Taking control of my life involved an honest assessment of all of my life choices. I couldn't change the past, but waking up to go to work on a career path that I dreaded was something I could change. So, I started searching for ways to create my own business and own my destiny.
I know it's cliché, but I was tired of working 40 hours a week to build someone else's dream. I wanted to work for my own dream; something I could pass down to my daughters. This line of thinking led me to doing something online. If I could be at home with the kids, and be flexible in the hours that I worked, I could have the best of both worlds.
So, with unshakeable determination, I gave my 2 weeks' notice and focused my efforts on putting my business plan into action. I had an emergency fund and a clear idea of what I wanted to build, but I had virtually zero experience marketing myself or products to consumers. Combine this lack of marketing experience with the technological challenges of launching an online business, and I knew I had a learning curve to overcome.
1. It All Starts with a Website - Launching Your Virtual Storefront
I knew that I needed a digital home for my company, like yesterday. I scoured through Wordpress Guides, reviews of different platforms, and I even looked on MeetUp to find some local coding bootcamps that could get me comfortable with coding my own site. I was drowning in options; from buying a template online, to coding in PHP vs. HTML vs. using a GUI editor.
I don't know about you, but spending 8 weeks to learn how to code, when the tech behind coding is changing almost monthly, didn't seem like a good investment of my time. And all of that coding knowledge wouldn't even get me competent in the world of good design. But, I definitely couldn't afford a professional to code and design a website for me. Their fees would eat into my emergency fund. So, I started looking closer at website platforms that could help me "drag and drop" what I wanted to show up online.
Site builders seemed like the way to go. But, there are quite a few out there. So, off to the review sites I went. One of the first reviews for Shopify I found specifically mentioned its ease of use. According to Ecommerceguide,
Shopify is extremely easy to set up and get going, so it can be used by beginners who have never gotten their feet wet in e-commerce.
Well, this sounded exactly like what I needed, and the monthly fees didn't look too crazy.
After validating the reviews about Shopify on multiple websites, I decided to spend the weekend learning to make Shopify do what I needed; something that was much less intimidating, when compared to coding an entire site from scratch, or editing the CSS behind a ready-made template.
Within a few days, I had a website filled with images of my products. But now I needed to shift focus towards attracting visitors to my site.
2. Get Social - 5 Social Media Platforms You Can't Afford to Ignore
I'm pretty sure I went through three pots of coffee in the 72 hours it took me to completely launch my website. I was in the zone, and figuring out how to drag and drop site elements into a website was actually far simpler than I expected. Once everything was in place, using a custom domain name, I shifted my focus to building brand recognition.
My business' logo actually came in before my site was ready, courtesy of a freelancer on Fiverr. The rest of the branding and marketing fell to me. The first obvious place to start spreading the word was Facebook. The world's largest social media site does offer businesses the ability to advertise through their platform, and their user guide is a great starting point.
But, I wanted to avoid spending more than I needed to on advertising. To create social media buzz, I devised a formula (based on hours of reading online guides and how to's):
• Create a company presence on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and Pinterest.
• Post to each channel at least once a day. This step might sound time-consuming, but once you get the hang of posting, you can handle all of your postings in less than an hour a day.
• Each post needs a picture, preferably centered around a product or service that I offer. Facebook posts with images get 2.3 times more engagement than text-only posts (BuzzSumo).
• In Chrome, I made sure that all of my social media sites were sitting open in separate tabs. This way, I could interact with potential customers in real-time as they interacted with my social media presence.
• I created a list of "Influencers" and followed the advice laid out in this Influencer Marketing Guide. A single influencer sharing my post resulted in 2,472 new likes on my Facebook page.
Creating buzz for a website requires long hours and almost instant-communication with fans. But, in the end, you'll find that the personal touch really pays off. By doing most of the work on my own, utilising tools instead of contractors, I was able to cut costs and create a comprehensive presence online. My friends thought I hired a team; it's amazing what a mum can do with a laptop and an internet connection.
Finally, all of these efforts can be helped by injecting cash into your buzz-building efforts. So, in my personal life, I focused on cutting costs. I followed the advice of many people. Between automatically transferring portions of my income into savings, and paying down debt, I was able to free up cash-flow to invest in my online marketing efforts; super-charging my online presence.
Balancing savings efforts with the sacrifice required is an excellent way to focus on high-value opportunities to save money, without losing focus or increasing frustration.
As a result of these strategies and personal sacrifice in the short-term; today, I get to spend more time with my daughters and invest my time in building my own dream; a company that I hope to pass onto them.