Building an Online Business in the 21st Century
Nice to meet you all! I am Andi Stanfield, owner of True Blue Quilts. I offer longarm quilt finishing services, patterns and classes.
I began my entrepreneurial journey about 10 years ago when I bought a longarm quilting machine. Having this industrial size sewing machine with a 10-foot table enables me to sew the three layers of a quilt together. This is a step that most hobby quilters avoid because it is difficult to wrestle a king-sized quilt through a small home sewing machine. Cost tends to prohibit many people from buying a longarm – comparable to an economy size car in many cases! Luckily, my husband was supportive and even said that I never had to earn money from my hobby. But from the start, I was willing to offer my skills and services to others.
In May 2016, I left my day job as a high school teacher to pursue self-employment. Being your own boss is both thrilling and terrifying! Instead of set hours and a regular paycheck, I have to use any available time for business-building, including nights and weekends. Budgeting is also a key activity that can be stressful at times when you don’t have the next client waiting.
Entrepreneurs must be self-educated. With the internet and blogs such as this, resources are plentiful. I started by listening to podcasts such as Pat Flynn’s Smart Passive Income and John Lee Dumas’ EO Fire. Since I am active on social media, the internet shows me ads based on this entrepreneurial research, and I became aware of business coaches such as Melyssa Griffin, Mariah Coz, Nicole Walters and Natalie MacNeil. I joined a mastermind group to gain access to the resources and training that are available. I consider the financial investment my “tuition” to get a business education.
Although the quilting world has its own vocabulary and activities, there are some key factors to building an online business that are necessary no matter what field you may be in.
Build an online presence.
For some people, a website and/or blog is an easy first step. I began blogging almost as soon as I started quilting. The online craft community is well-established so I had a base to work from. Even if you are not ready for a full-blown website, you can start with a Facebook or Instagram business account.
Follow me @TrueBlueQuilts!
Earn Money Online
Monetization becomes the next step, and there are several ways for your blog to become a source of income. “Multiple streams of income” is a phrase you will hear from many business coaches. As you read in my introduction, I offer both services (longarm quilting and classes) and products (patterns).
The most obvious way to earn money on the web is by offering something for sale. In the craft community, there are a variety of platforms that allow makers to sell products – Etsy is a prime example of an online marketplace for handmade items.
Becoming skilled at any one of the multiple streams of income will take some time.Some wise advice I have taken to heart is to pick one or two platforms and focus on those for an extended period. You cannot be everywhere all the time, so take advantage of social media schedulers to maintain a presence on the platforms where you find your audience. I use BoardBooster for Pinterest and I am researching options to manage my other social media accounts. A few I have been reading about include Meet Edgar, Buffer, Tailwind and CoSchedule. I am not an affiliate for any of these businesses, I am just sharing resources!
Guard your Time
There are a plethora of business coaches online and once you join one webinar or free course, you will receive invitations to many others! Remember that time is our most precious resource and as solo-preneurs, we need to manage it wisely. If you are focused on one social media platform such as Facebook, don’t spend time learning about Instagram and Pinterest. Once your business is firmly established. and you have a routine that is manageable, then you can add additional social media accounts.
It’s a Marathon, Not a Sprint
Finally, as Disney’s Dory sings, “Just keep swimming!”
Many days of consistent effort will yield results. Find an accountability partner to keep you motivated and to provide encouragement when you reach those tough spots. Never measure your beginning or midpoint with someone else’s finish line. It takes time to build a business. The goal is to have long-term success, not a one-time, blink-and-it’s-gone flash sale. Let’s do this!
About the author
Andi Stanfield is a quilting business owner in Phoenix, Arizona, USA. She has a day job teaching high school social studies and beats the heat at the ice rink while her daughter competes as a figure skater.