One Year of Selling Parangs... and Learning!
Wall o' text warning
Following up on our earlier anniversary post, I've spent the week thinking back on how all this began, and how I didn't really know what I was getting myself into. It's been pretty interesting, mostly fun, and occasionally stressful or frustrating. Some quick observations about how the last twelve months have gone:
One thing I've learned from this is to stop leaving so many sharp things on the floor after pictures...
Starting a side-hustle / micro business for supplemental income
A billion dollar brand can't be wrong: You've got to just dive in and do it. No amount of research is going to tell you when it's the right time, or how to do it perfectly, or what the exact answer is. It's not a perfect science. I spend a ton of time before getting starting exploring reddit, various blogs, forums, and other webpages trying to make sure I did it "the right way" ... I'm not entirely sure it mattered. Obviously, if you're going to start something you should spend some time learning first, but once you've got the surface level knowledge, everything else will just come as it does. The only thing I'd bother about really digging into is the tax stuff (like sales tax). Takeaway: Pick your product/service, research how you want to get your product/service to the world, and GO. Stop Waiting.
Speaking of, I'll use this opportunity to shake my fist at the Texas sales and use tax office. I get that I started in the middle of a global pandemic, but if I've learned (or confirmed) anything, it's that no one talks to each other in government, and you should never assume something was set up correctly until you have the physical confirmation letter in your hand. I created a bit of a mess with my filings for Sales Tax early 2021, and found zero help from anyone until December. It's resolved and nothing major, but it's just additional paperwork. Takeaway: If you're going to over-study on anything, do so on taxes. No one likes 'em, we all have to pay 'em. Them's the rules, may as well learn them.
Consistency is king in pretty much everything. Much like we don't see much physical change if we only stick to our diet our exercise routine, if you only work on something once a week... you can't get frustrated when it's slow going. Takeaway: Stick to a schedule, be realistic about time spent for your expected return/growth
It's ok to move slower while learning. This isn't high school where you powered through that 500 page book over the weekend right before the test. Early Fall when I committed to being more active on Instagram, I read an article about Gary V's $1.80 Strategy for growing your social media presence. It was conceptually simple, made sense, and seemed to be working for tons of people. Here's what I forgot: Gary V does this... for a living. I was getting home from work and spending another 2.5 hours on IG sharing and posting and commenting. I was seeing pretty great results, but I burnt out fast. I've yet to recover from the burnout, and sitting down to comment and engage with hundreds of people a week is pretty much the exact opposite of what I consider fun. Takeaway: Don't try to copy the strategy of someone who's got 8-10x the available time and significantly different goals.
Speaking of goals. Make some. I should have been a little more committed earlier on. That'll be fixed this year! Takeaway: Goals are good. Make a goal, build a plan, and focus on your controllable actions... let the outcomes fall where they may.
So far that's it for the dollar-side of things. I'm sure this time next year I'll have more businessy observations and takeaways, but for now I'm just trying to learn what works and what doesn't.
Social Media and Selling Stuff Online / eCommerce
Online sales are a double-edged sword. On the positive, it's much cheaper to open up shop online and begin selling. That comes at a different cost though: Everyone else can do. It's taken some time to admit that right now the biggest competition isn't any one brand or person... it's the vast ocean of websites, search results, google searches, and marketplaces that drown me out because I've not yet found a voice loud enough and a sign bright enough. Takeaway: Recognize your shouting to a crowded, hyped up, rowdy stadium of consumers. Find tools and strategies to get heard.
Alternatively, you can always move to smaller stadiums: I opened up shop on Etsy in the middle of the year and it very quickly outpaced this website for sales, because Etsy curates your listings and does a lot of work for you. That comes at a cost, but so far it's been worth it. The biggest loss isn't the portion of $ they take from you... but the loss of ownership of your customers. I get no direct email addresses from Etsy sellers, and am beholden to how Etsy allows us to interact. Takeaway: Chose your arena and know your tradeoffs.
SEO still bewilders me. Getting backlinks still bewilders me. Updating parts of this website to improve my searchability on google still bewilders me. I've read so much and comprehended to little. Takeaway: Eventually, you have to admit when you could use someone else's knowledge & help, and will probably have to pay a little bit for it.
I am still learning to enjoy Social Media, primarily Instagram. I've just never been that into it. Lately it's gotten better, but I am still pretty bad about not engaging folks. I could double back on that burnout excuse from barreling into the $1.80 strategy too fast, but honestly I've just not prioritized it. I need to. The weeks I am more active on social media and have real, genuine conversations with strangers online almost always see an uptick in purchases a day or few after. Takeaway: Humans like humans who are entertaining, enjoyable to be around, and/or have similar interests and goals. Be a fun human.
Overall, I'm getting better about being online more. I don't dislike it, it's just not my favorite thing. I'm not super great at holding myself accountable either. If you see a post or comment of mine you like, give me a shout or comment and make me talk back! :P
The overall experience, and me personally
I like numbers, love spreadsheets, and I very much enjoy the more business-focused side of this experiment. Hell, I don't even mind calculating and making sure I've got the right tax numbers. This point has been pretty validating. While I haven't yet learned how to scale the sales and marketing side, I feel good about managing costs and paying attention to the numbers to keep myself out of trouble Takeaway: much of the "business math" only seem complicated because it's riddled with jargon. Once you get into it, it's pretty simple stuff.
I want to make more things, and enable others to make things. These parangs are super cool, I will continue to use my demo ones forever, and I'm excited to see the reviews roll in from folks who feel the same. But I've learned that I'm really more interested in DIY kits. What attracted me to the whole bushcraft scene was how so many people make their own things. I want to create packages and kits that let people start somewhere in the middle, and build their own personal gear without the need of giant or expensive equipment. Takeaway: To me, selling others' products is less fun than selling "creativity kits" / DIY packages.
I'll end with this one and keep it short: confidence compounds. The more new and different stuff you try, read, and do... the more comfortable and excited you are for the next round. Takeaway: Confidence is a muscle, exercise and strengthen it accordingly.
So long for now, I'll try to make the next post shorter and more exciting. Until then, have some tea, get outdoors, and explore just a little further than last time.