A few people have previously asked me to cover some tips on running a side hustle and my experience to date. It's not always fun on your social life - but rewarding in many other ways.
Starting Greenwood Classic Notebooks has been an exciting journey so far, learning experiences at every turn and it's provided me with so much fulfilment hearing people give positive reviews and being able to give back to Educaring Africa (we donate $5 from every sale). It hasn’t been positive the whole way, there were months when I sold a lot less Greenwood’s then I would’ve liked - but you have to start somewhere!
It took me 2 years of research, sampling and trials to get Greenwood to the quality product which I wanted. I’ve always used notebooks - from high-end leather notebooks through to crappy $2 notebooks from the local store - but I wanted to offer something in the middle price range, that was better quality than anything out there. Something slightly smaller then an A5 to fit in a bag or jacket pocket, with thicker paper quality and a soft cover in our forest green. That’s how we got to the Greenwood Notebook which we have today.
I started the business in Melbourne in 2017 while working a full-time job (and still do) but then life, a different career and travel adventures came calling - and my fiancee Marlee and I packed our bags and moved to London.
Running an online business has made it slightly easier to run from overseas, using external suppliers to look after storage, shipping and fulfilment. I’ve also been fortunate to have my number one supporter, my father Brendan assist in the business back in Melbourne.
It’s been far from a perfect launch, but I’ve learnt more in 18 months about how a business runs, how to deal with suppliers and customers and much more then I could have ever imagined. I wanted to share some of the lessons I’ve learnt along the way - no doubt there are many more lessons that I’ll continue to learn.
1. Business First, Branding Last.
No doubt some people will disagree, but it’s too easy to get caught up in the small details of branding at launch, do it later. What does my logo look like? What colour should my website be? These are all great questions, but they are secure. Focus on the hairy questions first, like; who will buy my product? Where will my customers come from? How will my business make money?
2. Persistence is Key.
In Australia, 60% of small businesses cease operating within the first three years. Because they don’t have a plan and they aren’t persistent. Success won’t happen instantly, overnight successes are few and far between. It takes years of building your business to become successful. Persist with writing your blog. Persist with speaking to stockists. Persist with telling people about your business. I'm not even close, but I'm trying.
3. It’s Cheaper Than You Think.
I ummed and arghed over starting Greenwood for so long. Will it be too expensive? How much risk am I going to take on? What if I fail? All important questions, but the truth is you can launch a side hustle for less than AU$500 in a matter of weeks. Setting up a domain name, building a website and designing a product or service are all easier then you think. I use Squarespace for my site, but I’ll cover off tools I use in another Greenwood Journal some other time. An excellent reference for starting a business on a shoestring is a book called The Side Hustle.
4. Don’t Wait Till It’s Perfect.
Guru marketer Seth Godin says smart small, smart now. There is always time to optimise your website, marketing strategy, accounting and business plan later on. No doubt you need to get your core service or product right, but even that you can continue to improve once you’ve launched. The most important thing is to get something out there, learn what works and what doesn’t work and then optimise. I’m not talking about forgoing proper planning, but if you wait until everything is perfect you will never launch, you will never learn, and you will wonder, what could have been? Here are some more tips from Seth Godin.
If you have any specific questions, I’m more then happy to organise a Skype call, phone call or email exchange - just let me know.