First things first — this is not a “5-tips-for-becoming-filthy-rich-over-night-blog” (although, I do hope to write that one day.) I am the owner and designer of Shugarush Accessories, where I create pins and jewlery. My business is still growing and has a long way ahead of it. I am writing this in order to give anyone that extra push. I believe that persistence is key, and that you have to start somewhere, in order to get anywhere!
1. FINDING YOUR FORTE (OR STYLE)
When you look at creators that you admire, no matter from which category, they all have their signature style – that *thing* that makes them recognisable. It could be very intimidating at first, “how do I come to that?”
Let’s do an experiment: Think of a person who you admire their work. Scroll down on their Instagram feed to find their first photo. Usually, when it’s a smaller brand or individual, you’ll be able to see where they started at, and how they’ve evolved over time. Sometimes you can clearly see their turning point of when they’ve landed on their *thing*.
The same goes for you. The beginning is the best time to try out different styles and directions. Anything you’ll ever create will have your touch in it. And once you’ll have a quantity of things, you’ll look back and you’ll comprehend that the “seed” was there from the start. You won’t know that you’ve got a *thing* until you start doing something that will be able to show it through.
(Image: My first item, the Floral Cat Pin, which has become my brand’s signature piece)
2. “I DON’T HAVE THE TIME OR THE MONEY TO START”
Finding the time between our hectic lives, day-to-day chores, and our daily job that supports us is indeed tough! But you don’t have to go “all in” at once. Take it slowly, minimize your risk, check the feasibility before you dive in.
Try to devote certain hours in your week that are exclusive for sitting on developing your business, no matter which distraction comes up. Handle your time wisely: use the time on your daily commutes to sketch, think and plan whenever you’re doing your house chores, and use every extra time to seek inspiration in nature, in people, in billboards etc.
My first items were mockups. I started my brand on Instagram even before I had any physical product in my hand. After gathering some attention online and hearing from people that they would be interested in these products, I then made my first batch of real products. And once I’ve managed to sell those, I was able to create more items with that money.
(Charge people only after you’ve seen how the physical products look like and after you’ve confirmed the quality.)
You don’t have to create a complete collection to start off. It’s true that the more products you have in your shop — the more likely you are to be found and to be taken more seriously. But that takes time! I started out with three designs, and in order to make my shop look fuller, I created some illustrated greeting cards (my illustration website) and some plain chokers. This way I was able to produce them locally without committing to large production quantities and costs. Try to find additional products that can compliment your line and expand your shop.
Sure, we’d all want to have our fully branded packages, fancy business cards and branded freebie stickers right away. But you can wait with that. Start by having a logo and even create an ink stamp of it to brand your packages.
Try to find the most strategic ways to cut down when it’s possible, but remember – you’ll need to spend money in order to make money! And there will be a lot of unexpected expenses on the way, so take that in count.
(Image: My illustrated greeting cards made to expand my collection)
3. LEARN WHAT’S RIGHT FOR YOUR AUDIENCE
Once you’ve figured what you’re going to sell and published some photos or mockups, it’s time to look for potential buyers. Search for similar Instagram pages as yours, interact with people who follow them – either by following them, commenting or liking their posts. This interaction will cause them to pay attention to you, and perhaps follow you too. Do the same to learn which hashtags your competing pages use, what their content looks like and which marketing strategies they use.
Find your community – for instance, pin collectors and creators have a very strong community of which they create and sell within. (We also have specific hashtags like #pincommunity, #pingame, #flairgame etc.)
Investigate and learn about your audience. Use Instagram for business to view the statistics of your crowd — their age, gender, location, their active hours. Use the Etsy stats to do the same. Add the Facebook Pixel to your Shopify to learn more about the actions of your viewers and conversion rates.
Look at the feeds of the people who are following you: How would you describe their style? What are their interests? What is their lifestyle like? Try finding out what’s right for your business through the people that engage with your page. The more you know about your audience, the more you’d be able to give them what they’d want to buy.
Communicate with your audience by using polls. Offer your audience two designs and ask them to choose the one they prefer. Use your Instagram story or Twitter for short quick polls. This will not only indicate what they love, but also attract engagement.
I send a survey (via surveryplanet) with each message that goes out to the costumers once their order has been shipped. I ask my costumers questions that allow me to identify my audience and understand their needs better.E.g. which themes they are most interested in (cat / galaxy…), how they found out about my shop (Facebook / Instagram…), what is the purpose for their purchase? (Gift / keeping it for themselves…)
4. BE PATIENT, PERSISTENT AND PLAN FORWARD
As I mentioned before, persistence is key. Create as much content and post it on as many platforms as possible. Always keep your watermark (logo), as you have no idea where your materials will end up!
(Story time — I once had a design stolen from me, and the thief still kept my image with my logo on it. Someone was able to reach out to me and tell me about the theft.)
Your breakthrough will only come if you keep creating content. You can’t necessarily predict what will become a hit, if your video will become viral, or if someone famous chooses to wear your items.
Don’t take ‘no’ too seriously. Having your own business means sending out a lot of emails, of which most will be completely ignored. Some will write back and tell you that they’re not interested. But that doesn’t mean that there’s something wrong with your items. Sometimes it’s just a matter of timing. Their considerations are things that you cannot guess and in some cases, have nothing to do with you.
I was told ‘no’ by the first shop that I ever tried to sell in. I came in with 3 products. It was hard to embody my vision through that small amount of items. A year later, I came to the same shop, and showed them different items. They were so enthusiastic about them, and they took me in. Later on, they requested the 3 items that I previously presented too.
Always try to show up in person, or talk on the phone. Messages and emails are less likely to make the cut. If you’re able to show yourself in person and talk to a human in a friendly dialogue, I’d say you’ll have a better chance in hearing ‘yes’.
Plan ahead — have in mind something that’s achievable and close, and something else that is beyond your foreseen future. Keeping a planned schedule will help you set your goals with less stress. Create a secret stash of materials that you’ll upload on social media: videos, photos, blog posts and more. Create in advance specific content according to holidays or certain expected events. Take in consideration your shipping time and publish early.
I use an App called UNUM which allows me to simulate and schedule the order of my future Instagram photos. It’s also a great way to see how your photos will look together, and rearrange the posts by a color scheme. I like uploading close ups, model shots, and typographic quotes — and with the app I can see how it’ll be spreaded out, so I avoid any similar posts to go next to each other.
And last but not least…
5. BE A ONE WO/MAN SHOW
For starters, don’t drain your bank account on hiring professionals before you’ve proven that you can’t proceed without them. (Unless of course, you’re able to afford that.)
Be your own photographer – capture crisp and clean photos showing the products in the best lighting. Use Photoshop to perfect them, keep your images clean and vivid. If you can’t handle photoshop, there are loads of editing Apps: Snapseed, VSCO, Retouch, Facetune. And remember — always include your signature/watermark!
Collaborate and join forces with friends or colleague that have the same interest as yours. I like to collab with my makeup artist friend, Hadas and my videographer friend, Nitzan. I ask my family members or friends to model, or hire models that are looking for collaborations in order to expand their modeling books. Sometimes I’d photograph myself too.
Know your accounting — keep your expenses and income reports organised on Google Spreadsheets. Keep a physical folder with 12 sheer plastic pockets labeled under each month of the year. Keep all of your receipts divided by the month of transaction. This would make it much easier to hand to your accountant once your business reports are due.
Take charge of your own marketing — constantly create new content and upload it in every form of social media: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Tumblr, Pinterest, Dribbble, Behance and more. Be involved in forums like Reddit. Look for blogs that deal with similar products as you and ask for a feature, or comment something with your brand name.
Stay optimistic, believe in your brand and your abilities. Life is too short to not try and do something of your own. Even if things won’t turn up the way you wanted, you’ll learn from your experience. You’ll reflect everything you’ve learned on something else and grow from there. As long as you won’t go above and beyond in debt, or do anything that’ll harm your relationships with people, you’ll have nothing to lose. You’ll need to put a lot of time and effort and play your cards right, and sometimes it’s just a matter of luck!