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Jackdaw 19

Having promised to write a post about my business for months now I am finally getting it done.

The business is called Jackdaw 19 and is as hard to define as I am. I recently had a mini-rant about how awful it is summarising yourself in just a few short sentences. My business works the same way. I do not have a standard day job, never actually have, and trying to explain to people that I am a PA and a social media advisor, a web services gal on top of all of things I do without ever hoping to make money for them is a headache.

I left university in 2008 and have been self-employed ever since. It seemed like the smart option as I had no idea what to do, in hindsight it was a really bad time to try doing that. Buying a house in London and trying to work for myself just before both job and housing markets went (searches for polite word…) wonky was not smart. It harmed my sanity and my bank balance.

Moving out of London gave me a slight shift which was about the time I started to think about selling my collages and handmade jewellery. Not the best time to be trying to sell handmade arty products but I enjoyed what I was doing and on top of my previous PA experience I learnt a huge amount about online marketing, sales and social media. I ran an online shop, a website, a blog and helped fellow Etsy sellers with theirs as well. After a year of trying really, very hard to make it work I decided to stop. I had promised myself a year to try and see if the crafty side of me was financially viable and it wasn’t, more importantly I had budgeted for a year.

It came to that wonderful (read: horrible) point where I knew I needed something new. A new job, something to work towards, something I was already good at but could get better at. There were a long list of things it needed to be.
I wanted to stay self-employed (the reasons are too personal to share but very real)
I wanted to work with a variety of tasks, not doing the same each day
I didn’t want to be fixed in one place
I still wanted to be in some way connected to other creative people
This all came to a head over the course of a couple of weeks last September when I spoke to several people and had almost identical conversations. I wanted to keep promoting and working with creative sales online but not for my own products.

The PA side of things comes very naturally to me. I am disgustingly organised, I enjoy filing, I colour-code. The worst part is that I’ve always done this for other people too, it’s really amazing my friends haven’t hurt me. The website design (if we can call it that) came as a side effect of looking at a lot of crafting websites, these tend to fall into two categories – excellent but expensive and maintained by an individual/company that need to be kept on the books or alternatively less-excellent and cheap to run.

What I really wanted to do was to help people set up easily manageable websites that they could maintain themselves. I am pretty familiar with basic web design and for the business I am using WordPress and DreamHost which makes it possible for me to get really good at using those whilst still giving clients a huge range of options to choose from in terms of design and layout. I also wanted to make it very clear that I am not offering full website creation or design from scratch. I have many, many talented friends who do this and I would never suggest that I am doing that level of design. What I am doing is creating another option for people who don’t yet have the money to pay for a full website creation.

The dilemma is always that you need to make money so you can afford to promote your business but you need to promote your business to be able to make that money. Jackdaw 19 offers a professional looking website, sets up the hosting, does all of the design and inputs content and then hands the reigns back to the client. It is a one off fee for a personal design to get people started without worrying about maintenance fees building up. I am looking to fill a very particular niche in the market.

The social media aspect fits perfectly into this. There are now a large majority of artists, writers, crafters and other creative individuals who are being told they need a good website, a blog, Facebook page and Twitter to keep up with their competition when they have never done any of these before. Both the social media advice and the website design are aimed to be easy enough to suit people who have no experience at all. I hope she won’t mind me saying but my test-point is my mother; if I explain it to her and she understands then I know it’s okay! With a few basic lessons, some ground-rules and pointers to start off with everyone should be able to promote their business online.

So that is what I am doing work wise at the moment. I am working on a rather extensive marketing plan at the moment, which is something I’ve done before and actually enjoy – you learn a lot each time you do it. I’m also continuing to read everything new on social media and playing with a new design every couple of days to make sure I have as many options as possible to show people. (Also I’ve been building up a stock of images for banners etc. hence all of the pictures in here!)

A little late in posting about it over here but I have been busy…

Vick.

p.s. I swore I would write and post this today as I have been meaning to do it for months but I have headache threatening to turn into a migraine and even though I have read through many times there may be a few silly errors. Forgive me, and please send chocolate and painkillers!

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