Strategies of Being Self-Employed

Sitting at my desk this morning struggling on what to write about….. I don’t have many days like this but I am grateful for A LOT of past posts to go back and rewrite or tweak.  Today is one of those days….  I wrote the original post in 2014.  It seems like a lifetime ago.

 

2014 was a busy year for me…. my Thirty One business was thriving and I was working a J.O.B. part time.  I think back to why I wanted to work for myself – in the beginning, oh so many years ago, I thought it would be fun to turn a hobby into making money.  Work when I want, do something I love which at the time was making premature baby clothes and the success would happen.  I never really thought about the business side of things.  It was my first learning lesson in owning my own business.  BUT the dream to be my own boss never died…

There were may other self-employment attempts which worked for a season…. let’s fast forward to today… today, my reason for being my own boss is so different.  I need to be able to make my own hours, I want to make money at something I love, and I need to have the flexibility to work when I can since my MS seems to decide to flare up at the worst times..  Being my own boss allows me to be available for family too.  It has allowed me to pay off old credit card debt.  It is a blessing I am truly grateful for.

Over the last year or so, I have split my time between my Thirty One business and my craft business ” Angels by Hope”.  I will always be a Thirty One girl but I struggle with providing the same quality customer service I did in past years.  Lists no longer seem to help and I get confused easily.  So hard to keep up with all of the amazing prints, products and specials.  My angels, on the other hand, have allowed me a creative outlet to move at my own pass.  I make angels, people buy them.  On occasion I get an order or two and can quickly get them out.  On days I struggle – I do nothing knowing I have stock to carry me through my next show.

I have heard many say “I want to be my own boss” or “I want my own business”.  They quickly join the direct sales bandwagon only to find out it takes work.  YUP!  Yes, your product may be amazing and sell itself.  Yes, the first few months are awesome because everyone wants to help you BUT what happens when friends and family stop buying to “help out”?  Many give up but there are some great strategies to help you build a successful business.

A blog on self-employed.com about “flexible strategies for the self-employed” had some great tips.  I’m not sure if they work for everyone but check them out and let us know what you think.

#1 – Strategize Your Time

Are you attached to your mobile device?  Are you a multi-tasker?  Believe it is or not, it could definitely be a problem.  I am forever sneaking in time to check my phone while waiting in line at the store.  Some would say this is great time management….. BUT since my business relies on connecting with other people, I can’t really connect when my head buried in my phone in the checkout line, right?  It is possible to “kill two birds with one stone” but be aware of your surroundings.

#2 Work Anywhere, Anytime

Inspiration can strike at any time. Are you able to leverage the motivation into something tangible? Keep this in perspective.  Being inspired is AWESOME but working all of the time, is not.  Make a note of things, take a picture but you don’t want to be remembered as the one who missed out on XYZ because you were working.

#3 Access to Everything, Everywhere

Do you use the cloud?   I am a MAC girl but I definitely am still learning how to use the cloud.  The idea of the cloud or Google Drive is you have the freedom to access your computer, no matter where you are, near or far.  Some days, I am grateful I don’t have access as I am sure my family is so I stop working and treasure the moments with them.

Your business is flexible, not optional#4 Flexible Living

Don’t use work as an excuse to not partake in the joys of life. Say “yes” and then figure out a strategy to make it happen. Isn’t this the main reason we all wanted to have our own business…

So, what are your thoughts on being self-employed – the good, the bad and the ugly?  Share them with us..

Have a blessed day!

I’m The Best!

Okay, I have your attention, right?  You are probably thinking “Who does she think she is?”.  “What makes her the best?”

Although, I have some skills and have received a few awards for my work – I wouldn’t say I am the best.  “Doubtful Debbie” is always lurks in the corner.  Just when I think I have built my confidence up to where it can’t be shaken, she pops her head!  Since MS has entered my life, those inner gremlins seem to come more often.  Add to it, relapse and recovery and those gremlins have a field day.

In direct sales, as in most businesses, self-promotion is important but we need to say it without actually saying it.  I mean, isn’t branding part of the key to growing our business?  Not always an easy task, right?  I am guessing I am not alone since Entrepreneur magazine did an article about it.  Here are some tips:

1. Identify what you’ve done and and what you’re good at.  This has always been difficult for me.  Believe it or not, I didn’t think I was good at anything for many years.  While working in the non-profit world, I was a behind the scenes girl.  The one who let everyone else get the fame and glory.  I got my share of rewards but I never felt like I truly deserved them.  I am learning to share my achievements along with my failures through blogging.

2. Practice your communication.  I LOVE these key phrases to help – “I’m passionate,” and “I did [this]” or “I worked hard [at that].”  When I share about my my passion for Thirty One, people respond.  When I share about my passion for my angels, people respond.  They get interested, share their stories and then usually shop.

3. Tell everybody.   This is definitely hard for me but I am getting better.  I mean if we worked hard and built an AWESOME business – shouldn’t we be able to share it with the world?  I mean when people meet me and they ask what I do, my answer is “I’m a Director with Thirty One Gifts, a blogger and a crafter”.  This starts the conversation rolling and allows me to share my passions with them.

4. Be prepared to prove it.  Don’t just talk about how awesome your product is – make sure you are using it so they can see it.  I had a consultant tell me once , no one took her business seriously. Then I realized she had LOTS of Thirty One bags at HOME!  She never carried one with her.  Now she is a walking billboard and she is getting sales.  I always have product (Thirty One and angels) with me and I include my blog on all of my business cards.

5. Get creative.  For me, sometimes it is tough to get creative.  I offer my customers great service – I try to remember birthdays and key events in their lives so I can celebrate them.  My VIP customer page offers some fun without promoting sales.  I haven’t found an unusual way to promote myself except by blogging so maybe it will catch some attention.

6. Be generous. Promote and encourage others who are doing a good job and offer your help to those who ask for it.  Giving back and making a difference in the life of others is the thing which keeps me going.  From chemo comfort bags to Fight Hunger Campaign to mailing an angel to someone who needs some cheering up.  Helping others is what I like to do.

Are you “THE BEST”?  Brag a little… tell us what you are the best at!

Have a ThirtyOne-derful day!

 

Lost Customers and How to Find Them?

Over the last six plus years of selling Thirty One, I have customers who are MIA.  They have stopped buying from me or have moved or just unsubscribed to my emails. I am sure I am not alone, right?  As I was going through my list of “holiday shoppers” for the last few years, there were several names or customers I haven’t seen in awhile. It gets my curiosity up…. why?

My follow-up process has changed some what over the last few years.  Now I try to stay engaged with customers. Yes, there are random phone calls unanswered.  Emails ignored.  And even Facebook posts or private messages which have been deleted, ignored and in a rare occurrence even blocked!  Has this happened to you – customers just quit buying from you without any particular reason?

The real reason for this, are you ready?  You may not want to hear it….. is indifference!  Okay, I know you are saying – I call, I text, blah, blah, blah.  Our company sends the monthly newsletters to alert our customers about the specials.  If we are honest with ourselves, have we really kept in touch with our customers?  I don’t mean those calls to BOOK, SELL, RECRUIT.  I mean just a call to check in – do you like the product, thank you, happy birthday, whatever the reason to call, text or email.

I can’t tell you the number of times a customer answers the phone, hear it is me calling and there is dead silence on the other end of the phone.  They have already decided I am calling to sell them something or to book a party.  Knowing this is their mindset, I usually start with “I’m not calling to sell you something or book a party, I just wanted to check in”.  I can almost hear the sigh of relief on the other end of the phone.  Do I ultimately want a sale or a booking? YES!  But I want to build a relationship with them.  Did you know it can take up to 5 non-sales contacts before someone feels comfortable buying from you?

How often are we focused on getting new customers?  Think about the leads you call from a vendor event or a potential recruit or a potential party hostess.  We are persistent in building a relationship with them to get to the “prize”.  Yet, those people who are already in our customer base may only hear from us when we are selling or booking.  

Statistics show 55% of our customers take their business elsewhere because WE, as direct sellers, show no interest in keeping them around. YIKES!  That is a lot of lost business.  I have talked about the importance of follow-up in the past but if this statistic doesn’t convince you, nothing will.  Picking up the phone for some is the hardest thing to do but it is one of the MOST important things we can do as direct sellers.  For me, it is about making sure my customers are happy with their product and for them to feel comfortable coming back to me – even if it is only once a every year or two.

Let’s be honest, how often have you been at an event, offered to put someone on your mailing list, then never followed through?  I don’t mean the occasional slips through the cracks kind of mistake, I mean the norm.  I have a graphic I send via email to everyone who stops at my table and leaves their information at a vendor event.  Just a little reminder from me.  Then I add them to my email list so they get the company emails and any other special emails I send out.  That is about it, unless there has been a specific request for something.

What about the person who wants you to contact them about a special or a product they were interested in?  Thirty One has specials which are repeated every year (large utility tote, medium utility tote, lunch totes and inserts) and I have a list of people who are interested.  It is a running list so when the special is approaching, I can reach out to them and secure their business.

I know some direct sellers who are AMAZING at follow-up.  They have awesome systems to ensure they are engaging customers on a regular basis.  These consultants I am sure are not loosing customers or at least not at the rate others may be.

I struggled for awhile to find a system which works for me.  This one has been working for me so far and only takes a few minutes to complete.

  1. Email thank you when an order in placed (online or at a party)
  2. Email with shipping information when I receive shipping notice
  3. Mail a handwritten thank you card with a business card
  4. 10 days after shipping notice, call to be sure order received & they are happy with their purchase
  5. Tag for 75 days, send a postcard reminding them of the 90 day warranty on their order.  This is another chance for them to return a product they may not happy with.

Then I am stuck!  I leave those people in my data base never to be reached out to again UNLESS they mentioned something in the conversations I can tag them for – vacation check-in, looking for a specific product/print/special or health struggle.  A tickler file helps me to keep things in order on a monthly and daily basis.

I am sure I am loosing a few customers along the way but I don’t think it is as many as before since I have a system.  Finding a system which works for you can be an issue or it can be an excuse to avoid doing those things we don’t like to do?

So, what about you – are you loosing customers?  Or, are you one of those AWESOME direct sellers with a system to keep you connected to your customers?  Share your struggles and your successes!

Have a ThirtyOne-derful day!

#hope

Vendor Events – Yes or No?

When I joined Thirty One almost 7 years ago, I told my sponsor “I don’t do home parties BUT I will do vendor events”.  For the first year, I built my business on vendor events.  I did as many as I could and when I wasn’t a vendor, I attended them and networked with other vendors.

Over the years, vendor events have changed and many direct sellers would say they don’t get a return on their investment (ROI).  Have the events changed or has our perception of what these events can do for our business changed?  Do we rely on them for sales not looking at the other opportunities available to us?

Yes, I originally built my business as a result of events BUT I didn’t just attend an event. I worked the event.  I didn’t sit behind the table, scrolling through my phone.  I was usually found standing next to my table (I always want an end spot) or milling around talking to other vendors.  Vendor events are a great way to expand your network, or getting to know people if moving to a new area.

I have written about Vendor events before and each time from a different perspective.  I had two events last weekend – one a flop and one was really good for me.  Notice how I clarified “for me”?  There wasn’t a lot of foot traffic, many of the vendors (there were 56 of us in one room) did not have sales and were discouraged.  They talked about how bad things were.  They brought negative “mojo” into their Universe.  I know it sounds crazy, right?  I honestly walked into both events not very optimistic.  I formed an opinion about them based on what I saw.  At the first one, those negative thoughts and comments consumed the day.  At the second one, I was determined to have a better day. It was the end of the month and I needed to hit my sales for the month.

Here are a few things you need to know BEFORE you can have a successful vendor event:

#1 – Set a Goal.  In talking with a first time vendor, I shared my view on vendor events.  Yes, we all want sales but it is more about planting seeds and making a connection.  I set my goal for the second event – ultimately I wanted sales but a few solid contacts for orders or for parties would be great.  Yes, I squirreled.  Set a goal and focus on it.  When you are trying to the whole book/sell/recruit it is overwhelming. My focus is to always share Thirty One and our amazing products.  Then I let the conversation go from there.

#2 – Be selective.  By this I mean, don’t travel to an event if you aren’t willing to travel to do parties in the area.  If you are trying to expand your area, and you book parties, will you be able to travel the same distance to do the parties?  If you travel an hour to do a vendor event, booking a home party or two usually means booking more at the party, right?  It means a lot of traveling.  Will travel fit into your every day life?  If I am traveling to an area, I will reach out to existing customers in the area to let them know I will be there.  Sometimes offering an incentive for them to collect orders and bring them to me ( a party on the go).  This is when using social media becomes an important component of your business.

#3 – Have fun at your table.  Some will have games you can play.  Others will decorate their display.  Some will have a drawing for a prize.  The truth is, mine is probably rather boring for some.  Thirty One has 3 catalog sections – for you, your home and your family.  I try to set my display up based on those sections.  Why?  It allows customers to focus on what is important to them. No games to lure them in, just the amazing products displayed in an attractive manner.

#4 – YOU NEED TO BE FUN!  Don’t hide behind the table, sitting in a chair and wait for someone to talk to you.  I talk to everyone who even glances at my table.  It can be as simple as “hi, how are you today?”.  This simple gesture may actually engage someone in conversation.  I share my excitement and love of Thirty One with everyone and anyone.

I gained 6 new customers who placed orders at the second event.  When other vendors wanted to talk negatively, I tried to change it to a positive perspective.  I was determined to be successful and I was.  Does this always happen, no.  Each event is different.  What is bad for one could be good for another.  Be open minded.  Have questions about vendor events – let’s hear them.

Have a ThirtyOne-derful day!

Bounce Back from Rejection

 Do you hate hearing the word NO?  I know I do whether it is in my business or in my personal life.  No matter what, I usually take it personally.  Crazy, right?  I mean when I ask someone to join my team or host a party and they say NO, does it really mean they don’t like me?  Probably not.  They just aren’t interested in the “offer”.

I love this analogy…. Do you think a waiter/waitress gets upset or takes it personal when they offer you desert and you say no?  Do you think they stop offering?  No, they just keep asking and eventually someone will say YES!

How often does the fear of hearing the word “no” stop you in your tracks?  As a result you keep your ideas to yourself.  Or maybe you hold back from asking for what you want (or need)? Or maybe you never step out of your comfort zone?  Whatever the fear keeps you from doing, it has definitely led you into living a life of regret.

Do you know someone who is resilient?  Do you know someone who no matter what keeps moving forward to reach their goal?  Do you long to be the person who doesn’t take NO personally?

Here are four ways to change the way you see the word “no” so you keep moving forward, don’t get your feelings hurt, and get up the courage to try again:

1. Other’s rejection can be heaven-sent protection.

  Yes, sometimes a “no” deserves a happy dance. Believe it or not, the Universe might have just saved you.  Think of it as if you just dodged a bullet you didn’t even know was coming. Rejoice! You’ve just been saved from a boatload of problems.  I know it is tough to do but with practice, it gets easier.

2. Don’t take things personally.

Okay, so I won’t lie this is so hard for me – the proverbial people pleaser.  I have to remind myself (more often then I want to admit) what others say and do is not about me; it is about them.  Every once in a while I need the gentle kick in the butt as a reminder “the world does not revolve around me”!  I don’t intentionally think like this but it happens or at least my actions seem as if I think this way.  Admit it, I am not alone!   When we understand everything truly is not about us – it takes away the personal aspect, it frees us up to accept you can get caught in the path of other people’s battles and issues which have nothing to do with YOU – your abilities, or your worth.

3. You deserve to be in relationship with people who want to be in relationship with you.

So true for personal and professional relationships. If you have to chase a someone, there is an imbalance.  As a result, your contribution to the relationship is valued as less than what someone else brings to the relationship. This is when feelings of rejection and unworthiness are repeatedly reinforced throughout the relationship. Value relationships with people who want to be in relationship with you – who see your worth, who respect and value you, your time, your strengths. When you decide you deserve this, you won’t see “no” as rejection.  No will be a sign the relationship will not offer you the balance you desire.

4. “No” today doesn’t mean “no” forever.

Timing is key. I tell my team this all of the time.  After 6 plus years in direct sales, if I stopped asking everyone who said no to me if they wanted to have a party; I would be out of business!  This is how we start to build relationships with potential customers, hostesses and team members.  You need to keep the doors of communication open. When they say “no”, I usually ask a few more questions to understand why they said no. Then I ask them if I can reach out again and ask.  They will usually respond with a “yes”.  The door is still open allowing you to figure out how to get to a “yes” the next time.

Situations are different with everyone – someone struggle with hearing the word no in their business but keep moving forward when it is in their personal life.  For others, the reverse is true.  There are even those who can’t handle the word “no” in any part of their life.  The key is to not take it personally.

I challenge you this week to not let a “rejection” leave you feeling bad about yourself. Change the “no” into something which will empower you to keep moving forward to reach your goal.

What is a “no” you haven’t been able to bounce back from?  Can you use any of these tips to help you move forward?  Change the negative to a positive….Share it with us

Have a ThirtyOne-derful day!