Two years ago, I bit the bullet, gave up my day job, and embarked on an exciting entrepreneurial journey. My mission was to create a very special alphabet which I believed could make life easier for little linguists. I founded a small company called LoveYourLingo, and along came The Little Linguist’s Alphabet, which is the first alphabet to link together 6 different languages (English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, German, and Dutch). I successfully crowdfunded the project (my page at Kickstarter) and am delighted to say that hundreds of little linguists around the world are now using the alphabet. Honestly, I have to pinch myself when I think of this. It has been a humbling and challenging experience, but most of all, enormously rewarding and I wouldn’t change it for a second!
Do you have an idea for some type of language-related product? Want to do something about it, but aren’t sure what to expect?
This is what I’ve learned…
1. Be obsessed.
Creating something special isn’t easy. This will take enormous amounts of grit, determination, and most of all, perseverance. Passion is the magic ingredient that will lead you to success! So get passionate and be obsessed!
2. Silence those demons.
You will have doubts. Silence them. People around you will have doubts. You need to ignore them. You are doing this, no one else. Doubts are a good sign—it means you’re pushing the boundaries of your “comfort zone.” This is called progress! Do not be afraid. Remember, action cures fear. Stop doubting, start doing, move forward, and stay busy!
3. Identify your goal and map out a (rough) path forward.
I’m not saying you need to figure out all the details from beginning to end. You just need to formulate some clear milestones which will lead you toward achieving your goal. Be careful when identifying your goal as it may not be simply producing your product. You need to think further than that, and realize that production is actually just step number 1 on this road. If you want to make your project a success and continue to do it for years to come, you need to realize that it is an ongoing venture that will be built gradually. Remember, in the words of Antoine de Saint-Exupery, “A goal without a plan is just a wish.”
4. Go on! Start now!
More wise words, this time from Karen Lamb: “A year from now, you will wish you had started today.” Believe me, there is simply no “right time” to start. If you have an idea that won’t leave you alone…well, go and do something about it! Why don’t you start by making a simple list? Today. Seeing something in black and white can really fuel your thinking! Go on! DO IT!
5. If you have small children, take heed!
If you think you can give up your day job, take the kids out of childcare, and live the picture-perfect entrepreneurial life creating your business while they nap…dream on! Sorry, that’s a little harsh…but it’s true! Minding kids is all-consuming. Yes, they do nap, but honestly, you will need that break to catch your breath (and sometimes save your sanity!). Turning around and delving straight into your business the minute you close their bedroom door will take enormous amounts of willpower (and coffee).
However, it is possible, and I managed it plenty of times, but it often resulted in one cranky mum later in the day…and then comes the inevitable guilt! Just remember why you are doing this. If spending precious time with your kids was one of the reasons, well then, give yourself a stern talking to. When you’re with them, be present, make it count for everyone. Don’t start lamenting what you didn’t get done, just accept you’ll do it later and give yourself a pat on the back. The key is to factor this into your plan. My advice is: If you do it with kids in the picture, make your timeline a lot longer! Trust me on this one!
6. Consider crowdfunding.
Do it! It’s both frightening and amazing. Think about it. Before you invest any significant $$$ in your creation, you have the opportunity to:
- determine whether anyone out there is actually interested in your fantastic product
- find out where they are in the world geographically (very important!)
- create a community which cares about your product and will help spread the word
- make valuable connections and friendships with people who are passionate about the same cause and will help you when you hit the bumps along the way
And all this happens before you start production! What are you waiting for?
My crowdfunding experience was an emotional rollercoaster, and a terrifying experience at times. There was nowhere to hide! You need to believe in your creation and be prepared to dig deep and find the determination to carry on, even on days when there isn’t even a single backer (this does happen!). It will be an exhausting but exhilarating experience. It will also help you move forward with your product, on a very definite path, which is sometimes just what you need when you’re new to this entrepreneurial journey!
7. Don’t get bogged down in the details before you start.
As long as you know the milestones you’re working toward, you’ll figure out the “how” along the way. Don’t use your lack of knowledge as an excuse not to start. We live in the wonderful age of the Internet, where no matter what you need to do, someone has done it before, written a blog about it, or created a forum and is only too happy to answer your total amateur questions. I have E-met so many amazing people through this experience, it has done wonders for my faith in humanity! (Below you’ll find a list of resources that I used in my project.)
8. You may get lonely.
There will be a constant stream of decisions to make and talking them through is sometimes the only way to figure out the way forward. If you are a solo entrepreneur, you may suddenly find yourself feeling very alone. And it’s not just the decision-making that feels isolating, it’s the fact that you are alone in feeling the mix of emotions, doubts, excitement, and sheer exhaustion that starting a business brings. It’s time for you to google for meet-ups in your area to find some companions on this journey. At a time when I felt like I had hit a solid brick wall, I happened to go to an event here in Melbourne for entrepreneurs and just being in a room full of like-minded people, all experiencing the same rollercoaster I was on, fueled my motivation and energized me in a way I didn’t think was even possible. When you look, you’ll find lots of online groups or actual meet-ups in your area.
9. Expect the unexpected!
This is your project, your baby…not everyone you work with will care about it as much as you do and you need to understand this. YOU are the one who must look out for it. Not everyone will be completely honest about their intentions or get things to you on time. Expect this, plan for this. BE FLEXIBLE. You will figure it out.
Last year my timing meant that my Kickstarter posters were going to be printed the week before we had a long-awaited family trip planned. “No problem,” I thought, “They’ll be sent out just before I go.” NOPE. The fulfillment company I had lined up suddenly left me in the lurch. With just three days to go before our trip, I had to start from scratch, find a new company, figure out all the details of shipment worldwide, storage, packing, etc. I kept my head and just got to work (all night sometimes due to different time zones) and ended up working with a great company who were perfect for my needs. My posters were sent out while I had intermittent wifi access from a beach hut in Indonesia! Sounds cool, but to be honest, it was a little too stressful for me! But everything happens for a reason. Expect the unexpected. Embrace it. It’s what will lead you to where you’re going!
10. Your amazing product will not sell itself!
Accept this right now: It’s just not going to happen, no matter how amazing your product is! Trust me! We live in an age when we’re bombarded by marketing 24/7. Unless you find innovative ways to strategically reach your target audience, your product will just sit there, even if it has life-altering potential! So either figure out a marketing plan or find someone who will do this for you! I’m now challenged by this last and crucial step and I’m struggling to find my way forward. I SHOULD have thought about this more from the beginning so I would at least be prepared for how I feel right now! But I was busy busy busy creating… SO THINK ABOUT IT NOW and be ready!
Journey of self-discovery
You are embarking on an amazing journey of self-discovery! When I began, I thought I was going to learn all sorts of entrepreneurial skills, but looking back now, the biggest and most humbling knowledge I gained is about myself. About who I am, and what I can and can’t do, with a sense of honesty that is both brutal and inspiring. I have learned to acknowledge my capabilities with a sense of excitement for the future. But simultaneously, I now know my weaknesses, and I realize that I simply can’t be master of everything. By concentrating on what I can do, and being mindful of my weaknesses, I will continue moving forward. To where? Well, now that’s the bigger question!
Be brave. Be determined. Go on…START NOW!
Here are some resources that I’ve used on my own journey…
Illustrator: I found my beautiful illustrator on Elance which is now Upwork. She also created my logo. You can post an advert describing your job and budget and then you’ll receive bids from freelancers worldwide.
Ebook conversion: Converting a children’s picture book to ebook format can be trickier than you’d think! Throw in multiple audio files on each page and you suddenly need an ebook publisher you can really trust. Well, Ebook Partnership had been recommended on a fantastic blog about ebook conversion, run by Karen Inglis, so I had confidence in them from the start. They’ve done a terrific job and were very reasonably priced. (Definitely check out Karen’s blog—it’s a goldmine of information!)
Random small jobs (photoshop/video edit/press release/mock-up photos, etc.): You’ll be amazed at what you can get done with Fiverr! But be careful…sometimes you get amazing work, and sometimes you get exactly what you pay for! My advice? Check the reviews!
Website platform: Shopify is a little pricey for my needs, but this is too complicated to change now!
Motivation: Why not follow an entrepreneurial group on social media for a daily dose of motivation? (And often a reminder of what you should be doing!) I follow Foundr Magazine on instagram and they’ve often gotten me back on track when I wandered.
Until November 30, all readers of Bilingual Monkeys can get 20% off at Una’s store! Just visit LoveYourLingo and use the voucher code BilingualMonkeys20% at checkout.