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 3: Just gonna start another business OK?
Building a business off a service or skill you can provide is immensely rewarding but can also bring uncertainty when it comes to workflow and income. As a freelance copywriter, if you’re not writing, you’re not earning money. And if you think you can quickly grow your client base enough so that you’re earning money every day, well, good luck to you and please email me your secrets.
Even though I was still working full-time and doing some freelance copywriting on the side, I still had the desire to look into adding another income stream. Just a small e-commerce business that I could run from home. Friends and family thought I was taking on too much and was at risk of adding too much unnecessary stress to my life. But, truth be told, my day job wasn’t particularly challenging, and I was so motivated to make a big life change that I easily found the time to develop my new business idea on the train, on weekends, in the evenings, and yep, sometimes even at 3am when I was lying in bed trying to sleep.
And with my background in digital, marketing and copywriting, I believed I had the right skill set to nail some of the most important elements of a business such as creating a brand, building a website, developing engaging content and promoting products. Plus, Instagram and Facebook had made it so easy to get your products and brand in front of potential customers in a very targeted and fairly cost-effective way. Nothing was holding me back! The only question that remained was, what would I sell?
Give the people what the people want
Without an easy answer to that pretty chunky question, I turned to someone I know extremely well: me. What do I buy online? What’s something that I feel is missing? What do I think I could do better? I know! Gift hampers. I often bought gifts and gift hampers online, and while there was a lot of choice and a lot of gift hamper providers out there (I mean, a lot) most gift hampers on the market were a bit daggy, mass produced, and not very unique. Sure, you could get a nice-looking gift hamper delivered the next day from a well-established company, and most people would be delighted to receive a basket with wine, chocolates and shortbread, but wouldn’t it be awesome if you could buy ones that were a bit cooler and more stylish, a bit more fun, and maybe a bit cheeky as well?
I checked in with a few of my friends about this nugget of an idea that was starting to take hold. What do you look for in a gift hamper? What frustrates you about the experience? What price points do you want? Most of the feedback reinforced my own thinking – that gift hampers didn’t seem like great value for money (three items for $150?), they were often a bit daggy (what do you do with the basket afterwards?), and you see the same old products in them (do people under 40 even like shortbread?).
Ideas, ideas, ideas!
Back in 9 to 5 land, I was working in a team that looked after brand, advertising, social media and content, so I had access to some pretty creative minds that skew towards the millennial demographic. So I told them about my business idea and together we brainstormed some gift hampers. We thought about gift hampers for new parents, hens, break ups, pet lovers and even a coming out one. Other friends chimed in with their thoughts too. It got wild and wacky. Musical instruments. Make up for kids. The Karma Sutra. I was not about to put a lid on people’s ideation processes, so I let it all unfold before I put my business hat on and reigned it in a bit.
In a stroke of good timing, I saw an ad for the annual Reed Gift Fair, a buyers’ event in the gift and homewares industry, and registered. Walking around the suppliers’ exhibits really got the ball rolling on the business. I made contacts, obtained wholesale price lists, sampled products, and got the motivation I needed to start Gift Boss. I also spent a fair bit of time sourcing the right packaging (I chose rigid kraft boxes), as it’s so important to have something that looks good but also survives delivery, ensuring the gift hamper looks amazing and just as it should when it’s opened – even if it’s just travelled from Sydney to Perth.
Today, Gift Boss still features products from some of the suppliers I met at this Fair. However, I’ve since supplemented them with a number of other suppliers that I found just by doing a Google or Instagram search, or reaching out to members of Facebook groups such as Like Minded Bitches Drinking Wine.
I was keen to use suppliers of stylish, modern, beautifully packaged and functional gift items, many of which are Australian made and sustainably sourced. Some of our gift items such as our tea towels and chocolate, have funny and cheeky messages on them. Some products, such as the rose quartz crystal soaps and soy candles are just beautiful to look at and smell. And some are unique to Gift Boss, such as the earrings and custom-printed baby onesies. All the products I stock I absolutely love and would proudly give to my loved ones any day of the week.
Making it pretty
To bring the smattering of ideas and bursts of inspiration together, I worked closely with a very talented designer friend of mine, Stephanie Lee from Make and Tell, who produced the fresh, modern and colourful designs that you see on the Gift Boss packaging and website. Getting the branding right was so important. If I couldn’t convey the personality of Gift Boss adequately, I don’t think the business would do very well at standing out from the competition. The gift hamper industry is hugely competitive (just Google gift hampers and see how many businesses pop up!) so I went pretty bold with the branding and design elements, and believe that this is a crucial part of the business.
Onto the website! Although I’ve published content on websites for almost all of my previous jobs, building a website from scratch is a totally different ball game. Thankfully there are thousands of WordPress templates, plug-ins, YouTube videos and online forums out there to make building a website fairly straightforward these days (although if you are someone like me who gets paralysed by too much choice then this process will not be easy). There’s also plenty of website designers and developers who can come to the rescue when things get a bit too complex. This is what happened in our situation. I got the website 90% there, then engaged the skills of En Pointe Consulting to help us fix a few things, add some extra features and be an all-round Mr Fix it when I broke something. Thank you Paul!
Lunch time! I mean Launch time!
So this is where things got a bit uncomfortable. And awkward. I don’t like to put myself out there at the best of times. I hate being the centre of attention (unless I am singing karaoke then I would like your full attention and back-up vocals please) and I think that me making any sort of a noise on social media creates an inconvenience for the people who feel obliged to like and comment because they know me and want to be nice and supportive. Oh lordy, did I have to get over that. Marketing in this day and age is a heady and competitive world of posts, likes, shares, hashtags, and follow-unfollows. But despite my reservations, it was clear that I needed to get onto the socials quick smart.
After a celebratory “look guys, we made a business” Facebook post to our network, I had to get the social media marketing cranking so we might be seen by the rest of the world. So I posted. And followed. And liked. And photographed. And shared. And slowly, but surely, we grew from one Instagram follower to 500 in less than three months without any assistance from follower bots (do people really use them?). I like to think it was all because my content was so engaging, but I have a feeling some people were following me so that I would follow back…still, I won’t turn my nose up at some reciprocal Instagram back scratching…
So… was it all worth it? Did anyone (besides mum) buy anything?
Well, you’ll have to wait for the next post.
This is the section where I tell you a little bit more about me. Not just as a freelance copywriter, but who I am as a person. The things that I like, the things that challenge me, my small business journey, freelance life, my copywriting and marketing tips, personal stuff and more. Because if you have a clear picture of who I am, then I feel you're in a better position to decide if I’m the freelance copywriter for you. Let’s go!