21 Days Challenge: From where you are now to launch
This is the daily blog I kept in real time with the challenge I was running on my Facebook group Creative Economy Entrepreneurs: Supporting each other to grow. Each day included a worksheet, a video, and a blog entry.
Three Days to go!
May 7th 2021
It is three days to go before the launch of my first online training that I am running on the Facebook group Creative Economy Entrepreneurs: Supporting each other to grow. This group was not even on my radar as something I was going to be doing yet but I got so inspired through a little facebook group I ended up in with a bunch of lovely and amazing women who are also starting a journey as an entrepreneur. I have never felt so inspired or motivated as I have the last few weeks seeing how individuals are all learning at different levels and supporting each other to grow and achieve.
My initial plans were to just write a blog for a year while I learn about how the online world works. I began watching lots of webinars and online training sessions to get to grips with what I was going to need to learn. The things I quickly realised was that there was far more to learn than I could ever have imagined. Through learning how to write a blog, and by that I mean building a website, creating graphics, social media posting schedules, Pinterest pillars, SEOs (search engine optimisation), I felt like there was so much to learn and the ideas of running facebook groups or launching courses seemed like a distant dream.
I did lots of great training workshops which focused on self development and I realised that whilst I felt perfectly in control of my life and my accomplishments I was actually holding myself back in so many ways. The main one of these was that I had a deep block about being visible. This stemmed from my childhood, as the coaches always say things do, and was something that I had brought with me into my adulthood without even noticing. This was my main block that I chose to work on, and very quickly I realised that there was really no reason for not launching a facebook group right now, or starting to write courses right now, because the only real thing holding me back was that I was scared to be visible incase everyone thought I wasn’t good enough. Well, in actual fact at the ripe old age of 41 I have passed the decades of actually worrying what people think and only look inside myself for validation. As I realised this I felt the fear of being seen melt away and before I even knew what I was doing I had launched a fb group and was writing all sorts of materials. I even decided to laugh a free course with landing page and all.
It occurred to me that the best way to learn how to do all these things was just to do it for real and then make a snagging list of all the things that I did wrong. Technology is one of my least favourite things, yet I have found myself oddly drawn to the intricacies of learning how everything works. At first I was in tears using WordPress, now I can go in and make alterations quickly. Setting up mailing automations was also a challenge, and I’ll be honest is still very much at the top of my To Do list to get a working system. Even the little things like getting links to socials to embed properly and generating QR codes have had me scratching my head and constantly googling for answers. This is a defining point in my journey though, I wouldn’t even know what to google to find out if I wasn’t building everything as I go. Learning by doing is the shortest road to completion. Being humble and curious about making mistakes in full view of an audience is the most productive thing you can do. This takes away so much procrastination and really helps you to get out of your own way.
So here I am at the start of my journey. Well, actually I started thinking about it at the start of 2021, but this is me doing it. Spending my evenings building courses, watching webinars and interacting with other women who have the same goals as me is now the thing that lights me up. At the start I had read that you should write a blog for your love of it rather than thinking you can make money from it and this is exactly where I am with everything I am doing. I know that the paths I am following are to create business structures, but for now I have no interest in money. I want to build it all for fun, to prove to myself that I can, and to show other people what is possible if they do the same thing. I am excited to share my journey with everyone in these posts, and if nobody reads them then I am still loving what I’m doing.
Two days to go!
May 8th 2021
Today I am focusing on learning a little about how to use hashtags on Instagram. When I decided to use this blog and my Insta account to document my journey to creative an online learning and networking platform I decided to use a # to help categorise my content across socials and other platforms. I came up with the ides #joinjulesjourney. I did a little bit of research and typed in a lot of different combinations to google to see the kinds of things other people have been using. Obviously it is very important to not use a # that someone else has already used if you are trying to provide a unique tag for something you are doing. You don’t want your audience being confused over what you are trying to say by accidentally watching someone else. It is also very important to read through your text and make sure that the combination of words doesn’t accidentally spell out something else. An example of this was the Susan Boyle promotion #susanalbumparty which if you take a moment to read over this you may notice an accidental double message.
If you decide to use a # as a form of branding for a particular campaign that you are running then the most important thing is to be consistent. Add it to every piece of content that you post across all of your platforms to rank higher in the search engine optimisation algorithms and increase your visibility to your audience. You may also want to research into what other # are trending well and suitable for your content. Using around three hashtags on your Insta posts will help to let your desired audience be able to find you. Don’t be afraid to use them, but also don’t go crazy and add them just for the sake of it. Be considered and consistent.
The types of campaigns can be almost anything you want to draw attention to. It may be a specific deal you are running in your business, a competition, a new thing you are launching, or a narrative about something you are doing. The #joinjulesjourney campaign that I am running here is an example of an online narrative of my own journey in launching a new business. Granted my ‘business’ is a non profit open source version but the process still stands. I have a facebook platform where I will be delivering free training and allowing free networking and self promotion for people in a specific niche, creative industries, which is my version of a business. It could just as easily be a platform to sell materials. In addition to writing the workbooks and other materials to support people to learn new skills I wanted to document the actual process I was going through myself as this would be useful for many people embarking on the journey of building an online business. As I always promote the idea of tiny steps in the right direction as a way of not being overwhelmed I felt the idea of sharing each of my tiny steps would help motivate and encourage other people to do the same. For me, it is the authenticity that is important to my current campaign. I am opening myself up for everyone to learn from my journey so that they can be brave enough to make their own.
Don’t be scared of using something that you don’t have any experience of. Take a day to read up on it and have a go at using it. It is very easy for us to procrastinate over these things and worry about perfectionism and making mistakes, but it is the mistakes that teach us. Dive right in and learn from your mistakes at the beginning on your journey. Imagine where you will be in a week if you learn one little thing each day. How much more confidence you will have? Imagine if you give yourself a target of doing one thing every day for a month. How closer will you be to your idea coming into existence? Imagine in one year from now. In one year you could change the whole landscape of your world. This whole thing might begin with you learning how to use your first #
One day to go!
May 9th 2021
Having just returned from a tranquil weekend away in a gleaming pod for my son’s birthday I am feeling recharged and enthusiastic for the week ahead. I also feel like I want to prioritise trips like that and have frequent breaks away. I don’t have, and never will have, the most extravagant lifestyle but I would like to create a balance that allows me to have more weekends away like that. Unfortunately since the pandemic staycations have become far more expensive and it isn’t as easy to find a cheap little local retreat anymore as the whole country are looking for the same thing. Hopefully the world will open up again soon enough and we can all enjoy more freedom again.
For now though its time to jump into some exciting projects. The academic year may be drawing to a close but I have an exciting summer of learning planned for anyone who wants to up skill a little. Tomorrow is the first launch day of my ’21 Days Challenge: From where you are now to launch’ and I am really quite excited. Although there is no real reason to be doing a time sensitive launch for this resource, other than the fact I had my weekend gleaming trip planned and wanted to wait until after that, I thought it would be a useful exercise in keeping with the material of the challenge.
Online businesses use this technique of ‘launching’ a course or product often to produce hype and get people interested. The nature of an offer being time sensitive makes people more likely to engage faster rather than just thinking about it in the future. It also helps people to plan their time so that they can commit to completing the whole thing rather than just starting it and getting distracted because of other life commitments. I know I choose what little courses to attend or webinars to watch based on when they are and how they fit into my life that day or week.
The other thing about launching to run in real time is that you can interact with the audience as they go through their journey with the material. For example, during the 21 Days Challenge I will post tips and prompts in the facebook group every day that match the stage that the workbook is at. This makes it easy for motivated participants to interact or ask questions if they want to. It also means that people participating at a different time can still track the daily conversations and link up with their own progress to get additional help.
Any opportunity you can find to encourage online engagement will be helpful to your online visibility and potential to grow your audience. For my group this isn’t necessary as it is all free, but I’m sure you can imagine how these techniques would be useful if you were actually selling a product and wanted to give people a taster and encourage them to buy.
One initial question that a group member had was about if this challenge would help him start a youth drama group. Imagine you are getting ready to launch a physical service like that where you clients come to you in a venue every week to do a physical session, do you think this online system would be useful? Of course it would. To get clients you need to find them first. And you need to get them engaged with you and trust your expertise before deciding to buy your product. Having an online presence where people who are interested in your offer can receive free tasters would be a fantastic way to present yourself as an authority in your subject and build trust by showing up and providing useful content that the member can engage with. If a client already trusts you they are far more likely to commit to buying your product.
Usually at the end of a free training offer you would build up to promoting the actual thing that you want to sell. That is the one thing that won’t happen with my 21 Days Challenge as it is actually designed to be free, but I will add in the structure of that so that everyone can see how it works. In my case tho the offer will be another free product and not a paid for one, but the principle is the same.
I fully expect that people will be too shy to interact with the online comments in the group. That is totally fine. If you expect your platform to be instantly buzzing with activity then you will be sorely disappointed. I might go through the whole challenge posting several times a day and not get any comments, that it totally fine. It doesn’t mean that people are not engaging and doing the work, and it doesn’t mean the they are not getting real value from participating. The important thing is to keep showing up regardless of visible engagement. You are aiming to build trust and that means being there consistently for the timeframe that you have promised. If you don’t see it through because you feel disheartened then potential clients will assume that you will do the same thing with your business. If you do a live and nobody joins that doesn’t mean that people won’t watch it on replay so you still need to give it every bit of energy and commitment. If your posts don’t get comments don’t get disheartened, many people like to watch instead of interacting. Most people need to see an offer around eight times before they commit to buying. I believe a general rule for engagement is that for every engagement, around 10 people saw it but didn’t interact. Remember, its all about visibility, not it being the You Show from the outset. Take your ego out of the equation and simply deliver what you promised to deliver. At the end of the campaign you can look at your overall engagement and decide what worked and what didn’t. Don’t even think about second guessing yourself half way through.
Day 1 of the 21 Days Challenge
May 10th 2021
Today is launch today! This is so exciting!
I always watch people running webinars and online challenges who say they are so excited and I thought it was a bit of an act to get the hype up, but I am genuinely really excited for this. I didn’t realise how messy I look today until I put the camera on in my office to do the video because on teaching days I tend to be dressed to be messy in the workshop and with Covid protocols in work I wear a mask all day long so there isn’t much point in make up. So in my video you truly get the authentic me. Hair tied up, paint covered clothes, and a just out of my bed sort of look. This isn’t really a bad thing these days though. Since the new trend of home working there has been a shift for a more casual and accessible look. People don’t want to see picture perfect professional versions anymore, they want something that they can identify with, and lets face it, we have all adapted to a more relaxed way of working /presenting ourselves while home working. My favourite part of online teaching has been the random distractions in everyones house with dogs, cats, the really noisy bird and of course the children who pop in. Just about every one of my students knows my dog and I can always tell when she walks in behind me as everyone’s faces light up. The boundaries between work and personal life have been broken down and I think it is a great thing. Definitely something to consider when building your business.
It is this authentic glimpse of the behind the scenes that people really buy into just now. Whatever you think your business idea might be, a core part will be to show the real you. Obviously you will want to also present yourself as an expert and give people the opportunity to buy into the credibility of what you offer, but the distanced separated persona of professionalism is definitely on its way out. Let people see your passion for the subject and they will believe in it and you, this alone gives you authority. Consistently show up and convey how passionate you are about your subject and they will begin to trust you. For me one of my biggest hurdles to overcome was the fear of going live, so I totally understand all of the resistance you may have to this. I strongly suggest you give it a go, on any subject, just to get one out of the way and feel first hand how it isn’t as bad as you think it will be.
I suppose the interesting thing about putting yourself out there is that it is something that will definitely need to happen in your business. Perhaps to don’t need to be an extravert and constantly be in the limelight but you do need to be confident and be the face of your business to build trust with your audience. It can be a bit of a self development journey but it is really useful to work out exactly where your boundaries lie. Are you just procrastinating because it is something new and a little scary or are you genuinely anxious about something? Either way there are steps you can take to work on things but it is important to know where you are so you know what you need to do to build yourself up.
Day 2 of the 21 Days Challenge
May 11th 2021
The first day of the challenge was great. I posted a morning video of me talking through the tasks. I posted in the afternoon with a little food for thought about how to think about the task, and then in the evening I posted a personal realisation I had found when doing the task a few months ago. The main thing about this challenge for me is to bee authentic and accessible and sometimes that means showing your vulnerability to others. Usually I would refrain from telling other people about my weaknesses and challenges but I think that just gives these things power over me. So I happily shared that I had realised I was overcommitting to things and feeling like a failure because of it.
When I had done a task like this at the start of 2020 it had prompted me to make the decision temporarily stop doing my PhD, which felt like the biggest failure at the time, but realistically it can be picked up again at any point and there is no point in running yourself into the ground when you can choose to step back and take an easier more healthy path. In fact, me taking some time out from the PhD has given me so much time and enthusiasm to do other projects like write this blog and run challenges in a facebook group to help other people. That is what my soul really needed just now and was crying out for. What felt like a heartbreaking decision to make at the time has turned my life around and given me so much peace and wellbeing. Sometimes we just need a break. It doesn’t mean we have failed, but allowing ourselves to change our path to a new direction is the best thing we can possibly do for our own self care and mental health.
I think if this task can help people to identify one little thing they want to change in their life and they feel better because of it then it will absolutely be worth it. It takes work though. Its not just about writing things down on a bit of paper, noticing something, and then moving on. If there is something that you feel you need to change then you need to work on understanding why. Sometimes at the start you don’t know why, you just have a gut feeling that something isn’t right. Trust your intuition and follow what you feel is right for you, but take some time to consider why you feel like that. Knowing and understanding these roots can help you to make decisions in the future that will be right for you rather than just being the smart choice.
That is the behind the scenes of why I think this was the best first task to do in the challenge but this blog is also about the technical parts of running this challenge so you can build your own online systems for a business. Here is my technical take on the first day. The group currently has 80 members, as of this morning 42 had watched yesterday morning’s video of me talking about the task, so that’s over half the group engaged in the challenge. Only two people commented on the video post with 9 liking it. The two following posts in the day each got 41 or 42 views. That shows me that half of the group consistently showed up to take part in the challenge but were quietly doing so in their own way. I think it is so important to not get caught up in watching for comments and thinking that if people aren’t commenting then they aren’t engaging with the material. This is where it is so important to keep showing up. Set out your strategy and follow it through to the end. Don’t feel disheartened if you don’t get comments because that is in no way a reflection of the actual engagement you are having. Consider everything as the long game. You might not get active engagement this time, but you are placing your content online for not just the present time but for future participants to see in their own time. Be the best version of yourself and don’t be afraid to talk to a blank screen with no comments because its not just about that moment, you are creating your legacy with every post.
Overall I am pretty blown away by how this has all come together. A few weeks ago I was just setting up a blog with a long term goal of writing some online course maybe in a year or so. But I have been so inspired by groups I have joined that I got carried away and now have a facebook group with 80 members, wrote a little course and am getting over half the group to engage with that. I think that is pretty mind-blowing and just shows what can be possible if you just commit to an idea and put the work in. Just think, in a months time you could be where I am, but with your new business and not just a project I am running for my own fun.
Day 3 of the 21 Days Challenge
May 12th 2021
As I have been running this challenge I have been doing lots of things to replicate business process so that I can feed back to everyone about what works and what doesn’t. A few days before the challenge started I decided to do a Facebook Ad just to see what it does for increasing engagement. Facebook offered a free £5 credit but you had to buy a £5 credit to get it. I took out the Ad which lasted for 5 days. Today it finished and Facebook showed me the figures on its success. I have to say I am less than impressed. People reached 522, links clicked 2. Bearing in mind that I built a specific landing page about the 21 Days Challenge in advance as part of my learning process so I did have a live informative destination, I think that result is poor. Had this been an actual business there would likely be no return on the ad investment.
I have had a lot of luck with organic traffic, meaning that just through me inviting people and word of mouth the group numbers and challenge participants is actually very good. Considering that against almost no return in an ad I would speculate that it is much more constructive to grow your business organically rather than thinking you can use social media advertising to achieve sales. Of course this is only a first test and I’m sure it depends very much on the type of business you are running but I think this was quite an interesting insight.
Day 4 of the 21 Days Challenge
May 13th 2021
In the challenge today we are looking at Blocks. There are five key areas I’ve asked people to think about, procrastination, overwhelm, perfectionism, fear of judgement and limiting beliefs. In my morning video I was talking about how I was very arrogant before in assuming that I didn’t have any issues with these things, but when I sat down to do the work that actually I filled pages with examples of things that I do. I have to say, I was totally shocked and a little humbled at what I had uncovered. So many things that I do that I don’t even notice, and was definitely having massive effects on how productive I was being. It was a big awakening for me to think that being productive isn’t just about the things you are doing, but the things that you aren’t doing, and understanding those reasons. Taking time to reflect and really consider what you are doing is so much more important than I had imagine.
So I decided to add this into this challenge because for me it was a huge part of me starting this group and running this challenge in the first place. I am so curious to see if going through the same process can help other people identify their blocks and get out of their own way the same way that I did. In order to do this I have put myself out there in a much more open and vulnerable way than I ever have before. I am sharing my own examples of thongs that I have struggled with in an attempt to normalise it and help other to dive deep into their own issues. As this blog is an authentic narrative of my process I thought it important to take that into the challenge swell and talk about these things. Doing videos at all was a bit of a challenge for me as I used to really hate that sort of thing and a few months ago I would never have imagined I could do something like that. Talking about my biggest flaws and fears in those videos is another huge step. But I want to inspire everyone to really be honest with themselves and even contemplate that one day they could take a brave step like I have.
I don’t think anybody should try to something they are genuinely not comfortable with because that will definitely create a block to that task and cause some major procrastination, and probably a lot of anxiety. But it is really worth considering how these ideas fit into the type of business you are thinking about running and consider how you could create that more personal experience in a way that you are comfortable with.
I know that part of being successful in online business is the confidence to put yourself out there like that, not to talk about any generic stuff, but to really show what you are doing in a way that people can relate to. This builds your credibility as an expert who has already been through a process and succeeded and builds trust in you as a person which makes people more likely to interact with your business. A fun fact, businesses that have a blog as part of their website are 60% more likely to get sales. People really do want to buy into the personal experience these days rather than faceless corporations that just want money.
Day 5 of the 21 Days Challenge
May 14th 2021
I feel really quite excited about this part of the challenge. I can see from the views on my posts that a lot of people are consistently watching them so I’m really happy about engagement. The exciting thing though is that I remember how things started to change for me when I was around this stage of the process I went through. Discovering what my own bad habits were and really exploring why was a bit of a personal journey that I hadn’t expected to do, but had been blown away by how things started to shift for me afterwards. When I realised what my bad habits were and where they were coming from I felt a kind of a power over them that I had never had before. I felt for the first time that I was in control over what happens to me. I’ve always been a bit of a control freak, but in more of a defensive way. Kind of proving to myself and everyone else that I could be. Things feel different now. Its like I don’t need to prove myself to anyone, I can do exactly what I want just for me, and that feels so comfortable. I suppose there is an element of moving on from the past. When you identify something and make it, then turn it on itself you take all power from it. Suddenly its not an issue anymore and the load just lifts up and leaves you feeling so light.
Productivity picks up. Tasks become easier. Then when you reflect you realise that you haven’t been doing those bad habits that were holding you back before and you can really see the connection. Doing these things was a big step for me and I am so excited to see if other people experience the same things. Its not a case of just filling in a box once and everything changes, but if you do that first step and identify what you thing is then you are able to work on it. This just means you need to really think about it. Keep thinking about it for a few weeks. Do the little tasks I have suggested. Even go back and do them again if you have a little time and want to have another go or dig a little deeper. The more time you spend on this type of thing the more prepared you will be to recognise when you have a block and know how to deal with it. This type of development is really important to how productive you will be in your business and in how people perceive you. If you genuinely feel confident and productive then others will see this in you and gain trust in your opinions. This will only serve as a good thing as your business grows.
Day 6 of the 21 Days Challenge
May 16th 2021
Let me start today with one of my motivations for doing this challenge. Not from the point of helping other people, but my reason. After a year of pandemic and the movement restrictions that it caused I have become quite used to working at home. I love the days that I get to go on campus and teach but I also love that most of my days don’t involve long commutes on busy motorways and I want to establish myself doing some kind of writing to support my income. In my mind I had though I would write a blog for a year while I decided what it is exactly that I wanted to do but know that my end goal will be to allow myself a flexible lifestyle where I can mix teaching with writing so that I can spend more time at home with my kids and less on the motorway.
This morning showed me the most perfect example of this. While I was recording my morning video for the facebook challenge my son came into the living room holding his hand out with his front tooth that had just come out. This is quite an occasion because this tooth had been holding on by a thread for weeks. Actually, just last night I recorded him being able to turn it 360 in his mouth… heebie jeebies. It was such a nice moment for me to be home with him when it finally came out and I was able to celebrate with him. These are the types of moments we miss out on when we are part of the rat race, constantly working to make a living and being on the motorway rather than at home for much more time than we would like.
It was actually quite poignant that the whole thing was caught on my facebook video and will forever be immortalised for those taking the challenge of a truly authentic example of my ‘why’. Hopefully it will inspire others to really think about what their reasons are for starting their own business and consider how they can build something that matches not just the business needs but also the whole home lifestyle needs. We are trying to remove stress by building something we truly love so we should make sure that there are no compromises.
The other thing I wanted to mention today was about organic growth of your business. Once you have your idea it is important to know where your audience hangs out so you can be in those same places. Yesterday I had a first hand experience of this, completely by accident, but it showed me how this really is an important part of business growth. I had been in a facebook hobby group (it started as a gardening group and then expanded) since lockdown started last year. Just by chance yesterday the group owner suggested that anyone who has a business should put their links in the thread so we can maybe support each other. I popped in the details of my facebook group where the challenge is happening and a few people joined. Now this a perfect example of how just being present in the right kind of groups can lead to you making new contacts. There was nothing salesy about my link and I didn’t actively advertise myself in the group. I was simply present and interacted there and when an organic opportunity arose I added my details. This was seen by a group of people who would have a specific interest in what I do and they asked to join. This proved to be far move successful than paying for a facebook advert, it didn’t cost a penny, and it brought the exact type of person who would benefit from what I am offering. I thought this was such a perfect example of growing an organic business that I had to share with you.
Day 7 of the 21 Days Challenge
May 16th 2021
One week into the challenge and I have definitely lost any shyness I had over doing videos and putting them I the group. This morning I even did it still learning my pyjamas as I wanted to get it up and out there nice and early. I figure nobody is watching these tutorials to have an opinion on my appearance so I might as well just be comfortable in my own skin and record when the moment of inspiration hits me. I’m not suggesting that for your own business you will want to make promotional materials with your pyjamas on, but as this challenge is coming from a casual and authentic position of personal vulnerability then I thought it wouldn’t hurt, so why not.
Today the challenge is talking about showing up. I branded this page as the secret sauce for two reasons. Firstly, although there will never be one definite magic trick that makes all businesses work, you can almost guarantee that your business won’t work if you don’t show up. If you make a great product but then just sit on it you won’t find anyone chapping your door asking to buy it. If you start running classes somewhere and just hope that people will see one little poster and flock to your door then you are likely to be very disappointed. If you write a book but don’t publish it then nobody will be able to buy it. The list could go on forever. Most creatives hate the idea of putting a price on their work because they feel people will think they are overcharging. Many hate the idea of putting themselves out there as it makes them feel vulnerable and they are too introverted to assume that promotional persona. If you are one of these people the thing to take away here is that being extroverted isn’t the only way to promote yourself. You can use more subtle strategies and we will talk about that later in the challenge, but you still need to show up. Create your work. Make sure that it is available for people to find and to buy. Don’t be afraid to tell people what it is that you do in the right circles. When people are genuinely interested in what you do be ready to talk about it and don’t be afraid to suggest they check out whatever platforms you have. This isn’t being salesy, its helping people to find solutions, but also benefits you.
Secondly, I called it the secret sauce because its very useful for all businesses to have a secret sauce. Basically that means knowing what a key point of your business is. What makes it unique? What is the catchy thing that matches the problems your audience has that can help them see you as the solution? Lets think of an example. If you are a health and fitness coach what might your secret sauce be? Most of us have opportunity to go to a gym if we wanted but very few of us go as much as we should and then complain about not being fit enough or being over-weight. This creates a problem where the client wants to achieve something but doesn’t have the motivation to see it through. An instructor might offer one-to-one coaching as a way to overcome that barrier and help the client to commit to making the improvement. The one-to-one aspect could be considered a secret sauce, but the instructor could go even further. Signing up to individual sessions requires a lot of motivation on the clients part and the instructor can only motivate during the one-to-one sessions. A way for them to increase the reach could be by creating some sort of gamification aspect that imbeds into a customers daily life. Perhaps using an app to track a clients steps throughout their whole week and rewarding reaching a goal with a discount session. This would bring the fitness out of that slot and into all parts of the clients life causing them to think about their goal throughout the day and stay motivated for even longer getting better results and being a client for longer.
A trick to finding solutions like this is by using design thinking and always thinking, what else could it be? If you are going to be successful in your business you need to always being think not just about how you can create the thing that you love but how you can add to the experience to make everything more engaging for your customer. Society is used to having everything at the touch of a button. People want to be able to look at a clear and concise website to quickly research what they are interested in. They want to know what they will get, how it will solve their problem and how much it will cost. They want to be reminded of your offer so they can remember to buy it if they decided they are interested. Finally, they really do want that secret sauce that makes them committed to you being the best choice for them. Much of this will come from you convincing them that you are an expert and to be trusted, and someone they can build a relationship with. They want to recognise who you are, what you do and what you stand for. This doesn’t mean you need to do lives every day, but you need to find a way you can get these things across to your customers in ways that you are comfortable with and they can relate to.
When you are woking on business ideas in the next stage of this challenge consider if you have a secret sauce, if not, think about what else it could be.
Day 8 of the 21 Days Challenge
May 17th 2021
The first week of the challenge is over and now we are into starting to think about the more practical and tangible things you will need to launch your business. Today’s task is to think about what we are good at and what we need to learn. You don’t need to be amazing at everything to be able to launch your business, in fact this challenge focuses on taking you from where you are now. It is however important to be realistic about what you are capable of. Are you able to build a website? Can you learn to build it from tutorials? Or do you need to outsource that task to a professional? All of these things are acceptable answers, as long as you know that you are doing and and you have your reasons. Maybe you have time to learn how to build a website from scratch and will enjoy the challenge. It will obviously sabe you a lot of money to be able to do it yourself and give you more authority over you business. Perhaps though, the idea fills you with dread and all you want to do is make the thing you love and are happy to pay someone else to do these technical things for you. These are all your decisions, just know your why.
This isn’t just about managing your own tasks, but also to manage your overall CPD (continued professional development). There will always be new things to learn and new ways of doing things. It is up to you to really pay attention to what your skills are so that you can take the opportunity to up skill when you get the chance. There are a million free ways to learn how to do things from YouTube tutorials to free taster courses. You may even want to sign up to do an actual qualification either at a college or with a private educator. That os absolutely fine too, but please see it as CPD while you are running your business and not something that you need to do before you start. Remember, you will learn from doing so getting started now is your best chance at success.
The week ahead will most probably go one of two ways. You either have lots of bits of ideas floating around your head and you want to do them all at once, or you feel like you don’t have enough of an idea to be able to turn to into anything. Over the next few days we will do exercises to build up these ideas and make them more concise. The one thing you need to do this os to have focus. You need to know your concept, what skills you need to facilitate that, who your audience are, how to engage with your audience, and how to take them on a journey that will make them want to buy into your concept. As this week goes on you will start to think of everything not only as what you want to do, but as what solution your customer needs in their life. Building a business that you 100% love and that you have a passion for is very important to the consistency and effort you will show. Finding a gap in the market with a very defined niche is just as important if you want a successful and sustainable business.
With all this in mind, take your time to think about the skills and knowledge you have that you know will inspire you in the long run. Consider the things you know you will need to learn to achieve all of your goals. Start to imagine how it is going to feel to be running your business, because if it doesn’t feel good then you won’t be consistent, and then it will fails. Believing in yourself and what you do is perhaps another under rated secret sauce in the success of your business.
Day 9 of the 21 Days Challenge
May 19th 2021
Almost at the half way point. On reflection I wonder if this challenge os a little bit too long to do in real time. I know there were people at the weekend who were catching up and doing multiple tasks at the same time so perhaps it would be better over a shorter period with more tasks on the same day. Saying that, I do know that people are checking in every day and doing it in small bit size bits may be a bit easier for people that are very busy or working on other projects. I do like the flexibility of doing it this way where the workbook is given out at the start so that if anyone is keen to get on with it they have that option, rather than becoming too busy half way through and falling away. Also by adding the videos every day and keeping them in the facebook feed it gives people the choice to either watch it in real time or to refer back to it when they are doing the task at a later point. I do however feel that this system may be particularly suitable if it were edited together as a course so that it was easy to search in a file with the task, the video, and the blog narrative all together in one place to stop people needing to search in multiple places.
Although, there are good points about people having to look in different places. I can get them into the habit of checking your group and your website if that is where you have been directing them. If this is proving to be a good experience and they are enjoying supplementary ,materials you are offering them they will be likely to stay in this routine after the challenge has ended. You are wanting to set yourself up as an authority on your subject, trustworthy and providing value in your free materials. If people love your free stuff they are more likely to want to buy whatever services/products that you are offering or going to offer in the future.
There is also validation in the learning aspect of having materials in different places. People learn in different ways. Sometimes they have a preference to a style but certainly to allow them to learn across the style increases their chance to do well in learning the content. Visual learners want to see pictures, patters, graphs, colours, and people. Auditory learners want to hear you talk about the subject. Written learners like to see the content written down so that they can absorb the materials themselves. Kinaesthetic learners like to touch and do practical things. In this case the workbook is laid out with a visual learner in mind and encourages the participant to physically write down their thoughts to satisfy the kinaesthetic preference. The kinaesthetic also comes into play by having them click between sites as this makes them more of an active learner than just an observer. Your videos tick the visual and auditory box, giving people a chance to take in the information in a different way to the workbook and increase their chance of retaining the information. Last of all, if you provide a blog like this then you are providing for those with preference to written material.
Each of these by itself is a valid learning method, but all of them mixed together significantly increases the learners chance of completing the task and retaining the information, meaning that you are gaining credibility in your offer and your reputation.
Day 10 of the 21 Days Challenge
May 19th 2021
Today’s task is possibly one of the most important ones of the whole challenge. Based on the previous tasks about what you are good at and imagining the type of business you want to fit into your life you should have some sort of idea of the type of things you might want to do. However, here is where you get to go a little crazy and think of lots of different versions of things you imagine could be a business. The trick is to not restrict yourself to trying to do something that seems sensible or smart. Be creative and imagine things that really make you follow your instincts even if they seem totally unviable at first glance. Keep generating lots of ideas. Some may have lots of details and some might just be vague, but the more you create the more chance you have of drawing interesting connections between them. You might find one seems like a well structured idea but seems to be lacking something. Perhaps you will be able to combine one of your crazy ideas to make it into something a little bit special that makes it unique in its area.
We are at the point now where you really have to do the work. An amazing idea won’t just jump into your head fully formed and perfect. Well, it might, but if that hasn’t happened to you already then it is probably a sign that you need to put in the work. Unfortunately you are the only person that can do this part. You know everything about you, and if you did the tasks last week you should have notes written down that really show you what skills and ideas would be good for you to work from. Like I said in the video today, when you are thinking about your concepts make sure to keep thinking what else it could be. Also, adding in a load of digital ways of doing it would be really useful as online usage has increased by over 40% in the last year and there is defiantly a market for pretty much any idea you can think of.
If you truly need some inspiration have a school through Etsy and Pinterest to see what other people are doing and see if there is anything there that inspires you. Sometimes we just need a little prompt to help an idea jump into our head. I am a big believer of learning by doing and I really hope you all take that away from this challenge. You can have no ideas at all, but if you start writing, or sketching, or searching online then things will start to appear. If you have lots of ideas but can’t decide on what to do start working on one of them and see what comes out of it. Chances are you will follow lots of paths and overlap lots of projects, which is a good thing. This is where new ideas come from and and great ideas start to develop. Scientist don’t magically come up with perfect solutions first time. They study, hypothesise and experiment countless times until they reach their goal, its the same thing for you.
Day 11 of the 21 Days Challenge
May 20th 2021
The task for today is actually one of my favourite parts. I like taking my ideas and trying to work out which ones are viable and which can be put aside on the To Do pile. I find I get quite excited as I try to work out what all the good points are about the concept and noticing cool things that could happen. I love seeing how different ideas could come together and even finding new ones spring up out of seeing the other ones laid out together. This task isn’t the type of thing that only happens once and then you just forget about it and move on. If you want to run a successful business you should constantly be looking at what you are offering and how it can be improved. Always being ready to respond to some new market trend that presents opportunity for you to expand in to. Always thinking about what else it could be.
I think there is often an urgency in people to feel like they need to get the idea going right away. So they procrastinate over trying to get it perfect so that when it launches it will be a perfectly complete working thing that everyone will adore. I believe that is the human ego at work there. Being more worried about what other people will think of it rather than what you want it to be. Obviously you want it to be something that appeals to the right audience, but you are probably worrying more just now about what other people will think of you for doing it. You friends and family, your social media friends, even slightly removed people that may have an opinion. The reality though is that none of these people matter. You could make the most perfect thing in the world and these people still wouldn’t get it or like it. They are not your business audience. By worrying about what they will think of you you are letting opportunity pass you by. Its time to be brave and leave your ego behind you to follow your dream. Be authentic and sincere in your ideas and the right audience will be attracted to you. Try to please the wrong people and you will be too generic and not achieve your target audience.
I feel like all of these things are leading us back to the tasks we did last week when we looked at who we are and what our blocks are. You most probably know where your talents lie, but likely don’t give yourself enough credit for them. The more important thing is to recognise the things holding you back. Why haven’t you started one of these ideas yet? What is it that makes you scared to jump in feet first and not care what anyone else thinks? Most importantly how are you going to get out of these habits?
It all starts today! You have some ideas. You have been analysing them using a matrix to discover what ones stand out to you the most. You are about to research into your favourite one to find you gap, you niche, the marketing term Your Blue Ocean. Whatever idea you chose over the next day or so will have one thing that nobody else’s business has…You. All of the skills, knowledge and life experience that you have makes you perfectly centred and in a unique position to create something that nobody else has. To achieve this tho you need to let go of the things that are holding you back and embrace all of the amazing things about you. Nobody can magically make their insecurities go away, but file them in a different place. Identify them, work to create a new belief about them, and file them away in a drawer to be revisited in the future. These insecurities may be part of you but they don’t need to define who you are and they don’t need to be part of your business. Look back over all the great things you said about yourself last week and make them the focus of the central You that will be running this business.
This is the point where you decide.
Day 12 of the 21 Days Challenge
May 21st 2021
Today is all about research. I can almost hear everyone cringe over the internet when I use the term ‘research’. It has such negative connotations and a rhetoric around it that its difficult and cumbersome. The exact opposite should be true when you are researching your business. The idea of finding out things that might work, or that other people are doing, or where your gap is should make you feel really enthusiastic and almost have butterflies with excitement. Exploring ways to validate your business idea by tracking down information like in the past decade internet use has grown by 40%. That bodes well for any digital ideas you have. Doing a search on Google Trends and finding that there has been a growing rise in people searching for the type of business you are thinking of launching. Constantly taking down notes of the key words that other people are using that ring true for your business that may become you SEO key words and help you on your journey to get noticed. This type of research should be fun, although you will want to document somewhere the information you have found and what the source is because you are going to want to see that again if you move forward with the idea and want to make a business plan.
I find this stage very playful and fun. I actually end up adding a whole bunch of new ideas to my pile because when I see how other people are doing things it makes me think I want to branch out into those areas too. This challenge is a perfect example. At the start of 2021 all I was planning to do was start writing a blog because I wanted a creative outlet for all my ideas. The more I read about it the more I got drawn in to a whole load of other projects that I could connect with it. The facebook group ‘Creative Economy Entrepreneurs: Supporting each other to grow’ was born form one of these ideas and now here I am writing booklets and challenges to help other people reach their potential and start their own business.
These activities over the past few months have been a little bit of an obsession of mine. I have loved learning new skills and creating things I never dreamed would be possible and I really loved meeting lots of other women who were on a similar journey to me. I found these things so inspiring and I happily have given up Netflix in place of writing blogs and creating workbooks from training I am taking part in. I may be a bit of a workaholic just now but that tends to always happen at the start. It takes a lot of effort and motivation to keep going at the start when everything needs to be built from scratch. This is especially prevalent in weeks like this where I am doing lots of extra hours in my day job because it is marking season and by the end of the day there is little motivation to sit down to write in a blog or keep a posting schedule. However, I promised myself that when I set myself a target I would stick to it. No procrastinating because I am tired and feel like I need a break. Every day I will keep going regardless, because if I stop that is just as significant as a step back. So every day I do at least one little thing so that I am always going forward.
Day 13 of the 21 Days Challenge
May 22nd 2021
Today in the challenge we are thinking about reflection. I believe this really is the most important thing in running any sort of project or business. Its not just about coming up with an idea that appeals to you and building on that, you need to consider a much bigger picture. What are the market trends? Who else is doing it? What are your potential audience searching for online? What are the current social engagement trends? All of these things are important for you to know, but all of these things are fluid and change continuously. It would be naive for you to think that you can do this research once and that will create a solid, fool proof plan that will work forever.
Consider the past year. 2020 was the most culture altering event ever seen outside of war or natural disasters. Society has changed drastically from a year of isolation and social distancing restrictions. How people work has shifted majorly online with many organisations now choose to stay online rather than returning to place based business. Many small businesses were completely wiped out and could not sustain themselves during the lockdowns, others were reactive and altered their business models throughout to match every new level of restriction and keep themselves viable.
Consumer habits have changed dramatically. With he lack of shops being open many people have shifted to online shopping. I know myself that I always preferred to go into shops and choose my own products but now I am more comfortable ordering my weekly grocery shopping online and having it delivered straight to my door step. I order my fruit and veg from a wholesaler that delivers wonderful quality produce, and I have my milk and eggs delivered twice a week to my door step. I have found a new way of shopping for my essential items that has now become part of my habits and I am unlikely to go back to the old way. Right now society is still adjusting to this new way of being with constantly changing areas of restriction and constant mask wearing. There has never been a better time to launch a business that takes account of this new way of being. Design something that fits into the new social structures and offered people a clear safe choice that they trust and don’t feel they need to make any new decisions. People are weary of making decisions about changing their lifetime habits, they just want easy, safe, appealing options that can slot into their current lifestyle.
These are all things that are very relevant to any reflection you will do in current times. The underlying instability of social habits and cultural separations has never been so fractured. Society is on the cusp of radical shifts in cultural norms. Currently the dominant class that own all of the main businesses that were allowed to stay open during lockdown have made massive profits and forced the closer of countless small and independent businesses, but it doesn’t need to be that way. Imagine if there were an uprising of small business and a shift for consumers to shop small, we could see real change. But first we need new types of small businesses. Ones that can be responsive to social restrictions rather than being crippled by them. Ones that respond to the needs of our new world of increased online interactions. A revolution of entrepreneurs.
Day 14 of the 21 Days Challenge
May 23rd 2021
Today is all about reflection. Well, not quite reflection, but imagining what it will feel like in the future when reflecting on your business. It might seem a little strange to put so much attention on feelings when we are talking about business but the two are very much linked if you want to be successful.
Think about a time in your life when you were very excited about something and looking forward to it and then when it finally happened it was a let down and you felt disappointed. Think how quickly you became disengaged and didn’t want to take part in it anymore. Did you keep going even though you wern’t enjoying it like you thought you would? If you did see it through did it feel lighthearted and fun or did it feel like walking through mud and you just wanted to be finished with it? Imagine the same thing happening with your business. If you are disappointed or not feeling 100% connected with it then chances are you will end up with that feeling of walking through mud. The more you feel disengaged the more you will procrastinate over things and become less productive. You may feel regret over starting it because it is not bringing you the feeling you hoped it would.
What is the solution? My suggestion is exactly what I’ve set in today’s challenge, consider what you want it to feel like when you are running your business. Think about it and hold on to those feelings. Name them. Give them power in your plan by writing them down as part of the business plan. If you know that the finance side will make you stressed and miserable then that would be an easy decision for you to make about hiring an accountant to do that side of things for you. If you know in your gut that building a website is something that you just can’t face doing then hire someone to do that. I am a big believer that we can all learn to do all of these things ourselves so we don’t need to spend money paying others, but realistically if you know that you want to feel stress free then it makes sense to outsource the things that will bring you stress.
This is like the tasks at the start of the challenge where you were to think about what you did and didn’t want in your future. It may seem a little silly at the time, especially if you don’t buy in to visualisations and manifestations. However, consider the research you did about market trends and and methods of customer engagement, researching yourself is just an extension of that. If you were trying to fit a client to a product you would want to know what they will be using it for to see if it is appropriate, consider yourself to be your own client and you are trying to match a business to your needs. Really look at what makes the business a good fit for you and make sure you are designing the best fit possible to provide a sustainable future for yourself.
Again, this is something you should do as an ongoing process. Every few months you should reassess your market and make sure you are optimising your business to suit current trends. The same should be done for yourself although most people have resistance to this. As your life and priorities change so should your business models. You may have a family and need to alter things to work around that. Or maybe your family flies the nest and you have more time you could commit. Perhaps you launch a second business and want to find a way to integrate how you manage both of them to save time and energy. There are a million reasons why things might change for you and having a practice of reflecting on them is the only real way to make sure that your business stays aligned with want you want in life.
Day 15 of the 21 Days Challenge
May 24th 2021
Today is the first day that things have got technical. The first week was about self development and the second week more about design and ideas. This week is introducing you to some tools that you can use to really have an online presence. This is the part where many people will dip out thinking that they aren’t any good at technology and they won’t be able to do this. Please bare with me. I myself was once a total technophobe and cringed at the idea of using a computer for doing anything more taxing that writing an email of shopping online, but look at me now. Learning one little thing at a time really helps to build confidence and lay the foundations for you to take on bigger ideas, but for now we are starting simple. Basically, you will need an email address so that you can sign up to Mailchimp, and Canva.
If you haven’t tried Canva yet I suggest you do that now. It is a fabulous little design tool that is free and you can use perfectly well from either a computer or on your phone. It comes with lots of templates that helps you to create quality designs with a drag an drop system where you can personalise them with your details. It also has options of different sizes for just about every platform you could imagine so that every design you make os perfectly configured to the requirements of the platform. Have you ever noticed that Facebook posts are square but Twitter posts are rectangular? That’s exactly what I mean. Canva lets you build your design to perfectly suit the platform of your choice. I like to use the Banner template when making images for my blog or for landing pages as I feel they fit nicely across the page. Once you have your template you can choose backgrounds, photos, text, elements, even upload your own images to make designs that are unique to you and your brand. I warn you now, it is a little addictive and you will get drawn into it in the beginning as you play around and find the types of styles that suit you and your brand.
It is important to have images in your landing page to let the audience get a sense of the type of offer you have. If you are selling artwork you can put images of it in the page beside descriptions. If you are making guides on how to do things you can mock up the artwork and let the viewer get a taste of what they will be buying. If you are running classes then you might want to include images or video of yourself to help the viewer decide if you are the correct fit for you. Always try to imagine things from your potential customers point of view and what they could see that would convince them to buy from you.
Using Mailchimp is actually very simple. Once you set up an account with an email address their are lots of things you can use it for. For this task though you are going to look at the landing page. Even if you don’t have a fully fledged idea yet I want you to have a go setting one up. The process of working through this will probably give you more ideas or help you to become more concise about what your offer is. Remember, your website will have all of the details about you and your business, this is just one single page that will give all of the details a customer would need to buy a single product/service.
We will talk more about why the landing page is important over the next few days but in the mean time get to know your way around by playing with the layout on the landing page and put in some initial text that suits your idea, and try to make a few images up in Canva. I usually make up the image and then screenshot it onto my desktop. I then go to upload image on the landing page and the image I want is at the top of my list and slides in seamlessly.
Don’t panic if it takes you a little time to get your head around any of these things. Whenever I get stuck I usually just google my problem and it is pretty easy to find some instructions or watch a helpful Youtube tutorial. You can always drop a question into the group too and me or someone else will always be around to help with any little niggely barriers that are stopping your journey. Don’t let fear of technology kill your creativity, I promise that side of things gets easier and it will soon just be you and your amazing ideas ready to flow and be inspiring.
Day 16 of the 21 Days Challenge
May 25th 2021
I can feel that the tasks have taken a much more technical turn the past few days and I do explore you to stay with me. I know many of you are creatives and that means a deep dislike for all things technology but I do promise that it isn’t as hard as it might first seem. How hard did it seem to you the first time when you sat in a car to drive? I bet you felt totally overwhelmed and maybe even scared to drive. You would have needed to learn what all of the buttons and knobs did and how to use the steering wheel to choose the direction you were going. After some lessons and some practice all of these things started to become second nature to you and you stopped even needing to think about your actions. What had initially seemed so difficult turned into an easy task that you do on a daily basis. Learning these new skills will be just the same, except with the bonus that nobody can be injured while you practice.
For me the exciting thing is that since learning these skills I keep thinking of new ways to implement them. I have plans of creating landing pages for the subjects that I teach at college to help with promotion and recruitment. I may use landing pages to help my kids build an online presence for their little Youtube channels. I may use them when I publish pieces of writing and sell for them. There are lots of things they can be used for and without the hassle of setting up full websites and paying for domain names for every little thing that you do. Just make up a page, give it a QR code and use that in your socials posts to share whatever content you have.
I’m actually very curious to know what everyones ideas are at this point. I know there are a lot of creative people form different industries and different stages of their career doing this challenge and its actually quite exciting to think that new business ideas may come out of this. I tried to keep this challenge as simplistic as possible with regard to technology to be able to compliment digitally any ideas that people have. If you are making something that can be sold digitally then this process should be great for you. If you are wanting to create a physical service then this is also going to be very usefully to get to known to your audience and help them to buy into you and sign up for your offer. If you are making a physical product this could fit into both areas by letting the audience see the process of your art form and them offering wither an integrated option to purchase or signposting to another site like Etsy or Amazon.
Whatever you have decided your business idea is, being able to promote yourself and ‘show up’ to your potential audience is going to be a vital part of your success. Knowing how to navigate and manage these digital processes I have described over the past few days may be the difference of you just having a great idea, or you having a great business. Please, no matter how much you think you don’t want to use technology do these few things
Day 17 of the 21 Days Challenge
May 25th 2021
Today’s task shows how to make an automated welcome email in Mailchimp and therefore create the loop needed for your user journey. It is so important to have a considered strategy for your promotional material rather than just sending out random posts on social media. I know a lot of us will be hung up on the importance of consistency to get your rating up on the search engines and spend your time frantically making content to post on Instagram and Facebook every day. This can become quite stressful if you feel like you are always chasing your tail. This is something we will explore in a few days. For now though I want to concentrate on understanding the importance of a user journey.
Think of yourself as an example. Imagine you have just seen an advert for something on social media that catches your eye. The advert was good enough to make you stop scrolling. In your spare time I want you to start to pay attention to what posts make you stop scrolling and take screenshots of them. This will help you to design your own by following the same pattens of the ones that you like. Next, how often do you click to see details of the offer on the post? How do you do it, link, QR code, button on post? When you get to the page it has linked you too what do you see? Is it the direct page to buy the thing or is it a page that the person who posted runs first? Most often the person who posted will take you to a landing page or their blog first which raises their traffic and ratings online. From here you will probably find a link to either buy the product or sign up to be on a mailing list.
If the item being advertised is for a third party sight the owner probably has an ‘affiliate link’, meaning that they have signed up to a deal with the company that they get a percentage of the sale if a customer buys with their link. For example, you promote an item you have made to sell it, and in your blog you talk about the materials you used to make it and imbed a link to Hobbycraft so that the reader can buy the products if they wanted to try for themselves. This would bring in an additional income stream on top of the products you are selling.
At this point the owner is either leading you to a sale or to subscribe so that they have your details to offer you similar products in the future. This is where the automated emails come in to play that are todays task. Once you have the email you are able to repeatedly make contact with that specific customer in the future about products that may interest them rather than just constantly posting generic content to social media and hoping for the best. You are able to categorise your mailing list on entry either from the source that they joined from ie, landing page, Instagram etc, which helps you to target campaigns that will specifically interest them and reduce sending them generic spam. You email list should be specific, targeted and trackable, Mailchimp easily does all of these things for you.
At the end of this challenge I will release some supporting booklets to go into more detail about specific areas I think need to be looked at more deeply. One of these is about how to create a user journey. So if you are feeling a bit unsure of this just now don’t worry, this challenge just touches on important things to help you get started and help you to know what research you should be doing and important things to be learning. I will release several other workbooks to help you get started and work through these stages in more detail.
Day 18 of the 21 Days Challenge
May 27th 2021
Today is all about Pinterest. Pinterest is one of the most commonly misunderstood platforms and many people miss out on the maximum opportunities it offers because of this. It is not just another social media platform where you scroll endlessly waiting for other people to provide you with a amusement. It is a search engine tool that can easily take you to the top of google searches and bring viewers to your boards. Very common searches are ‘how to’, so imagine if you were to create a specific board and call it ‘how to draw’. On this board you could have lots of example pins of how to draw, all of them linking to your website. You might start of every sentence in your pins with ‘how to draw’ meaning that Google would view this as being a popular answer to a popular question, and consequently rank you higher in its own search engine.
To choose what words you should use as key words you need to do two things. First think of lots of words that represent your concept the best. Make a mind map or a list to work with. Now you can do a little research to find out which ones of these people are searching for. There are two useful tools that I use here, ‘Google Trends’ and ‘Answer the Public’. Both of these provide valuable insights into what people are actually searching for. Google Trends gives very useful charts to show how a specific term is trending across a time frame. Answer the Public maps out all the different variations people are using for a search so you can see specific ways that people are wording their searches. If you combine all of these things together you will get very precise key words that you can insert into all of your pins, and further across your website and socials.
The more places you can appear to be offering a solution to a common search the more Google analytics will recognise you and place you higher on their ranking. Be careful to use your key words appropriately though. Google is smart and will be able to tell if you are just spamming your content with key words that make no sense in context and will blacklist you from their searches.
Pinterest is all about useful insights and not spamming with sales and marketing. Yes, it is ok to put some specific offers on your boards but you will get a better response if your boards provide useful tips and ideas for your viewers to see, rather than lots of sales content. You want your viewers to visit you to be inspired, not sold to. The bottom of each pin provides a space for you put a link to your website, viewers who are interested in knowing more will click the link and can become a customer at the next stage. You want your boards to be visually appealing and full of useful content that people want to read, not looking like and advert board in a supermarket.
I must admit, I am at the start of my journey with Pinterest and have only been posting for a couple of months. I am trying to build up my boards with useful content and helpful keywords with out must more of a strategy than that. I am taking this time to find how I want it to look visually and making sure that I post consistently every day. Sometimes I have a weeks worth of content ready but I need to remind myself that Google does not favour inconsistent posting where you put up lots of posts at one time and then nothing for the next amount of time. Google want to see you posting consistently. There are posting schedules within the software that can help with this. If you upgrade to the Business version (which is free) you get the option to post your pin now or schedule a post. This can be very useful if you want to only spend once a week managing your social media and posting items. You can sit down and make enough content for a week, two weeks, a month, and schedule it so that it happens automatically and then you don’t need to worry about it again.
Like I said in my video for today, social media posts are visible for a day and generally only to people who are following you. Pinterest posts are available forever and to the whole of the internet. A post you make today could be just as popular in a years time and still driving traffic to your website and bringing sales. This is why Pinterest is described as being able to bring up to 70% of the traffic to your website, because you make the pin once and it stays there working for you forever.
Day 19 of the 21 Days Challenge
May 28th 2021
Todays’s task is around social media and the importance of being organised and having a social media posting schedule. This is something that people assume will be easy when they start but quickly come up against a wall. We all post things every day, sos much so that it is generally a part of our lives and we don’t think much about it. It is easy to take a quick snap of a random part of our day and post with a little sentence to describe it. What happens tho when you are asked to post something similar every day? How long before you would run out of ideas? What happens if you were told that you always had to have the same two words in your text but arranged in difference ways, but still describing the image? Add another layer of knowing if its a value post or a sales post, and if its a sales post does it have a Call To Action to a live online destination.
These are all a lot to think about at first, which is why you need to make sure you are in control of a posting schedule. I do suggest starting with just one or two platforms, decide how often you are going to post and write that down on a schedule and be rigorous about keeping to that schedule. If you are posting erratically then the algorithms will not like it and show you less. The internet favours a structure that it can make sense of, so keep to your posting schedule if its the only productive thing you do that day.
I know it can all seem a bit overwhelming at the start and if you are not a fan of social media it can be something that you shy away from, but trust in the process to get results. If you are going to put your energy into building a business for your art then you owe it to yourself to create the best chance of success possible. Perhaps just start with one platform and create a schedule of twice a week. This will help you get into the habit of posting to a schedule even tho it is very small. If you stick to this while you are setting up other parts, like perhaps the landing page, then you are still already starting to take your small steps in the right direction and heading towards your goal. Every step counts and every little thing that you start to make a habit will eventually take you to and organised and productive place. Sometimes it can seem like a better idea to wait until you have a whole strategy worked out and feel confident, I definitely disagree with this. If you wait then you will procrastinate and get in your own way of succeeding.
Just do it! Do it now! As soon as you have chosen your business name get on Facebook and make a Page for it. Send an invite to everyone on your friends list and start a posting schedule. It doesn’t matter if at first you only have a few people watching you, your are still doing it. Search Facebook groups and join a few under your page name to get an idea of what your landscape is like. You don’t even need to tell people what your business is, they will see your name and get to know it. This is where it is important to show up. If you join in with group conversations under your business name you are putting yourself out there, even if you are not actively promoting yourself or trying to sell things. People will get to know you just by you interacting.
So even if you want to take the next 30 or 60 days to take your time building a landing page and setting up an automated mailing system, start to get your name out there now. Learn what posts get people to interact and what ones people are not interested in. Play with Canva and find a style for your posts that you like that is consistent and matches your business. Show up and interact with people and start to build yourself up and get yourself known.
Don’t just think about these things, plan them, schedule them, do them!
Day 20 of the 21 Days Challenge
May 29th 2021
We are on the second last day of the challenge and today is all about reflection. There have been three distinct sections to this challenge each falling into a specific week. The first week was person centred and gave time and space for the individual to think about themselves critically to discover what it is they really wanted out of running a business, and indeed, out of life. I feel that this is really important as I have observed and reflected for myself that students in formal education that are thrown into tasks about building a business without going through these stages feel a little lost as they lack a foundation on which to build. Although the first week may have seemed more like self development or exploration I firmly believe this is a vital part of deciding on running a business that you will need to have a personal connection with to maintain the motivation to keep showing up every day.
The second week was where I used some design thinking processes to help capture your idea concepts. Often we have vague ideas in our heads about what we want to do that are led by passion and interest rather than critical though. This concept generation process was to help the participant capture their ideas, but then add a level of rigour to the validation of them by first closely examining the contributing factors such as people, place, and how, and then by researching further into market trends and potential gaps. I challenged the participant to expand on their idea by asking ‘what else could it be’ and by considering digital versions that could fit in to match the current global shift to digital with the Covid-19 pandemic. I also set the task of testing the ideas in a Matrix to emphasise the validity or constraints of each idea by measuring their expected place in a range of different criteria such as easy-difficult, expensive-cheap, technical-not technical. This gives a visual representation of how a design concept might fair in the real world and highlights some of the challenges to expect. One may be that an idea is very technical and will require the business owner to by various equipment and software and up skill in how to use them all. This may seem a reasonable expectation to some people and may be a deal breaker for that idea for others. It is also a good way for the designer to consider how much they can do themselves and if there are things they would like to outsource and pay a professional to do. Obviously this would have cost implications but may be worth it for the right design concept.
The third week was by far the most technical of them all. I know that many creatives just want to produce their art and the idea of constructing websites, promoting their work to sell and managing data bases is the polar opposite of what they want to achieve in their business. Unfortunately in this digital world the secret to success is in the digital realm. I constructed a small user journey that takes a viewer on a socials platform and transforms them into a customer. To do this I have tried to keep it as simple as possible with the least amount of software to learn as possible. The key things to know how to do were to create images on Canva and set up an account with Mailchimp. Mailchimp would then allow the creation of a landing page, a sign up form and a mailing list with an automated welcome email. This is, in my opinion, the very least that any business should have in place if they are to be successful and create a good user experience for their customers. The key is that at every stage the viewer is getting clear information that makes them trust the business and that their is a clear Call To Action of what they are to do next. There is no point in getting a customers attention about your offer if there is nowhere for them to follow to interact with you. This section may have seemed challenging to those that do not like technology but I do hope that people persevere, because if this basic system is set up from the beginning them your business has a much higher chance of success.
For me, this has been a really useful process to go through. Not only did I challenge myself in setting up an example of this system before making the challenge so that the participants could see each stage as a user and imagine how it could be recreated for their ideas, but the daily videos and blog entries have really helped me to challenge my own blocks and beat my procrastination tendencies, making my more sure of the validity of the process I am promoting here and the initial stages of self development before embarking on the concept design and technical build.
From deciding to do this challenge, which was not on my initial plan for the next couple of months I have created a workbook with 21 days worth of material, 21 videos ranging generally from 5-10min, and blog entries amounting to around 16,000 words. I can say for sure that this is far more than I would have given myself to do as a target if I was planning my workload. On top of that I now have a facebook group that has 90 members and now growing organically. Interestingly, this has all been achieved in my spare time at the busiest time of the academic year for marking. Just imagine how much you can achieve if you put all your time into getting your business going following this process…
Day 21 of the 21 Days Challenge
May 30th 2021
It has been such a pleasure doing this challenge and I have loved every minute of it. Even on the days when I was tired or stressed with work I loved doing the little morning videos and writing in the blog. I kept saying in the challenge its important to start a business from a place that aligns with what you want out of life and embark on the destination from there. There really was no wrong place to start and every one could start from where they are. Whether starting form total scratch and building an idea into an actual business concept, or taking something that is already in existence but has potential to be more then this process works to align you with what you want and give you the tools to turn it into something viable.
I do hope to get some feedback on how effective the challenge has been for people and get some insights into the parts that worked and the parts that didn’t. I think that sort of reflection is vital for any project or business to be successful by being reactive to what works and what doesn’t. This same aspect of reflection is something you should all consider as you move forward. What the public wants today may change dramatically in one year from now and you want to always be ahead of the curve. What works for some members may not work for others, which could mean you create separate branches of your business to fit their needs. Again, this can only happen if you are reflective and willing to alter your business to make the service users needs rather than how you want to run it.
You will always need to learn new technical skills as new technology and platforms appear. Don’t put your head in the sand over this, embrace it. Constantly build your skills and get comfortable with new challenges rather than hiding from them. I know 2020/21 has been a whirlwind of new technology as we all adjusted to a different way of life but try to see this as a positive and keep going to learn new things. It is the same as with everything else in life, the more you do it the easier it gets.
The main thing I want you to take away from the challenge is to be consistent. Make a plan of what you are going to do and stick to it. Imagine where you will be in a years time and how you will feel about how far you have come.