What to consider before you pay to advertise

I get asked a lot whether or not you should pay for an advert in a national magazine. This is usually after you have been phoned by a magazine with a “once in a lifetime”, “you must decide today” offer the day before said magazine goes to print. With this in mind, here are some tips to consider if you ware thinking of paying to advertise.

What to consider before you pay to advertise

Firstly, a disclaimer. I am not here to say you should or should not advertise – this is wholly up to you. But whatever you choose, make sure you make the decision from an informed place rather than a rushed place such as the example above.

I also want to remind you that magazines need people to advertise in order to survive. As does commercial radio and TV. I sometimes hear people complaining about getting calls to advertise, but it is important to remember that the day all ads dry up is the day that the publication goes out of business. I love reading print magazines and hope that they continue – but without revenue coming in they won’t.

Advertising Tip 1: Do your research

It is important to only advertise in publications that your ideal customer is reading rather than one that you aspire to be in. If your customer is a creative millennial they won’t be reading something aimed at older women such as Prima so you should not waste your money advertising there as it is the wrong place. Don’t just take up the best deal offered to you without considering if your ideal customer is buying it. That is why advertising on social media is great as you can target your perfect demographics (age, likes, location, marital status etc) which you cannot do for print.

Advertising Tip 2: Set a budget

For 2019, decide how much you are prepared to pay each month for advertising. It doesn’t matter if it is £20 or £200, just decide what it is. That way, when a magazine calls you clearly know if you can afford it (if your ideal customer reads it of course). You can advertise for as little as a fiver on Facebook so remember that no budget is too small.

Advertising Tip 3: Consider all options

There are many places you can advertise. Starting with the cheapest: the most cost effective is Facebook and Instagram where you can boost for a fiver. Blogs and online platforms are next, where you can pay between £50 and £500. Local papers and What’s On sites are also a good option but please consider tip 4 before you commit. I am not sure how many people read local papers any more so be careful advertising here. Then there are national magazines and papers but this is not cheap! ( a one pager in Grazia is about £15K!)

It is worth remembering more traditional and old school ways to advertise too. If you run a local business, paying for a poster in your local cafe may be a great idea to be seen and won’t cost much – maybe a few quid.

Advertising Tip 4: Ask for their stats

Be demanding of those advertising managers that call you. Ask them for the demographics of their readers – find out who they are then cross reference with who your ideal customers is. I would also ask for other testimonials from other advertisers, and then their website stats such as how many people visit per day, what is their bounce rate like. Ask for as much information as possible and if they cannot give it, do not pass with your money.

If someone asks me to advertise, the first thing I ask is for them to send me their Media Pack with all their stats in.

Advertising Tip 5: Should you negotiate?

Large companies have a Rate Card – which is the amount they ideally want for the advert. To be honest I feel like it is a mythical thing as I never am offered ad space at this figure. I personally would only negotiate with large companies as I know these are the ones that call me on the last day offering me a great deal.

I would never negotiate with an independent. Remember they need this ad spend to survive – so if I cannot afford it, I will either save up or use my money elsewhere.

Advertising Tip 6: Getting a return on investment (ROI)

It is important to know if your ad is successful and the best way to do this is to add an offer onto the advert. When advertising my wedding shows I add an offer onto the design so I can actually see how this coverts to paying customers. However it is worth remembering that people need many touch points to buy from you, so you may not get a return straight away.

Advertising Tip 7: Consider your alternatives

Consider advertorials and sponsored posts. An advertorial is a paid for article in a magazine that looks to the untrained eye as it was written by the magazine. For example, a toothpaste company may pay for a two page feature half way through the magazine all about teeth whitening with a small image of their product at the bottom. In the corner it should clearly say Advertorial or Promotion to show that it is paid for. Most readers miss this/don’t realise so it may be a better way to be seen.

You can do the same with a blog – write a sponsored post for them. Every blog has different rules about this but it can be a great way to be seen as it is shared to their social media the same as all their usual blog posts.

However the best way to get in a magazine is an editorial which is written by the publication and is free. This will get you the best traction – and this of course is PR.  

I recently did a Facebook Live about this so in case I missed anything – here it is! (Warning, my dog joins in the video!)

How and when to use hashtags to grow your social media audience

Every Tuesday in my free Facebook group I share a tip to get your business noticed, through social media, blogging, your website or by getting into the press. This week I shared an easy to action tip about hashtags – how and when to use hashtags to grow your social media audience.

How and when to use hashtags to grow your social media audience by The Indie Practice

What are hashtags?

Hashtags are a way of grouping similar content together to make it easy for a reader to find that content. For example, on a Saturday night thousands of people take to Twitter to chat about X Factor, all using the #xfactor hashtag. If you then want to go and see what everyone is saying, you can simply search for it and every tweet appears. It is a great way to find product, services, news and more.

Where can you use hashtags?

Hashtags work on Instagram, Twitter and Pinterest but not Facebook. Facebook is not a place you go to, to search for something. Here you want to procrastinate looking at your friends cat or the like. But on Twitter you often go to search for news so the hashtag helps – simply type in something that is Trending (popular) and you will find out what is happening in the world, often faster than from the actual news. People use hashtags on Pinterest and Instagram to find inspiration such as wedding dresses or kids birthday cakes.

How do you use hashtags?

On Twitter you only get a small number of characters so you should focus on using key words that people are likely to search for. This is great when linked to special days such as World Baking Day or the like. For example, if you wanted to share a cake you had made on that day you would simply check the correct hashtag and write it into your tweet.

On Pinterest you should add hashtags into your descriptions of the pin (the image). It is best to add key word linked to the image NOT your business: for example, if the image features a pair of red shoes, I would add the hashtags #shoes #red #redshoes #fashion. These are all the key words that the reader is likely to type into the search bar. Once you have added these you may then want to add hashtags linked to your business but I would prioritise the image ones first.

Instagram is different. You can use up to 30 hashtags so it is a great idea to firstly add the key word hashtags – so if it was a paid of red shoes you would use the same hashtags that you used on Pinterest. But Instagram has other popular hashtags that are a little more unusual such as #shoesoftheday #shoeporn and #iloveshoes. These are what I would call creative hashtags that collectors, or real fans would know and search for. A great way to find these is to use a hashtag finder such as Hashtagify. – you simply type in your key word and they will suggest more unusual but popular hashtags. Another way is to look at other users that have nailed Instagram to see what hashtags they are using.

Hashtags aren’t something too complicated but some people make out that they are. The biggest piece of advice is to actually use them in the first place on the 3 social platforms.

And is it OK to use silly hashtags?

It is totally fine to make hashtags up or use silly ones, but I would suggest focusing on the key words first. No one is really searching for #sorrynotsorry but it is totally cool to use them!

I would suggest creating some for your own brand as it will help you to search for your content plus you may see others starting to use them too. We use #nobsmarketing and #authenticmarketing to summarise what we are about – while they won’t be what people are searching for, it is a great way to showcase what we are about.

And here I am with a bit more detail!

Want to get more advice on growing your audience on social media and get better engagement? Then have a look at my course Get Social – launching again in January 2019.

Get Social by The Indie Practice


Content Creation

Content Creation Package

Package 1. Content Creation. Every business needs a blog – from carpentry to hair styling to increase your SEO (Google rankings) and to show you as an expert in your field. This will lead to improved customer trust and increased sales. But not everyone has the time, the ideas nor the skill to do this – but I do. Running 2 successful blogs, I am well placed to manage your blog schedule with on brand content packed full of SEO focused key words.

Cost: £50 per blog 


Package 2. Grow Your Tribe. Every business needs a mailing list. Research shows that when we launch a new product or service to our mailing list, we on average convert only 1-2% of them into sales. To put that into context; if you have 100 people on your list, you will only on average sell your product to one person. With this in mind you need a large, engaged list – and we are here to help you grow this. We will spend some time with you to learn about your strategy and brand, thne design you a lead magnet (or freebie) to entice them to sign up, then automate a sequence of emails to start generating leads that you can then convert.

Costs start at £250 depending on the size of the lead magnet and the email sequence.

Package 3. Sort Your Website. Your website is the window to your business but so many brands get some of the basics wrong. Get it right, then your website will be legally correct but also great for SEO, being seen on Google and the like. In this package we will audit your website in a non jargon way, to create a plan on what you need to do, to get your website sorted. You can then complete the plan in your own time or ask us to deliver it for you.

Cost: £100 for the initial audit (delivery of plan costs extra)


ENQUIRE NOW by emailing us at yourvintagelife@hotmail.com

7 huge reasons why every creative business should use Twitter to grow their audience

I get told a lot that Twitter is not a useful tool to grow an engaged audience especially if you work in the wedding industry. And by a lot, I mean A LOT. Just this week 3 potential clients told me that they either don’t get it or feel it is not “them”. I whole heartedly disagree, and know from my own results that Twitter is a very powerful network to get your creative, indie business noticed.  Here are just a few reasons why I advise all clients, that they should be tweeting daily.

7 huge reasons why every creative business should use Twitter to grow their audience

Creating Business to Business relationships (B2B)

Want to find a venue to host your event? Want to find a new print supplier? Want to find a business to cross promote your business with their customers? Want to get new advertisers or sponsors? Well the fastest way to get that without leaving your house is by Twitter. It is a great platform for B2B relationship building especially if you use the right hashtags, and as it is such a fast medium you can get answers and build relationships at speed.

However remember that it is not just businesses that hang out there (how often have I heard that brides or fashion customers aren’t on Twitter – er, they are!) and that our customers are there too. Make sure you tweet inspiring and educational tweets with them in mind too always with a great photo.

Engaging with journalists

Journalists hang out on Twitter over any other social media platform, as it is where the news happens and they can get what they want fast (journalists work at speed!) so if you want to grab an opportunity to get into the press, whether national or local then go and follow them. Start conversations with them by engaging with what they are talking about, answer them, spark up a new relationship. If you want to really find out what they need and whether you can help, look for the hashtag #journorequest as this is where they post what they are looking for, for an article or blog. When replying remember to be personable, approachable and that it is about helping them rather than pushing yourself and your business.

To understand the news

Twitter shares the news before the news channels – it is super fast, which is why journalists love it so. If you want timely things to blog about, share on social media or even to get into the press talking about, then look regularly to see what is trending.

Trending is when many people are all talking about the same subject, using the same hashtag.

When you see something that has happened and that everyone is tweeting about (therefore talking about) think whether you have a story to share on the topic. Then check #journorequest to see if any journalist is writing about it or pitch your story idea to a newspaper or radio show. This is called News Jacking and is a great way to get yourself noticed.

Being perceived as an expert

Journalists want experts. Your customers want to feel that they are buying from an expert. Twitter is the best place alongside Linked In to get your knowledge out there and to show you know a thing or two about your industry. To do this you need to share your thoughts and opinions even if they go against the grain.

If you see an article written about something you are passionate about, either agreeing or disagreeing, re-tweet it and share your thoughts. I did just that when New Look designed a T shirt, having a dig at women’s bodies so I shared my thoughts on it and it ended up being featured on the Metro. I have also been asked to appear on TV after I shared my thoughts on a subject – so if you want to be noticed, stand up and start sharing your voice.

Being able to multi share your message

Ever logged onto Facebook and felt spammed by the businesses that you follow? This is because they are posting too much for that platform – Facebook users like to slowly scroll and procrastinate there so it is not a good idea to post too much as a business. But Twitter is different. As it is fast moving, you can share a similar message over and over again to get maximum exposure. So if you have an event or a promotion on, get tweeting.

Few tips – don’t share exactly the same tweet as they will block them, create a tweet with a call to action or a headline that will make them click the link and use a link shortening app like Bitly so you have more space to write your message. Oh and add a photograph, always.

Conducting great customer service

One of the reasons that I love Twitter on a personal level is that all big brands use it for their customer service. I arrange my refunds and enquire about availability on Twitter as this is the fastest and cheapest way to get a reply from a customer service team. This has grown in popularity over the last few years, so most companies have invested in Twitter teams. You could do this too!

While you won’t want a Twitter team, why not offer the choice of communicating any issues this way so you can deal with them swiftly. Yes it is a more visible (remember you can always take it to Direct Messages) but if customers see you swiftly dealing with an issue they will have more faith in you.

Networking with your peers

Twitter is a great place to meet new people and network especially in Twitter hours. These are when someone hosts a special hour for their industry or location inviting people to come along sharing the same hashtag to chat, engage and make new contacts. A personal favourite is #weddinghour on a Wednesday evening.

However there are a few watch outs when attending these hours – mainly to not spam people. You know the kind of person that comes up to you at a networking event and only talks about themselves? Well don’t be that person in a Twitter hour (in fact don’t be that person at all!). Yes you want to sell your wares, but take your time, get to know people, don’t schedule tweets for this hour and ask others questions first. Oh and don’t remember to use the specific hashtag otherwise you will be chatting to no one!

On that note – guess what! I am launching my Twitter hour this week called #indieprhour. It is on Thursday at 8pm. Come along!

How blogging changed my life

I started a blog in 2010, because my friend Kim told me it was a good idea. I didn’t know at that point what a blog even was! So I launched one on my website (I always do what I am told!) and set about sharing the history of the vintage products I was selling. I didn’t realise it but I was creating useful content for my ideal client; the best bit was the sales started coming. In two months I was featured in Time Out Magazine, Closer and also named as website of the month in Period Living.

All because I blogged.

From that day, I haven’t looked back. As a result of blogging I have been scouted to write a book, been asked to write for The Metro, Reloved, Huffington Post and Psychologies. I have spoken at the Ideal Home Show and will soon host a seminar at the Fashion and Textiles Museum. I have appeared on ITV’s Lorraine Show advising on how to buy antiques. I have written or given advice in 100’s of magazines and newspapers including American and Japanese publications!

All because I blogged.

And that is not all. I now make money from it. I am paid to advertise, make money through affiliate links and have represented brands such as John Lewis, Sainsbury’s and Vistaprint.

All because I listened to Kim!

Now I want to help you to do the same in Blog Club.

Blog Club Indie PR

Blog Club is a 6 week programme to give you the all skills to write your own content, confidently.

Maybe you know why it is important but feel that you don’t have the time or even where to start coming up with ideas?

Perhaps you already blog or vlog but have very few readers so are feeling “what is the point?”

Let me help you!

The Details:

Blog Club is a one stop, 6 week programme where you will be trained on all aspects of blogging so by the end you have the skills, confidence and plan to create content that your idea customer wants to read, to get your website higher up the google charts and gets you noticed.

The offering:

  • A 6 week plan, all online using video conferencing, a private Facebook page and downloadable homework


  • Through weekly Masterclasses and Homework we will cover
    • Why every business should write a blog – even a carpenter should have a blog!
    • Identifying your ideal customer/reader and what content they actually want to read
    • Setting goals for your business and how to reach them through creating content
    • Different types of content including podcasts, video and micro blogging
    • SEO – how to get your website and blog SEO ready
    • How to take amazing photos for your blog even if you have no photography background
    • How to share your content effectively through social media and email marketing
    • How to monetise your content


  • In week 4 you will have a one hour 121 with me to give you feedback on blogs that have been written in week 3
  • You will write at least 2 blogs within the 6 weeks with the chance to get further feedback from the group
  • In week 6 I will assess your ongoing plan and how to put them into action, guiding you for the future.
  • A private Facebook group so you can ask questions of me and others throughout the 6 weeks. This will be open for 2 months afterwards too in case you need any other support.

Who is the course for?

Indie PR Blog Club is for everyone, whether you are new to blogging, or have written some but feel like you are getting nowhere. It is for businesses who want to be on page one of Google for as many search terms as possible but seem currently stuck. It is for businesses that want to take it to the next level. It is for influencers who want to get their name and face out there. It is for people who want to make more money from their website and business.

It is for all industries, and NOT just for the wedding industry! It is for everyone!

The course starts on Wednesday May 2nd.

Price: Early Bird: £150 up until Friday 20th April

After Friday 20th April the price goes up to £180

Or pay in two instalments of £90, first due on booking and 2nd payment due on 16th May.


My 2018 intentions for my life and business

Intentions or resolutions; there is a hot debate about whether they are a good thing or not! New Year, New You is met by groans everywhere but I for one love the concept. I love the idea of wiping the slate clean, and starting afresh; being a goal driven person has got me this far after all. I love to sit down and review the past 12 months, then set targets for the year ahead, as well as personal intentions that will make me happier. This year I am focusing on these things which I believe will improve my mental health, my physical health and therefore my business. And maybe some of these will resonate with you.

My 2018 intentions for my life and business

Cutting out the noise

Mark Zuckerberg has just announced that 2018 for him and for Facebook is about getting back to basics, back to a community focused site where we connect with loved ones. This has been met with frustration from the SME world as we all rely on Facebook for our business, to connect with customers and to share what we do. But I am so with him. I have been noticing over the last few months that social media, while helpful to what I do, is becoming increasingly more noisy. By noise I mean things like: my friends list is actually a list of work peers, clients, contacts, journalists and the like. While this is great for business, it means that when I scroll down in out of office hours, I am met with work. So there basically is no out of office. This has resulted in feeling shattered, comparing myself to others, a sense of FOMO – fear of missing out – which is affecting my mental health.

Then there are all the groups I belong to which fills my feed, distracting me from my friends. While some are super useful for me as a person and for my business, there are so many that I don’t need to see as much.

So what I have done thus far is to leave a whole heap of groups; the ones that were sucking me in needlessly as well as the ones that I simply don’t care about. I then have set up a personal, personal page and invited a mere 20 people to be friends with. These are the people I see often, go out with, share my secrets with and of course my family (the ones that I want to connect to!) So far it has been enlightening as well as peaceful. On day one I discovered that a close friend now has long hair, one has a new job and the other is having an amazing trip to Thailand (jealous, moi?) None of this I knew because it was hidden behind the noise!

Focusing my peaceful mind on other things

I have put my phone down every evening and picked up a book instead. I love reading (I have an English Literature degree) but only seem to manage it on my 2 week holiday every year, when I devour a book every two days! I am now reading at the end of the day and boy I am enjoying it! Not looking at my phone has been so liberating – I just need to continue which I know will be hard. I hope that if I continue to separate business with personal time then this will be easier.

Becoming stronger

By stronger, I mean physically stronger. I used to be a yoga bunny, going 4 times a week before I had children and “settled down”. I am now so bloody weak that when I joined a gym last November I could do about 15 minutes of salutations and the like, before flailing into the child’s pose! I joined David Lloyd spending more money than I intended, but I recognised that not only did I need to be stronger in my body, but I needed to be stronger in my mind. Having somewhere to go to, away from the house, work and children has been amazing and since Christmas I have been going 4 times a week. I had my health check last week to find out that I am in good shape which has spurred me on to get fitter.

Being a little bit selfish

I have always said no to things that didn’t feel right for my business or for me, but this year I am going to get tougher by saying no to more. I love to help others and am often offering advice and my time but this results in having less time to spend on my clients, the people I mentor and also myself. This year I want to grow the business and to help more of you get to where you want to be, and to do that, I need to be more selfish. The word selfish is though to be a bad thing – but this selfish comes from a place that wants to make Indie PR work for me and for you. Watch this space for all the exciting things I have planned.

I would love to hear your intentions and plans for the year ahead. I would love to help you with them too – let’s face it, I will have more time as I am going to be stronger, a little bit more selfish and a load more focused. Have an amazing 2018 everyone x


31 simple things to grow your social media following this January

We are all so busy running our businesses, often juggling parenthood or a full time job, that the endless task of creating great content for social media can feel like an uphill battle. We are being told from every corner what to do and when to do it, that many just want to close their laptop or put their phone down and wish it would all go away. But social media is the most important tool in the world of PR and indeed business so it cannot and must not be ignored.

31 ways to grow your social media following

There are 1.86 BILLION people active on Facebook daily and 100 million on Instagram. Twitter enjoys 330 million users a month too – now that is a lot of people to talk to!

Today I want to to take away some of the fear and share 31, yes 31 (one for every day of January) simple things you can do to improve your reach and engagement. Some you may well already be doing, but why not take the opportunity to double check things or change what you have done in the past.

  1. Check your biography on every account is up to date. Make sure that everyone has a website address on (sounds obvious but so many don’t!)
  2. Be available! Check that every account easily shares how to get in touch with you; an email address, phone number and address too if you are a bricks and mortar business
  3. Communicate the why. Also check your “about us” part of the biography. It should say who you are and what you do but I want to task you to do more here. Think about two things – why you do what you do and what makes you special. Incorporate this into your bio so your readers and potential customers can see why you are different from the rest.
  4. Don’t rely on your logo. Check your bio photo for all channels which should be the same. If you are trying to get your personal name out there over and above your business, try adding your photo of yourself. If you create product, add a photo of it. People connect with things and trust other people so think about using this rather than logos.
  5. Show up! Post one daily on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter but not the same words as the readers on everyone are different. You can post the same overall message but try and mix it up. As a guide: Facebook readers like to read, so tell a story. Instagram readers want to be inspired so be creative. Twitter users are fast so be concise!
  6. Post your content at the same time every day. This is to get a good habit formed for you, but also readers like consistency. If this is tricky for you, use a scheduling tool.
  7. Unlink your accounts so you cannot copy content from one to another (see point 5)
  8. Add great photos. Every time you post content add a good photo, even on Twitter. People are attracted to visuals so take the time to draw them in. Use a GIF on Twitter if you have not got a photo.
  9. Share multiple photos each time. When you write a blog post, share it on social media with a link to it. Add multiple photos too: this creates a carousel effect on Facebook and more interest on Twitter.
  10. Change your URL links on Instagram. When you share a blog post on Instagram, make sure you add the URL link to your profile and tell people it is there (this is because you cannot add clickable links on Instagram).
  11. Don’t just share content about yourself. Facebook rewards you for sharing other content as you are keeping readers on the site so try and share things you know your readers will love regularly.
  12. Retweet interesting tweets an stories on Twitter too, but take the time to retweet with a quote to share why you think they should read it!
  13. Inspire your readers by thinking about how else to engage with your audience. If they love vintage, then share nostalgic images. If they are brides, share more than what you just make. Inspire them!
  14. Ask for retweets and shares on content that you want to get out there. It is amazing how many people will share if you ask them!
  15. Add a competition to increase your readership by asking them to follow and share.Read here for some of the rules you need to follow.
  16. Ask a question in your post. Every time they reply with their answer, reply with another question to keep the thread going. The more comments you get on a post, the more the algorithms will reward you.
  17. ENGAGE! Go and find your potential followers and go and chat to them in a non spammy way. Use hashtags to help you search so for example: type in #alternativebride and all the people using that hashtag will come up. Click on them and go chat!
  18. Join Facebook groups to meet with new people. Again, don’t be spammy! Introduce yourself, offer advice, be nice and slowly share what you do.
  19. Join Twitter Hours to network too. Follow the rules of point 18!
  20. Create a good looking Instagram feed that represents your brand. Treat it like a magazine – the last 9 photos should work well together and sum you and your business up. Choose a colour palette or a theme and and then stick to it. You can use apps like Planoly to help you with this.
  21. Use Instagram Stories! As your Instagram feed should be beautiful, use Stories to share behind the scene action of your business. Share videos or stills of you making the cake, or creating the styled shoot. It could even be you walking your dog – whatever you choose, use it to paint a whole picture of who you are as a person and business.
  22. Add your location on Instagram Stories to increase your reach by adding your location as then everyone in that area will see it.
  23. Add a poll to your Story to ask a yes or no question – remember people love to share their opinion!
  24. Be original with your content rather than copying others. Go back to the biography detail of what makes you special and why you do what you do and use it to inspire your content.
  25. Share old content such as blogs that you have written or weddings you have worked on. Use Throwback Thursday to share old  photos of you but remember you can do this any day!
  26. Check your social media buttons on your website work and link to the right place (sounds obvious but so many don’t work!)
  27. Create live video especially on Facebook. Go live and share what you have achieved or what you are working on right now. If this seems a bit too scary, make a video and share that although the former gets more reach for you.
  28. Use relevant hashtags and use them on Instagram and Twitter. If you are not sure which to use, have a look at other people in your field of work and see what they are using.
  29. Try Facebook adverts – probably the BEST adverts you can use are Facebook linked to Instagram adverts as you can target your audience perfectly.
  30. Be topical! Be aware of what is going on the world and link your thoughts and business to it. If good news happens such as a royal proposal, share your thoughts and congratulations. Be careful of scheduled content during a crisis or tragedy; go online and turn them off. Watch Twitter’s trending hashtags to help with this
  31. Share real stories to connect with real people. People buy from people so be real and share what you are feeling or something that has happened to you. On Twitter try doing it as a thread (write a tweet, reply ti it, reply to that one and so on).

I could go on and on but that is it for now. The key things to take away from this is: Be Real, Be You, Be Timely and Engage.

Want to find out how I got my following to over 120K – then get in touch for a chat and to see how I can help you! I offer advice and delivery for social media as part of Indie PR in many ways. 


7 things I’ve learned from starting a business from scratch

I was lucky enough to share my business learnings with Marie Claire earlier this year. Here are my top 7 things that I learnt when I started out back in 2008.

Kate Beavis indie PR

Image by Anna Berry

Make a plan

When we start a business we often jump straight in, without a clear plan or direction; we just know we want to be our own boss, and not work 9-5. Before you take that jump, write down what it is you want to do but also want you want to be known for. I wanted to be known as a vintage expert, selling quality, beautiful items in a modern way. Because I had that plan, it meant that I ensured that every decision I made would only ever add to that vision and that I took opportunities, even if they were unpaid, to get me to that goal. For example, I chose to write unpaid for a vintage magazine to increase my reach within my field and give me the experience of writing all so that people would start to know me as an expert as well as see my products.

It is also worth thinking about where you want to be in 5 years, something that can be hard to articulate when starting out. This could be having your own shop on the high street, or something like, working less hours so I can start a family – write it down and stick it on your wall to remind yourself of the direction you want to follow.


Start small

I started my business with just one vintage handbag. I bought it for 50p and sold it for £30 on an eBay auction, making a huge amount of profit from my first sale (minus fees of course). I then went to a jumble sale and bought lots more with the profit and again sold them. Something this simple, became the start of my business but also it meant I started with the tiniest investment ever. Obviously, this isn’t always going to be the case and you may need more than one coin to start with, but my advice is to start small, with a low risk investment. Maybe set yourself a budget and a timeline – for example £200 and 6 months to make it work. When you make some profit, invest it back into the business and watch it grow. Of course, this means you won’t be taking much money out to start with, which is why it is a good idea to start while still in your full-time job.


Do your research

Check out what your competitors are doing, what their product or service is like, how their website looks and what they are doing on social media. While you don’t want to copy them it is a good idea to have a view on what they are doing well and not so well as this will help form part of your plan. Be careful not to be inspired too much though, remind yourself of your own vision to keep yourself on track.

When I started, I spent hours researching websites and businesses asking myself who I aspired to be like and who I wanted to be as successful as, even companies that were not selling vintage. I looked beyond the visual also, focusing on their customer service to help form a firm idea of how I wanted to be perceived.

Ask yourself who your customers are going to be? This may be unknown at this point but it is a good idea to try and establish who they are. How old are they, where do they live, what is their lifestyle like? Ask yourself as many questions as possible so that you are clear on who you are talking to on the website and on social media. Your tone of voice, photography, in fact all your branding will then be right for your target end user.

7 things I've learned from starting a business from scratch

Image by Amy Rose Deffley

Get social

Once you have bought your URL, go to every social media platform and create an account, even if you don’t plan to use them all. There is nothing worse than someone sharing content on a networking site in your name believe me! Once set up, write a strong biography and replicate it on every platform sharing your website details and how you can be contacted. Ideally you need a presence on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat and Pinterest which can be done via free scheduling tools such as Hootsuite or by replicating the same piece of content across all of them.

Once you have started the best advice I can give is to engage with your audience and don’t worry too much about the quantity of followers you have. You are better to have 100 fully engaged people who love what you do than 1000 disinterested people who couldn’t care less.

Spend some time actively engaging with new people such as other people in your industry so that can start to form a network who can help you in the future as well as provide support when you need it. Share great images that represent your brand to draw people in. Follow the magazines that are relevant and speak to them! At the start, I got great press from 3 magazines within the first 2 months from networking on Twitter – it really does work!


Grow your tribe

My biggest regret when starting out was that I didn’t start a mailing group as I felt I didn’t need to as my social media following was healthy. This meant that when I had a new product or a new service that I wanted to share I had to rely on the everchanging algorithms of Facebook. Big Mistake. From the outset, start a newsletter group using a simple platform such as Mailchimp to speak to your  customers without spamming them. Maybe offer incentives to join the list such as money off vouchers and use a pop up window online even though you may think they are ugly – they work!


Create content

It is not just customers that love reading content, it is the search engines too who reward you by pushing you up the search pages. Create regular content on your website in the form of a blog, even if you feel that you have nothing to say. Think about what questions your customers will be writing into a search request and then create a blog post answering this query. I started by blog in 2010 as a way to support my product, creating content about the history of my vintage items that I had for sale, how to care for them and ideas for displaying them. Never did I plan for the blog to overtake the online shop but this didn’t matter as it fitted into my original plan of being a vintage expert.


Be brave

Finally, you need to be brave to start your own business, you need to believe in yourself and your idea and really go for it. Take some risks along the way and say yes to collaborations and opportunities; remember my writing for free for a magazine mentioned earlier? This lead to getting a book deal in 2013. I took the risk of writing to Paloma Faith asking her to write my foreword thinking I had nothing to lose – and she said yes!

You do also need to know that running your business isn’t always easy and sometimes, especially at the start you end up working far more hours than you did in your 9-5 job. Set yourself some rules at the beginning about when you do and don’t work. Try and get a good work life balance so that you can enjoy the flexibility being your own boss gives you.

The Indie Practice with Kate Beavis

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