Should you offer a subscription service?

I can’t lie – I am quite partial to a subscription service because I love anything that makes my life easier. No more panicking when I realise I’m nearly out of dog food; it lands on my doorstep every six weeks – result!

But it’s not just physical products that we get through subscription services; we now consume everything from television to eating plans… Even access to online communities is now available via subscription.

According to Zuora, the new consumer trend is leaning towards having access to something and it is a thriving and lucrative market. “There has been a substantial increase in overall number of global subscribers from just five years ago, and we expect the Subscription Economy will continue to grow,” said Tien Tzuo, CEO and Founder of Zuora.

So, is it worth you setting up a subscription service?

From a monetary point of view, the simple answer is yes! The UK spends £552m a year on subscription services. Increased 50.2 per cent year on year during April – the height of lockdown, according to Small Business UK, so there is no doubt that subscription services can be a fantastic way to earn a regular income.

A few years ago, Claire Gillies started running a subscription service as part of her business Delicious and Real, providing weekly meal plans. Claire said, ‘once the website is up and running, it is relatively easy to run; all payments are automatically dealt with and I don’t need to worry about those.  Plus, it has the ability to grow without a massive increase in workload, which is fantastic.’

The payment system is so integral to the business model it is essential to look into a programme that’s easy to implement. Websites such as Profit Well have details of different options.

But of course, it’s not all plain sailing. ‘It can feel very personal when people unsubscribe,’ Claire tells me. ‘And because my business has a relatively low price point, it makes advertising tricky as you need to spend the equivalent of a fair few subscribers.’ 

Additionally, you need to keep updating your services or products so that your subscribers continue to receive value for money.

Ultimately you need to ask yourself – is there a need that your product or service provides a solution for? Does it lend itself to a subscription model?

Claire’s best advice is, ‘think carefully about your market – do your research: what do they really want. Make sure you pick your target market wisely. Although my service works for many people, I feel my main audience are people like me (busy mums!), so I need to target my posts towards them. Research similar services and set your price appropriately.’

Like with any business venture, you need to research, see where your business idea will sit in the market and make sure you can add value regularly for your subscribers. Value can be in the form of fresh, membership specific content, resources or incentives, but if you aren’t adding new and engaging material, subscribers will go elsewhere.

‘Get social media savvy,’ Claire advises. ‘It really is your best friend! Try and vary your posts: lives, videos, reels, photos (including ones of you – people like to see the face behind the brand!) Build a community and try and get people talking.’ Claire admits that it can be ‘easier said than done,’ but as with any business type, it has become an essential and relatively inexpensive way to reach your audience.

Although adopting a subscription service can help reduce customer turnover and offer some security with regular payments, it can encourage churn if not handled well. Look after your customers and get suitable systems in place before you dive into a subscription-based business model.

Thank you Claire Gillies from Delicious & Real for giving us her thoughts on running a subscription service. Visit her website, Instagram or Facebook page to find about more about the amazing services Claire offers.

Ideas to Reality – How to make your side hustle your main hustle!

Predominantly working with people running their own businesses, one of the first questions I ask is, what led you to start freelancing or to set up your own business? Generally, there are two answers – a life change (usually having kids) meant they had to reassess their career or it started as a side-hustle until they were ready to take the leap. Some people I work with, still haven’t given up the day job because its scary, right!

So how do you know when it is time to make your idea a reality or your side hustle your main hustle?

In my experience, having cancer when I was 31 made me re-evaluate my life, but I appreciate that is quite an extreme starting point! Chances are, your side hustle or idea utilises an additional skillset and is passion-driven. This was the case with Catherine Jones, who owns a Hertfordshire based florist, Flowers by Catherine.

‘It was never my intention to run my own business. I’d been a PA for over 20 years.’ Catherine told me. ‘Initially, I enrolled on an online Introduction to Floristry course as a hobby. This sparked something inside me, and I wanted to pursue it further, so I enrolled in some evening courses at college while working full time. Originally, I was just doing flowers for friends, family and school fairs.’

Overtime Catherine’s balance changed, she began working part-time as a PA to focus more on her own business, until she was in a position to give up her part-time job to focus full time on Flowers By Catherine. ‘After nearly 18 months, I had reached a point where I’d decided – that was it!’

Flowers by Catherine is where my passion, motivation and determination lay, and it had to be done properly with full-time focus and investment, which eventually resulted in me opening my own florist in Wheathampstead.’

Taking time to build your business seems to be a big step that many of us want to skip (I wholeheartedly put myself in this column) but it is an obvious necessity. I often remind myself of the saying – Don’t compare your beginning to someone else’s middle.

Recently, author and freelance journalist Laura Jane Williams said on her InstaStories that she now gets editors pitching articles to her, asking her to please write them. But she was quick to caveat it with the fact that it had taken four years of gruelling pitching and developing relationships with editors to reach this point in her career.

Clearly, it takes time to get yourself “out there”, and Catherine Jones agrees, ‘I think the biggest challenge with any business is building awareness and credibility and maintaining and growing that, particularly if you are the only person in that business. And remember – You don’t have to have all your s*** together from Day 1, it’s an ongoing journey.’

Like we discussed in the last Inspired & Aligned article, How to be Gentle to Yourself and Your Business, you need to set achievable, goals that allow you to build both your business and confidence until you ready to step off the metaphorical cliff.

‘I spent years as a PA being told I could do and be so much more but was always in the background supporting everyone else. I guess I finally had the confidence to step out and put my name above the door!’

Instead of seeing that early starting point as a hindrance, use it to develop, learn and grow. Tap into resources such as the governments Small Business, Enterprise & Employment webpages or the Federation of Small Businesses free Start-Up Guide and keep trying to make yourself visible, as it is often YOU customers are buying into. As Catherine Jones said…

‘In my opinion, determination, passion and adaptability are what you need to see you through. You are your business, be yourself, that is your superpower. Although it’s tough and many of us have tried to be everything to everyone – do what you enjoy and if you accept that it is perfectly fine not to be everything to everyone you will attract the customers you want.’

Many thanks to Catherine Jones from Flowers by Catherine for talking to me about her experience setting up a business. Visit Flowers by Catherine’s website or Instagram to see what she’s doing, or pop into her absolutely gorgeous shop in Wheathampstead, Hertfordshire to see all her beautiful designs and carefully selected gifts and homeware sourced from local artisans – when we are allowed obviously!

How to be Gentle to Yourself & Your Business

I know when I am feeling inspired and aligned, I feel like I can do anything. I feel like I can work and homeschool and maybe even get a load of washing on. I come up with ideas (like this series of articles), I write more, believe in my ideas but… not every day is like that. When we run our own businesses, we can put A LOT of pressure on ourselves to make every day an I can take on the world and win type day, making us hard on ourselves and our business.

According to the IPSE, Covid has seriously affected those who freelance, work for themselves or run their own business. Their research shows that before the coronavirus outbreak, 68% of respondents rated their mental health as good, but since the outbreak, its dropped to 39%, so clearly we all need to do something.

Kindness, being gentle and slow living, have become popular phrases but how do we make that happen in a way that means we can still be productive and turn a profit while being gentle my business and ourselves?

According to the lovely gentle life mindful business coach, Emily Hodge, the biggest thing we can do to be gentle to ourselves is slow down. ‘When we’re running a business, we tend to want to get to the goal, hurdle or next point as quickly as possible but that puts so much pressure on us to act and think quickly, that we’re often operating under stress. Don’t get me wrong, it’s great to have goals, but too much (high targets, too many things to do, more people to please, etc.) can put unnecessary stress on us.’

Although I agree, it seems unnatural to go easy on myself, like I am being too passive and if I stop the whole thing will collapse, but Emily believes it actually takes discipline and strength to be gentle with yourself. ‘It’s really hard. People who come to this theme are often those who’ve pushed hard all their lives without realising they need a better way to sustain their energy and outcomes. That means it’s about relearning what’s normal for them and what they expect of themselves.’

Emily suggests operating in what she calls the ‘flow zone.’ An area where we have healthy pressure that spurs us forward, but not so much that we are stressed and overworked. ‘Being in the flow zone – usually by slowing down because we’ve been operating under stress before – is the most gentle thing we can do for our business. For example – when thinking about what you want for your business in the next six months, aim to achieve profit, sure! But do it without working 100 hour weeks and burning yourself out within a month.’

We all know this to be true. We all know that to think about the long game, which includes us being at our best physical and mental health. Being gentle requires us to focus our time and energy on what really matters and to cut out the noise and distraction.

‘We keep moving forward and get things done whilst being gentle by being strict with ourselves. We do less; we focus, we stay aligned with what’s right for us and our values, which makes us more efficient, more likely to achieve more, and in a happier easier way.’

A simple tool I will be stealing from Emily is her automatic email response that says unless you are one of her clients, she usually takes 2-3 days to reply – thanks for understanding! I love this. It sets expectation and takes away the panic of needing to drop everything and any given moment to respond to emails. It’s small yet effective, and it encourages me to think about my business and how I can create more space to focus on Copywriting.

Emily suggests we ask ourselves, is this too much? How much pressure am I putting on myself? Is this making me happy? What feels right about this? ‘Because by gently allowing those questions to pop up, we’re reviewing what in our business (and life overall) is good and positive, and which isn’t – so we can stop or adjust them.’

A big thank you to Emily Hodge for her all her advice. You can find out more about Emily and all the amazing ways she can help you and your business on her website and I am a huge fan of Emily’s Instagram page – Gentle Life, Mindful Business so I would definitely suggest checking that out!

Inspired & Aligned

I can’t be alone in thinking that working while – being in the midst of a global pandemic, and homeschooling, and dealing with 101 other challenges Covid-19 (and the world) seem to present – is near-on impossible.

With motivation and having time to do anything, things of the past, it’s not been easy for anyone!

As a result, I thought we could all do with a little inspiration to keep us aligned with our businesses and ourselves! So, I have put together a series of articles to hopefully do just that.

I have spoken with other business owners, creatives, coaches, executives and therapists, to get their insight and skills so we can all learn from each other and stay inspired and aligned through these crazy times.

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