The Blogcademy has been a life changing new direction for me and my career. Making the decision to teach others was not an easy one and was something that the three of us knew would take some time to perfect. Going into something thinking you have nothing to learn yourself is a fast-track route to failure. In fact I haven’t learnt quite as much about myself, or the way to run a business successfully, in such a short space of time… er ever.
1. Build a strong team
When you go into any new venture, it’s vital to have co-workers that you can trust. Even if you’re going it alone, it’s unlikely that you will be able to do everything yourself. Be sure to hire or collaborate with people who have the same overall vision as you. You need to openly discuss your objectives early on to make sure you’re all on the same page and have the same ultimate goals.
Communication is key. Be sure to talk through any issues or concerns right away – as soon as you feel them arising. Being open and honest about these things with not only help to maintain a healthy working relationship, but will allow your team to help you work through any personal concerns along the way.
2. Not all advice will be good advice
Asking for feedback from past customers or collaborators is a necessary evil. Sometimes it’s all to easy to bury our heads in the sand and aimlessly convince ourselves that we’ve done a perfect job. But perfection takes time (in reality it will never be met!) and although you may already be aware of areas that need improving in your business, asking for feedback from people who you know will give it to you honestly us a great way to grow. But it can be tough to hear – especially if you feel you’ve worked really hard and put your all into something. It can seem like people are picking holes in everything you’ve done, but they may have noticed things you didn’t and may offer you some really valuable advice about how to improve things next time.
The operative word here is ‘may’. Don’t feel like all the feedback or advice you’re given has to be taken at face value. It won’t all be good and you can never (and should never want to) be all things to all people. A person’s own bias may well sway the things they say to you. Always remember what Henry Ford said about inventing the motor car “If I asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses”.
3. Make changes as you go
To grow and improve you need to realise when things aren’t necessarily working the way you’d hoped. You also have to be unafraid to change things as soon as you notice them. Don’t wait until you absolutely have to change something to get it done, do it right away or “fail quickly” as Gala says.
In fact between the first and second London classes, the three of us discussed the things we felt worked really well, the things we thought could do with improving and the things that didn’t really work at all. We then changed the things we felt needed work right then and there, between the two classes. Then, after both London dates were wrapped, we continued to discuss how we could improve things and we’ve since made even more changes. In fact I’m sure we’ll continue tweaking how we run the events as time goes on.
Being successful is not about stagnation, it’s about reinvention and constant personal evaluation. Never get stuck because it seems like the easier option.
4. Practice makes perfect
Remember that each time you do something you will improve and grow. When I think back to my first ever public speaking engagement I cringe remembering my performance (or lack of!) But that’s OK. If I was perfect from the off I’d have no where to go! If you feel like you did your very best but it wasn’t quite perfect, that’s all right - realise that with a bit of hard work and a lot more more practice, next time you will be much better.
5. Don’t over-promise
Over-promising on what you can deliver is the fastest way to disappoint people. If anything, you should always under-promise and over-deliver. When you come up with an idea, make sure you have the time and energy required to deliver it. If you honestly don’t, then instead of feeling bad about it, simply scale things back until you’re at that stage. If you do feel like you’ve ever over-promised and under-delivered, don’t wallow in your failure. Instead learn from the experience and make better choices next time. You can’t change what’s already happened but you can change the outcome of something that’s yet to.
6. You can only rely on yourselves
You have to pull it out of the bag and whatever happens you – and only you – can make sure your give it your all. This is not a time for whining or complaining. You can not blame circumstances for something going wrong. Even if you’re stuck down with the plague (as Shauna was for the first class and I was for the second!) or the gods send an epic snow storm (as they did) you have to make sure you do your best to deliver. People are relying on you.
By adhering to point 1 (building a strong team) if anything does start to hinder your performance, your co-workers should be able to support you where they can. Just remember that when you’re freelance or working for yourself, calling in sick is rarely the easiest option.
7. Make your own rules
Don’t be afraid to buck the trends and do things your own way but always qualify your decisions. For example, for the first workshop in New York we brought in caterers. However on reflection we decided that the whole exercise, however lovely, did slow the day down remarkably. We have such a limited time together and so much information to pack in, so we decided that asking people to bring their own lunch would allow them much more time to use the breaks effectively. Mingling with their fellow classmates, asking us questions, getting one-to-one feedback, working on their exercises, taking photos or just chilling out! To us that seemed much more preferable than standing in line for 20 minutes for some quiche.
To many this might have been a strange decision but it’s really worked for us (we still provide snacks and caffeine to keep people going of course!) But we decided that if we were attending a workshop ourselves, the actual lessons and experience of the event would be much more valuable that a bit of free grub.
8. Thinking creatively can save you money
Whatever your venture there seems to be some things that are always done in a certain way ‘because that’s the just way things are’… but why? Why should we spend £100 a day renting a projector when we can buy a secondhand one from eBay for £99 and keep it forever?! Why should we pay for taxis when it would be better to ask Gareth to drive us (thanks husband – we’re forever grateful ) and pay the congestion charge? Why should we go for the first venue that offers us their space when a little negotiation with a more flexible one can save us a substantial chunk of change? Don’t ever be afraid to make unconventional choices and ask yourself ‘why?’ before you part with your hard-earned cash.
Another fantastic way to save money is to collaborate with people and to swap skills. Just make sure you are offering them something worthwhile in exchange for their time. It should never be a one-way street.
9. Address customer expectations early
We kick off the first day of the workshop with a slide that explains what the workshop is and what it isn’t (this is actually something we only added in for the second London class – read point 3!) Laying things out like this can feel like a slightly negative way to start things off, but we felt it was vital to let people know what to expect from the outset.
Can you think of some customer expectations you might need to address in your own business right from the beginning? Arr you finding that your customers are repeatedly asking the same questions? Or do the same things seem to get lost in translation? This could be why. Do your customers have unrealistic expectation on what you can offer them? If they do, it’s not their fault – it’s yours.
10. Be vulnerable, humble & always take time to say thank you
It kinda goes without saying but never take yourself too seriously and never be afraid to show the real you. Being perfectly glossy and uber professional isn’t always the best route to take. Be honest. Be approachable. Don’t be afraid to be vulnerable. Be humble and always always always – no matter what – say thank you. In fact you can never say thank you enough. To everyone.
Tickets for the Portland (March 30th & 31st) & Los Angeles (April 6th & 7th) Blogcademys are on sale now. Visit theblogcademy.com for more information or to book your spot.
- Photography: Shell de Mar Photography