Reflections on my first two years in business

Reflections on my first two years in business

How following my heart led to the business of my dreams

Your Business Wife copywriting Melbourne

It feels strange to say, but it’s been two years since that fateful day when I took the leap and decided to start my own business.

It came at a time when I was vulnerable.  Very vulnerable.  My son had just turned one, I had gone back to work recently so we could buy a house.  I had three kids in childcare (I can’t even bear to think how much money THAT cost me!).  And we’d moved house, giving me a 2-hour commute every morning.  Even though I was only working part-time, it was a huge drain mentally.  All our money had been poured into the house deposit and our new (huge) mortgage.  It was a pretty dumb time to make changes to my work.

But, being a typical headstrong Aries, I don’t let little things like money and practicalities stand in my way.  So, I made the leap.  A very costly leap to start my own business.  That’s a story for another day, but let’s just say I got burned badly.

The first year as a business owner

So, my first year was a mixture of work, appointments, juggling three kids, husband and household, while doing bits of business stuff at night and whenever I could.  The first year was really a steep learning curve, trying to work out what I needed to know, what I needed to master and what on earth I was supposed to be doing.  One thing I wasn’t doing was making money.  In fact, by the time I paid for endless courses, coaching, even psychic advice, I had burnt through a lot of our savings and had nothing to show for it.

The website was good once I fixed it up.  The idea was potentially great (helping mums make a career change after having kids? Yes please!).  I had loads of content and ideas, my audience was growing.  But no money.  Because what I didn’t really comprehend at the start was just how long it would take to build up the business to a point where people would invest in advertising on my site.

And I was beginning to see that the business model I was looking at required:

  1. A huge following on social media – which meant time, effort and advertising
  2. Something to actually sell – Not only did I need to sell something that my advertisers weren’t selling, but I also didn’t want to write resumes or LinkedIn profiles, and job applications.
  3. Businesses needed to sign up to the directory and pay for it. The biggest issue here was that I was looking to other startups and small businesses to advertise with me, and their budgets were as limited as mine.
  4. Someone who was passionate, informed and ready to grow it into the business it deserved.

After a while, I began to see that I’d been charging head-on down the road, blindly forging ahead with all the passion and zeal of a first timer.  It was only when I stopped to take a breath, I realised that this wasn’t what I wanted.  And it certainly wasn’t sustainable to keep throwing money at it when it wasn’t making any.  And poof, like that, my passion was drained.

It all changed when I took a step back to assess where I was going

Throughout my first year, I met loads of beautiful people in business.  As we connected and shared, I began helping them with their businesses, planning their content and helping them grow their audiences.  That was the fun bit of the first year.

The six months or so that followed were nothing more than deep soul searching, heart seeking times, looking for my passion and drive.

And I found it, finally.  For most of those six months, I felt like I was wandering through the desert, with the answers always just over the next mountain, I could feel them, but they were just out of reach.  Who was I? what did my business do? What can I offer of value to people?

Just take a bite of the elephant

Finally, enough people told me that the only way I would know the answers was to just start.  Literally, do something, and then another little something and another, until the ball starts rolling and you’ll end up at the new place.  It was like I wanted to know what it would be like when I was on holiday in a new place I’d never been to.  I wanted to be there, I wanted to start planning my days and adventures and know who I would meet and where I’d be, but I wasn’t even packing my bags yet.

And then we get to the last six months.  After I took action, everything did indeed start to snowball from there.  I took a huge leap first of all, and put out an offer.  I priced myself cheaply, over-delivered and gave people amazing value.  And many of those initial clients keep coming back for more every time I put something up.  I made sure I got feedback from my clients and used that to make improvements along the way.

And now, it feels so surreal to say I’m sitting here planning for my third year in business.  And hoping that this will be the year that it all falls into place.  Like a kid, I’ve spent the first year just getting my head around this whole new world of business, and online media.  The second year, I’ve found my feet and I’m starting to explore.  The third year will be the one where I find my voice, and my place and stand up to be counted.  This year will be the one that really kicks off the future for Your Business Wife.  I don’t know where it will lead me, but I’m excited about the journey.  Like any two year old, I’m still having some tantrums and working it out as I grow and change into who I want to be.  But that’s all part of the fun.

And one day, when I’m running a proper, grown-up business, I know I’ll look back on these days and wish again for the simplicity of my home office, with my trusty laptop, messy desk and chaos all around.  And I’ll be glad that the journey I took was the path less travelled.

 

Tanya Abdul Jalil is the brains behind Your Business Wife. After starting her career as a teacher, she moved into the world of Skilled Migration. Although not a field that is usually associated with excitement, Tanya gets her thrills through getting things sorted and systematised so people could actually find what they need and use it. After starting a Career Change website for mums, Tanya realised there were also mums wanting to make a change into small business, that needed her support and so started Your Business Wife. Your Business Wife lets her combine her skills in helping other people, being creative and supporting new ideas and putting things together in logical ways that work. Tanya combines her passion for creative ideas with simple and practical solutions for small businesses. Specialising in content planning, copywriting and getting started, Tanya provides a range of support options from one off sessions, training and full content management services.

 

 

 

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10 things a Directory Model Business needs to be successful

In the latest of the 10 ideas series, I’m exploring 10 things a directory based business needs to be successful.

If you’ve been around some of the business groups on Facebook recently, you’ve no doubt come across someone with a directory site (even if they don’t necessarily advertise themselves as such). For those who haven’t come across them, a directory model is basically a catalogue of related businesses that pay for listing on your website.  Like the old Yellow Pages, or trade directories, businesses pay a fee to be listed, and then higher fees for priority placed listings that will get more attention from buyers. This may include basic static listings for a minimal fee, and then various packages which include upgrades, such as social media posts, blog posts, newsletter mentions, paid adverts on the site, and affiliate programs. Directory businesses will help other related businesses (often called vendors) get more traffic by having a targeted and engaged audience that are interested in the products the vendors are selling. Having started my first business initially using a directory model, I am particularly passionate about helping other directory owners to actually make money from their businesses and making sure that the countless hours of effort, costs, and passion actually add up to a successful business. The tips below are by no means all there is to know, and given that this is a topic I am especially passionate about, I will no doubt return to this in various forms in the future.

So – 10 things a Directory Model Business needs to be successful

  1. A niche area that isn’t overdone.  The golden rule of marketing is to know your market.  In this case, trying to be all things to all people won’t work.  You need to have a targeted niche, without hundreds of competing directories in the same field.  Before buying a pre-packaged business, ask lots of questions – have they made any other related business directory sites you can see?  How many business packages have they sold and in what areas?  Chances are, if they have sold lots of directory sites, there will be multiple sites in your area already and they’ll just repackage the same templates, images, and posts and give it a different spin for you.
  2.  A niche that will actually be profitable.    How can you tell this?  Have a look at the businesses that would be likely to be signing up with you – are they established? what marketing channels do they already use (and how much are they spending on these).  If there are lots of mum-start ups in your area, then chances are they won’t have huge marketing budgets to spend, and will be social media savvy anyway, and will probably DIY over paying you for your services.  If there are a lot of larger corporate type businesses – they’ll probably have established marketing channels that are working for them, so you’ll have an uphill battle to get a wide enough audience to get their attention.
  3. A business owner with skills and knowledge in the areas that matter.  And no, this doesn’t mean a love of organic swaddles, wedding photography, kitchen tools, funky shoes or wooden kids toys.  This means that you know social media and how it works.  You’ve done online marketing or blogging before and you know what it takes to make it work and to connect with your audience. You have a love of selling and sales and convincing people to buy stuff.  And you have skills in developing a business strategy for growth and marketing that you can start implementing straight away.   I see so many directory owners (myself included!) spending years just getting their head around the whole concept of the directory, learning how to manage a website, social media, who their market is and what they need.
  4. Research on your idea.  I cannot emphasise this one enough.  Don’t just research your customers and whether they would use a directory, but would businesses sign up?  Spend some time in as many business mums groups and look up the directories that already exist in your target market.  Start making notes of the businesses that are listed on them. Chances are pretty high that a) the businesses will also be active in the groups, and b) the business will be listed on multiple sites.  For you to have a chance of adding that business to your site, you either need to be more competitive on price (hard with so many free trials) or more competitive on service (consider how much time/energy you can devote to each vendor for the income they’ll bring in.   For example – if you are setting up a local mums and bubs directory – do some research on how many mums and bubs related businesses are in the area already.  How many other directories already exist in the local and wider area – what are their fees, how long have they been around, what can you offer that they don’t?
  5. A well-designed website.  Having a website that uses the same images, templates, and wording as other directory businesses won’t set you apart, and won’t encourage vendors to sign up for your site.  Do your research, ask a million questions, and EDUCATE YOURSELF on what makes a ‘good’ website, what is SEO, what should be included and what questions you need to ask before buying a directory package.
  6. A backup plan – If you’re offering free trials, it can be six months or more before you even see a dollar in income for your site.  Build in other income streams from the beginning that will help you with some cash flow while you grow the directory side (I’ll do another post on this soon).  Don’t throw in your day job just yet, or make plans that will rely on your directory income magically appearing on a certain date.
  7. SUPPORT  – You are the product of the five people you surround yourself with.  Make sure the 5 people you hang out with the most are positive, supportive, knowledgeable, generous and believe in your dream as much as you.
  8. Money to invest.  While many people will try and sell you the dream, and that your investment is ‘only’ the price of the website, the reality can be quite different.  Having a slush fund to invest in top quality copywriting, Facebook advertising, subscriptions to social media management programs, as well as your own professional development will help ensure your directory site can reach a bigger audience much quicker, meaning you can convert more vendors to signing up for a listing.
  9. In an area that you absolutely love.  And will love in 5 years time.  My advice is to choose an area that you could literally talk about all day long because if your business is successful and becomes a full-time job, that’s what you’ll be doing.  Whilst you may have just got married, or had a baby, or taken your kids on an awesome holiday, or love making hand knitted jumpers, or gardening, chances are, there are a lot of mums out there that have had the same thoughts.  And some of them will also be setting up a directory business.
  10. The right mindset.   For me, changing my mindset to even considering running my own business took a huge mental overhaul.  It meant breaking free from the expectations that I had placed on myself, and that society has placed on me as well.  Did I really spend 6 years of my life studying, and a further 15 years working my way up the corporate ladder to just jump ship the minute my kids came along?    Whilst starting a business initially came from a place of needing an option that allowed me to work from home, it was only when I began to take it seriously, as a business, that the big changes came in my mindset.   If you treat your business as a hobby, and a bit of fun, then that’s all it will be.  You need to get real on your mindset, take all the leaps of faith and set yourself up for success with the right mindset before anything else can fall into place.

I know that a lot of the tips above are negative.  And with good reason.  I hate to see people get ripped off.  And I hate to see businesses target a very vulnerable group of people, mums with young children, who don’t want to return to their day jobs and are looking for a way out.  These businesses take thousands of dollars from families who have most likely come out of a period of maternity leave and surviving on one income.  They invest their savings (or worse, borrow the money) to be sold a dream that turns out to be a fiction.  They’re given examples of other successful businesses that have done it.  They have testimonials that are given under duress, and the threat of business ruin if they complain.  They take advantage of the desperation and dreams of mums, and in many cases, shatter them to pieces.  Only the strongest (or most independently wealthy) will survive more than one year.   Statistics show 75% of businesses fail within 5 years, and the major causes are the skills of the business owner and their ability to strategically run and manage a business.

 

Got an idea you want me to brainstorm for you?

If you're feeling stuck for an idea - whether it's a new business, a decision you need to make, or a content plan you're after - let me know and I'll add it to the list.  Be sure to leave your details so I can let you know when it's done.

What is the 10 Ideas Project? 

Inspired by a TEDx talk given by James Altucher, I am on a mission to make myself an ideas machine.

Every day, I will write down 10 ideas for different things.  These might be business tips, inspiration, content ideas, strategy ideas, things I love, things I hate, and all the millions of ways that I can think of to inspire, motivate and encourage mothers who want to change their lives, by either getting a new job, a new career, start a business, or grow their existing business.   They’re quick, flow-of-thought pieces that map out the 10 first things that come to my mind on a particular topic.  Some days, I’ll expand on them.  Other days, I’ll keep them short.  Some days they’ll be great and some days not so much.  Other days, I’ll make them pretty and use lots of pictures and headings and lovely things.

But I’m making it my mission to keep writing and keep on getting better at them. If you’ve got a topic or idea you’d like me to brainstorm ideas on, please let me know.

I’m always on the hunt for new inspiration.  I’ll be posting them here, and on my other site, Employment Avenues.

If you love my ideas, please tell me (and the whole world), I love to hear your thoughts.  If you think my ideas are terrible, please tell me that too, and I’ll keep trying to get better.

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