Over the last nine years of running my online, handmade shop, I’ve learned some important lessons, and one of the most important ones is this: If your big kind heart yearns to grow your very own successful online business, you need to stop obsessing over everyone else’s. Right now.
This doesn’t necessarily mean you need to unfollow all your business friends, or those people you admire. It doesn’t mean you need to blank everyone in the world of handmade enterprise, ostracise yourself, or never applaud anyone else’s success.
It simply means; there’s a time and place for scrolling and researching and sometimes scrutinising every detail of Tina’s new website, or her latest successful design launch is not a helpful way to run your own show.
*Tina is a made up person, no offence intended to any successful Tinas out there...*
Here are 11 reasons why I truly believe spending your time looking at other people’s businesses online is a terrible idea…
- It could impact the integrity of your own designs. Without even realising it, you might be influenced to copy someone else’s designs or opinions, and your original ideas will never get the chance to shine through.
- Admiring loads of other people’s version of success could overwhelm you eventually. You might start off feeling inspired, but this can turn into feeling daunted and a bit lost amongst the crowd, which might lead you to back away from your dream.
- Ultimately, it’s a massive drain on a precious resource; time. Instead of studying someone else’s business, you could be working in earnest on your own.
- It can also be a mental energy drainer. Hours of “research” can make you feel tired, and ultimately, a bit bored. Have you ever spent hours reading and admiring someone’s blog, or website, and when the time comes to think about your own content, the enthusiasm has gone, and your mind is blank?
- The comparison monster will kill your self-esteem. We all know how awful comparison is for our mental health and you’ll need as much inner confidence as you can to help you grow your business.
- You’re in danger of becoming distracted by ideas that do not align with your brand values or are not part of your business plan, just yet. This could include ideas such as wholesale, selling at fairs, mass manufactured products, or upscaling. Just because it’s working for someone else, doesn’t mean you need to rush into doing the same thing yourself.
- The same applies for product ideas. Imagine you sell delicious handmade biscuits, but you’ve seen someone else making a killing selling cute dog collars so you’re wondering how to shoehorn that into your brand. This will only serve to complicate your offering and confuse your customers.
- It can put you off your own products. Ever had this thought? “Oh, they’ve also started selling *insert product of yours* too, the market is so saturated now, I’m not going to bother anymore because hers are nicer, everyone will just buy from her instead.” So, you take your own product off your website, and you don’t even have a chance to be up there with the best of them.
- It can negatively impact your pricing. You might fall into the trap of competitive pricing and sell yourself short, ultimately meaning your business won’t last because you'll be a busy fool.
- If you look for drama online you’ll find it, and while you might find it mildly entertaining for five minutes, no one, not anyone, needs to get sucked into irrelevant negative energy when they’re trying to build their dream.
- All of this comparing and fixating could ultimately make you bitter, overly competitive and you could end up working hard but for the wrong reasons. Most creatives have an innate joy for what they make and sell, hold onto that, don’t let it become all about beating other people and making money. I read an article which said you should identify your competitors’ weaknesses and go in for the kill. This is such a negative attitude, but, one I think you could get embroiled in if you spend too much time worrying about everyone else’s business.
My advice here is all based on personal experience. Years ago, I could easily spend hours of my time on Instagram, blogs, Pinterest and websites. I was scrolling a lot, and absorbing a million success stories, beautiful designs and go-getting online attitudes. I thought it was helpful research, but ultimately, it affected my confidence, the integrity of my ideas, and my productivity levels.
I have a few practical tips if you feel as though the points above resonate with you and whilst reading this blog post you’ve realised just how detrimental your habits have become.
- You could mute certain accounts on Instagram for a while if you find their content a bit triggering and come back when you feel ready.
- You can just temporarily delete Pinterest, I tend to come and go with Pinterest because I love it, but I can find it a bit too aspirational at times which can be off-putting.
- If the problem is you’re following too many accounts and you’re finding it overwhelming you can just do a mass unfollow, keep your favourites and your online ‘friends’ and start afresh to see if you can bring a new feeling to your feed!
- It’s natural to want to follow people in your specific field of work, but try following a spectrum of creatives from potters, to artists, to jewellers, to singers and see if that helps you feel less heavy.
- What naturally inspires you to want to create? I love Cornwall, so I follow quite a few Cornish accounts on Instagram, I go on holiday there and take loads of pictures. It brings me joy. What’s your joy?
- You can always hide your phone while you’re working. Print your order pile for the day or work from a desktop instead so you aren’t picking your phone up every ten seconds and going down a familiar rabbit hole.
- Don't get your phone out at lunchtime, read a book instead, or meet up with a friend for a walk and a chat.
- Work your pricing out professionally using a good practical formula, so you can ensure you’re building a sustainable business. Don’t look at other’s pricing for your guidelines.
- Keep a notebook with you at all times, my best ideas always come to me when I’m offline and have the mental space to think creatively.
- Protect your creativity and do something that’s going to light you up instead. Go for a walk, take a sketch pad, read a book, do some painting. Creative souls need time offline to rejuvenate and refresh.
- Create from the heart. If you have a blog, write what you know and don’t worry about anyone else’s opinions or what the consensus is.
- If you’re making and designing, experiment on your own terms, create whatever brings you joy. Always aim to be consciously original, imaginative, and inventive. Design whatever feels good in your soul, and the rest will follow.
- If you really admire someone online, set that thought aside for a while and in your spare time think of a way you could collaborate with them in future? Collaborating is a much healthier way to connect with others than secretly obsessing.
- It’s ok to take advice and guidance from respected industry peers, for example you might admire someone’s website and ask them what platform they used. But then spend the time designing and building your OWN version. Not just staring at theirs or using it as a blueprint.
Instagram and the online world can be a fantastic resource for creatives and those wanting to grow an enterprise. But remember to protect yourself. Don’t feel guilty if you don’t feel like cheering everyone else on all the time right now, and don't spend too many hours of your precious time looking at how everyone else is doing it. You have my permission to conserve your energy and protect your heart and your business. If you stay focused, you can put your precious energy into growing your own, unique, designs, and build a successful business with integrity.
And, if you need it, here’s a little pep talk from me.
Always remember that you could be at a different stage of your business to that person who seems so successful, professional and polished online.
There is only one you, and if you put yourself into your business, no one can emulate it.
Whatever talent or joy it is you want to share with the world. Spend time cultivating what is yours, not looking at others.
Always remember that whatever you’re working on, make sure it reflects your unique voice, talents, and taste.
You have this dream for a reason so get your head down, design, create, make and write from the heart and success will follow. Small, online business ownership has given millions of women the chance to be self-sufficient and earn on their own terms. Let the sister hood shine and be proud to be a part of it! Focus properly on your own success and you’ll find cheerleading others will come naturally and will feel really good.
So to summarise, when you’re in business, mind your business. Don’t worry about everyone else. Remember your dream and just keep striving. Focus on whatever is within your power to take care of. Let go of what you can’t control and glow like only YOU can, my love!