First, please know, I still consider myself starting, which is a just shade past first starting.
With almost a 1 year under my belt of working on a blog with the hopes of turning it into a business, I now know 5 really (I mean, really!) dumb things I worried about a year ago…when I first started. These things almost paralyzed me. Looking back, they shouldn't have!
Prior to Inspire to Engage, I started a blog focused on contentment in the home. That experience + my time on Inspire to Engage = 1 year of lessons learned.
1. Not Starting Until Everything is Perfect
Boy, this is the big one! Hence, why it is number one and the underlying theme for this whole post.
If you get nothing else, let it be this—just start!
We put off starting for 2 reasons.
Reason 1… fear. We hide behind the everything-must-be-perfect mindset. That way, we are “starting a business” but not actually starting anything. No one or no thing gets hurt with this mindset. Kind of the purgatory of the entrepreneurial world. Many, many people get stuck here. All because of good old fashion fear.
Reason 2…a belief in perfection. Some fresh entrepreneurs (like me...once!) believe you truly can reach perfection in the business world. The perfect website. The perfect slogan. The perfect business card. The perfect post.
And, maybe you can. But that will be 10 years in the making with no clients paying and no products being sold. Just your uninterrupted focus on the things you think “need to be perfect” before starting.
Then, guess what! What was a perfect website in 2017 is completely outdated in 2027. You see my point…perfection is an illusion.
It is in the starting that you realize what you don’t know and what you actually need to focus on.
Seth Godin, considered a marketing guru by many, describes himself like this in one of his book jackets: "Mostly, he creates projects, many of which end up failing."
Now, if Seth Godin recognizes that about himself, and he has written 18 books, many of them bestsellers, what is keeping us from starting? What's keeping us from recognizing we don't have to perfect, we just have to START?
An example from my life, when I first felt a tug on my heart to create a business, I wanted a blog about inexpensive ways to decorate your house...to find contentment with the simple things. To do so, I also planned to create products with the same theme to sell.
I purchased 3 old wooden windows to redo and a few needed supplies. (I spent as little money as possible!) I began redoing them and wrote a few posts about my process.
What I found over those 8 weeks by simply starting--I didn’t really like making home décor and redoing old pieces. I found it difficult to sell it and make more than $1.35. Instead, I liked the idea. I liked reading about other people doing it. I liked watching it on TV. But, I didn’t like doing it myself. The project/business failed (not financially, though. Remember, I didn't spend a lot of money in the first-starting days.)
Oh well, I am back at it today...experimenting, trying, failing, and starting.
That’s my point. You only learn and do monumental things by starting!
You only find out if you like doing something...by doing it.
You only learn the ins and outs of shipping products...by shipping products.
You only determine the best price of beads...by buying beads.
You only learn what your favorite stain to use...by using different kinds of stain.
You only realize the downsides and upsides of babysitting 5 children in your home...by babysitting children.
You only find out the ideal price to charge customers...by charging clients.
Start. Don’t wait until you know everything and everything is perfect. You will never know it all, and "it" will never be perfect. If you wait for perfection, you will never start.
2. Creating a Wordpress Website
If you have done any research about creating a website, no doubt you have found numerous blog posts on using Wordpress.
Wordpress.org (not .com) is a self-hosted website design platform. This means you get to create your site—how it looks and behaves—using Wordpress and get hosting—a parking spot on the internet for your site—from a different company, such as BlueHost, Go Daddy or Host Gator. It is kinda like separation of powers. Design with one platform, and get hosting from another company.
This route is considered a self-hosted site because you—yourself—purchase hosting outside of Wordpress.org.
This is where I buck the system, or at least go against popular advice. I say create a website using a design platform that includes hosting. This is often considered a hosted site, meaning the hosting is included when you use the design services. I also have seen it called a managed platform, meaning the hosting is managed/taken care of by the design platform. (This option was suggested for me by a close family friend, and he was right on!)
You probably wonder why I advise differently than the norm. Well, Wordpress.org truly is the most versatile way to build a website. With Wordpress.org, you can make your site do anything you want if (and it’s a big IF!) you know what you are doing.
Without a background in web design, you will spend hours and hours and hours deciding on the best plugins and the best theme with Wordpress. You constantly will ask yourself if you should pay for a plugin or use the watered-down free version. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg!
The decision making and the design work will keep you from actually doing your business (or from starting your business if you are insisting on perfection!).
Thus, I suggest creating a website using a hosted design platform like Squarespace (what I use), Wix, Weebly, and many others. With companies such as these, it is a 2-for-1 deal. You get to design and get hosting with the same company.
You are probably saying, why doesn’t everyone do this then? There are drawbacks, of course, with flexibility being one of the top disadvantages. There are certain things each platform just won’t do. For example, Squarespace does not have a feature right now for a Pin It button (think Pinterest) to show on an image when your website is viewed from a mobile device. From a computer, the Pin It button shows on your site’s images, though.
However frustrating this drawback is for me, as a mompreneur who only spends around 15 hours a week working on her side business, I like the simplicity—the less decision-making—I get from a hosted/managed platform. The time I save from pondering over every little plugin that I thought I needed with a Wordpress.org site is the biggest positive. I’ll gladly give up site flexibility for my time, at least during this season of life and business.
If you want to know why I chose Squarespace over Wix (and Wordpress.org), you may want to check out this journal entry where I discuss my reasoning. No option—self-hosted or hosted—is perfect. You have to go with what is most comfortable for you and what gets you started.
Most hosted-site companies offer a free option or a trial period where you can test the platform and hosting for nothing! Of course with the free version, you have a super long site address like iamkool.squarespace.com or youevenkooler.wixsite.com. But so what?! If it gets you STARTED, great! You later can pay the company and get a "normal looking" site address. :)
Note, Wordpress.org doesn't offer this option; it is already free..for however long. To test it, you will need to purchase hosting from another company. (Remember it is a self-hosted site.) Do so as cheaply as possible, maybe month-to-month if just experimenting. Wordpress.com is also a free way to see what designing with Wordpress.org is kind of like. It is simpler, and you have less decisions to make so it is not an exact comparison to Wordpress.org.
One final question…do you need a website currently? Some of you have a social media presence that any rock star would die for! :)
All kidding aside, if you have a social media following already, begin your biz there. Remember number 1—just start?! Don’t hide behind “I have to create a website first” excuse if a website is not necessary to begin your business.
My sister-in-law uses Facebook to sell her products. She created a Facebook group and was up and running with a couple of clicks. Of course, she has been on Facebook for many years (unlike me) so it was a natural platform for her to use for now.
Let me be clear, though. If you plan to build a long-term business, you will need a website of your own...at some point. You don’t want to rely on the ever-changing algorithms of social media platforms for how often your content gets seen by others. Plus, you will want a home for your content/products...a place where customers can always go to find you.
So, you will need to tackle the ol’ website some time, just maybe not right away.
And if you do tackle it sooner than later, I suggest a hosted/managed site from Squarespace, Wix, or Weebly.
3. Making Business Cards
I kept beating myself up for a while because I didn't have business cards.
When I finally got around to creating and printing them, I realized what a big mistake it would have been to complete this task sooner.
First off, my slogan has changed about 13 times since the conception of Inspire to Engage. What if I had printed business cards the first week?! What a waste of money and paper it would have been!
It is very likely, too, that your slogan, potential clients, product focus, etc. will change in the very early days. That is a natural part of developing a business. And, this crucial honing process only occurs when you START! (There’s that Number 1, again!)
Second, you probably won’t have the courage to even pass them out at first. It took several months for me to be able to talk about my business, much less hand somebody a permanent reminder of my attempt at creating and growing something of my own.
My suggestion--to put the business-card thing on the back burner at first. You will know instinctively when it is time…when you are ready to make and print them…when you are able to confidently hand someone a card without throwing up and yanking it back. (I used Canva.com to create mine and printed from Staples.com to a nearby store. This journal entry gives a little insight into my process.)
4. Choosing an Email Distribution System/Company
Ha! This one makes me laugh! Every time I think about this (for real!) dumb thing I worried about!
I spent hours and hours researching which service—MailChimp, SendinBlue, etc.—would be cheapest and most versatile for sending emails to customers who signed up on my website for email and product updates.
HILARIOUS! Why did it matter?! I had no one, besides my sister and husband, who wanted updates. I could just email them using my gmail account. :) Or, even easier, just call them and read my post aloud. :) Or, just print out my writing and hand it to them. :)
My point…in the beginning, I had NO need to send out emails to a massive group of people. All that time researching the best companies was wasted.
Simply start by collected email addresses…on your website or at your store or as you meet people interested in your business.
Once you are ready to send regular updates (and you will know when you are ready!), then you can worry about what email distribution company works for you.
I presently use MailChimp, mostly because it is sponsored at Squarespace, where my site is hosted and designed. It is just easier to go that route for now. I can look at other options when my email list grows substantially and the cost increases uncomfortably.
Remember, just get started!
Full disclosure, my first newsletter was sent using my Inspire to Engage gmail account. No fancy email distribution company. I was only sending to 10 people so it wasn’t a big deal. If you go that option, be sure to blind carbon copy (BBC) the email addresses, though! ;) People appreciate their privacy.
5. Having No Followers, Customers, or Clients
This is another BIGGIE. It is paralyzing. It also is dumb to worry about. (Preaching to myself here.)
I wanted to end this post with the second (if not the first) really dumb thing that keeps us entrepreneurs from pursuing our dreams.
I am going to call this one for what it is…just plain ol’ fear.
We are afraid others are going to laugh when they hear we are starting a business and have no true following.
Let me ask…
How are you to have raving customers when you haven’t had your first customer?
How are you to have 4,000 followers on Instagram when you have no Instagram account?
How are you to gain your 100th client when you have not gained your first client?
Hey, we all want 1,000 followers as soon as we conceive of a business. We all want people lined up around the building as soon as we announce our opening date.
There is nothing wrong with having those feelings! It is human nature to be desired…to be liked…to be accepted.
The reality, though, is only celebrities gain followers by the thousands on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter (or with a business they open) by simply creating an account (or by opening their doors).
The rest of us, we have to do it the old fashioned way—get started and put the work in.
I love this quote by Dave Ramsey, “Twenty years later, I am an overnight success.” I say that to myself all of the time.
Success, whether it is the number of customers, the amount of followers, or the size of your bank account, rarely comes to those who just speak a business into existence. Instead, it comes to those who dream it up and then do something about it!
You have to start somewhere, my friend. Start with 1...1 customer, 1 follower, 1 client, 1 check, and 1 product. Then, go from there.
This entire post is about starting…doing…taking a step.
Look, we are all fearful. None of us want to appear dumb to our family, friends, acquaintances, or even strangers. We all want to appear that we have it figured out.
When you create a business, though, there is no way to understand every aspect, ever, and definitely not without actually starting.
Yes, of course, there are a few things you need to determine before you truly begin. Like if you want to make jewelry, you need to know the price of beads and what you think is the best string (wire, etc.) for your style of jewelry. Then, buy a small amount, and START making jewelry.
You think you want to blog about fashion, get a free Wix site and START writing. If you enjoy it, you will start researching best blogging practices over time. You will notice what successful bloggers do. You will hone your writing skills as you write. All because you STARTED.
This post is not about running your business blindly or stupidly...just figuring things out as they happen. No. I always want you and me to conduct our businesses wisely and proactively, with much thought and prayer.
But, I want you to have a business if you want one. And to do that, you have to START. This post is for those of us who put off starting a biz for dumb reasons. This post is to encourage you to begin your journey.
From one starter to another, good luck and God bless!
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