Project three: The Cutting Edge (scythe courses)
Well gosh, where to start with this one… One thing that’s going well is that I have learnt more about running a business this year than in the previous 31 years of my life. I have learnt a lot. Alas though, this new and exciting knowledge has not speedily turned into business success. In fact, this year has been a complete write-off in terms of scythe courses which is mostly why I felt compelled to delve so deeply into learning business (and especially marketing) skills. I took a Marketing for Hippies course and have since formed a group to work through some of the material that I got during the course. Giving myself time for the knowledge to sink in has been really instrumental, as has the support of other people in the group. I really feel like I am starting to understand how to present what I do to people in a way that they want to hear. I should say, present what I do to the people that I want to hear from in a way that they want to hear… It’s made me stop feeling icky about selling and think that there are actually loads of cool people out there who want to know what I know (in this instance, scything) and I just need to make it easy for them to find me and to connect with me in their own time.
What’s been challenging? [Shakes head and sobs] Everything… Everything… To start off with I made an erroneous decision to stop contacting ‘groups’ such as National Trust groups or groups who managed a wild flower meadow because I thought to myself ‘I can only teach these people once, I should try to establish something with a bit more longevity,’ so I tried to establish courses – i.e. something that happens in the same place every year that individuals book onto. Mistake. What I didn’t take into account was that it would create eight times the admin, and eight times the marketing… Where do all those people come from if not established groups? Thus, my marketing problem was created which I feel like I am only just getting to grips with. I think that ‘what I have learnt about marketing’ is a whole other blog post which I will endeavour to write soon, but I hope that the systems that I have put in place will stand me in good stead for courses next year…
My vision is still 20 courses and £5000 a year, but I think it’ll take me a few years to achieve that. And I want to achieve it in a fun way – sending out humourous newsletters to people who I know are already interested rather than writing emails on spec to people who just ignore me… I think that next year I will try to limit the amount of courses where I have to deal directly with individuals to around 6 so that I reduce the admin load and am able to treat everyone properly. I’ll try and teach groups on top of that also.
Next steps: I need to make a video and post it on the front page of my website. I need to create some free stuff for my website. I need to rewrite the front page of my website. I need to send out a few funny newsletters to the 50 people already on my mailing list. I need to set up course venues and have thought through an efficient system of payment and answering people’s questions. I need to map that stages of interaction that people will have with me and make sure that they are good for both me and the client. I need to line up some guest post opportunities on gardening blogs to go out just as scything season gets going. Only a few things to do then… I shall have a busy winter!
Project four: Pen to paper (Journalism)
Now here’s a project that seems to be going smoothly! I’m getting commissioned fairly regularly – most recently in the Guardian gardening blog. I’m earning money from writing, not always enough money, but money all the same. My strategy of writing about subjects that I want to know about is working really well because I get an extra yield of knowledge and that keeps me motivated. I’m also making other beneficial connections – like writing about scything and getting publicity from it. I’m getting through the tough bits, like phoning editors, by treating it a bit like a computer game where the editor represents the end-of-level baddie that I have to defeat before I get to move onto the next level. I’m really really enjoying it and frankly, I’m getting a kick out of doing something that I am good at!
One thing that I am finding a bit challenging is underselling myself. I’ve had a lot of work from one particular magazine who pay me less than half the NUJ (National Union of Journalists) going rate (it’s probably time to join the NUJ actually). I was happy to do that this year as they commissioned me regularly and I needed the clips, but next year I need to focus on magazine that pay me properly. Also, I still feel ‘outside’ of this world and I don’t always know what decisions to make for the best. I need to find a mentor, but before I do that I need to work out exactly what I want from a mentor.
Next steps: Join the NUJ, write down exactly what I want from a mentor.