As business owners, we don’t talk about money much because I think we all want you to think we are wildly successful and that’s reason enough to buy our stuff, right? I’ve always been an oversharer when it comes to money (you can ask my husband) so I’m honestly surprised I haven’t written this post before.
I think it’s really important to share this info though. When we only see the outside a few things happen.
1. We can have a false set of expectations about owning a business.
When I released The Finishing School we had 400 books pre-ordered. If you do the basic math 400x$15 = $6000. Sounds like a pretty nice profit for a month of sales. The truth is, between the free flash cards, first round of messed up books, actual book cost, rush shipping for final version books to get to me and free print for being so late, I actually lost money on every order instead of turned a profit. And that’s not even accounting for the actual time it took to write, the publishing fees and rest of the actual book writing process.
I say all that to be completely transparent. I have totally been the one who runs the numbers and thinks that because so and so has this many attendees at their conference or this shop sold this many products last month, maybe I should be in that business? They are literally rolling in money!
Even while I was a wedding planner I would hear how many weddings someone was doing and know the average cost they charged and immediately add up how much I assumed they took that home even though I knew full well I had plenty of expenses that dipped into that profit.
You have to be willing to take a risk. Those books I just mentioned? As I finally iron out lots of mistakes and start up costs, we’re starting to make a profit. Doing something new that doesn’t have a model for success may seem too costly to be worth it, but that’s kind of what being an entrepreneur is all about, doing something few people want to do for a little while to reap the benefits later.
2. We can assume if we do the same thing, we will have the same success.
This is the biggest myth I’ve seen in our industry. We talked about this idea a bit in our creative business breakout session at the Influence Conference. Someone asked for tips as they started their calligraphy business.
My best advice was to do something truly different.
I kept thinking of Lindsay Letters. Lindsay Sherbondy has a really successful business because she brought a really unique style to hand lettering that had not been seen before. People loved it! There are tons of artists trying to replicate Lindsay’s success by replicating Lindsay’s style, but the reason she is successful was because her style was unique, not one of many.
The easiest markets to break into are those that are empty or not crowded but there is still a legitimate need. I add that there is a legitimate need because there may not be a market for singing dog walkers or you fill in the blank. Here’s a hard truth. Just because you are passionate about something, doesn’t mean your idea will automatically be successful. Passion is totally necessary, but the other necessity is that people would want to buy it.
In my experience as an entrepreneur, I tried several different streams of income and the two that were most successful were the ones where I entered a near empty market.
I started a wedding planning company after I looked to see if anyone was hiring and saw one lady doing it in town. She didn’t have a website and I thought girls my age at the time were starting to search online so having a company that had a strong web presence and blog was needed in our area. I never intended to start a business but when I saw how open the market was, I knew the business could be successful.
The same was the case for the prayer journals. Although I really didn’t expect it to turn into a business, I saw a need and made my own when I couldn’t find a prayer journal with monthly prompts. It turned out to be a need for so many of you as well and grew because you hadn’t seen anything like it.
The things that weren’t as successful were wedding invitations and everyday products like calendars. They worked for a time and although I thought they were unique and different, I was competing in a world with Minted (on design), Wedding Paper Divas (on price) and local shops (on customer service). My talent was not in creating totally unique designs. Custom design was so stressful to me because I’m not innately creative. I’m a beaver personality so a lot of my strengths lie in organizing or setting up systems that will help me be successful, (i.e. prayer journals and even the worksheets that accompany The Finishing School).
This doesn’t mean you need to start a whole new industry. It just means you have to bring something truly unique and give people a reason to see you and find you in a sea of people.
3. Avoid mistakes.
Ok so I’m not advocating diving head first into a mess of a business but don’t be so afraid to make your own mistakes that you follow someone else’s path instead of the one God has planned for you. My husband teases that I’ve made a blueprint for successful prayer journal so why wouldn’t someone replicate, materials, packaging, pictures, content, fonts or business model?
I have only recently learned this lesson after a conversation with my friend Jenn Sprinkle, when I was feeling pretty embarrassed and discouraged about the whole book thing. She told me to share it with y’all very openly. I did and the response was overwhelmingly positive. I thought the mistake would bury me, but it did just the opposite.
It got me thinking how the mistakes are where we really define who we want to be and what actually works for us. I remember looking at TONS of wedding planner websites for what I should do. I assumed what they were doing would work for me, but it didn’t and I had to step back and see what would work for me. I could seriously write a book on all the mistakes I’ve made in business but I could also write one on all that those mistakes taught me and how they have shaped me and my business. Don’t shy away from figuring things out yourself. It will refine your business more than you know!
Were there any misconceptions that you had when starting your own business??
When I started my photography business, I assumed that if I produced beautiful pictures and had good prices I would be successful. I came to find out that was not the case. I learned that unless you’re really willing to hustle and compete, no matter how much talent you have in a saturated market, you won’t be successful. I had business experience. I was a great photographer. Customer service was a priority. But I was in a price bracket that forced me to compete & give discounts. It was a bracket that allowed for champagne tastes & expectations on a boxed wine budget. In the end I ultimately learned that business was not God’s plan for me, but it led to the business that is God’s plan for me
Wow. Thank you so much for your honesty. I’m playing around with entrepreneurship ideas in my head … I know I can copywrite, and I know a lot about marketing. But Lord, what can YOU give to women through good gifts You’ve given me? Through the freedom you showed me after a storm of anxiety/eating disorder?
Something different. You’re right.
I needed that. Lord, move. 🙂