Growing a brand and growing a business are closely related, similar, and very difficult. They would be both be made easier by plenty of time and plenty of money, but teh point of branding and business or me is to make money so…
First, one needs a bit of a dream to reach for, and then an idea how to break that dream into chunks. For us, that means we have this dream of living a somewhat self-sustaining lifestyle and very much about working for ourselves not someone else.
Our Current Status
In all honesty, as we have started this process we are working full time for others, but right now we are working crazy amounts to catch up, get ahead, and soon be independent. Chris makes more per hour and has the opportunity for overtime so he is busting his butt and bringing in more money, which helps us pay off debt and buy the cool gifts and needed things for the kiddos. Rachel’s wages pay most of the day to day and monthly bills. A little bit of money each month goes towards improving our homestead or growing the business. For example, next up to buy with the “extra” is a better watering system for our barnyard fowl, than the three 1 gallon waterers that we currently use. These sometimes freeze too quickly while we are gone during the day, and we want our birds to have fresh water all day long not just 3-4 hours in the morning and again in the afternoon. Last year, we had a heat lamp in the small coop witch kept the water from freezing most of the time. We need a larger waterer, so they don’t drain it, and a heat lamp near it to keep it thawed long enough for them to drink most of it. Ideally, I never want my birds without food, water, or shelter. The below-zero days make this challenging… This makes the currents goals to be: staying current with bills, paying off debt, and investing in small ways to the homestead.
Speaking of birds, they are part of our long term plan. Right now we sell enough eggs to pay the feed bill, but soon the girls are laying less as the days get shorter (or if their water freezes regularly). Clearly, we need more birds 🙂 And we are discussing having more birds for more eggs. Soon we might want to raise and sell pullets. Raising birds up to 16 weeks isn’t that expensive, and most of the year it is difficult to find new laying hens (I’ve been looking for weeks but don’t want to pay $18/bird). We’ll need to outlay a good amount of cash to build the coops, pens, and create incubators for this. A little for the initial purchase of our breeding birds, too. Then this could be lucrative based on the current market. This means the current goal is saving up and planning for the spring.
Bits and Pieces
Meanwhile, as the pullets are a spring plan, Rachel is finding bits here and there to put together to create an income. As mentioned in this blog post, Rachel makes a little money from writing book reviews. This allows for a hobby to pay for itself. She also pulls in a tiny amount completing Google surveys. Neither of these pays much, but it offers a little fun money. There are goals of: five forum posts/comments a day to keep her reviewer score up; one post per day to social media about a book review to keep her score up and increase views, and a new book review every 2-3 weeks.
Branding via Social Media
Most of Rachel’s attention instead goes towards building the brand for this small business via blogging and social media. Rachel attempts to stay active on Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest with a variety of pins and posts about what we are doing, what we sell, and who we are, as well as commenting on other people’s posts. The commenting on their posts helps them (and there are interesting conversations) as well as bringing people to us who comment on our posts. The more active we are in these forums the more our posts and pins are viewed (the greater our name recognition), and the easier and quicker we pull up on search engines. The faster we pull up as a result on a search engine, the more likely someone can find us when they might want to buy something.
Currently the goals here are: 10 comments on other people’s posts a day; three Instagram and Facebook posts a day; 5 repins on Pinterest a day; one new unique pin a week; one blog post a week. Clearly this is not the perfect balance, but it is a good start of activity, time is the main culprit to not accomplishing this. The saving piece of this is that repins, or comments can be done while sitting in the car waiting to pick up kiddos.
Creating products and selling them
Another large chunk of Rachel’s attention is on creating items that can be sold and/or used as gifts. This means that she is finding the supplies (repurposing materials is often cheaper than buying, but there still are purchases required), creating the items, and selling the items. The goals for this are to always expand: expand the suppliers, create more items, and improve SEO (search engine optimization), and expand outlets to sell through.
It goes without saying that we try to save as much as possible on things like second hand clothes, or purchasing the most durable clothing. We are mindful of how we use our vehicles/gas, or how much electricity we use, or wood we burn. We try to be self-sustaining by growing some of our own food, creating some of our own supplies or accessories (scrunchies, hats, bags,…), bartering, and hunting. We try to completely use an item, and then find a way to repurpose it or its packaging or it’s byproduct. For example our food scraps become chicken food (except for a few things that are not good for them to eat such as citrus), the chicken waste (poop and coop bedding) become matter to be added to the garden.