I have spent 8 years running a business on the web. It is so fun! In this blog, I talk about the tools, technology, web design, marketing, basic business stuff and life in general as a business owner. Since I run an online business in the fields of arts & crafts, jewelry & accessories, my experiences are especially relevant to the crafty & creative. I have been through lots of ups & downs, trials & errors, which I will share in this blog. Please read, comment and ask questions. Thanks!

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Not so fast!!!

So how many of you have put up a website and are waiting for visitors and sales to start rolling in?

You may be wondering how long will it take for you to get the traffic you need in order to have a viable business. I have to tell you it can take months or even years, that is if you try. If you have a large marketing & advertising budget you can probably fast track the process, but at a high cost.

Why does it take so long? Well, your website is virtually competing with every other website on the web, regardless of quality, content, and reputation.

This may sound drastic, but here is why:

According to VeriSign's "The Domain Name Industry Brief", published in September 2010, over 360 million new domains were registered in during the first two quarters of 2010. This indicates that there is A LOT of competition on the web for visitors.

Search engines provide consumers with a way to sift through the infinite number of websites to find what they are looking for. Search engines use a variety of criteria to serve up what they hope will be quality websites to searchers. Yet, if you use any of the major search engines (Google, Yahoo or Bing), you know by experience that you will still be served websites that you may find unattractive, uninformative, and untrustworthy. You can see that it is possible for an unreputable company with an unprofessional website to rank right next to a reputable company with a well designed website. Therefore, in some ways, you have to consider every website, whether good or bad to be your competition.

Because of the huge amount of competition on the web, it is most necessary to have a focused, ongoing, long term, marketing plan for your website.

It is soooooo easy to set up a website, too easy in fact that no one can imagine how much hard work it is to actually make the website work and be successful.

You might think, well it only cost me $100 to put up my website, so I haven't invested much, I will just see what happens. Well, nothing will happen if you don't make it happen.

The great thing is that there are a lot of strategies and tools that you can use to be competitive in your particular industry or niche.

In a future post I will talk about ways to promote and market your website. In the meantime, I welcome your questions and comments so I can address them in my future posts.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Are you tough enough?

I am writing this as a pep talk for one of my friends who just lost two major contracts to a competitor. She vented over wine and gave me the long and the short of it. Through the conversation, she definitely went through a spectrum of emotions from anger, disappointment, discouragement, and optimism. She just couldn't understand how she did everything right, and things still didn't work out.

As we talked, I realized that much of winning in business comes down to how tough you are. You have to be tough enough to work through adversity and fight your way to success. Don't be easily intimidated and don't let things you cannot control get the best of you.

I get into situations where I don't understand something, or I think "how am I ever going to figure this out?". Actually, this happens a lot, and if I had let one of these little things get in my way, I probably would be stuck at a boring desk job, wondering what else I could be doing.

As entrepreneurs, we are going to encounter a lot of adversity, disappointment and uncertainty. The world is full of tough competition but take advantage of your expertise, creativity, savvy and most of all - be tough.

Toughness will get you through. If you are not tough enough, you won't last long enough to take advantage of the opportunities and chances that will lead to success.

How many times will you be able get and dust yourself off? If you want to succeed, it will have to do it at least one time more than your competition.

Back to my very talented and intelligent friend - she has decided that she is going to be tough enough, so she is going just put the disappointment behind her and move on to the next great thing.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Follow Up: Do What You Love & Know

So have you got it figured out? What do you love so much that you are going to make it your life's work? Your livelihood?

I decided to start a bead company because I love creating and I love beads, as a material. I find them absolutely fascinating and I love fashion, design and color.

I attended architecture school at the University of Florida. My graduate studies taught me strong design principles and gave me a unique perspective that I translated into beading and jewelry design.

After 7 years, I still enjoy it all. I meet wonderfully creative people everyday and have formed many lasting friendships as a result. I love exchanging ideas with people who have the same interests and I love sharing my passion for the craft and material.

I work 10-12 hours every day and the time just flies.

I want to encourage you to search deep into yourself, find your greatest passion, your best skills, and have fun. Inspire yourself, inspire others, and let them inspire you. This will become your life, embrace it and love it. So what will it be?

Monday, April 5, 2010

Before You Start: Get Your Personal Finances Under Control

Having your own business comes with a huge load of responsibilities. Don't make it harder on yourself with added (and unnecessary) stress and obligations.

Following your dreams and fulfilling your visions and goals should be part of growing your personal wealth. By wealth, I not only mean financial wealth, but also the richness of your life.

Lack of capital, poor money management and other financial issues are very damaging elements to business and personal wealth. If you don't have your personal financed under control, get them in order before you move on with starting your own business and dive into an uncertain future, no matter how optimistic you are.

Eliminate as much of your personal debt as you can, especially if you are starting a venture where you may be unsure of your income. Paying off your debt may take a lot of sacrifices and a change in lifestyle. These are exactly the type of commitments and sacrifices you must be able to make in order to have the type of character it takes to be a successful business owner.

Your commitment to fiscal responsibility for both personal and business will be an important defining element in the success of your business and the well being of you and your family.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Side Note #1

There are plenty books about business plans, finance, marketing... you name it, they got it!

Not that there isn't a book about what I am writing about, but here is why I feel it important to share with you the things that I have and will write about:

When you decide to start you own business, it is because you have ambition, a vision, motivation, and dreams. You hope to achieve a certain lifestyle, find purpose in your life, and do what makes you happy. You want to be able to leave work early to pick up your kids from school and take them to the park before dinner. You want to be actually be able to use all your great ideas.

All these things go way deeper than accounting, business plans, cash flow analysis, and marketing plans. Sometimes you just have to live and learn, I have done just that, in fact, I am still doing it! Hopefully your journey will be more painless and fruitful.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Before You Start: Have a Good Support System

Being a successful entrepreneur is a difficult job. You won't be able to do it alone and you won't be able to do it without the support of the people you love. Anyone that is less than fully supportive will bring you down and degrade your optimism and motivation. Therefore, it is very important to have the FULL support if your family (I will talk about friends later).

Make sure that your spouse, your children and the most important people in your life are willing to support and encourage you in your endeavor. These relationships are too valuable to risk. Therefore, your family must understand the time commitment and financial commitment and sacrifices that must be made as you establish your business. If you don't have their full support, you should not move forward with the decision to start your own business.

As far as friends are concerned, they are more dispensable then your family (Are they really?). In the beginning your friends may be supportive, and maybe they will be in the long term. Will they still be there to have a beer with you after you have blown them off for weeks while you were trying to land your first big client? Be prepared to end relationships with those who impede your progress, those who are negative, pessimistic, or unsuccessful in their own lives. In addition, make sure you are interacting only with people who are positive and successful. Interact with people with whom you can exchange creative and intelligent ideas. Surround yourself with people who will make you a better person - you can't afford not to - literally.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Before You Start: Prioritize Your Life Commitments

Owning a business is a huge commitment - so huge that you will not have a full understanding of this until you are already involved. Your business will involve both your time and money so before you start, take a look at the commitments you already have in your life. Make sure that you will be able to meet those commitments in addition to working at your own business. Your existing commitments may include your family, pets, job, health, and financial obligations.

When you have made the decision to start your own business, make a list of ALL your commitments, then prioritize this list, starting with the most important commitment at the top. Hang this somewhere so that you can see it everyday, so you don't forget what is most important to you. When you constantly remind yourself of what is important, you will remember to make time for the important things in your life. This is very important for your personal well being and quality of life.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Before You Start: Do What You Love & Know

Have you decided what your business will be? This is where you have to really know yourself - know your talents, strengths and passions. You have to be in business doing something you love, know a lot about and in which you are extraordinarily talented. You have to choose something that you love so much that you want to learn everything about it and you want to be the best at it. Your clients, customers and colleagues will look to you as an expert, don't disappoint them and don't let them show you up. As a business owner, you will be expected to be a leader, have the answers, or know where to find them.

If you are thinking about transforming a hobby into a business, consider that you will have responsibilities that are not creative and not fun. Will this interfere with your creativity and your passion for this hobby and thus your business? Are you talented and well trained at what you do?

For example, if you create handmade jewelry, you may have gotten a lot of compliments on your work. You may even have sold several pieces to friends or co-workers. Is your jewelry marketable enough so that you will you be able to sell enough to have a thriving, functioning business?

As a business owner, you will have difficult questions to answer every day that may cast a shadow on a hobby that you love and enjoy. Will this deter you from turning your hobby into a business?

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Chapter 1: Before You Start Your Own Business

In the posts to follow, I will discuss some important issues to think about before you start your own business:

1) Choosing the right business for YOU
2) Prioritize your life commitments
3) Have a good support system
4)Get your personal finances under control
5) Be Prepared
6) Set goals and have a vision
7) Make the commitment

These topics will be covered over the course of several weeks.