While I had a full-time job, I started two businesses: This one (Make it clear) and my online gift business Gift Boss.
Two years ago, I had no intention of running my own business, let alone businesses. So I thought it would be worthwhile going back in time and writing down how it all happened. It’s quite a detailed account, so I’ve broken it up into several parts. If you’re still with me, great. Let’s get started!
Part 4: The orders, they came a knockin’
Well, I got some orders! Even though I had spent the past few months setting up a business to sell things, I was still shocked when I actually sold things. Sure, the launch post meant there was momentum in the air and some of the orders *may* have been from friends and family, but still I got real orders that I needed to pack, address and ship. It was a huge boost to my confidence and meant I was maybe on the right track with this whole business thing. But knowing that I can’t rely on friends and family to keep the business afloat, I knew I needed to get out there and play with the big kids. Enter Google.
Google you ugly beast
This is how I feel about Google. It’s the mean kid you need to be friends with in order to survive the school playground each day. It takes your lunch money but throws you a chip or two occasionally. It sometimes completely ignores you but also can be your best friend if you do what it wants you to do.
Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) (coming up organically in Google search results) is a long and difficult path, but with massive rewards if you get it right. Your website needs to be optimised from an on-page and off-page perspective, and you need plenty of fresh, engaging content to attract and retain visitors. Essentially, you need to make sure your website is the answer to your visitors’ queries or problems. It’s a long-term game that doesn’t happen overnight and you need a bit of knowledge to get it right.
So to attract your visitors to your website quickly, you need to focus on Search Engine Marketing (SEM), or pay-per-click (PPC) advertising. These are the search results that come up with the word ‘Ad’ or ‘Sponsored’ when you search for something in Google. Anyone can set up PPC ads – you just need a website and some dosh. The cost of this is dependent on how many clicks you get on your ads, and how competitive your market is (and your quality score, but let’s keep it simple for now). You need to have a fair idea of the keywords you want to ‘bid’ on (e.g. for me ‘gift hampers’ is an obvious one) and set a realistic daily budget.
Once I started playing around with a few ads, of course Google noticed and thoughtfully assigned an Account Manager to me, who called me from the Philippines and sweet talked me into upping my daily budget to get more clicks and hopefully more sales. The thing is, while you do have ultimate control over how much you spend on SEM, you do need to spend a fair bit of budget in this area in order to show up on the first few pages of the search results (depending on how many players there are competing in the same space of course). And Google Analytics shows that the vast majority of website traffic for Gift Boss comes from PPC advertising. So until I get the SEO cranking for Gift Boss, I’m a slave to the fairly expensive Google machine. What a brilliant business model.
Three months on
I’m now three months into the business, and with Christmas around the corner, I was ecstatic to receive a handful of corporate gift hamper orders, along with a consistent number of sales each week. So I have to admit that I’m pretty proud of what I’ve achieved virtually on my own (with a little help from the husband and some paid professionals).
I have also now left my corporate job, so I can focus on Gift Boss and Make it clear full-time. I was toying with the idea for a while, but I needed to launch both businesses and see some level of success before I was confident enough to say goodbye to my safety net and hand in my resignation. This would definitely be my piece of advice to anyone thinking about starting a business – do as much as you can while you’re employed so you continue to have regular income while you’re still setting things up.
I’ve got lots of things I’d like to achieve over the next few months. I’d like to up my product styling and photography game (images are everything in this biz!), learn more about running a small business (finances make my eyes glaze over but I’ve been told they’re important), get a better handle on inventory management, produce some great content for the website, start a regular customer email and create plenty more stylish, unique gift hampers for different occasions.
Hopefully my story shows that you too can set up a business without any prior experience – armed only with a desire to create something cool that resonates with people.
If you have any questions or thoughts, or have a similar story you’d like to share, please comment below.
Thanks for reading!
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