Running your own business is hard.
- I don’t have the answers.
- I stumbled into this business accidentally. I didn’t form it because I’m a “business expert” or “have a lot of experience”.
- Most of the time I don’t know what I’m doing.
- More often than not, I just do what I want or what I feel is “right” or “best”, and hope for the best.
Over the years I’ve had a lot of successes. I’ve also had a lot of failures. All of those failures affect my business in one way or another. Some of them forge who I am today in a good way, but others have a more negative impact.
Some of these are actual mistakes (like #5!), others are ways I’m probably sabotaging my growth (#3 and #4), and others are more like choices that would just make many other business owners cringe (like #1 and #2—eeks!).
1) I don’t like marketing or promoting myself… or sales in general.
At the end of 2015, I had a plan. It was basically a big, epic marketing plan. I was going to launch new products, start hosting webinars, create sales funnels… it was going to be glorious.
It didn’t happen.
Or maybe it started to happen, but then died a swift death.
Shortly after dipping my toes into this new area of “epic marketing”, I realized how much I hated it.
- I felt gross about the whole process.
- I felt salesy.
- I felt like I was shoving everything in peoples’ faces.
- I didn’t feel genuine.
That’s not to say that people who do epic marketing or sales funnels aren’t genuine… that’s not what I’m saying at all. It just didn’t feel right for me.
Instead, I had a super low-key product launch.
When my Master Customizer e-course launched, I didn’t want to send out a huge email sequence bugging my subscribers about the launch. I didn’t want to promote it in every blog post for a month. I didn’t want to host a series of webinars to promote my course.
As a reader, I hate it when someone’s entire blog/newsletter becomes all about one single product/offer. I’m fine with one email—maybe two—but not three, five, seven, twelve. I didn’t want to be like that.
So instead of going all epic marketer (which probably would have made me more money), I had a super low-key launch. I sent out one (maybe two, I can’t actually remember) email to my subscribers and mentioned the e-course in maybe two relevant blog posts.
It was a super low-key launch with moderate sales, but I was happy with it. The people who were truly interested bought it and the ones who weren’t didn’t. That’s cool with me.
2) I stopped trying to build my email list.
Earlier in 2015, I got into the big content upgrade craze. I put all my ‘free’ downloads behind an email wall, so you had to subscribe to my mailing list to get the plugin/PDF (or whatever). This grew my mailing list like crazy. My email list prior to this took me about three years to build. I more than doubled that number in just a few months.
Then I removed my content upgrades.
But you may have noticed that all my content upgrades are now gone and I’m back to 100% free downloads (no email required).
Just like the marketing, I started to feel icky about it. I wasn’t tricking anyone. I fully disclosed that you’d be added to my mailing list after putting in your email. And I even sent out a welcome email inviting people to unsubscribe if they didn’t want to be on my list.
All things considered, I think I approached content upgrades in a pretty good, honest way. But I still didn’t like it.
I want to be proud of each person on my mailing list.
I used to always be really proud of my list. It was full of people who loved my content and then made the explicit decision to subscribe in order to keep getting it. My new list wasn’t something I was proud of. Even though I didn’t trick people into signing up, it felt like I had.
I don’t know what my email list plan will be like in the future, but I do know that I want to go back to the days where I had a list I could be proud of… a list that was full of people who truly wanted to be there.
3) I suck at collaboration.
I’ve unintentionally burned a lot of bridges with other awesome business owners because I suck at collaborating.
I’m independent and like to do stuff on my own. I’m the kind of girl who preferred individual projects over group projects at school. Business is turning out to be no different.
- I’ve had people approach me asking me to promote their products. If I said yes, it would have probably been the start of a great relationship with that person. It easily could have led to collaborations, them promoting me in return, etc. But instead I said no because “I don’t promote products I haven’t personally used”. They always understand, but I feel like that just kills the relationships.
- When I have occasionally done collaborations, I’ve often dropped the ball halfway through, which usually means they’re not interested in working with me again. I push people away.
Collaborations help businesses grow, expand, and reach new audiences. But I keep sabotaging my opportunities.
4) Constant topic flip-flop (books » coding » books?).
What’s my blog actually about? This isn’t the first time I’ve struggled with this.
It all started with books.
Nose Graze started as a book blog. Shortly after launch, I started talking about blogging and coding as well, but even those posts were directed at book bloggers. It was still a book blog.
Books and coding together.
Almost 100% coding and WordPress.
In 2015, my blog became like 95% WordPress/code and 5% books… if that. Sure, I was still kind of in the book blogging community, but my blog had become firmly about using and coding for WordPress.
Back to books? Really?
But now, I feel myself gravitating back to books. Maybe something about BookExpo America just reignited my passion for book blogging.. but I feel like I miss it.
What do I do about this constant change?
If Nose Graze were purely a personal blog, I’d say, “Fuck it. Do whatever you want. Make your blog wherever you want.” Change isn’t a bad thing. People change, and blogs can change with them.
But Nose Graze isn’t purely personal. It’s intertwined with my business. What I blog about affects my audience, and the audience I attract (or chase away) impacts my business.
- Blogging more about code chased away so many of my book loving followers.
- As I started blogging about more advanced code, I failed to attract an audience for that. I think many of my tutorials are just more advanced than my readers are interested in.
- If I do want to go back to books, is it too late to bring those book loving friends back?
It’s hard to keep a “passion business” going when your own interests and passions keep moving around.
5) That Tweak Me v2 update that was mostly successful… except when it wasn’t.
I recently did a big overhaul of my Tweak Me v2 theme. This update involved a lot of function renames and re-coded template files. Most people wouldn’t recognize any differences, unless they had their own child theme.
At the time I thought I was doing a pretty decent job of ensuring it went through smoothly.
- I did extensive testing on my own.
- I released the update to my hosting clients about two weeks early. This allowed me to work out any problems before I released it to nearly 300 other people, and just generally see how the update went. (It went fine.)
- I emailed all my customers to tell them about the update and who it would affect (people with child themes). I encouraged everyone to do the update on a test site first to make sure it went smoothly.
For almost all my customers, things went fine. But there were maybe three people who were pretty badly affected by the update (at least one of which basically hates me now).
I guess in my defence, these people either self admitted to seeing but ignoring my instructions email or just didn’t follow my instructions. But I still accept responsibility for what happened. It all boiled down to a lack of client education that I could have made better.
- Many of my clients don’t know if they have a child theme or not (something I should have realized as a result of a recent survey I did). This means some people thought the update wouldn’t affect them, when it actually would, because they didn’t know they had a child theme.
- Some people who had a child theme thought that meant they were no longer using Tweak Me v2 at all, so they thought the update didn’t apply to them.
- Many of my clients don’t know how to create a test site, which means they’d ignore that piece of advice. This is also something I should have anticipated.
My email should have been clearer. I should have worked harder to make the update easier.
In general, the update was just too much work for the small amount of clients with a highly custom child theme. If I could do it all over again, I would have worked harder to make the update backwards compatible, or released the updates in smaller steps.
I’m disappointed in myself for disappointing some of my customers.
Making mistakes sucks, but try to use them as a learning opportunity.
Some of the things I mentioned will probably never change (like hating marketing), but others are definitely “lessons learned”. If I do another big theme update in the future, I have a better idea of how to handle it.