Tell me if any of this sounds familiar (even if you're not a mom). About a year and a half ago, I looked at my then 4-month-old's toothless, huge smiles and heard his coos before I put him to bed and I knew there was no way I was going to law school (which I had deferred for a year to spend time with the babe).
Luckily, I always felt like I had this card in my back pocket: I could design wedding flowers. It's a great skill everyone needs, right? I thought it was something that if I just put out the word, business would come.
(I feel my current self smiling an I-feel-bad-for-you, if-you-only-knew smile at my pre-business self.)
I had no idea what it entailed. I had no idea how many other floral designers there were who had legit businesses (or even what a legit creative business looked like)! I had no idea how many people there were like me: could make some pretty arrangements, had been told "you should start a business!" and figured I could just start.
But from the beginning, I wanted to know how to run a business well. So I bought a business course for a LOT of money. Then I bought one about design (which helped me realize that I'm a creative director and stylist, not a floral designer) and another with a hefty price tag about floral design and another about Instagram and a couple more too. But guess what? People still weren't buying from me. People didn't know how to hire me. It wasn't until I invested majorly into some one-on-one help from someone actually in my industry (and started waking up at 5 am and working like 12ish hours a day or more) that things started happening.
That all of my investments are finally paying for themselves.
For me, it's all coming from Instagram. My followers are turning into customers. Sometimes I still can't believe it's actually happening.
So this post is for you if you're like me a year ago or 9 months ago.
If you feel so committed to making your dream happen but you're spending time trying to do what you see your idols doing and you can't get it right, or you hear everyone saying they get booked from Instagram and you don't get how they do that, or you want to have engaged followers but all you get are the same sorts of comments like "cute!" or "pretty colors!" or robots with emojis instead of comments that are connecting with what you're putting out there, I have good news for you: this is all completely in your control. And here's where to start:
1. Get really clear about your brand and brand story.
If you just rolled your eyes because you've done every exercise in the book and you feel like you can name off your ideal clients, trust me. when you're looking at your Instagram feed or website and it doesn't feel quite right, quite like it can communicate what you really have to offer at the quality you want to offer it, your branding still needs some work.
Look at whether you're taking bits and pieces and ideas from the brands you love instead of feeling the inspiration springing up from you like a well. Because you're an artist, that well will always be there, but sometimes it takes brands years before that well of artistic inspiration gets translated visually and in writing. Look at ever image and every sentence and judge if it rings true to that well.
(Psst. I have a strategy that I use when I work with my branding clients that I'd love to share more with you about! It's especially good for businesses who want authenticity, meaning, and cohesiveness in their brands. Click here to set up a discovery call with me to see if you're at the right place for me to share it with you!)
2. Make best friends with at least one of these two movers in the artistic industry: a photographer or a stylist.
On a photoshoot, the two people really working together toward a shared vision are a photographer and a stylist. My favorite moments with photographers have been when I describe the image I'm seeing, or the gesture, or the feeling, suggesting ways to place arms, hands, head, or props. Then the photographer has this sort of other-worldly look in her eye and she starts the posing and we refine from there. The photographer will sometimes help me clean a cluttered frame. I will help the photographers see the cropping I'm looking for or the details I'd really like to highlight. It's a very symbiotic relationship.
If you're a florist, ribbon maker, calligrapher, ring maker, papermaker, gown designer, stylist, photographer or other vendor and you're not getting the images you want, your number one priority is to make friends with a stylist (psst! That's me! Let's chat about how we can work together) or a photographer or both whose style your really admire. And get really picky about who you choose. A good stylist/photographer can elevate your brand like no one else can.
3. If you're frustrated about your income and your ideal clients aren't following you yet but other pros are, it's probably time to implement multiple income streams.
One of the biggest frustrations I hear about from people with business Instagram accounts is that they get frustrated their followings are mostly full of other industry pros. This is actually great news. Business owners will probably be the most engaged followers you will ever have. They are curious, studious, and appreciative of good design and good ideas. They like to make thoughtful comments when they like something. They watch you grow. If you're marketing to brides, they'll mostly likely hop in an out of your profile and if you're lucky, they'll stick around. But the everyday action happens as you build good connections with other industry folk.
Here's the best part: if they're following you, figure out what you have to offer them. We hear so often that we need to get super clear on our ideal clients that we don't realize that so many of our followers fall in love with us and want what we have to offer but there's nothing offered to them. As you start brainstorming and your mind goes crazy, you have to be super careful with this because it could veer off in a totally wrong direction really quickly (raising my hand sheepishly). You have to do this the right way and talk to the right person. And you may have guessed, it's one of my favorite topics to talk about with brands so hit me up here.
These are all things you can't start doing right now. Reach out to a stylist (ahem) or photographer, figure out why your brand doesn't have the consistency it needs, and dream up some new ideas for income streams. This stuff is what entrepreneur dreams are made of.