Aug 23, 2011

Amy’s Small Business Tips – Part II

By: Amy Atlas, in Amy's Latest, Ask Amy

A few months ago, I shared some business tips with you when I was at the Dreamers into Doers event.  There was a q & a at the event and I have been remiss in getting those up to you.  I’m finally here with the q&a.  Scroll down to check the tips out and feel free to ask your own questions in the comment area below.

(1) How do you deal when clients ask you to do something you’ve never done before?  Do you take on the project or not?

If it is something that is outside the scope of what I normally do, I always assess whether it is something that I really want to venture into.  I would suggest you all make the same assessment.  When your business is creative and custom like mine, these situations can come up often.  Whenever I try something that is outside the scope of my business model, I have to guestimate what my costs will be and there is always a risk that I won’t make money. Many custom cake designers deal with this all the time.  There is just no telling how much labor will be involved.  I assess whether it is something I really want to do.  If so, I’m honest with my client and tell them that I’m doing it for the first time.  If I don’t want to do it, I set limits and refer someone else who can offer a better product/service for that need.

(2) What has been your biggest obstacle?

My biggest obstacle is a little unique, but a real obstacle which everyone should prepare for.  Many people are scared when they are entering a business how they will deal if their business fails.  My biggest obstacle was how I had to deal with success.  This can be a real issue if you aren’t ready and many businesses fail if they are not ready.  When I first put my portfolio on the web, my site went around the web virally within a couple of days.  It was hard to keep up with the number of party inquiries.  Even though I had been doing tables, it was all word of mouth to that point.  I had to enlist a group of very supportive friends to help me get back to people. Then the press inquiries started to come in and I had to manage those inquiries since editorial magazines and sites always love a new trend.  I also had to deal with dictating the pricing for something that didn’t exist in the market and give that pricing to some of the best planners in the business when I hadn’t even resolved whether I was making money.  That was a real struggle (see pricing question below).  It took several parties to learn what was working and what was not.  The first year for me was one big blur.  I was not ready for all that came my way and I’m shocked I came out without sinking.  There was a price to it, though.  I barely slept {I mean barely ever}, had little time to pay attention to my husband and kids, and it was impossible for friends and family to see me.  It is what most business owners go through, but my experience was exacerbated by how fast things were moving.  So my advice is be prepared for both the worst and the best.  Map out both scenarios and make sure you have access to the product or access to labor to support your business if things do go well.

(3) What is the best way to deal with pricing and clients who ask you to lower your prices?

This is a problem that every business owner suffers with.  Every. Single. One.  I mentioned in #2 above how I was confronted with figuring out pricing for a market that didn’t exist.  My formula is pretty simple. I first add up all of my costs.  Then I put a price on my time for developing the concept/working on the whole project.  The price on time can be very subjective, but you have to figure out what feels right given your own needs.  When I was first dabbling with my business, it was for a creative outlet. It was a way that I could feed my creative side and have some time off from just being a mom. (Who am I kidding…it was also an excuse not to go back to being a practicing lawyer).  But seriously, I try not to lose sight of the importance of a project being creative. There is also a price that goes into being away from my family. The combination of those two things figure into what I think my time is worth.  If the client’s budget doesn’t make sense to me, I am comfortable with drawing the line and saying “no” to the project.  Only you can figure out what feels right to you.

(4) Do you embrace people who have done what you do or do you get upset?

I do embrace people who have entered the space and if anything, I encourage it because I feature others on my blog and try to mentor others.  It is inspiring to me and I’m flattered that others have followed my footsteps.  I do not, however, promote other people when I feel like they are not genuine.  When others enter the same space it also legitimizes what I do in the marketplace so I encourage everyone not to fear competition. Competition is healthy.

(5) How do you deal with the balance of motherhood/business?

Everyone struggles with this and I’ve talked about it here and here.  I’m a real mom who is just trying to juggle a lot.  I’m with my kids when they get home from school until they go to sleep.  Am I sneaking in moments on the computer while they are getting their pajamas on?  You bet.  Do they call me out on it and say I’m on the computer too much?  Yep.  Am I half listening sometimes when they are calling for help and I see an email I have to deal with?  Of course.  Do I feel like a colossal failure as a mom some days?  I’d be lying if I said “no” to that.  Overall, I recognize that I am doing my best and I am doing a pretty darn good job.  The balance is a process and it is one that no one can perfect.  Just do your best.

Now that I’ve shared the q & a with you, what questions do you all have?  I’m going to try to get better with the “Ask Amy” section so feel free to chime into this q & a session by putting your questions in the comment box.



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