One year in business online already?

I have worked for myself my whole adult life apart from becoming the youngest assistant manager for Oddbins the wine merchant when I was 18.

In that one job where I had a boss or in fact several bosses it gave me two things. The first is a work ethic, I have always liked to work hard and get things done. The second was hatred for middle management people who tread water in business and are quite happy to lord it up with a perceived power over people lower down on the ladder. These two things put together showed me that I needed to be my own master and work at my own projects.

After I left Oddbins I was a partner in a restaurant and had a lot of success like having my wine list written up in Vogue America. I did not like the backstabbing of a board of directors and eventually even though we were seen as a success, the board of directors steered the business in the wrong way. This reinforced the idea that I needed to steer my own ship and not be governed in any way by other people.

I have owned a few businesses, but all of these rely on other talented people to do the business of tattooing and because of this I never had full control of how things went. This is not a bad thing and continues today to great success, but I’ve always felt I needed to find something that depended on me. My skills, my time and my abilities to totally run and make a business succeed.

It needs to be said at this point that I have seen highs and lows and have been well off and skint. I am no business genius, but I do have experience and through this I have a solid business grounding for my project to work. I have spent the last five years working extremely hard to learn the skills I need to make furniture. This was my hobby, started in the back of my house which basically grew into something more and more. People seem to think I am lucky because I have a workshop and sell a few tables on top of the tattoo shop. There is no luck, I have worked hard to be where I am and I have made sure that at no point has the hobby detracted from the tattoo shop. Metal Machine has always had to pay its own bills by selling my products (see picture) or it would stay a hobby.

It has been a year now since I opened metalmachineuk.co.uk with my products for sale. I have had an Esty shop but to be honest that is like selling your work through a greedy acquaintances yard sale. It was not my own place of business it was a platform that got me started but takes way too much for doing very little. My own website took a lot of time, not only to write the right words which I had help with but also getting pictures and product descriptions and learning all the right things to do and say online. If you want help with the right copy for your products or your website, go and see Megan www.meganrosefreelance.com I did and the whole process went very smoothly.

After many hours of work I released my newly built website. This was both amazing and terrifying. Just because you do something it does not mean people will pay any attention at all as the internet is saturated with people trying very hard to gain your attention in a sea of others doing the same thing but maybe in a better bigger way. It is not luck that gets you noticed. It is hard work put into what you do both on the tools and on how you portray yourself.

I have made and sold a lot of things since I started Metal Machine, but I have also been sat on my hands waiting for work to come in, wondering what I did wrong and why people did not care about the fact I make the best furniture in my head!! The most valuable advice I can give is to ignore sales at times like these and use the down time or the space between jobs to make new products and produce newly designed pieces out of your comfort zone. This pushes you to make better things to sell but more importantly hones your skills.

Obviously not every reader of this is a maker but the same process applies to every business. There will be times when things slow down. This is the time you find the best posts you have put on social media that have created the most leads or buys for you and your business. Learn what works for you and how to get your passion in front of the perfect audience.

After a year making my hobby a part of my working life, I can honestly say I’ve worked harder than I ever have as I was building furniture before and after my day job. I never stopped thinking about what my next piece would be or what my next Instagram post would achieve.

I was asked to write a blog about my first year in business and to that I say that I have learned a lot of things but most important are the following points:

  1. Know your core market learn who you are selling to.
  2. There is nothing that works better for a business than hard work, there is no quick easy way to start and make a business work.
  3. Social media is important but make sure to be selective about what you post. Stay on topic talk about what you do and take the best pictures possible.
  4. Most of all don’t let yourself be side tracked by promises of the perfect marketing but look at all methods of marketing because then you can cherry pick what works for you through trial and error.
  5. Don’t ever let anyone tell you, you can’t do………… well anything. If you want to do something strongly enough and are prepared to work at all aspects, you will succeed in some way.

There will always be more than you can take on and you will sometimes feel that you can’t cope. Its ok, you can cope but make sure you see that time needs to be separated into definitive areas. Time to plan, time to make and time to rest.

If you have the time to think you can’t cope then use that time to move forward in some way, otherwise you will never get where you want to go.

After one year I have learned enough to know that there is a future in my business. The real question is how far can go.

Don't talk about what you are going to do! Go out and do it!

2 comments

  • I really love your unique and imaginatively designed furniture. I can’t wait to see the plants blooming from my metal planter! I’m very happy to see your hard won, small business succeeding.

    Sally Lawrence
  • I always love hearing things from your perspective. I feel like we’ve hitch-hiked your journey (not in a bad way!) and am so pleased your hard work, especially in such crazy times, has resulted in a business that still exists and will hopefully continue to grow. Your passion shows through and I’m sure that’s a major part of the success. Well done on year one – here’s to many more!

    Lee

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