Should you say yes to being part of an upcoming blog tour?
Should you have a Black Friday sale?
Should you install Google AdSense on your sidebar?
When you have an online business, or even just a blog, you begin thinking about these questions and hundreds more. There are big overarching questions like what kinds of products do you want to sell and how do you want to sell them. And there are little day-to-day sorts of questions like what should you post on your Facebook page today. Trying to make all of these decisions by yourself is stressful. There’s no way to do everything and it impossible to know for sure what choice is best.
Over the past year I’ve realized that if I develop a set of guiding principles and stick to them I have a much easier time making decisions big and small. I’m less stressed and feel more confident that I’ve done the right thing. I call this approach, “This is how we things here.” It’s a set of distinctive actions that define how I operate and it’s so helpful!
A word of warning before I go further. “This is how we do things here” can too easily become, “We’ve always done it this way and we always will.” Remind yourself that over time you’ll need to bend your principles, or even delete and add new ones. Allow your guidelines to shift as you gain more experience and more confidence. It’s entirely okay to change directions.
While flexibility is important, flexing isn’t the same as being pushed. Sticking to your guns will help you to avoid saying yes to things you’ll later regret, over promising, or compromising your ideals. Your guiding principles will help you to build a business you can sustain in the long run.
I’ve also found that showing people that I have a set of proven processes in place is a really good thing, even if I’m turning them down. There’s a method behind the “no.” I do things in a particular way that’s proven to be successful for my business and can confidently explain why. It works! Most often people will not only understand your reasoning, but will respect you more for it.
Last week I got an email from Rocky Taft, the SEO Coordinator for Uncommon Goods.
Hope all is well. This is Rocky from UncommonGoods. I recently came across your site while searching for influencers who are a good fit for the following opportunity. I’m currently trying to increase awareness about our ongoing open call for product submissions to present for consideration of our buying team. It’s our mission to continue growing our community of artists and makers and I believe your readers would enjoy learning about us. Are you interested in collaborating on a sponsored post to help spread the word?
The payment for this posting opportunity was a $100 gift card. I followed my guiding principles that morning and was able to make a decision about how to handle this email within three seconds, and with no stress. Here are two of my principles:
- I don’t write sponsored content on my blog.
- I don’t get paid in gift cards.
I thanked Rocky for his offer, politely turned it down, and moved on with my day knowing I made the right decision.
My friend and fellow pattern designer, Wendi Gratz, is someone with a strong guiding principle that helps her make business decisions. She explains,
I never release a pattern until I have videos teaching every single skill needed for the project. It’s the whole foundation of what I do and it’s all because of my experience as a learner and as a teacher.”
“I’m a self-taught sewist, and I learned before there was an internet. I still have such vivid memories of struggling with the instructions in patterns and sewing books! They assumed so much knowledge that I didn’t have (I didn’t even take home ec in high school so I had NO base knowledge) and the spare illustrations felt so cryptic to me.”
“I was a graduate student with a weird schedule and no car, so taking in-person classes was out of the question. And then I discovered the show Simply Quilts and it was like the whole world opened up. Alex Anderson was in my living room showing me how to quilt and it was all so clear! I want to provide that experience for my customers.”
Wendi’s patterns are all sold as PDFs. Last year, she seriously considered producing print patterns to sell at quilt shops. The idea of nationwide print distribution was alluring, but Wendi’s unwavering commitment to providing video content for every pattern helped her decide to stick with PDFs.
I was looking to expand my business and one really obvious way to do that would be to start printing patterns that could then be sold in brick and mortar shops. But in doing that I’d have to give up all the additional video content that’s such an integral part of what I do. I decided not to go down that road and I’m focusing instead on finding new readers online.”
Video is the way Wendi does things and she uses that commitment to guide her business decision-making.
Some guiding principles might be immediately obvious to you right from the beginning. For example, every one of my customers gets a follow-up email from me after their purchase. Customers need to know where to turn if they have questions and how to connect with me further if they wish to. That’s an easy one. Others guiding principles can only be developed over time and through experience. I get invited to sell at lots of craft shows, but after multiple tries I’ve realized that selling my toys at craft shows makes me miserable. With that principle as my guide I’m able to easily turn those invitations down and move on without wondering if I’m making a bad decision.
Saying to yourself, “This is how we do things here,” can guide you through all the decision-making that’s involved in a solo venture so that you’ll continue to love your business over the long-term.
What’s one way you approach your blog or business, talk with your customers, or create your products about which you can state, “This is how we do things here”?