It’s the new year, and a lot of people are thinking about new life goals and starting new businesses.
So I thought it would be helpful to share with you the three things I wished I knew as a beginning business owner.
You can learn from my mistakes and shave years off your journey, and get to success faster!
Hi, my name is Mei Pak and I help makers, artists and designers make a living from selling their handmade products online.
If you’re new to my blog, here’s a little bit of a quick background.
I’ve been selling my own handmade jewelry and I’ve been in the online business world for 15 years, as of this post.
In 2020, my husband and I made it to multi-million dollar status with our businesses combined so I’ve definitely been through a huge adventure to get to where I am today.
My hope for you is that it won’t take you 15 years to get there, but just a fraction of that.
1. Business Models
The first thing I wish I knew about was the different types of business models online and how each one works best with different marketing strategies.
For example, a content based business like a YouTuber or a blogger makes money in very different ways than someone who is a service provider, like a photographer or graphic designer.
Someone who makes money as an affiliate and promotes other people’s products and then gets paid a commission requires different forms of marketing than a business that sells premade products from China on Amazon.
And someone who sells coaching for $10,000, is also going to be different from everyone else.
You have to be very clear where you fit in, and what you want to be.
It’s best if you don’t try to create a new category of business model like this because then you’ll just get really confused and your business will take ages to take off.
If you’re a handmade business owner and you sell physical products. What it takes to make a business like that successful, is not the same strategies as a service provider or content based business.
That is the biggest trap I fell into that cost me a ton of money and time in the beginning.
It’s the same trap I see people fall into over and over again.
When I first started my business, there weren’t any books or courses about how to start a handmade business.
Most resources out there were for business in general, and it was mostly for service based businesses, coaches, or bloggers.
I spent a lot of money on programs and courses that were designed for people like them, not for my type of business model.
This is a problem that’s still true today.
There are more courses than you can buy out there and they’re not all suited for the handmade business model.
I was taking courses on Pinterest, blogging, and Instagram.
It felt really hard to apply it to my business because so much of what I learned, I felt couldn’t work for my business.
You just have to be smarter than me when I first started, and be aware of the different business models.
That way, you can be more selective on what you decide to do with yours, who you listen to for advice, and what strategies you adopt for your business.
2. Invest in Your Business
The second thing I wish, is that I had invested more in the beginning.
As someone who started with nothing and built multiple businesses that make us millions of dollars now, I can tell you that there is a huge difference in how I valued investments.
Back when I was barely making any money, I couldn’t afford to pay big money for in-depth programs or coaching.
I would constantly spend $10 here, $90 there on little ebooks and mini-courses that didn’t make an impact in my life or business.
In 2018, 12 years after I started, was the first time I paid $12,000 for the year to work with a coach in a group setting.
It was such a huge leap and a mental shift.
It was definitely scary.
Then in 2019, I spent $15,000 for a coach that ended up not working out and I was out that money.
In 2020, I spent $46,000 on different coaching programs.
I don’t think it’s a coincidence that our businesses surpassed seven figures for the first time in 2020.
Before I got to that point though, I had always seen other people invest big money like this.
I always wondered what it was like.
I thought, “do I have to invest big money in order for my business to grow?”
What I’ve learned coming out from the other side of this experience, is the short answer is yes, but it’s not that simple.
Yes, in very simplistic terms, the more money you invest, the more your business will grow.
One thing that we discount or are unaware of is how much you commit to something when you have so much at stake.
If I spent $25 on an ebook it wouldn’t be the end of the world if I never got around to reading it this month.
But if I spent $10,000 on a program, you bet I would do whatever it takes to make that investment worthwhile.
That mental switch gives you an incredible sense of accountability and healthy pressure that we all need.
Where it gets more complex is, you don’t want to spend big money just for the sake of it.
It has to be extremely calculated.
There are many coaches and programs that would gladly take my money.
But I was very careful in vetting:
- Who it I was giving my money to
- What kind of service they provide
- What other people say about them
- And more importantly, what I needed to do to make it work well
I also took my time to wait for the right investment to come my way.
I had decided in 2019 that I would invest in YouTube so the majority of my investment went into anything YouTube related.
Hindsight is always 20/20.
I don’t know if I could believe or be convinced when I was younger that this is the way.
Especially when you don’t have $10,000 to spend in your bank account.
That makes it so much more impossible.
I think you just have to go through the trials and tribulations and to experience this for yourself to really see what I’m saying.
3. Create a Community
The third thing I wish I did when I was just starting out, was to reach out to create a community sooner.
I’m talking about that community of friends who are in the same boat as you and who you can trust and talk to.
It wasn’t until 8 years after I started that I finally found some friends.
Friends that I would dare call lifelong friends that I love and who get what I do.
I can tell you that they’ve made a huge impact on how I’ve shaped my business and life.
- Give me confidence
- Listen to me complain
- Help me problem solve
- Hold me accountable
- Challenge me
- Help me go after my dreams
But for many of the first few years, I was so alone.
Especially since back in the day, there were so few people selling handmade products online (Etsy had just been established).
There were no craft stores where I lived in Malaysia, and everyone who was physically around me had no interest in what I cared about.
If you’re in a similar situation, my biggest tip for you is to reach out to people even if you’re afraid.
Put yourself out there.
Join some Facebook groups or message boards and put a call out that you’re looking for a friend.
That’s what I did!
It didn’t always work out, but all my lasting business-related friendships have come from doing exactly that.
Having that kind of support from people who get it, will make the journey that much sweeter and easier.
If anything in this post resonated with you, I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.
Don’t forget to check out my YouTube Channel for more handmade business tips and advice!