Pivoting your offering in these tough times

Let’s start off with a massive assumption / disclaimer: None of us are looking to “profit off a terrible situation”. We’re not looking to take advantage of anyone, especially those suffering. If you’re here to try to make a quick quid based on scarcity and fear, this isn’t for you.

This post is for people who want to make an authentic contribution through their skills, talents, and creations. (I kind of hope all my posts, courses, and services have always been for those people.)

Marketing your business may feel weird during this time. I’ve heard that from several of my clients and Progress not Perfection members, and I get it.

If you’re a jeweller or a sewist or a designer – or indeed anyone selling primarily gifts – it’s easy to tell yourself that there’s no point, that this isn’t what’s important right now.

And let’s acknowledge that if you could be making hand sanitiser or medical masks or loo roll (eye roll), you would.

Should you keep posting out products, potentially adding more pressure to the postal service and risk to others? Only you can decide.

My initial gut reaction is to keep going if you can. We need boosts to our spirits, as well as to the economy.

But I can also see the argument to shut down, reduce risk, and reduce pressure.

What I do know is that you can pivot.

We’re being asked to see our businesses, our economy, and our concept of money-and-value in a new way.

A whole new set of needs are arising for a population in extraordinary circumstances.

Chances are, you can meet some of those needs.

If you can sew and mend people’s clothes so they don’t have to buy new, do that.

If you’re a jeweller and can reimagine family heirlooms or repair beloved pieces, do that.

If you’re great at making your hair look good without a hairdresser, please tell us how!

If you’re a storyteller, tell us stories.

If you’re great at making your cobbled-together dinner or homemade coffee look restaurant-quality, show us!

If you can help us to connect with far-away relatives and friends, please make it easy and help us do that. (I just want to send my Granny photos of my 8-month-old.)

If you can help us to celebrate birthdays, anniversaries, and other special occasions, tell us allllll about it.

If you have great store cupboard recipes and ideas, we’re all ears.

If you have tips or activities or creative approaches to entertaining kids of all ages, my goodness we’re going to need them!

If you can provide anything to soothe, calm, organise, or encourage us, please show us, and make it easy for us to get it.

What if it’s not relevant to your current business? Does it matter?

Yes and no.

If you’ve got existing products or services that serve your existing customers in this new normal, carry on. Keep going. Share, with thought and good intentions.

You might find you’ve got things you can offer your local community, but doesn’t really work online.

You might have new ideas (hello, creative minds) to serve your existing audience. Create, get feedback. Listen to what your people need, what they’re struggling with. Create accordingly.

And then again you might have fabulous ideas that serve a different audience… That’s great too! But note that that’s also the category that needs the most marketing effort. Not impossible by any stretch of the imagination, but be ready.

Consider:

  • Digital downloads for people to print at home (colouring pages, fresh artwork, helpful lists and reminders, puzzles…)
  • Running a live workshop online
  • Creating a mini ecourse to teach or guide your audience through something you know about

Do not underestimate the power of art, of gifts, of beauty. Do not underestimate the power of creativity and connection.

We need pick-me-ups and lovely things to send each other. We need to celebrate birthdays and friendships and incredible NHS staff and all the amazing people keeping things going right now.

You may not need to make a huge change. It’s probably just a pivot.

Finding beauty in business: a re-frame

If you’re a creative business owner, you’re probably motivated by beauty in some way. Perhaps you’re an artist or designer, or a visionary who can see beautiful solutions to problems. Maybe you find beauty in words (hi, friend).

You could be a photographer or a baker or a massage therapist. Perhaps you’re a coach or a mentor and there’s beauty in the space you offer your clients to discover something new.

We’re all finding and creating beauty as part of our livelihoods.

So there’s beauty in your products or services or the experiences you offer. Chances are you like making things look good.

But what about the business side of things? Is that as beautiful as the offerings you put out there in the world?

Many of my clients are brilliant designers, painters, photographers, visionaries, problem-solvers, and supporters. They often thrive in the creative part of their business, but the actual business bits need nourishing.

And, actually, I encourage all of us to see beauty in the business bits. It may not come naturally, and that’s okay! We’re not all born numbers people or marketers or systems brains.

But there is beauty in having balanced books, up to date bookkeeping, marketing that connects, systems that keep you organised and calm.

There is (or at least there can be) beauty in creating and managing your business.

You can infuse your business with beauty, with your own unique aesthetic, with beautiful behind-the-scenes bits that help you create more beauty to share with others.

Beauty in business: marketing

Marketing is an area of your business that you can probably immediately see how to make beautiful. It’s about beautiful content: gorgeous photos for your Instagram feed, great words for your emails and website, perhaps a lovely video.

Yes, there’s beauty in that. But there’s also beauty in consistency and regularity so that your audience know what to expect from following you.

There’s beauty in following up on that piece you shared on creating a gallery wall with a piece on choosing a colour scheme for picture frames.

Cultivating a consistent voice and aesthetic so your work is recognisable is beautiful. So is getting clear on your branding and values.

Having working links, clear information in your profiles, and a clear path for your customer? All beautiful.

Bonus beauty: knowing which pieces of marketing are really working for you by checking insights and statistics, and then building on that beautiful knowledge.

Beauty in business: finances

A lot of creatives want to be creative without thinking about the financial side of things. We want to be able to focus on making our thing, and have the money just flow in. And there is truth in this.

But there’s also value in learning how to make and manage money. And guess what? It can be beautiful!

I encourage you to see bookkeeping as beautiful. Knowing where your sales come from and where you’re spending is so beneficial to your decision-making. And there is so much beauty in knowing how much you’re earning after expenses and tax throughout the year, not just when you submit your tax return.

There’s beauty in having a monthly money date with yourself to look at your sales and spending. And you can make it beautiful! Get a gorgeous planner to record your key numbers, put on some inspiring music, sip a delicious drink.

Having good profit margins on your products is beautiful. The clarity and confidence you gain from knowing how the numbers work? Really beautiful. Sexy, even!

Working with a great accountant (I use Amy Taylor and she and her team are wonderful) and even a bookkeeper is beautiful. Asking for help when you need it? Beautiful.

Bonus beauty: working on your deeper money mindset is sooooo beautiful. We all have ideas about money and finances that are unconsciously driving our decisions. Especially for creatives, we can get in a pickle valuing our creativity to charge enough for it. Try this reading list as a starting point for some really beautiful progress in this area.

Beauty in business: systems

Oh boy. Systems (that work for you) are beautiful. This I know for sure.

(Caveat that cribbing a system from someone else that doesn’t work for you is a pathway to hell.)

What do I mean by systems? Well, it could be the way you process your orders. What happens to each order as it comes in? How do products get made, stored, finished, packaged? Is it beautiful, or is it stressful and chaotic?

It could be the way you communicate with customers. Do you receive messages via email, messenger, Instagram and more? Do you respond to all of them in a timely way? Do you keep customers up to date about their order? A robust communications system can make this easy and reliable.

Systems and processes help us to feel organised and make our days beautiful. And these days, a lot of them can be automated and standardised.

As creatives, this stuff can feel boring or muggle-ish. But beautiful systems give you more time to create! And they can help you to thrive, because you don’t have to think about each step of the process every time you do it.

(And you can colour-code, design, and prettify your systems to your heart’s content!)

And now for some beautiful action

If there’s a part of your business that you avoid, if there’s a skill you shy away from, let’s choose some gorgeous action to shine some beauty on it.

If this blog post has inspired you to see your business in a different way, or do something differently or for the first time, please let me know! I’d love to be able to cheer you on.

Internal vs external input

There’s a note on my desk that says, “Where’s the helpful external input?”

It’s from my notes about personality types for my upcoming course, Making Better Business Decisions. For introverts who shun external input, or for those of us struggling to use social media as a positive tool, rather than a massive time and energy suck, this question feels important.

And it is important to understand why we sometimes crave external input, and other times run from it. Sometimes we just want someone else to give us the answers, and other times we want everyone to back off.

For me, positive external input includes educating myself and receiving help and encouragement. It might be a book, a podcast, a coaching session, or a pep talk from a friend. Sometimes these things don’t work, but I have a list of the things I know usually help on my noticeboard.

When external stuff gets in the way, it’s usually because it’s triggering comparison or negativity in me. That’s when I need to go inside.

In the world of social media and an internet full of advice, opinions, and a million self-proclaimed experts, it’s really easy to get caught up in what other people think, do and decide. It’s easy to compare yourself, to think you “should” do it the same way other people do it (whatever “it” is).

It’s also easy to get totally distracted by world events, arguments, politics, and despair. Not that these things are always distractions – sometimes they need our urgent and active attention. But when you’re running a business and avoiding your good and necessary work, they can be distraction of the highest order.

So. Where’s the helpful input?

Who are your trusted advisors and guides? Why do you trust them? When do you seek them out?

Which areas of your business require external education or input?

Which areas of your business are 100% your realm?

Do you need to dial up your external input? Or do you need to dial it down?

Not all external guidance is intrinsically bad (hi, I guide people for a living), but when we give all our power away to other people on the internet or in our immediate vicinity, we’re not really living our dreams or building the business we really want.

More soon

To discover more about how you process internal vs external input and other decision-making processes, stay tuned! I’m working on something good for all of us.

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