t afford us, that’s ok! It doesn’t make us a bad person for sticking to our prices just as it doesn’t make them a bad person for not being able to afford what we offer. It just means they aren’t our customer (right now). If what you offer is worthwhile to someone, then they will pay it. If not, it isn't worth it to them and that isn't anything we have control over.
I doubt a Land Rover salesman feels bad that I'm not a Land Rover customer - no matter how much I want one (ok, I don't actually want one, that was just the first car name that came to mind!).
You must cover business costs and expenses
You also need to think about the cost of running your business. Those costs include taxes and expenses and that can really add up! If you aren’t covering those very basic things with your pricing, while still leaving enough left over to live on, you won’t be able to sustain your business. Or you’ll grow to resent it because it costs more money to run your business than you make.
How do you stand firm in your pricing?
Be clear around what you offer and the process. If, like photographers, your work involves a lot of behind-the-scenes action the client may not see you’ll need to be extra clear around the benefits and upfront about the amount of work you do on your own to get the end result the client loves.
Focus on the quality of your work and the benefit to the client.
Believe in yourself and what you bring to your client – not every client will be the right fit, but you can be the perfect fit for the right client.
Practice saying “These are my prices and I’m happy with them.” – yes, you’ll feel silly at first, but that is all you need to say to someone questioning your prices and your value. You don’t need to pull out a spreadsheet, a Venn diagram, and give them an hour lecture on how you arrived at your prices (no matter how tempting it is!)
Finally, and this is going to sound a little out there, but stay with me!
Imagine your business is a tree with deep roots that are well cared for and strong. When someone complains about your pricing, imagine it is like a gust of wind. Imagine your business tree swaying in the wind as the gust of wind passes by.
Neat image, right? No harm to the tree, no harm to the gust of wind – it just wasn’t a good fit right now.
Do you see your customers as flat demographics or as real people?
If you are too caught up in creating a “client avatar” you may be missing the chance to connect with the real humans behind those numbers.
What is a client avatar?
Sometimes called a persona or ideal client, this is just an idealized version of who you want your clients to be. Most client avatar worksheets focus on you seeking and understanding your clients’ needs (or “pain points” which might be one of my least favorite terms ever). While it can be helpful to tease out your clients’ demographic information for yourself – especially when considering something like Facebook advertising (which has impressive ad targeting abilities), it is equally as valuable to approach it from a perspective of which clients are the best fit for what you offer.
For example, if you sell couches, you could say “I can sell to anyone! Everyone needs a couch!” This is true in an extremely broad sense. Most of us DO need couches at some point. However, you can’t sell to someone who doesn’t need a couch, doesn’t like the kind of couches you sell, or is opposed to couches entirely, and thinks only chairs are suitable for sitting.
By eliminating a few types of people, we’ve just narrowed down your audience a bit, right? Now you can say “I sell couches to people who need the kinds of couches I sell.”
Now we’re getting a little closer, but that still isn’t terrifically helpful to you.
But if we dig deeper, we can move closer and examine the kind of ideal client you are excited to see. At this point, take a look at which clients make you happy, energized, and thrilled to do the work you do. What common elements do they have? What is it about working with them that makes you happy? Which customers make you leap out of bed in the morning because you can’t wait to work with them?
Continuing our couch example, let’s look at the types of people who would be interested in buying a couch AND who would also be your ideal client:
Are they young families looking for something durable, yet comfortable? Maybe you love working with families and helping them find something in their budget.
Are they people who love interior design? Maybe helping people pull together all the pieces of home décor is fun for you.
Are they someone looking for unique furniture? Maybe you are most excited to work with someone looking for the perfect piece regardless of cost.
Are they someone who asks lots of questions? Maybe educating clients is something you love to do!
Obviously, your answers will vary depending on what you sell and your own personality. They may even change over time!
We can also flip this around and look at the types of customers you aren’t excited to see. What kinds of customers drain you? What types of interactions aren’t worth a sale to you? Which customers make you want to crawl back into bed and pull the covers over your head?
Are they someone who is consistently rude to you or your staff?
Are they someone who drags out the sale process, but never decides?
Are they someone who makes demand after demand?
By avoiding those kinds of clients (or sending them to someone else), you can enjoy your work more as well as leaving space in your schedule for clients you are excited to see!
Yes, it can feel scary to set boundaries and stand up for ourselves, our time, and our business. Deciding there are some clients who aren’t a good fit for us can feel scary. What if we refer them to someone else and no one comes to take their place?
The next time you are tempted to segment your clients into little boxes, turn it around and look at it from the perspective of “who do I want to work with and what do I want to do” rather than “who will give me money” (and don’t get me wrong – money is awesome!).
Are generic client avatars helpful? They can be! But you don’t have to know every detail of a fake person’s life to connect with real people. Strictly following a client avatar worksheet may also inadvertently cause you to miss a great client because they didn’t fit into your predetermined client mold.
There are many ways to invest in your business. You can take classes, attend seminars, buy books, and even hire someone like me. But that isn’t enough. If you aren’t also making a real commitment to working on marketing your business, you won’t get very far.
You can outsource your social media, your SEO, your website design, and your content development – but if you aren’t involved in the process, as much as you can be, then your marketing becomes generic and less “you”. There are already plenty of generic websites in the world. Your people are looking for you to be yourself – because that is who they will connect to through your business.
Yes, I know. You have a to-do that is long and growing every day. I understand. But regularly committing time to the marketing side of your business keeps you thinking about it, and the more you think about it, the more likely you are to take action. Sometimes marketing ourselves and talking about our work feels awkward. We’re waiting for someone to jump out and say “Ugh! Why are you talking about this?” Do it anyway. I promise, it will get less awkward.
A very smart, very busy client of mine said “I have ten minutes, what can I do in ten minutes?”. At first, it sounded impossible, but I love impossible puzzles and lists, so here is my list of ten minute marketing hacks:
1) Connect with new people and pages on social media. Notice I didn’t just say “follow new people”. Social media is all about connecting and interacting. So get out there and make new friends!
2) Read over your website. Depending on when it was last updated, you might have old information online. Or maybe you’ve expanded your business or changed your direction a little bit. Your website is an online reflection of your business, so make sure it is accurate and up to date.
3) Click around your website. Pages change and links stop working. A new visitor to your site is looking for an easy, stress-free experience. Dead links and missing pages will help them decide to go elsewhere.
4) Reuse previous social media posts. Did you post a link to something brilliant two months ago? Do you still think it is brilliant and useful? Then create a new post for it. Social media moves fast (really fast) and a post from two months ago might as well be two years old.
5) Read that cool sounding marketing article you’ve been meaning to read. We all have a hidden stash of things we know we want to read. Take ten minutes and read it. If it is valuable, make notes.
6) Look at a competitor’s site. What are they doing well? What aren’t they doing well? Would you use them based on what your experience with their site? Now look at your site - does it measure up to what you want from a website experience?
7) Sketch out an idea for a blog post. Set a timer and write for ten minutes with no distractions. Most of us can’t write a blog post in ten minutes, but that doesn’t mean you can’t take baby steps.
8) Talk about your business. Don’t be obnoxious, but if people don’t know what you do, then how can they call on you when they need your service?
9) Brainstorm – where are you now? Where to you want to go? Ten minutes, a timer, and keep the pen moving. Scribble, draw arrows, circle things, and get messy. Once you get the “we can’t possibly do that!” side of your brain to disengage, you can uncover some clever, if off-the-wall, ideas.
10) Now take one of those ideas and try it out.
11) Organize your computer files. Put all of your marketing materials (photos, gifs, style sheets, etc) in one folder. Create a folder for blog post ideas so you have a place for your ideas. Set a timer and do it for ten minutes.
12) Really look at your customer service. Are you customers being served in the best possible way every time? How can you improve it?
13) Back up and update your website. Do you really want to start from scratch if it all goes away? Nope! Back it up and keep it updated.
14) Go for a walk. Get away from work and clear your head. Changing your environment can change the way you think about things.
15) Teamwork and networking (in the helpful way, not the slimy way) is a fantastic way to increase your reach and partner with another business. Make a list of possible businesses that would be a good fit with your business.
16) Now reach out to them.
17) If your work email is full of junk email, take ten minutes and clean it up. You can use a service like unroll.me. A clean inbox means you won’t be searching for anyone’s email. And, more importantly, emails won’t get lost or buried.
18) And speaking of email, do you need to respond to or follow up with anything? Take ten minutes and reach out to people who contacted you, but never followed through. Don’t assume that an unanswered email means a lack of interest – sometimes emails get lost, misdirected, or the person on the other meant to respond, but didn’t.
19) Take a good look at your to-do list. Can you outsource anything? Combine it with something else? Move it off the critical list? Move it onto the critical list?
These are small steps and I can’t promise any single one will turn your business around and land you on the cover of Forbes magazine. But, daily tasks do add up and they do make a difference.
Musings about marketing, social media, and small business.