Aeolidia blog

A resource for creative and design-based small businesses to improve their brand's presence online.

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Success, Hard Work, and Picky Eaters

success, hard work, and picky eaters

In part one of this series about success and hard work, we talked about Etsy shops, successful entrepreneurs, and why you may think others may have it easier than you, or just be confused about why “it’s not working” for you when you try to build your business. Read What You Need to be a Successful Entrepreneur.

This post is part 2, where I share some articles I’ve really related to, about being a hard worker. The most important things you need to run a successful business aren’t “tricks” or “secrets,” in fact they’re pretty much the opposite – really obvious:

  • To work hard
  • To work smart
  • To be in it for the long haul

But first, a little personal tidbit from me.

What parenting has taught me about running a business

I have two boys, three and five. I am a nerd, and whenever I am interested in something, my first instinct is to read some books about it. So yep, I’ve read my share of parenting books. One thing that stuck out to me was not to praise your children for their talent, but to praise them for the hard work and practice that went into it. If children are praised for their intelligence or skill, they can grow anxious about living up to that standard and stop trying. If they can see that effort, practice, and learning from mistakes is what is valued, you will be preparing them for all types of work that await them.

Rather than count the high points of your business or try to stack yourself up against others in your field, why not put the focus on making an effort each day, doing your best, practicing, and learning new things? I guarantee it will take you far.

My recent parenting breakthrough has been with my kids’ picky eating. I had read and bookmarked Child of Mine: Feeding With Love and Good Sense, as well as some articles and blogs on how to feed picky eaters so that they’d mellow out and learn to eat a variety of food. Somewhere along the line their insane food dislikes (and I am cool with calling preschoolers “insane” because aren’t they quite literally not sane for the first few years?) made me go a bit nuts myself, and even though I believed in putting a variety of tasty and healthy foods on the table, I didn’t really see it working and I thought I was either doing it wrong, or my kids were just broken somehow and it didn’t work on them. It really didn’t help that I was seeing my friends’ kids chowing down sushi effortlessly or not crying about the shape of their noodles.

I desperately flipped through the book again, reading my flagged passages. Oh: there are three types of eaters, and if your kid is a “late bloomer,” there is nothing you can do about it. What I am doing maybe is working. I just didn’t realize that I was in it for the long haul. I had somehow misread the book to think that if I did the right thing, my kids would quickly come around and start eating Thai curries with me. Now that I know it may be years before my food education gets through to my darling Late Bloomer (I think his little brother is just in a phase, and I can’t accuse him of being a Late Bloomer yet), I can relax and get back to doing what I need to do confidently.

The same for your business: if you think that doing x, y, and z will have an immediate effect on your business, slow down! Maybe what you’re doing now will look unimpressive at this very moment, but will gradually build into something that works really well.

For me, the difference between “failure” at feeding my kids and “success” was just knowing how long the journey was going to be. I also find myself less concerned about what other little kids are eating (what other businesses are achieving) now that I have my long-range plan in mind.

For some reason, I’ve never really given a toot about what other web design studios are doing – I guess raising kids worries me more than running a business!

Working hard to build your business

I’ve collected a great group of articles on the subject of working your booty off to get your business where you want it to be. You entrepreneurial types out there will know that there’s never actually a “good enough” with your business – once you make it to one goal, it’s time to set a new one!

Joy Cho talks about her career path and how to be a goal-getter yourself

We often look at successful people and assume that they must be really lucky or have “connections” that have helped them get to where they are. Sure, there’s often a little luck involved and knowing certain people in certain situations can be helpful, but I fully believe in going after what you want in life. 75% of the business successes I’ve had are ones in which I sought out the opportunities and pitched myself or my ideas in order to make them happen. It’s all about knowing what your goals are, then taking the right steps to achieve them.
Read “The Art of Being a Goal Getter (part 1)” by Joy Cho

You have to (really) want it. Sometimes I say, “I want to open a restaurant,” or “I want to run a marathon,” but I really have no desire to work the hectic hours that a restaurant requires, and my knees are way too banged up to run more than a few miles at a time. Some of my ideas are fleeting—not dreams I’ve had for a really long time. But when I think about designing products, that’s something I really want, and something that’s been a goal of mine for a long time. What are the things that you constantly think about wanting to do? Tell me what you want (what you really, really want). Whatever it is, that’s what you’re most likely to achieve because you want it. A lot.
Read “The Art of Being a Goal Getter (part 2)” by Joy Cho

Erin Loechner’s quick thoughts about how important hard work is

But for the most part, things have been busy in the perfect way, the kind where you crawl into bed at the end of the night with a heavy feeling in your muscles and your brains and your bones, but a light feeling in your head and heart. Hard work is so, so good for the soul.
Read “Weekend Scenes” by Erin Loechner

Thoughts on doing the work that is necessary

I feel that having a “good work ethic” doesn’t only mean doing work tirelessly, or without complaint. It means you have a good grasp of the work that you are doing, and why – a big picture awareness, whether it’s creating a website, sewing a jacket, teaching a class or mowing a lawn. I think this message gets lost within the rhetoric of “doing what you love” which, yes, I am guilty of having promoted in the past.
Work Ethic and the Ethics of Work by Rena Tom

Five behaviors that will take your business nowhere

Five behaviors that often come clumped together, each conspiring to lead you toward disappointment: [..] Just for kicks, imagine someone who embraces the opposite of all five of these behaviors. Someone focused on doing the work, her work, relentlessly getting better, shipping it, racking up small wins and earning one fan at a time. And doing it all with a trained eye on what it means to do it better.
Read “Meandering Toward Nowhere Special” by Seth Godin

Why your parents may have accidentally raised you to fail

Unfortunately, the funny thing about the world is that it turns out to not be that easy of a place, and the weird thing about careers is that they’re actually quite hard.  Great careers take years of blood, sweat and tears to build—even the ones with no flowers or unicorns on them—and even the most successful people are rarely doing anything that great in their early or mid-20s.
Read “Why Generation Y Yuppies Are Unhappy” on Wait But Why

Do you relate to these articles?

It’s important to know that hard work is expected of you, and to be able to relax, slow down, and make yourself a five year plan or ten year plan – or if you’re like me, no plan at all – and enjoy the knowledge that it takes time. Slowly but surely you will get to where you will be thrilled to be.

How long have you been running your business? How long do you think it will take to be where you want to be – or at the first stage of where you want to be? What kind of hard work do you put in?

Stay tuned for part three, where I share some stories from business owners that show the work that goes into it, their longevity, and how it all happened.

Savvy creative businesses say they always learn something helpful and interesting when they read our newsletter! You can join them here.

What You Need to Be a Successful Entrepreneur

what you need to be a successful entrepreneur

This topic has been buzzing around my brain for weeks. I told myself to just make this a “quickie” post and get the idea out there for us to discuss, but then I found myself with a lot to say and a whole bunch of inspirational and educational articles to share with you, so I’m making this a three-parter.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on being a hard worker. The most important things you need to run a successful business aren’t “tricks” or “secrets,” in fact they’re pretty much the opposite – really obvious:

  • To work hard
  • To work smart
  • To be in it for the long haul

Part one uses Etsy shops as an example, but it applies to anyone trying to run a business.

Are there two types of Etsy sellers?

I’ve been discussing selling on Etsy with the folks who have subscribed to my newsletter (just add your email address here to join – we talk about all kinds of great stuff), and it got me scratching my head a bit. See, the puzzling thing is that a handful of people said that Etsy sends them so much traffic that they are afraid to move away from there, for fear of having to build up their customer base again, while another handful of people said the opposite – that they set up a shop on Etsy, and nada! They feel like a tiny fish in a big pond, that no one can find them, and they feel Etsy is useless to them.

Clearly, there must be something different about the way these two groups of Etsy sellers are approaching business (on Etsy, and probably in general).

I have always told people that “if you build it, they will come” is the opposite of how the internet works. If you build it, and don’t constantly promote it, no one will ever step foot in it.

I wonder if because Etsy is set up as a marketplace, with a search engine, people think that all they need to do is build a shop on there, and the customers will start to roll in? I am by no means saying that people whose Etsy shops aren’t popular aren’t working at it – I’ve never had an Etsy shop of my own, and I don’t keep up with what best practices are as far as promoting an Etsy shop.

Maybe you can throw a lot of time and effort into promotion, and end up with a shop that’s a dud on Etsy. But then it would be time to look at your product, look at your target market, look at your pricing, your copywriting, your photography, your branding. There is no need to give up if something doesn’t work out for you the first time!

What makes a successful entrepreneur

I got some emails from frustrated shop owners who were unable to build an audience on Etsy, so they quit using it. That’s absolutely fine, if you have another thriving way to sell your goods, but if nothing at all is working for you, it’s time to evaluate what’s going on, why it’s going on, and what you can do to improve things.

These thoughts were going through my mind, and then I got the most honest and helpful email from one of my readers, which got me really considering this disparity in opinions about setting up shop on Etsy:

Etsy makes it easy to feel like you’re not selling enough. Like you’re not enough. You see featured stories about people selling thousands of items on day ten of their shop going live and haphazardly quitting their day job to keep up with the demand, and you feel like you should be able to do that too. Except, for some reason, you’re not.

Do you ever feel that way, yourself?

There are a few things going on here that create the divide between business success and feeling like your shop can’t be found.

  1. Hard work is vital. Successful entrepreneurs expect going into business to be hard work, and thus they don’t think of what they’re doing to be hard work – just what needs to be done to build a business. So, another person could imagine that the successful seller just got lucky or had connections, not seeing the hard work this biz owner doesn’t feel the need to mention. Sometimes, too, people feel awkward about mentioning how hard they worked, like it’s bragging or saying you don’t work hard, so may be purposefully (or unconsciously) downplaying their dedication.
  2. Smart work is vital. Successful shop owners also “work smart” – instead of doggedly doing the same thing (that’s not working) over and over, they constantly re-evaluate what they do, how they do it, why they do it, stick with what works, and come up with new things to try. You may feel like you’re putting in the hard work, but maybe it’s the wrong work, and another approach may make all the difference to your business.
  3. Curiosity and the desire to learn make all the difference. Successful biz owners put a high priority on learning and improving. Not sure how to get listed higher on Etsy’s search page? Etsy has written articles about this that will teach you – in fact, they have piles of help available on almost every topic. Know your photos need help? Search for some tutorials, learn how to use your camera, or try some new apps. With the power of Google in your hands, there isn’t an excuse to be confused about something you need to do for your business.
  4. You may not notice who’s working hard. Based on the principle of confirmation bias (our tendency to “notice” information that confirms our beliefs), people who are feeling negative and “unlucky” about their own shop may read stories of shop owners on the Etsy blog, and cling on to any mentions of sudden popularity or lucky breaks, not noticing how long the shop has been in business or what hard work was needed to get to the point where a “lucky break” was even possible. Confirmation bias may lead you to notice the truly lucky stories, wishing that for yourself, while ignoring the hard workers, if that doesn’t appeal to you.
  5. Don’t underestimate the power of a supportive community. Etsy has forums, street teams, online labs, and all kinds of resources for connecting with people to get advice and assistance. If you’re not sure how to start on your own, it is almost too easy to join a group or ask for help from someone who is more experienced.

What do you think?

How long have you been working on your business? Do you set specific goals, and create plans to meet the goals? If something doesn’t work, do you dig until you can find the reason why? Do you think “being entrepreneurial” is a personality trait, or something anyone is capable of?

Did I miss something important about selling on Etsy or working on your business in general? I’m really interested to hear experiences of all kinds.

I will share our readers’ thoughts on Etsy shops with you soon! But this “hard work” aspect of it has been on my mind. Stay tuned for part 2, which relates a parenting struggle to a business struggle, and has some links to inspirational articles about how far hard work will get you.

Savvy creative businesses say they always learn something helpful and interesting when they read our newsletter! You can join them here.

Trademark Registration: What Happens When You Skip It

The perils of ignoring trademark registration

Have you considered going through the trademark registration process? I run a web design studio, Aeolidia, and we just last week had a client get all the way to launching her new site when she discovered that a business in her field was using a name so similar to hers that she didn’t feel comfortable going ahead, and we’re now redesigning for her.

I know that this is the kind of thing that seems like it couldn’t happen to you, so I wanted to share two stories from small business owners, so you can see how real this is. Sometimes when you start small, you feel like what you do won’t ever matter on the grand scale, but if you have any hopes and dreams for your business, you should start it off on solid footing.

Read the stories on Oh My! Handmade »

Freshie & Zero Website Redesign

Freshie & Zero website redesign before and after

Freshie & Zero before the website redesign

Beth got in touch with us last fall about redesigning her logo and creating a new website for her that would be lovely, professional, and easy to use. She said:

My current website is not very functional on the back end – I’m sure there is a lot of broken html going on and my Trustwave scans come back with a problem every month that I do not know how to fix. I can’t easily update my prices all at once – everything is done on a page by page basis other than bulk uploading background images and side menu headers. I did it myself and it is overall not bad looking and gets me sales, but I wish I had the social media functionality as well (pin it buttons, Facebook, etc). I would hope the new site would be very easy to update product info, price, etc. I would also love to be able to offer a wholesale login page where customers could view wholesale pricing and maybe even order. I also would like to better be able to track my traffic – some of that is set up but I don’t have it on every page so it’s not always useful.

I want what everyone wants – the most bang for my buck! The thought of spending thousands makes me cringe, but I have been putting this off forever. I am hoping to stay on the lowest end of your budget as possible but I am also interested in a logo refresh so I know that will add additional cost.

Here is Beth’s original website:

Freshie & Zero before website redesign

The website worked, but it was clearly “homemade,” and had lots of room for improvement. You can see that the product page, below, was a bit confusing, with “add to cart” buttons that don’t really look like buttons, and photos scattered all over. Customers don’t want to spend time figuring out how to use your site, so it’s best to keep everything straightforward.

Freshie & Zero product page website redesign by Aeolidia

Christine on our team worked her magic, designing a stunning and flexible logo, and a delicate, established-looking website.

Freshie & Zero after the website redesign

Freshie & Zero website redesign by Aeolidia

The new website allows Beth to feature jewelry, news, or press, and makes it easy to browse the collection. The new product page, below, shows multiple shots of the jewelry, makes it easy to order different metals and necklace lengths, and features “you may also like” products.

Freshie  & Zero item page

I asked Beth for a little feedback about how her business was changed by working with us, and her response is why I have been working with creative businesses for almost a decade now. It is so rewarding to know that Aeolidia has helped a designer move forward confidently with her business and to prepare people for success. Beth says:

Hiring Aeolidia has been the starting point of so many steps forward in my business. I jumped in with both feet in every way possible to maximize the investment of a new site, and it’s been totally worth it.

First of all, on sheer aesthetics alone, the design of the new site is just beautiful! When it was revealed to me, I was relieved that it was so in tune with what I wanted but could never have envisioned or designed myself. The new logo perfectly fits the clean aesthetic of the jewelry – exactly what I needed to breathe new life into my brand. I love the color scheme and it has been fun to integrate it into my new marketing materials. Knowing I would need more dynamic photography to incorporate into the new site, I commissioned product photography for more creative shots of the jewelry – something I had wanted for so long, but it took hiring Aeolidia to actually act on it. On a whole, the site functions better and I have all of my google analytics properly installed so I can track keywords and referrals – quite useful!

The wholesale ordering functionality was also so worth the investment. My customers have happily taken advantage of it and it really streamlines the process! I also redesigned my trade show booth and packaging around the new look of Freshie & Zero and am happy to report that I had my best wholesale show ever with the new look!

Sales are up across the board, and it’s really a combination of two things: Aeolidia’s redesign of the website plus the motivation to market it from my session with Jena Coray [on the Aeolidia team]. After speaking with Jena, I knew that marketing was essential and something I was capable of doing. Unfortunately, I knew I was never actually going to do it because I just did not have the time. I had been coasting in my business for the last few years (having two babies will do that to you!), and it was time to actively market my brand again instead of just trying to keep up with demand. (I had already hired two production assistants, so I was better at keeping up with orders.) I had barely placed any ads in the last several years nor had I pitched anything to anyone! Now I have a beautiful website that better showcases my jewelry, so it made it easy and exciting to jump in and invest in a marketing strategy – I was ready to show it off!

I decided that when the trade show craziness started to wind down after Valentine’s Day, I would hire a marketing assistant to implement all the strategies I needed to propel my brand further. Now that I have that fabulous assistant on our team, we have worked together on pitching to the media, figuring out social media, and making advertising decisions. It’s fun to have help to bounce new ideas off with regards to our marketing. Since taking more time to market Freshie & Zero, I’ve gotten more inquiries from bloggers who are interested in a feature, more wholesale inquiries, more customer interaction, and dare I say, more respect from the media outlets I am currently pursuing. I would not have had the confidence to do this without Aeolidia’s site and logo redesign as a spring board. It was the catalyst I needed!

Thank you so much, Beth, for a peek into Freshie & Zero!

Ready for a before & after of your own?

We would love to talk with you about a website redesign, get you started with a marketing plan, or get your logo and packaging ready for the big time. Contact us at Aeolidia!

Savvy creative businesses say they always learn something helpful and interesting when they read our newsletter! You can join them here.

Why I’m Done Paying Facebook

Why I'm Done Paying Facebook

I decided in December that I was done with the Aeolidia Facebook page. It still exists, and I post to it regularly (via Buffer and WordPress, almost couldn’t be easier), but I’m not going to spend any time or energy on trying to engage more people, publish special content there, or care about my stats or likes. Facebook used to be a great way to interact with other small businesses, but their changes have made it nearly useless to me.

There are a lot of articles on the internet about this change and how it’s affected big companies, but I thought you would be interested to see how it affected a small creative business like yours, with a modest amount of likes, and fans that are typically more devoted than fans of the big brands.

Here is a little Facebook lingo to get you through the rest of this article:

  • Likes – people who have clicked the like button to follow your Facebook business page
  • Reach - Facebook’s word for when people see a post in their news feed
  • Engage – when someone clicks, likes, shares, or comments on your Facebook post
  • Organic – the results you get when you don’t pay Facebook
  • Paid –  the results you get when you do pay Facebook

As of writing this post, Aeolidia has 1,630 likes on Facebook. These are all people who have just found us organically, as I don’t promote our Facebook page (aside from the ‘F’ icon on our website), and I’ve never paid to increase my Facebook likes or advertise my Facebook page.

Back in the fall, when I would post on Facebook, I would often reach 50%-80% of my fans. When I had something particularly interesting, their friends would see it, and I would reach more people than the amount that liked my page (up to 1200 people, out of my then 1000 likes).

Facebook changed how that all works in early December of 2013, and now my reach is commonly about 10%. So even though 1600 people have suggested that they like my page and would like to see my updates, only 100 or 200 of these people see any given thing I post.

Facebook algorithm change 2013

Facebook, of course, wants us to pay them to have our posts shown to our fans. I have done this from time to time, and never been particularly impressed with the results. I decided to try it again, to see how it worked after the slump they caused (and so I could report back to you guys about it).

My Facebook Ad Experiment

Facebook ad settings

Facebook ad settings

Last week, Facebook notified me that my Little Hip Squeaks interview about how and why they moved off of Etsy was quite popular. It was the most interest I had seen in one of my posts since November, so I decided to pay to “boost” it, so more people would see it.

I wanted to be sure I was getting real people who would be interested, so I targeted these people with my post:

  • US and Canada
  • Ages 24-46
  • Interested in Etsy or the Renegade Craft Fair

I offered six bucks for this, which they estimated would have me reach 5,200 – 14,000 people.

I stopped the campaign the next morning (at $4.52), because it was so ridiculous.

How Did My Campaign Go?

  • My organic reach: 809
  • My paid reach: 1,290

Note that this falls well short of the 5,200+ people they estimated. I don’t necessarily think the estimate was a lie, but I imagine their estimate is based on what larger businesses with more of a fan base could expect. So don’t get excited by the estimate if you’re a “little guy” – Facebook may not be able to provide that amount of traffic to you.

  • From my 809 people, 14 liked the post, and 3 commented
  • From Facebook’s 1,290 people, I got no likes, comments or shares

Facebook tells me that 173 people clicked the photo (which doesn’t help me, since that doesn’t lead you to the article) and 55 people clicked the link to the article.

117 (67%) of those useless clicks were paid, and only 0.3% (that’s right, 5 people, less than half of a percent) of the paid people clicked the link to the article.

My Evaluation of the Numbers

To decide whether an ad campaign is worth it, you need to know your goal. My goal was to have people click over to the article, and that’s what I hoped I was paying for.

  • Out of my 809 organic people, 6.2% clicked (50 clicks)
  • Out of Facebook’s 1,209 paid people, 0.3% clicked (5 clicks)

Based on this result, I will not be paying Facebook for any kind of advertising in the future. I spent $4.52 to have 5 people click through to my article. That is 75 cents per person.

I have never paid for CPC (cost per click) advertising for Aeolidia, so I’m not sure how this compares to the going rate (say, using Google AdWords). If you care to share what you know about common (non-Facebook) advertising prices, I’d be interested to learn more in the comments.

I do know that it’s not worth it for me to pay 75 cents per person who makes it to my site to glance at an article. Perhaps this would be worth it if I was selling a product on that page, but since professional web design is not an impulse buy, I don’t expect any of my articles to convert to sales.

Is Paying Facebook the Solution?

The big takeaway here is that you want to be careful about focusing all of your efforts on one area. If, for instance, Facebook had been driving most of our sales in October, we would have been ruined come December.

Particularly since Facebook is a free service that doesn’t owe you anything, they can change their rules and algorithms again and again without consulting you. If you’re able to work within their system without wasting too much time and money, that’s awesome! If not, and it’s not fun for you, my feeling is don’t bother.

My best advice for small businesses trying to stake their claim on the internet is:

  1. Purchase your own website domain name, even if it’s just pointed to Etsy for now or a single-page info site. You will be able to advertise your own domain and move it in the future without losing your fans.
  2. Concentrate your efforts on bringing people to your zone (your own website, your email or direct mail list, your blog), so you can better weather the changing seasons of social media.

Further Reading

What Has Your Experience Been?

It certainly appears to be possible to keep things vibrant and engaging on Facebook if you want to put the time into creating truly share-able content, and you have a network of people who often share and support your posts on Facebook.

Have you experimented with getting a group of people to try to boost each others’ “news-feed-worthiness” by sharing, liking, and commenting on each other’s posts? I’d love to hear about if it’s been effective!

Have you advertised on Facebook recently? Are people still interested in what you’re doing there? What social media platforms do you prefer?

Savvy creative businesses say they always learn something helpful and interesting when they read our newsletter! You can join them here.