I vividly remember the first time I had to invoice a customer. I was sick to my stomach. I felt cold all over. “What if this isn’t how an invoice is supposed to look? What if he realizes I’ve never done this before?” I could’ve asked someone what an invoice should look like, but I was afraid of looking dumb. If only I’d have been able to learn from someone else, I’d have saved myself a lot of stress.
Building a business is like getting a plane off the runway and up into the air.
This whole solopreneur thing is a weird process. Finding a business model that works is like getting a plane off the runway and up in the air. When you finally get it off the tarmac, it’s exhilaration and celebration! For about 30 seconds, until you realize that Holy shit, I don’t know how to fly this thing! After the exhausting process of getting in the air, you now have the merciless need to make sure you STAY in the air. And you’re learning, quite literally, on the fly.
What if you didn’t have to figure everything out on your own?
What if you could watch someone else who was doing exactly what you were trying to do– to see inside the cockpit of someone else’s plane? True, not every plane is the same inside, but there are bound to be enough similarities that you’d learn something from watching another pilot.
Seeing someone do the same thing you’re doing reassures you that you didn’t miss anything crucial. Seeing someone do something differently helps show you better ways to do something. And, as you slowly gain confidence in your own cockpit, you can talk shop with other microbiz owners without feeling like your slip is showing.
I’ve wanted to show you the inside of someone else’s business for a long, long time.
But I needed someone who was both in the early stages of their business AND confident enough to share the process.
Basically, I was looking for a unicorn.
But I finally found the business owner I was looking for: Abigail Markov.
Abby is someone I’ve had my eye on for a long time. She’s a fine art painter with a magnificent style. She has a good head for business, and an instinctive flair for marketing. We share similar philosophies– a pragmatic, analytical viewpoint combined with the assurance that Shit Happens and we will Deal With It. This workmanlike attitude matches my own extremely well, so we’ve been chatting off and on for years.
When she was “only” an internationally collected fine art painter, though, there was little I could do for her. She could (and did) extrapolate from my advice to fit her own business. But fine art is one of those weird little industries that plays by its own rules.
Then Abby launched a jewelry business.
She started small, just a few pieces to gauge demand. But her pieces were of such high quality, her designs so exciting, that she soon saw that there was a market niche to fill. And so in March of 2014, she began to build Markov Jewelry.
The cool thing about Abigail is that she’s very conscious and self-reflective. And she has a tendency towards documentation. As a consequence, if you follow her on Facebook, you will see her demonstrate her process, talk about what she’s thinking about, report back on what she’s learned.
No, seriously. Most people only talk about the high points of their business. “My awesome clients…” “My exciting new class…” “So wonderful to be able to do what I love every day…” blah blah blah. We know it’s curated, because nobody’s that happy all the time, but it’s not curated in such a way that makes us feel like we’re authentically following that person’s journey. When you read Abby’s feed, she’s really letting you into the cockpit. She’s showing you the flops, the freakouts, and the bone-deep weariness. She lets you see her excitement and her fear.
I love Abby for her bravery. I love that she lets other people learn from her mistakes, to witness her course corrections in real time.
And so I thought, what if we really helped people learn? What if we showed them how someone who’s had a little training flies a plane?
And so I twisted Abby’s arm until she agreed to let me grub about in her business.
Announcing the biggest experiment since Tesla Motors
I will coach her, she will write about what she’s learned, and we will See. What. Happens.
We don’t know if Abby’s business will succeed. We can’t know if Abby will have to pivot. We don’t know where her buyers will come from and we don’t know how she’ll be able to juggle this highly creative and time-consuming work with the detail-oriented process of scaling up business systems. It’s going to be a challenge. Just like every microbusiness.
Unlike every business biopic out there, we are not going to share the process with the benefit of hindsight. There’s no promise of an overarching narrative that leads to a satisfying conclusion. This will be a real life, blow-by-blow account, of a microbusiness owner trying to get where she wants to go. And we want you to come along for the ride.
So how will this experiment look on the outside?
Abby will write an article for Change Catalyst twice a month, so watch this space. (Sign up for the newsletter if you don’t want to miss it.) She will also write on her Facebook, and Twitter accounts using the hashtag #InsideMyMicrobiz.
So what do I want you to do? Well, the beauty of this experiment is that you get back as much as you are able to put into it. Passive learning will occur when you read the posts on this site. If you follow Abby, (and to a lesser extent, me) on social media, you’ll get quite a few more insights.
But– you can also participate. Respond to posts, share your own stories, ask questions. I can provide commentary, and hopefully this will lead to a lot more microbusiness owners getting involved so that we can all share our knowledge. There’s a lot more that’s similar about our businesses than different.