It’s hard to admit when there’s gaps in your education.
As much as I am a pro at website development and Photoshop wizardry, there are some important business & marketing skills that were never really covered in my education.
But until recently, I just chugged along, content with my relatively limited skill set, making business decisions that I thought “should be made” without really having the right foundation or clear intention.
First, I hired a Virtual Assistant. I broke out of my bubble with the help of a FB Ads Specialist. Then, I redid my promotional photos, started a Facebook group, and made an actual effort to grow my list and reach more people.
I’ve spent the first 7 months of 2017 piecing together the business foundation I knew needed to happen. A quiz here, a PDF cheatsheet there, a few FB ad campaigns to build a little engagement… but it all felt very piecemeal. Very… hodgepodge.
Like there was some overarching game plan that I kept hinting at, but wasn’t able to put into words.
I was making decisions that were all “WHAT” and no “WHY”.
I knew WHAT I wanted to create for myself, but was lacking some fundamental understanding that prevented me from connecting the dots in an effective way
And it made me feel stuck. Lacking direction. Completely upside down and stressing about where I need to go next.
In short, I entered July feeling stuck, stale, and just plain BLAH.
But when it comes to brainstorming business plans, it can sometimes take a trip out of the ordinary to bring you back to a state of PURE CREATIVE INSPIRATION.
For me, it always happens the second I step out of my bustling Brooklyn neighborhood and into the woods.
Specifically, the woods of Darlington, Maryland, where I made my pilgrimage (for the 6th year in a row) to PEX festival, where I was co-director of an Art Cabin. There, I found myself surrounded by friends, music, art, and (you guessed it) pure creative inspiration.
As I lounged luxuriously on my hammock Saturday afternoon, I brought out a notepad and decided to do some brainstorming. This time, I considered the direction I want my business to go in this year, and thought about the skills I need to effectively market myself.
Once I started outlining, it all fell into place.
I was able to address 3 primary “focus vectors” that I need to maintain in order to move forward with purpose.
Those 3 vectors are Clients, Community, and Content.
Once I grouped my efforts into these 3 categories, it was clear what I was lacking.
This year, I’ve spent so much time (and money) outsourcing my community building and client outreach, I failed to address a core issue: I need to learn more if I want to lead a successful team in the first place.
Realization #1: I need to learn marketing – not just from my clients, not just from experience, but from an actual educator. There are some fundamentals that were just never covered in my formal education in Graphic Design (they were prepping me for agency work, not business ownership!)
Realization #2: I need to learn advertising – both as a means to grow my Facebook group community, and also as a means of getting new clients off more than referrals.
Realization #3: I need to learn video editing – as a perfectionist, I won’t be able to promote training videos unless they are clear, clipped, and visually engaging.
Feeling inspired and ready to learn, I signed up for a 30-day free trial for Lynda.com.
I then challenged myself to use those 30 days to dive into 3 areas of study that I need to learn in order to grow my business.
The purpose of this post is to inspire YOU to take these 3 focus vectors (Clients, Community, and Content) and create your own unique 30-day learning challenge that sets you up for success this fall!
Challenge #1: All about CLIENTS
Obviously we wouldn’t have much of a business without our clients, but in addition to spending about half our total time working on client projects, we should also re-think the way that we bring in new clients who need a our products or services.
For my own business, I haven’t had much luck with Facebook as an advertising pool. I think that the more I engage with non-Facebook, search engine advertising (which can boost my site’s SEO in the process), the more likely I am to get a wider variety of clients who are specifically looking for my services in the first place.
MY 30-day CLIENT challenge: Learn how to leverage Google Analytics and AdWords to expand my advertising reach and get new clients.
YOUR 30-day CLIENT challenge: Identify your ideal client group, if you haven’t already, and pinpoint exactly how you want those people to discover or interact with your business.
Ways YOU can shift focus onto improving your client relationships:
- Write down everything a client has ever asked of you that you were UNABLE to provide. Is each item something you might want to learn? Or is it beneath your skill set and better left to a VA or specialist?
- Install OR review your Google Analytics from the last year – where have the majority of your visitors come from? Where are your advertising dollars best spent?
- Outline your IDEAL workweek. How many clients can you manage, while still being able to schedule time for community and content building?
- Reassess your offerings: Do you offer packages that are accessible to low and medium budgets? What special offerings or promotions allow you to keep clients on board even after their project or service package has ended?
Challenge #2: All about COMMUNITY
“Community” refers to the way your business makes an impact on the world at large. The way you provide for your community depends on what you do. But community building initiatives allow you to be seen as the expert while generating “warm” leads that may want to invest in your services down the line.
Now that my Facebook Group DIY Savvy has over 100 members, I’ve started viewing my efforts there as platform building, not just a time sucking. It’s time to kick it up a notch!
MY 30-day COMMUNITY challenge: Learn the basics of Facebook advertising to promote my group. I also want to engage with more GUSTO through monthly challenges, live training, and guest expert threads.
YOUR 30-day COMMUNITY challenge: Take steps to create (or expand) your business engagement with your community, whether it’s online via Facebook or LinkedIn, or in person via meet-up events or on-location workshops.
Ways YOU can shift focus onto community engagement:
- Create a list of 3-5 day challenge ideas that directly apply to your group’s purpose & dynamic
- Post every day, whether it’s writing an insightful post, sharing an in-progress screenshot, or letting everyone know what your BIG plans are for this week / month / year
- List out different questions you can ask your favorite group that might help you plan out the CONTENT you want to make
- Write down your MAIN PURPOSE with connecting with your existing community, and keep it nearby as you work to remind yourself of why it’s so important to be engaged and active with your list, group, or social media following.
Challenge #3: All about CONTENT
They say content is king, and I’m 100% on board with that. When it comes to creating new content, the more you can come up with, the broader your potential marketing reach.
YOUR 30-day CONTENT challenge: First, outline the types of content that resonate most with your audience, and then learn any new skills / programs that will help you create new, compelling content on a regular basis.
MY 30-day CONTENT challenge: Learn video editing! With a library of (nicely edited) training videos, I can create a YouTube channel that 1) let’s me practice video editing and 2) helps me break into a MASSIVE audience in the training / self-taught sphere.
Ways YOU can shift focus onto content creation:
- Ask your group which parts of your job / skill set confuse them the most, and create training specific that’s specific to those questions.
- Expand on old, unused blog post outlines and create PDF cheatsheets instead of posts.
- “Break the seal” on your video fears by doing Facebook Live posts at least once a week (no matter how ugly you think you look!)
- Create a step-by-step process map for creating new training or videos, so that you have fewer decisions to make and it’s easier to get started!
Here are some questions to help you apply the three “C”s to your business:
How are these three “focus vectors” apparent in YOUR business?
How many hours per week do you currently engage with your clients, community, and creating new content?
What programs or skills would you learn if you had an extra 10 hours to spend on training each week?
How can you improve the quality of services you offer your clients? Would it allow you to raise your rates?
What purpose does your COMMUNITY serve in your business? How can you create MORE engagement within that community?
Are you happy with the CONTENT you currently offer – free or paid?
What could you learn or practice to help IMPROVE the quality of the content you provide?
I encourage you to be inspired by the 3 C’s as you craft your summer business intentions!
Whether you try one of these, or all 3, you will be sure to address key issues in your business. And move forward with a learning plan that puts you leagues ahead of where you are now.
Yours in Pure Creative Inspiration,