What I failed at in business in 2018
I know, kind of a downer title right?! LOL. It's a New Year and I guess I just wanted to write about what has and hasn't worked for me and Wedding Sparrow over the last 12 months but I think it's also super important to learn from your mistakes. This is also one of the posts where hitting 'publish' gives you the sweats so please be kind (or don't say anything at all) as there are some personal parts in here...
- I focussed on the wrong people - You can read more about moving away from industry vendors and how I got more in front of brides during 2018 here but you'd think this would be an obvious one right? A wedding blog should be looking at brides of course! Wrong. Sorta. The way Wedding Sparrow makes money is via advertising so of course you can spend a lot of time chasing that money/income. Before you know it, you're knee deep in the wedding industry trying to make money and you've forgotten to focus on what it is the vendors actually need to get a good ROI - brides. So I pulled up my big-girl-pants and enforced a new marketing plan. A new Social Bundles offering to take advantage of our highly engaged Instagram audience. I re-strategized our social audience and got in front of brides (read more about this here). We attracted more brides with giveaways. We changed our content offering on the blog by reducing styled shoots, reducing blog posts and having more social friendly content. And whaddya know - our readership is up, our social engagement is up and most importantly, our vendors' ROI is up. This makes me a happy Sparrow.
- I was too naive - 2018 was probably one of my most shaping years as a business owner and it took me a while to really accept some things that happened to me and my business. And to be honest, I'm in two minds about sharing something so personal but one of my business goals for 2019 was to share more of the behind-the-scenes and I guess that includes more of the 'ugly' stuff. The industry was changing at the start of 2018 with big publications shutting down or being bought out (Martha print closing, SMP closing then being bought back, Once Wed being bought) so naturally it scared lots of vendors and other publications in the industry about what it could possibly mean for the rest of us. With vendors no longer having the confidence in wedding blogs, we took a hit in our income. And that meant a really hard look into my business model and where I was losing money. Something that we should all do regularly to streamline our businesses but something that since being on maternity leave a couple years ago, I just hadn't done. It turns out my biggest expenditure by far was staff. I had to reduce the number of hours my freelance staff worked and it didn't go down well. Naturally, no one wants their hours/income to be cut so it was a difficult conversation for everyone involved. Including me. I'm not a confrontational person by nature and too much of a people pleaser, so this was my least favorite task as a small business owner I've ever done. I hope to never repeat it too and now regularly take a look at my income vs outgoings. Alas, it actually saved the business and we continued to operate with the same staff on fewer hours. With an unknown future in the wedding industry, I was faced with a more long term issue - where is my business going? Am I going to be doing this when I'm 50? Am I still going to be blogging weddings and selling advertising on the blog in 3 years or will the industry have changed again? I didn't know. I love what I do and have been doing nothing else since 2013 so it's not an easy choice to give up on your small business. It's an extension of me now. The practical side of my brain told me I should have a failsafe. A Plan B. So I got a job. A proper full time job in an office with a desk, a start time, a break time and everything. A major shift in my personal life (I had to actually change my daughters school to accommodate the new hours and get her to nursery on time and get somewhere in rush hour!) and whilst I did that Monday-Friday, the business ran on with my long term freelancers at the helm and me jumping on my laptop during lunch breaks and in the evening (all alongside running the household and looking after a 2 year old). Crazy right? Yep. But don't worry, it didn't last long LOL. But not for the reason you might think. 4 weeks into my new job, I had to quit. My longest serving member of staff was leaving. She was joining a competing blog for more job security. Initially, this was a huge kick in the proverbials. How could she work for another wedding blog? We had a non-compete contract! Would she take all our clients information with her? Would she share sensitive data with her new employer? How could the other blog poach her like that? How could she do this to me when I just took a job to reduce the outgoings of the business? I just moved my daughter to another school! These were all the crazy thoughts that ran through my head at the time when you're in the midst of panic. All these things didn't happen of course (not that I know of!) but the biggest knock to me personally was the loss of a friendship. As I mentioned before, I'm a people pleaser so when someone appears to have been a friend for so long, then not only quits but never talks to you again, it was hard to take. I still think of her almost daily when I'm working and wish her nothing but good things but I'm left with the feeling of the sad character in the romantic movie who was dumped LOL. It was a real rollercoaster time - I quit the new job and went back to the blog full time. I reimagined my business model and made some changes. I learnt that sometimes the people you think are friends, are not. They're being paid to work for you and being nice to you and that's OK. I was naive. I probably will be again.
- I didn't focus on Google - Yeah I check my analytics regularly to see what's hot and what's not but I didn't work on my SEO or Google advertising as much as I should have. Google is still the most used starting point when it comes to wedding inspiration and during the first part of 2019, it's my mission to start getting back to the top of search results.
- I didn't work smartly - We've all heard it right? Work smarter not harder. There were PLENTY of days during 2018 where I blogged, posted and social and then scratched my head as to what to do next. I lacked strategy or a road map of where I wanted to take my business. 2019 is the Year of the Bride for Wedding Sparrow and it feels so much better to have a clear objective to work towards with small achievable actions. I'll let you know at the end of the year whether it works!
- I left my taxes to the last minute again - This is just standard right? Tell me I'm not alone??
I'd love to know what has/hasn't worked for you and your small business (whatever you do) this past year. Let's keep this momentum of learning going!
Lots of love...