The Lasting Value of Small Improvements

the lasting value of small improvements

Five years. That’s how long it’s been since my inspiring wife Kim started her first Etsy shop. Almost to the day, I think.

She didn’t have any big world-domination plans for that first little shop. She just wanted to line her pockets with a little spending cash before the holiday season which is always on her radar way before it’s on mine. She had recently made a few felt hair clips and successfully sold a couple on eBay so when she discovered Etsy it was an easy decision. Here was a site that seemed designed exactly for what she wanted to do. So she did it.

In the five years since that day, our life has changed dramatically in almost every way. The Etsy shop that was just a little holiday side-project turned out to be the starting line for an entirely new existence for us; the first page of a new chapter in the exciting page-turner book of Kim & Tim (and crew). Who Knew?

So much has happened during the interim that I’m sure we’ll never run out of topics to blog about and I might even have an actual book or two up my sleeve, such is the value of the lessons we’ve learned and the desire we have to share our experience with others on the same path. But this little blog post is only about one tiny part of it all.

The Lasting Value of Small Improvements

One of the more remarkable parts of the past five years is the frequency with which we’ve found ourselves disheartened and frustrated with a lack of progress. Interestingly enough, there have been just as many times when we’ve been beside ourselves with the excitement of what felt like unstoppable forward momentum. I suppose that’s what you might call an emotional roller-coaster ride, and I’ve come to believe that it is a typical and common trait of Internet based entrepreneurship.

I’ve been an entrepreneur my whole life so I can attest to the fact that running a business of any kind has its ups and downs, but an Internet business is the most dramatic of them all. If anyone tells you different, it’s just because they’ve never started an Internet business. The lack of face-to-face interaction is part of the reason. The over-abundance of stories about everyone else who IS making it big is part of the reason. The unpredictable whims of the Web is part of the reason as well.

But there is another reason for the dark depths of the low times… a really big reason.

We don’t place sufficient value on the little things we do each day. Little things are a constant part of selling online and/or blogging.

You know what I’m talking about! These things and so many more happen every day but we frequently fail to recognize how big of an improvement we’ve really made.

These little things are the building blocks of success and every time you knock one of them out you’re that much closer to having the shop/blog/business of your dreams!

If there is one secret to building an online success story it is this: Keep moving and don’t quit!

If there is one secret to not quitting it is to keep a good positive attitude about what you’re doing. And the secret to a good attitude about your work? You guessed it… recognizing the lasting value of small improvements.

So, give yourself the pat on the back you deserve and keep moving!

~ Tim

The End of Competition — The Beginning of ?

The other day I mentioned some ways to learn about your customers . Ways to find out who your target market is.

One of those ways, according to my post, was to snoop out the competition and see what you could find out about their customers.

Here’s a question:

Is the term “competition” really the right word? Does that accurately express the relationship between you and other people who make and sell items or services similar to yours?

I think I did you a disservice by using such a word. I owe you an apology. I’m sorry.

The truth is this: There is plenty to go around. There are plenty of customers. Plenty of Facebook fans. Plenty of blog followers. Take it even further and I’ll tell you that there is plenty of money out there and plenty of ideas that can help you earn some of it.

Plenty.

Competition implies that one person or company wins and another loses. That’s really not how this works. In fact, I’d venture to say that in online business, the opposite is probably closer to the truth. It’s more like the more people that win, the more room there is for more winners.

Success in your niche by someone else is good for you.

That’s not the way I was raised I tell you. But it is the way it is.

So let’s pick a new word and forget all about competition.

Can I put this out to everyone? What’s a better word for companies or individuals who are in a similar business to you?

Friends? Fellow Travelers? The Others? There must be a better word than competition.

Any ideas?

Why You Don’t Need To Feel Overwhelmed

ImageIt’s not uncommon for me to write a blog post and then just delete the whole thing.

Usually I do it because I can’t put my thoughts together in anything remotely resembling a coherent fashion. When even I can’t figure out what the heck I’m talking about, I know it’s time to throw in the towel on that one.

I just scrapped a post two seconds ago. However this time, it wasn’t because it wasn’t good or because it wasn’t making any sense. On the contrary, I think it was a helpful post and I’m sure I’ll hit on the subject again soon.

The reason I tossed this post out for today was more of a “feeling” that it might overwhelm somebody today. And I’d prefer to write about why you don’t need to feel overwhelmed.

It’s No Hurry

One of the dangers of working online is that you can’t easily control the information that comes at you. The best you can do is try and find sources and voices you identify with and follow them. Things like email subscriptions, RSS feeds, and social media help you fine-tune the information you receive a little bit.

But even with people you trust and know, you sometimes get more information than you can handle in a reasonable amount of time. Especially since you do have a life!

One of the things Kim and I have learned working online for a few years now is that the “to-do” list for an online business doesn’t behave like one in the real world. Online, it seems like for everything you mark off your list as completed, ten more things are added “to-do”.

That’s a really tough list to complete!

The fact is that if you listen to every bit of advice you get from everyone you’re listening to, you’ll never get finished. You’ll always feel behind.

Try not to let that happen to you.

The best cure I know for this is faith. A little faith in yourself. A little faith in your dreams. A little, or a lot, of faith in something (someone) much bigger than you and your little business.

Faith that somewhere beyond where you can see, beyond where you can control, things are working together for your good and toward the realization of your dreams. Right now!

Just keep a picture in your mind of what you want to accomplish and try to stay focused on that. When you start to feel overwhelmed, just take a step back and take a few deep breaths.

You don’t have to get it all right today. You’re surviving. You’re fine.

It’s no hurry.

Just a thought. I hope it helps.

What about you? How do you fight that overwhelmed feeling? We’d love to here your tips in the comments.

~ Tim

Don’t Be Afraid To Change

You’re an entrepreneur. (Do you need to say that to yourself a few times?)

Not just any ole’ entrepreneur either. You’re an online entrepreneur. An Etsypreneur!

You’ve entered a world that, while solid and stable, is constantly in motion.

Fast motion.

footwork

When things come at you fast, you have to move fast!

Things change fast online and you shouldn’t be afraid to change with them.

You’re bound to make some decisions that don’t seem to be working for you. Traditional wisdom has been that you should be slow to change your mind.

When it comes to your absolute target, I think that’s very true. But I think there is danger in holding too close to a chosen course to get there.

Sometimes, you need to make quick adjustments, guaged and guided by instinct.

An example from our work.

I told readers less than a week ago that we were going to start signing posts “Tim & Kim” since that was an accurate representation of our work.

And it is. We talk about post ideas, we share in the happy job of responding to comments, we bounce phrases, word choices, and spelling back and forth when we write.

But we each write. And we each use different words. I never say “Yay!” for example (sorry), and Kim has a much stronger ability to see more than just the “business” side of being an Etsypreneur.

We also each tend to write in a conversational style with lots of use of “I” in its various forms. (me, mine, my vs. we, ours, our)

We’ve found it strange to write a post with a bunch of “I” references and then sign it, “we”.

So “we” have to make a quick change of course. Even though we publicly went one way, now we have to publicly go a different way.

Everything is public nowadays, so you might as well get used to that and realize everyone changes things.

So don’t be afraid of change. You’re trying to create an income in the online arena. Be quick on your feet and make adjustments as you go.

Just a thought for the day.

- Tim

The term "Etsy" is a trademark of Etsy, Inc. This site is not affiliated with Etsy, Inc.

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