I’ve been thinking a lot lately about journeys. Perhaps in the covid-necessitated break in real, tangible journeys that we have been forced to take, my mind has turned towards the intangible journeys that we all make every day. In life, in relationships, in business.
Building a business is a journey, no two ways about it. Just like the bumping backpacker bus journeys I took what feels like a thousand years ago as I sit here, building a business from scratch is full of twists, potholes, and veering corners on the edge of cliffs. It is also full of smiles, and sunlight breaking through clouds, and unexpected interactions with wonderful people, and the kind of joyful fulfillment you don’t find anywhere else. But it is a journey which is hard to walk, and it is different for everyone.
There seems to be a little too much noise at the moment in the online space around the speed of the journey – the race to six figures. The race to 10k months. How this person built a business from nothing to a squillion dollars in 18 months. How you can follow her exact roadmap and do exactly the same. And look, I’m all for big goals and for putting in the work to achieve those goals. I’m sure there are women out there who’ve scaled quickly and enjoyed success in a relatively short timeframe.
My problem is in this idea that there’s only one path to finding the success you are working towards, and that if you would only follow what someone else has laid out before you, you will get there in less than a year. It’s not reality, because if it was, everyone would be hugely successful by now. It’s a dangerous mindset, and I can’t imagine how scary and dispiriting I would have found that message as a brand new entrepreneur.
Here’s the thing – everyone’s journey is unique. Everyone’s path looks different, everyone has different challenges. One year in business for one person is a very different thing to another person.
Take my journey so far as an example. I started Ink and Honey when I was travelling and living in New Zealand, back in 2016. So, five years in business right? Well actually, no. Journeys are rarely linear, and mine is no exception. So, let’s break down ‘five years in business’.
In September 2016 I was working, freelancing with design agencies and housesitting in New Zealand. I started selling logo designs as a side hustle and the idea that maybe I could grow that into a business germinated. So in 2017 I started booking custom clients and launched my first website, still charging ridiculously low prices for my services, but learning aaaaall the lessons and figuring it out as I went.
Skip forward to 2018 – moved back to the UK and began working full time as an Art Director at an advertising agency, whilst working on my business evenings and weekends. In April 2019 I was finally at a point where my business was more viable than my full time job, and so I quit that job to go full time in Ink and Honey. Three weeks later I got pregnant (I know right. Timing.) Despite morning sickness that made me want to curl up and die I was completely booked out with client work for the whole of 2019 and grew the service side of my business to make more than I did at my old job.
January 2020 – Jackson was born and I was on maternity leave for the next 8 months. Plus, you know, THAT pandemic. End of 2020 I redesigned my website and revamped all my client processes. And here we are in 2021, full time in a business I built from scratch and finally figuring out how to uplevel this bad boy. But of those ‘five years in business?’ Well, that’s a very variable concept. Months of that time were spent travelling. Months on maternity leave. Almost 2 years working full time in another job. Now juggling working part time with being a mama. You can see how growth is going to be very different for me than for, say, a 26 year old with no commitments who is driven to work on her business 24/7 (fantastic for her by the way. Living for women who throw everything into building something for themselves). But there’s space for all of our journeys, fast and slow, and there’s value in both.
And I know that my backstory is shared with so many women, who have built side hustles by working after their baby falls asleep, who have worked full time jobs and run businesses at the same time, who have taken their time and taken a single small step every day. Because really, that’s what it takes. One action, every day, no matter how small.
If you’re a new business owner, or you’re on that cliff edge of dreaming of working for yourself whilst slogging through another work day, and you’re scrolling Instagram and wondering why you aren’t booked out with 10k clients within 6 months, please please know this – the journey looks different for everyone, and EVERYTHING is a worthwhile lesson.
I don’t think that the narrative that fast is the only way to grow should be the only voice out there. Slow growth is ok too. Slow allows you to breathe and learn and reflect to make yourself better. Slow allows you to really lean into who you are as a brand, so that when the time comes to uplevel you know EXACTLY who you are and who you are serving.
Everyone’s journey is different, and the thing is that it’s never really finished. The ‘journey to six figures’ is just one journey – and there’s a million different ways to take to get there.
– Automate your enquiries – look at the e-mails you send over and over again. Create a swipe file of responses that you can pull from, rather than typing out the same info over and over again. This could be copying and pasting into pages of a Word/Pages doc, or using the e-mail templates feature in Gmail, or automating in your project management platform, or however works for you – find your own workflow!
– Create Pinterest pins of your blog posts or portfolio projects – Pinterest is one of the greatest ways to drice users to your website with content you have already created.
– Create Instagram templates in Canva – Canva is free, and it’s a great tool for finding social templates. Spend some time customising templates with your brand fonts and colours for an easy way to keep your profile looking cohesive and on brand.
– Update your processes – If you’re having a slow season in your business, don’t panic – another busy season will come along before you think! Use the down time to review your project processes and tweak where needed to make sure that when your next client comes along, you’re ready to give them the best experience ever.
– Collect testimonials – Testimonials are great social proof, and a really effective way to build trust with prospective clients or customers. Try reaching out to previous cleints and asking them for a short paragraph on why they loved working with you, then include these testimonials on your website. Placing testimonials strategically amongst descriptions of your service offerings or right above a call to action is the most effective way to drive engagement.