With the New Year well underway, I wanted to chat with you today about my own personal journey in business over the last year and a half. In that time, my business has COMPLETELY changed. I’m running an entirely different business model than I was in 2015. Throughout most of the beginning of 2017, I waded the waters of navigating such a large transition in my business and hope to encourage you today if you are in a similar place of questioning where to go or what to do next. Let’s talk about how to navigate transitions in your business!
Before we get to the know how I want to be super transparent with you.
Just this time last year, I had a phone call with my dear friend, Lauren Carnes. Lauren is in my mastermind group and has a way of seeing my gaps and communicating actionable steps so eloquently.
As I was blubbering on about how I just felt directionless, I made a confession:
“If I don’t turn this business into something profitable by the end of the year, I’m going to quit.”
You see, at the end of 2015, I decided to give up wedding planning and brand design client work for the foreseeable future.
Not because I wasn’t profitable, booking clients, or good at my job. I loved both branches of my service based business. That decision came from a personal place of knowing in this season with toddlers and being a stay at home mom, trying to juggle clients and hard deadlines while also managing our home and raising babies was all too much. And since our family comes first, I had to say goodbye to client work.
Related: Megan, What Do You Do?
Then in 2016, I took quite a lengthy unplanned break. It was a sweet time of rest that I will never regret.
It wasn’t until about the end of summer 2016 that I decided to get things moving again in my business.
By that time in my business journey, I had certainly built up a brand following, but with the end of my service based business and such a large break, what I was really running was just a personal brand. I wouldn’t call what I was doing in 2016 a “business.” (Aka I wasn’t making money. And that was okay for us!)
By the end of 2016, I launched my Template Shop for Creatives and Designers who are eager to elevate their client experience using all the tools I built and designed for my own client experience.
Orders came in, but I wouldn’t call it mind-blowing in terms of action.
So last January when Lauren graciously let me get all my thoughts and fears out on the phone, I blatantly said I would quit doing this business if I couldn’t figure out how to make it work.
(Spoiler alert: I’m NOT quitting my business!)
As 2017 moved along, I began to realize something:
The business model that I stepped into at the end of 2016 is a BRAND NEW BUSINESS.
When I made that confession to Lauren, I was frustrated because I already had a profitable and growing business once before and thought I just didn’t “fit” anymore as a business owner.
But what I wasn’t seeing is that running an online product based business is in no way shape or form the same as running a service-based business.
Sure, I had an established brand, but it was going to take more than just launching a new idea to educate my tribe and build sales.
I spent the entire year in 2017 as a baby business owner again after 6 years as an entrepreneur. Learning the ropes. Finding out what works and what doesn’t work. Making mistakes and learning to get back up again.
All things I had done in my previous service-based business, but with completely new lessons and a whole new roadmap.
I put my head down and soaked up as much education as I could.
In 2017, I spent over $3,000 in educational courses to help me navigate this new digital product based business model and in September, I made a HUGE leap of faith and invested over $8,000 to get very specialized and customized business coaching to really amplify my efforts.
Y’all know I’m not a flashy numbers girl. I HATE it when people spout off “I made 6 figures in 30 days!” kinda rhetoric without showing us what it realllllly took to make 6 figures. (How much time? How much money? How many endorsements? Was that alllll profit?!)
If I’m going to talk numbers with you, I’m going to be honest and show you what it REALLY looks like.
And part of that for me in my journey was investing big time in 2017 to get me on the right track to grow this new business model within my established brand.
With all that investing and quite a few failures before that, I will admit 2017 was not my most lucrative year.
But even so, I’m not calling it quits.
Because I changed my mindset of “I’ve been a business owner for 6 years… I should be making X amount of money…” to I am a brand new business.
And many new businesses are in the red their first year of business.
Thankfully, I wasn’t there.
So even though I didn’t see the magical numbers I would have liked in 2017, I am not closing the doors, but rather building on the wealth of learning I dug into to take my business to the level I want to see it grow in 2018.
And if you’re here just wishing someone would get REAL and tell you what it looks like to have seasons of highs and seasons of lows, you can know I’ll be that person to give it to you straight. I’m not ashamed one bit for my season of re-building in 2017.
I learned a lot. It was an adventure. It was a lot of work and a lot of put your head down and figure it out.
But a year later, I do have direction. I have clarity of where to go and a tactical strategy for making it happen.
And I want to encourage you right here and right now.
The illusion of the businesses that “struck gold” and made it overnight is not reality. It takes hard work and (often a lot of) real dollars invested to grow a business.
Don’t let anyone convince you that a few calculated Instagram posts and a cute brand will take you to the top.
You have to do the work.
Running a business is not easy. And it isn’t for the faint of heart.
But you have the heart and you have the talent, so just keep showing up.
And when you feel like you should just throw in the towel, push a little harder. Don’t give up.
Do be willing to evolve. To adapt.
I’m not going to tell you that you need to invest 11 g’s in education and coaching to help you navigate your business this year, but I do want to encourage you to be willing to change in your business.
If you aren’t seeing the results you want to see, make a move. Shift your strategy. Let go of the “I should be doing this or that because so and so celebrity superstar biz boss says so..”
The business owner who adapts is the business owner who will have staying power.
If you’re in a season of wanting to make a move and see a transition happen in your business, I want you to make a few lists to help guide you to the right direction.
The key here is that you really let yourself answer truthfully. As my personal counselor would say, “Don’t should all over yourself.”
If you really want to make it as a creative, you actually have to have real passion behind what you are doing. That’s the beauty of being a “creative.”
So don’t answer with what your parents expect of you, what you’ve been told to do by other biz owners, or what you think you should do based on the success of someone else.
You do you.
So let’s let you do it, ‘eh?
Take out a sheet of paper and let’s start listing out some things you know to be true about yourself and your business:
First List: Things I Enjoy
Yep, I want you to just start listing out things you like to do. What are your passions? What are the skills you shine and in and love? Let them flow!
Here is what I wrote in late 2016:
- Design – Graphic Design and Physical Set Design
- Brand Strategy
- Real Conversational Connection
Your Enjoy list can be whatever you want it to be, but it certainly doesn’t have to be all business. Writing, psychology, and real conversational connection can certainly be done outside the confines of my business. But they were integral parts of my rebuilding decisions in my business over the past year!
Second List: Things I Don’t Enjoy
Call ‘em out girl. Get messy. Step on your soapbox. List out the things you just plain don’t enjoy doing, especially in business.
A few items on my list were:
- Deadlines – I promise I like to work 😉 My current state of a toddler circus just puts too much pressure on me to hit client (and even personal!) deadlines for now.
- Cheesy salesy tactics – EWW
- Emails – like my actual email inbox. That thing and I just don’t get along!
- Project Management – I’m a total Type B. Making schedules and goals and timelines and task lists just aren’t my thing.
Here’s the thing about this list: It doesn’t mean you can drop ‘em all entirely. You probably don’t enjoy doing your taxes every year, but you can’t just throw that to the wind… lest you want to invite the IRS to your door.
But it can absolutely reveal some truths about yourself and your business.
When things just weren’t flowing income wise like I’d hoped, I was tempted to just take on some client work (because the demand was certainly still there). But I really don’t enjoy deadlines in this season of life. And because we have set ourselves up financially for Jeremy to be the main breadwinner of the house whether or not I work, I didn’t actually have to take that step. So I let myself say no to more money.*
I also could clearly see that emails and project management just aren’t my things. They stress me out. So these were very clear indicators of what I could outsource in my business so I could start really focusing my best efforts on the things that would bring in income.
In mid-2017, I hired my assistant Emily to help me in these areas of my business. It has been the best investment EVER. I just tell her what I want to be done, and she uses her magical Type A organizational and detail-oriented skills to make it happen. Stress. Off. Plate!
In essence, your Don’t Enjoy list can help you see what things you really aren’t passionate about and the things you might not be able to let go of as a business owner but could potentially outsource to focus on your zone of genius.
*You might be in a different spot financially and there is no shame in taking on work to pay your bills, friend. Do what you gotta do and give yourself time to grow slow towards your big dream!
Third List: Things I Feel Insecure In/Need Strategy On
This list is pretty self-explanatory. Where do you struggle in business? Where do you need help?
A few of mine were:
- Email marketing
- Sales funnels – a product based business thing!
- Content mapping in the scope of selling products
This list directly pointed me to where I needed to either A) seek professional help or B) get educated so I could make smart moves.
That’s where I spent my education and coaching investment dollars and I won’t ever regret it!
Fourth List: Things that make me money. Right now.
This list is important. As creatives, we tend to always dream bigger. Find the next big thing.
But sometimes instead of MORE, we need to HONE IN.
This was the biggest lesson I learned in 2017.
Sometimes I feel like I have more ideas than stars in the sky. But that doesn’t mean I should chase them all down.
I had to get honest with myself. What was actually bringing in income?
Here is what my list looked like:
Yep. That’s it.
I was slingin’ summits and chasing affiliate marketing and dreaming of this or that new idea when in reality the one thing that continuously brought income to my door was my Templates.
If I was going to get serious about growing this business, I had to get off the idea train.
Sometimes a shift in your business doesn’t have to mean a complete 180 change. Sometimes a shift means that you need to drill down on your core product or offering.
And sometimes a shift is a 180.
Only you can do that soul-searching work.
If it is a 180, I’d highly suggest drilling down on your current offerings to push the one that does bring in the most income so you can get more time on your plate to build up whatever that new venture will look like. Then once your new venture is built and selling, you can transition into fully focusing your efforts there!
Optional Fifth List: Things I want to explore. Later. (unless you are looking for a 180 now!)
I know, I just told you to drill down. But in case you are looking for a 180 now or you just can’t shake those one or two genius ideas along with your core product, put them on a list.
I knew I was going to put my focus on building my business around my templates, but I still had some other ideas that I wanted to keep in my back pocket for a “one day if it makes sense” thing.
This list is VERY short in comparison to ALLLLLL my ideas. I drilled down here as well to not make this list a lifelong biz bucket list, but rather a list of very complimentary ideas to my core product that I could seamlessly incorporate into my business if the time were right.
Here is what it looked like:
- Improve and Expand Template Product Line
- Website Design Templates
- Lifestyle Styled Stock Images
- In-person intensive style workshop
As it went, I actually moved on two of the above ideas in 2017.
I did, in fact, improve and expand my template product line. In September, we re-launched the templates for editing in Canva which was a HUGE customer request. And I’ve been BTS designing more templates to add to the line-up.
This “idea” was more of an “I know I’m going to do it” thing. Magically, once I drilled down on my core product, I had lots more time to act on the things that bring income. Funny how that happens 😉
The second idea I put into action was in creating Lifestyle Styled Stock Images. When I wrote the idea in my business journal back in 2016, I had no idea that a collaboration with two of my favorite industry peers, Laura Foote and Shay Cochrane, would come to life. Although completely separate from my template shop, the Lifestyle Stock Collection with the SC Stockshop is, in fact, complementary to my own product line. Many of my templates include imagery because I know how strongly imagery works in branding. To be able to help fill my customers’ needs in that way made a lot of sense.
I went on to research website design templates, and have since tabled that idea. Maybe one day, but it is a much bigger project than I am ready for right now and would ultimately distract me from my core product. And plus, there are some really great companies already producing website templates that I love and support!
The in-person intensive style workshop is still on the list. 😉 You never know.
The main goal of this list is to give you a space to get your ideas on paper. Not to distract you from the main products or offerings you need to give yourself time to focus on. Let them sit. Let them marinate. And give yourself and your business the gift of focusing during a transition.
When the time is right, you’ll have clarity of mind to decide if pursuing them is the right move!
Are you in a season of transition? Tell me about it in the comments below!
I hope this post was a source of encouragement to you if you are wading the waters of transition or in a low season in your business! It happens. And I’m here for you!