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.

The beauty of working with a coach or mentor

Before I dive in, just a note about language: I’m currently pondering my own relationship with the words “coach” and “mentor”. I believe they’re different, but I also believe I do both. So please forgive that I use both in this article. Other business mentors or coaches probably have different opinions on this distinction.

As I return from maternity leave, I’ve had some pretty good reminders of what it’s like to start up in business. All that excitement, but also all those questions you have: Should I do this thing? What about that? How do I prioritise? Who am I targeting? What should I focus on?

And on and on…

Just like when I first started out, I’ve had to become my first client again. I sit with my own questions, and I ask myself what I’d ask a client. What’s really important this year, this month, this week? Who’s going to benefit most from my work? How do I really want to show up?

It’s incredibly easy to get taken over by questions, fire-fighting and comparison, or even imposter syndrome.

Here are a few ways working with a good mentor or coach can help:

They’ll hear what’s really important to you.

A good coach is trained to hear what you’re saying beneath the actual words you say. You might feel like you’re just talking or perhaps have a bit of verbal diarrhea, but those of us with an attuned ear hear so much. And we reflect that back to you. Or we ask a pertinent question. We help to guide you towards clarity.

They’ll help you stay focused and accountable.

Usually, with all the listening and the questions and the talking, we reach a point where we know the focus you need. You see it, too. There’s a first step, and a second, and you take it from there. A good mentor will help you find a way to take that first step, and stay accountable a few steps down the line, so you don’t get distracted by things that aren’t on your important list.

They’ll see things you don’t.

A fresh pair of eyes on your business and your personal strengths and weaknesses can be invaluable. A business coach will spot opportunities you haven’t, and will share insights on your business structure, marketing, customers, brand and more (depending on their unique skills). If you run your business without a partner or business manager, this can give you so much: more money and profit, more energy, more enthusiasm – and less time-wasting.

You’ll learn how to work through decisions and problems.

Sometimes, you might work with a mentor to get through a big change or a big decision in your business. But if you work with someone over a longer period of time – say six months or more – you learn so much about how to approach different situations. Making one decision is great, but learning the skill of decision-making has a long-term payoff. A coach has insights and questions and ways of thinking about things that will boost your business skills for years to come.

They’ll champion you and your business goals.

The thing about having a coach is that they’re on your team. Which is exactly what you need if you’re a business of one! Friends and family are great, but coaches have the professional and business knowledge so that they not only boost your mood, but also get you doing the best things for your business. It’s such a relief to know someone is on your side.

I could probably go on and on! Depending on where you are in your business journey, there are loads of ways a business mentor or coach can help you. If you’re starting out, they can help you get going. If you’re building on the early years, they can help you find your stride. If you’re considering a shift or pivot, they can help you see and make that transition.

There are so many options

There are loads of business mentors and coaches available these days (certainly many more than when I started in 2014!). Find someone you like, who has experience that will help you, who says the things you need to hear.

If that person is me, or could be me, I’d love to hear from you. I work with business owners (mostly women) who are in various stages of business, usually creative. I help them to understand themselves and their businesses better, in order to make better business decisions.

Get in touch and set up a free chat to find out if we’re a good fit!

(Thinking of becoming a mentor or wanting to improve or establish your mentoring business? I’m going to be launching some resources for you later this year. Get in touch to get the info when it’s ready!)

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