Like us on Facebook HERE.
It’s been about a month since I left my job, launched sawandmitre.com, and dove head first into self-employment.
If you’re like me, it’s easy to focus on what’s next on the to-do list. I thought I would take some time today to reflect on the past month and to chronicle what's happened.
Month One Accomplishments
Introduced “Print & Frame” Service: My original idea for Saw & Mitre was to make high-quality, ready-made reusable frames where photographers (and photography lovers) could frame their own work or a print by a favorite artist. However as I spent more time working on the idea, I wanted to take that another step further and truly make “gallery” framing simple. This month, I launched our “Print & Frame” service, where we will take all of the difficulty out of framing. All you have to do is select your frame and send us your image file. It will be printed and framed with the highest quality materials available and shipped to your door, ready to hang. It’ll also be a frame that’s reusable. If you ever want to change out the photograph in the frame its easy to do.
Expanded Frame Designs: When I launched the site in May, the only frames on the site were three variations of our Square Series. In the past month, we’ve launched our Landscape Series, Portrait Series, and Cinema Series frames. This includes writing the website copy and doing the product photography; all of which I do myself at this point. I’ve also been working on some new variations of the Square Series that still need some tweaking.
Metal Frame Designs: This morning I built the first of our metal frame prototypes. I’m really excited about taking our wood frame designs and applying them to metal. One benefit is that making a really high quality metal frame takes less material (and therefore less cost). This will provide a lower price point. These won’t be the typical store bought metal frames, these will be the same you find in fine art galleries around the world. I will be tinkering with the designs for a few weeks and won’t release any on the site until I feel I have them right.
Reduced Prices: One of the first areas of focus early this month was reducing the costs of the wood frames. I’ve already been able to reduce the price of what I originally forecasted we would need to charge for our frames. This is because, with increased time to make frames myself, I’ve been able to remove a lot of the labor costs that I was originally incurring. I’ve made sure to pass all those cost saving onto our customers.
First Online Sale: Because the site launched with little to no marketing awareness, I expected that it would take some time to get any sales. Fortunately we’ve had a couple and they’ve helped get our order fulfillment processes smoothed out. We’ve also done a custom framing project for one of the neighboring businesses in our business park. It involved framing an 8’ x 4’ piece of drywall. Yes, a piece of someones wall, taken from their house. It had a lovely hand painted mural of the Navy fight song on it that the homeowner wanted to keep even though they were knocking down the wall for renovations. If we can frame that, we can pretty much frame anything!
About to Launch First Advertisment: I have been working with the website, LeicaRumors.com on launching our first broad reaching internet advertisement. LeicaRumors.com receives about 100,000 visitors each month.
Launched Google Adword Campaign: In the deep, dark recesses of Google you may find our ad. This is more of an experiment in working with AdWords and thus far has been fruitless, but it has been bringing in site traffic I would not otherwise reach. While I don’t plan for this to be our primary source of marketing, I want to learn the in’s and outs of this type of marketing before writing it off completely.
Slowly Building Site Traffic: It started with a quick influx of family and friends and then fell pretty drastically low. Slowly, slowly its building. It’s fun to see the various cities across the country (and world) where people are accessing the site via the site analytics.
Scripted First Video Production: This has been really fun and started a real creative spark in me. For about two days I obsessively wrote and re-wrote the “screenplay” if you will. In the coming months I’ll be working hard on communicating the Saw & Mitre story visually through video.
(Trying to) Generate PR: I’m not typically someone that likes to make cold calls, etc. But I’ve started reaching out to editors of newspapers and editorials about potential PR stories. We’ll see how this goes. But it does force you to think about how you communicate your story quickly, succinctly, and effectively to someone who is inundated with stories all day.
Focus: For the past several years at my job I was beginning to think I had some sort of attention or focus problem. In fact, I was a bit nervous that when I set my own schedule, I would quickly resort to wasting time on the Internet or some other shiny object...anything other than work. Turns out, that while I generally liked the work I was doing, I didn’t care that much about it. In the past month I have been able to focus and think more clearly than I have in a long time. Often several hours will go by without noticing the clock or getting distracted. I think thats a good sign.
Lifestyle: One of my biggest hopes with starting my own company is that it would allow me more flexibility to be more involved in the daily life of my children. Before the school year ended I was able to drop my oldest son off at school which I rarely was able to do as I had to be at work before he left. Also, my younger son was recently diagnosed with Autism and I was able to take him to one of his therapies the other day, something I hope to do more of in the future.
Finally, one small thing that felt freeing was taking a mid-week trip to Maine and I didn’t have to worry about calculating the math for how many vacation days I have left for the year. I always have felt so encumbered by the vacation allotment at bigger companies. It was really freeing not to worry about it or have to punch numbers into a computer system when I returned home.
New Skills: I’m finally getting time to work in several Adobe programs that I haven’t had much time for in the past several years, including Illustrator and InDesign.
Anxiety: My first day on the job I had an panic attack. Never had one before. Probably will have another at some point. I was in my office and began feeling overwhelmed with all that is ahead of me while also thinking to myself, “What have you gotten into? You have a family!”. This is something that still comes and goes daily (not the panic attacks, but the anxious thoughts) and it can be very difficult. I’m learning how to deal with it and to recognize my various “triggers”, things that set my anxiety off. Strangely, lately it’s been finding other small companies doing cool stuff. I used to get so inspired but in the last few weeks I just compare my own company to theirs. Usually their several years ahead of me in terms of brand, audience development, so it makes me feel behind the ball, that I need to catch up, and do it quickly. As you can probably tell, I have a bit of a perfectionist streak in me when it comes to things I really care about, and there is just not the possibility of doing everything you want to do right now. I’ll go into what I’m learning about this below.
What I’m Learning:
“Patience Daniel-San”: I have a some pretty clear goals in mind with Saw & Mitre. The first is to make an excellent product that meets a need that I think is currently not being met; giving photographers (and people who love photographs) the ability to easily frame their work. Not with crap materials and workmanship, but with care and individual attention. The second is to build an audience and a clientele who identify with our story and feel a part of it. The kind of people want to tell their friends about us and that feel proud to have their art displayed.
Those are some pretty lofty goals and just thinking about them in the abstract sounds great but executing and building a company that accomplishes these goals is difficult to do. Each day I fight a battle in my mind between wanting to arrive at that point as soon as possible and taking the necessary steps to get to that point. I’m learning to break things down, to write them out so I can see them on paper, and then make a plan. I’m also learning that the goals I want to accomplish have to be done slowly, in order to be done correctly.
Also, throughout each day there are times when I’m on cloud nine, and feel like I can take on anything. Then there are the times of self- doubt. Wondering if our story and our product will ever resonate with anyone. I was recently watching a documentary about the musician John Mayer. In it he talks about his first major label album, “Room For Squares”. He said “it’s the same album cycle that took me from playing 80 people to 18.000 people. And it was one ball of energy that everyone kept in play”. (Coincidentally I happened to be one of the people in the crowd when he was playing for about 150 people). What I get from this is that a good story, told well, will slowly, but gradually attract an audience. Right now, my audience is only a couple hundred people (thank you btw) and that’s a good thing. It’s good to start when your successes are micro. It makes you appreciate them all the more and it makes you work harder and smarter toward the next one. BUT (and a big but there) it takes patience and time. I’d rather have a slow, long burn, than a quick flash in the pan. “Patience Daniel-San”. Thank you, Mr. Miyagi.
Telling A Story: This is something I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about. What is my story? How best should it be communicated One element of this process that has helped me is simply writing down the various elements of the story that I feel need to be communicated. This includes everything from my own personal story to the product differentiators, to what we want to communicate in a simple, memorable tag line. I plan to share more of this process at a later time. Stay tuned.
Here are a couple good resources I’ve come across this month that have been beneficial to me.
Seth Godin, “All Marketers Are Liars”. A quick read about the art and the necessity of telling an authentic story. This has really gotten the wheels spinning in my head.
The Tim Ferris Show with Chase Jarvis. Listening to these guys yak about creativity, productivity, and all sorts of things is pretty helpful.