As I was growing up, my father worked for the Mexican government as an engineer doing these huge projects for power plants and such. He had majored in mechanical and electrical engineering, so he was good at both aspects of his field. At some point in his career, Japan started contracting work from Mexico, and my father was chosen to go to Japan and work on a project for an engineering company, along with a few of his colleagues.
As soon as the Japanese realized that my dad was an expert at both the mechanical and the electrical aspects of engineering, and that they could get two “specialties” in one person, they asked him to work for them directly as an independent contractor. A few projects and trips to Japan later, he retired from his government job and was making enough money to start his own business, which he did with a fellow engineer. Once the Japanese contracts were over, his company worked on projects for the government, which were pretty much what he was doing before he retired, except that this time he was making much more money as an independent contractor. And he was running his own show.
Now, I am not sure if this kind of stuff runs in the genes, or if it is my Gemini nature (as those who are into astrology would say), but “specializing” in one single thing has never been my cup of tea. When I was younger I thought that maybe my tendencies were counterproductive and I was scattering my energy doing many different things at once, but now I realize that it has all worked in my favor. I am able to tackle many a task and be focused on each single aspect (call me perfectionist) and bring it all to completion without losing the focus on my main goal. This, of course, has allowed me to manage a family business, run my own artisan jewelry business, work for other people doing free lance web design and marketing, and be a homeschooling mom!
My secret… I am always willing to learn what it takes to get things done and never walk away from the task at hand, no matter how much work it entails. Yes, it can be daunting and overwhelming at times, but in the end it’s also incredibly rewarding to see how much I’ve learned along the way, which means that things do get easier (and less overwhelming) as time goes by.
My husband and I started our Ayurvedic clinic 9 years ago, completely from scratch and on a very tight budget. He put his Ayurvedic expertise into practice helping clients with their health issues, while I put the business on the map, so to speak, through printed and online marketing. Of course, throughout these years I have learned so much about desktop publishing, printing, the internet, graphic and web design, shopping carts, photography, business management, computers, accounting, and so on. Some of my husband’s clients, who run their own businesses and can see how I manage ours, have mentioned many times, “I need a Yol!”
So I thought that maybe I should start sharing some of the business and marketing lessons I have learned all these years (and keep learning as the internet expands and changes), so that other self-employed artisans and creative types like me can benefit from my experience and insight.
Rather than making this post much longer today, I will just get started with a few thoughts for you to meditate on: You do not have to sound like a car salesman to promote your services or products. Actually, the more you sound like a car salesman, the more you will turn people off. Remember that your best marketing is your own service or product, so let it speak for itself by doing the best that you can, and more. Give 110% of your energy every single time.
Most business articles I’ve come across mention that you should do some market research to see what is missing in your community, or what sells and what doesn’t, before you quit your day job and start a business that will succeed. My guess is that this type of advice comes from standard business and marketing 101, which it is very helpful if want to start a business like say, a chain restaurant, or a kinko’s, or a dry cleaner, but it doesn’t necessarily apply to the self-employed creative type (artist, artisan, healer, herbalist, crafter, yoga teacher, etc.). Why? Because in this case I’d advise you to do what you LOVE and believe in, and not what the business manuals say. The energy you put into what you love will come back in many rewarding (and often unexpected) ways. As you focus on what you love to do, your own “style” and niche will surface.
If your budget is tight, then you will need to put a lot more of your energy to market what you have to offer the world. But first you need to make sure that what you have to offer the world is the best you can do and is truly you. And you cannot give 110% of yourself to what you do unless you absolutely love it!
To be continued…