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I used to be a secondary teacher. I worked in a small school, that I still absolutely adore, but realised that teaching in a school setting just wasn’t my thing. It took me 4 years to realise this though. It was in my last year of teaching, I was newly married, that I realised something in my life had to change. I was very stressed and anxious. I would wake up in the morning with knots in my stomach, for days on end. I actually end up having to take a week of sick leave because I ended up with stress-induced Gastritis, which is an inflamed stomach lining. I remember being in severe pain & laying in bed not being able to eat or drink.
It was a really hard year for me, because on top of the stresses of school and being ill, I also just got married earlier in the year and my poor husband, Blair, really copped it! I remember feeling emotions that I had never ever felt before. I was easily worked up about things and felt angry. And if you meet me in person, me being an angry type of person, wouldn’t be your first guess (at least I hope not!)
I remember feeling ashamed that I couldn’t keep up. I was embarrassed by the fact that I wasn’t coping, so I continued to strive at being superhuman! I want to be all the things:
At the end of that horrendous year, I knew something had to give, but I was too scared to make the leap out of teaching just yet. I committed to another year of teaching, but over the Christmas break, my brain couldn’t squander all the ideas of what I could do if i were to quit teaching.
I had two ideas floating around in my mind – one was to start a floristry business, creating beautiful flowers for events, weddings and even possibly doing flower deliveries. I hadn’t had much experience with flowers before, but my Aunty used to own a florist shop and I always thought it would be a nice job. The other idea was to sell a product. Because I was dealing with a lot of stress and also severe headaches, I thought selling mineral bath salts was a good idea. During the holidays I set about making the two things happen, because I couldn’t decide between them. That’s when I named my new business “Floral & Mineral”. Floral for the flowers & Mineral for the bath salts.
My goal with my business, right from the beginning, was to replace my teaching wage & avoid working Saturdays. I’m a Seventh-day Adventist and we observe the Sabbath day. This was really important to me, so I was determined to grow a business in the wedding industry, without working one Saturday wedding. I soon discovered that running a business was a lot harder than I imagined!
I thought instagram was the be-all-and-end-all! The more followers, the more sales. This just wasn’t the case. Not only was it extremely difficult to grow a following on instagram, but these followers didn’t seem to translate into buyers. And as I side note, I want to encourage everyone with this truth. The amount of instagram followers does not determine your success as a business owner, sure they can be helpful and you can leverage the followers you do have, but they’re not necessarily going to bring money into your bank account.
I didn’t realise how big Saturday weddings were! I was turning down about 75% of the enquiries coming to my inbox, just based on a day. I made $8,000. At the end of my very first year of business I had made a total of $8,000. But I had worked harder than a 6-figure salary job I swear! It was discouraging. It was more than discouraging. I felt like I was back to square one.
Didn’t I start this business to reduce stress in the first place? Wasn’t this meant to be fun? Wasn’t this meant to be easy?
I literally had no idea what I was doing! But I knuckled down because I was determined to figure out this creative business thing.
I started listening to podcasts. I completed several online courses, including B School by Marie Forleo and Shanna Skidmores Blueprint model + more! I read numerous books to try and crack the creative business code. I implemented everything I was learning into my business.
I learnt how to structure and run my business to actually make a profit and replace my teaching income, for real (not just in my dreams and imagination). I quadrupled my profit margin in 1 year, I tripled my client price average, I reduced the amount of clients I needed (giving me more time for what’s important) and I had more money to spend on growing my business.
I remember the feeling I had after doing my tax that year. I was elated. I couldn’t believe I had done it, I had finally replaced my teaching wage with my business profit and I just wanted to share with everyone how I did it. And I did it without working one Saturday wedding.
The things that made a difference?
I was dabbling in two different ideas, and not really succeeding at either one. I sat down and really looked at what was bringing in money to my business and I realised that the two weddings I had done, brought it more money than my bath salts altogether that year. It was a no brainer to me, that weddings needed to be my one focus.
It really was understanding the numbers in my business and understand my price that made the biggest difference in my business.
Not only was I making more money, but I was securing better clients. It’s actually amazing at what an increase in price can do, not only for your profit margin and what you get to pocket at the end of the day, but at the types of clients you get & the freedom you get to use your time for the things most important to you.
I know there is a lot of fear around numbers and pricing. So many creatives lower their prices, out of a feeling of desperation to get clients. They fear that if they increase their prices, they’ll lose clients or won’t get any at all.
I know this fear is real because I had it and I continue to fall into this trap all the time. But what my experience has taught me, is that pricing correctly doesn’t mean less clients, it actually means more time! What I experienced, is yes, I wasn’t getting as many clients, but I was getting better quality ones & then having more time to do the things that I valued the most (like spending time with family & friends & volunteering for my church).
I went from getting wedding clients willing to spend $1,000- $2,000 on their flowers, to clients willing to spend $6-$8,000. This was a very liberating time in my business.
The second strategy that helped me was …
I definitely upped my marketing game. Instagram was just not cutting it, so I put my mind to other ways to market. I really worked on a referral system in my business. Not formal referral systems necessarily, but building friendships with others in the industry. In particular, I put a lot of effort into venues that I wanted to work at. They were the ones that brides were going to as soon as they got engaged, so I wanted to make sure that I was the type of florist that a venue wanted to have work with them. I booked a date with one of the venue coordinators and sat with and chatted to them about all the things they loved and hated about working with florists and then I went about making sure I was the type of florist that they loved having around. To this day, most of my clients come directly from venue referrals. I think it’s so important, especially for service based creative businesses, to get local! Instagram marketing is a very global platform, so it’s not always the most effective tool for local, service-based businesses. By all means, use it to engage with people on a local level. I have found that this has been the most powerful way to use it. Instead of trying to build as many followers as possible, just concentrate on engaging with other local artists that you may work with in the future. On top of engaging with my local community, I was involved in a number of collaborations that made a huge difference to my business. Styled Shoots can do amazing things for a creative business, if you collaborate with the right people. I have got more work from my first styled shoot than I got from any other marketing effort.
STAYING IN MY LANE
The last thing I want to outline, to help you make your business a success, is to stay in your own lane. Don’t look at what others are doing and copy, because the truth is, just because they have a large instagram following, doesn’t mean they’re running a great business. A lot of people who are what we label “successful” are working their buns off! Yeah they may be making money and getting a lot of clients, but what does their work/life balance look like? For me, the most important thing was to not have to work Saturdays. I also wanted to have more time, that was the reason I left teaching in the first place. I wanted more time for the things that mattered to me. If I was to copy how some of the other florists were doing it, I would be working every weekend and sometimes 2 weddings on the weekend and would not have any work/life balance at all.
I want to encourage you to remember why you started your business and make sure you don’t let your business take over your life. Don’t compromise on the important things in your life. There is a way to run a successful business, without burn out!