After more than 25 years as a self employed person in some capacity or another, I’ve learned a few things. I realize that most lessons in life and in business often don’t really “stick” until you learn them first hand but humour me and read through my list of insights that either came from other entrepreneurs and their wisdom or my own foibles and f*ck ups.
I’m so far from ever achieving self-employment mastery but I have managed to figure a bunch of things out and if sharing them here helps you shorten your learning curve then my work here is done. The list is short but meaty. Read it through to the end.
- YOU aren’t your target market.
What I mean by this is that you aren’t selling your product or service to someone just like you. I know this because you’re offering the product or service instead of paying someone else for it. Don’t measure your pricing against what you’re comfortable paying. This is a SUPER biased, highly flawed way to determine your pricing and you’re probably dealing with a fair bit of impostor syndrom which interferes with charging what you’re worth. Do the math – costs including a wage plus markups for profit. “Profit” isn’t a dirty word. There’s no room for “feeling bad” about charging whatever it is that it costs to offer your product or service in a way that’s profitable (aka sustainable). This is how you position yourself to not just survive in business but also to grow! I mean, unless you want to stay stuck in the startup phase and have to close your doors as fast as you open them, in which case carry on. But I get the feeling you want more. Trust me on this one. It’s stone cold truth.
- Someone’s already doing it so I cant/shouldn’t.
Nobody can do what you do exactly the way you do it. If someone else is already serving the market (aka competition but more on that in a minute), that’s proof that there IS A MARKET! If one business is doing what you want to do, they’ll do it their way and you can do it your way. You can’t satisfy everyone, nor should you try. Let consumers shop around for the best match for them. In the meantime, get really good at doing what you do YOUR way and then you’ll be golden. The other part of this point is the matter of competition. Don’t be threatened by it. It’s proof again that there’s a market. As long as you’re solid in how you do what you do and why you do it, you have nothing to worry about. What other people/businesses are doing is none of your beeswax anyway. You do YOU.
- If your product or service sells out too fast, it’s too cheap.
Would you rather make a thousand widgets for $1 each week and sell out or would you rather make ten widgets for $100 each and sell out? This is a matter of working smarter, not harder. If your product or service is selling out as fast as you can fulfill the demand, you’re likely under pricing yourself. I’m not suggesting increasing your pricing 100x overnight but what if your prices crept up gradually so that you made the same if not more money with 10% or 50% less output. See point 1 and ask yourself how that fits into this issue for you. Also, something to consider, you probably don’t want to be known in the marketplace as being the “cheap” product or service provider.
- Where’s the value/what problem are you solving?
This is the secret sauce to increasing price without it being a sleazy price gouging tactic. Don’t be greedy and just randomly jack up your price. Instead, when you DO increase your price, you need to be able to explain where the value is. If YOU don’t see where the value is, your customers won’t either. If you’re offering a product or service that is in demand or that makes your customers’ lives better/easier/more efficient/etc., figure out how to clearly communicate that to anyone, anywhere, anytime. If you can identify the problem that your product or service is solving, you’ve just increased its value. Price matters much less when there’s real value in a product/service. Know how to identify it, make sure you belive it, and then tell everyone.
- You belong here.
For a long time in each of my businesses (going back to my second buisness at age 17) I was certain that “they” (who are they, anyway?) were going to show up any minute and tell me that it was time for me to stop pretending to be a business owner and that it was time for me to pack up and go get a real job. Now, obviously that never happened but my Imposter Syndrome was very real. I was sure that everyone knew I had no idea what I was doing and that I was going to get caught. I understand that this happens to most entrepreneurs (or humans, really). I’m happy to report that while I know I have a lot to learn, I’m definitely not an imposter. I have expertise but I’m no expert. However, I am often the expert in the room. This qualifier allows me to take up space – my space- in conversations in my store pertaining to matters that I do hold knowledge about. I belong here. I’m no imposter. I belong here. I’m not faking it. I belong here. So do you. This is your space, your time and you deserve to be doing whatever magical thing it is that you’ve decided to do. You’re the expert in the room!
- Don’t Fake it ’til you make it.
This adage is horsesh*t. Don’t fake anything. If you don’t know the answer to a question, own that. Say “I don’t know but I’ll find out”. Always be genuine, honest, and real. It’s ok to still be learning. It’s ok to not have all the answers. It’s ok to be unsure or figuring things out. Nobody starts out a Jedi master. Everyone has to start at the beginning. That means that having the confidence and humility to admit when you don’t know will build trust. Following through with your commitments (to learn more or find out answers) will benefit you by arming you with more knowledge AND strengthening relationships. Your work can only get better if you practice honesty and build trust with yourself, your colleagues, and customers.
- NO SALES! NO SALES! NO SALES!
In my jewelry business, I do NOT do sales. Sales are a nasty byproduct of the consumer goods industry that is perpetuated by overproduction and throwaway products. This gross cycle has trained consumers to wait for discouted pricing on goods that are usually still in season. Many big retailers do sales because of the surplus of inventory they carry, their ability to buy in massive quantities, and they’re unable to build relationships just by virtue of their business models. Without relationships, they cannot cultivate loyalty. In my business, instead of sales, I’ve created a loyalty program that allows me to not only reward my loyal customers but also to tell them explicitly at the first transaction that I don’t do sales but instead choose to reward my customers with a very nice discount that’s earned after qualifying purchases (those purchases are all opportunities to get to know one another, to share information, to find out preferences). Now, the math may shake down about the same as a sale in terms of the decreased retail value after redeeming that discount but it prevents my customers from being trained to wait for sales. It also allows me to create opportunities to give more (double stamps, bonus stamps, etc.) on special occasions. So the goods are always bought at full price, the customer’s loyalty is rewarded, and my revenue stream doesn’t fluctuate as a result of sale season. The value of the brand never suffers because of sales, instead those who earn the loyalty discount become VIPs and often brand ambassadors. Everybody is winning.
Whatever your business is, whether you’re still figuring out how to start or you’re up and running I want you to consider these points. I’ve integrated each of them into my businesses and have benefitted because of them. Go ahead and start introducing some of these ideas and see things beginning to shift for you. I want to see you succeed and I know you can. You have a gift that no one else has and it’s your life’s purpose to share it with the world.
I want to hear your thoughts on this list. Let me know if you use any of these ideas/concepts in your own business and how it’s worked for you. I want to hear about your wins and your failures. Especially the failures. We learn the most from those. Thanks for taking the time to read what I have to share with you today. I wish you all the best and I’m so grateful for you.