When your friends say they love your work but don’t actually buy it.

This week Frankie Tortora and Steve Folland have a chat in response to a question from Rachel Brownlow Brown. Rachel is an illustrator and designer. She says:

“People I know think I’m doing really well with my business because they see me building the business online, but actually I’m not bringing in much money yet (I’m currently living off redundancy money from my old job).

I feel like they’re really supportive with liking and sharing my stuff, but so many people I know have said they love it and want to buy something but never actually do (apart from my mum who probably has made up the majority of my sales!).

So I suppose my question is around how I translate those positive comments into sales? It feels more icky to “sell” to them when I know them, but they are the ones telling me they like it!”

Take note dear listener! We might swear a bit. This one’s for the parents. To be enjoyed at your desk or once the kiddos are in bed.

Here’s what was said in this episode:

Comments on the previous episode:

[00:00:26] – Frankie
You’re listening to the Doing It For The Kids podcast where we swear a bit too much and talk a bit too fast about freelance life with kids in the mix. I’m Frankie and this is Steve.

[00:00:35] – Steve
Hello. You did that slightly differently at the end, deliberately. You said that slightly differently.

[00:00:40] – Frankie
No, I sometimes do the one at the end slightly differently.

[00:00:41] – Steve
Because I had just told Frankie that I went to an event and people were saying how she says it the same every week, and how they enjoy the fact that you do it…

[00:00:51] – Frankie
Just messing with you guys. Sorry.

[00:00:55] – Steve
Anyway. Yes, hello, I’m Steve. Each week, we take a question, a conundrum, from the Doing It For The Kids community and do our best to answer it. Clearly our best isn’t good enough because you guys then chip in with your own experiences, your own answers, and then we read them out the following week. Which means, actually, because we just had a two week break, we have to rewind a couple of weeks to the question. I have no idea what it was. What the hell were we talking about two weeks ago?

[00:01:25] – Frankie
I feel the same.

Oh, it was Nicky Raby’s question.

[00:01:28] – Steve
Oh, Alexa! Was that the Alexa episode?

[00:01:30] – Frankie
Yeah, yeah, yeah.

[00:01:31] – Alexa
I don’t have an opinion on that.

[00:01:33] – Steve
Oh, shut up.

Yes, right. Sorry. Where were we?

So-, but I still can’t remember.

[00:01:37] – Frankie
I love her backchat. “I don’t have an opinion on that”.

[00:01:42] – Steve
Anyway, what was Nicky talking about?

[00:01:45] – Frankie
It was about real life getting in the way of growth.

[00:01:49] – Steve
Oh yeah, how do you continue to grow your business when real shit happens? Like having a baby, looking after an elderly relative and stuff like that. Thank you so much for all of your comments.

Jane got in touch. Jane Barton said,

“Great episode. I’m a big fan of making your own definition of success and then letting that definition evolve as the seasons change.”

Yes, we talked about seasons, didn’t we?

[00:02:11] – Frankie
We did. Alice Hollis — hello! — she says-,

[00:02:13] – Steve
I met Alice Hollis.

[00:02:16] – Frankie
You did. In actual real life.

[00:02:18] – Steve
I was at an event and Alice Hollis was there and I was starstruck. I was like, “oh, my God, it’s Alice Hollis off the comments bit of the podcast”. She had fabulous shoes.

[00:02:29] – Frankie
Alice, hello!

Alice says,

“The thing that immediately springs to mind is the work life blend that Annie Brown talked about at Freelance Heroes Day. You only have a finite amount of time, but several things to do, so you need to prioritise.

If you get a plot twist, like a new baby, sick relative or relationship issues, obviously that becomes the priority, so business growth can wait. But central to all of that is you and making sure you’re physically, mentally, emotionally well.”

[00:02:52] – Steve
Yes. Yeah. Well, there we go. I should have listened back to that episode. I totally forgot what it was. We obviously spoke about all of that and how wise we were. Marvellous.

Our answer to this week's question:

[00:05:47] – Frankie
This week’s question comes from Rachel Brownlow Brown, who I met, well, we both met at the Doing It For The Kids meetup a couple of weeks ago.

[00:05:53] – Steve

[00:05:54] – Frankie
There you go.

[00:05:55] – Steve
She was lovely. She came all the way from Somerset.

[00:05:58] – Frankie
She won the prize for furthest distance. I think. Thank you, Rachel! I hope you enjoyed it.

So, Rachel is an illustrator and designer and she says,

“People I know think I’m doing really well with my business because they see me building the business online. But actually, I’m not bringing in that much money yet. I’m currently living off redundancy money from my old job. I feel like they’re really supportive with liking and sharing my stuff, but so many people I know have said they love it and want to buy something, but never actually do (apart from my mum, who probably has made up the majority of my sales).

So I suppose my question is around how do I translate those positive comments into actual sales? It feels more icky to sell to them when I know them, but they are the ones telling me they like it.”

[00:06:39] – Steve
Crikey. I mean, good on you for a start, because I think this is a nice reminder of no matter who you’re looking at online, you never quite know what’s really going on. So that’s nice.

So let’s strip it apart.

Rachel continues,

“I suppose my question is around how I translate those positive comments into sales. It feels more icky to sell to them when I know them, but they are the ones telling me they like it.”

[00:06:59] – Steve
I think there’s a couple of things in there alone.

You can’t unfortunately just build a business around your friends, unless maybe you were a hairdresser or a masseuse or-, as in something where somebody comes back every couple of months for a facial or a manicure or whatever. And that’s just the reality of it, isn’t it?

[00:07:21] – Frankie
There’s one thing I’ve learned about working for myself, is that you cannot ever depend on friends and family. Never work with them, full stop. And never depend on them to invest in your business or actually spend money. They might. Like your mum, yes, I would like to think your mum would always deliver, but beyond that, it’s like… just don’t assume that that’s going to happen.

So my advice — possibly, I don’t know how this would really work — is to harness that positivity that you’re getting and all those amazing comments from people. Yes, they’re not turning into sales, but like, how can you use that energy from those people around your business in a different way? So like, could you take those people and make them into ambassadors for you in some way? Maybe you give them a freebie or give them an incentive to go out and talk to other people that they know to grow your network in an organic way? But like, give them the tools to do that.

[00:08:11] – Steve
Obviously, one of the things here is that her friends believe the business is doing better than it is because it looks like it’s doing really well. Because it is, but it’s not converting to sales. So you could do some sort of honest… Now, it doesn’t have to be a public post, it could be within your own personal Facebook… To say, “Look, it’s been going really well, but I need to blah, blah, blah, blah blah…” And do you know what? You don’t even have to say, you don’t even have to be explicit about, you know, discount codes or whatever. It could just be like, “It’s going really well, but it’s not going as well as I need it to” and ask them for help. Because people like to help. People want to help you.

[00:08:52] – Frankie
Yeah. So if you need help to grow your audience and your friends and family are being really supportive, then yeah, doing a post on your personal Facebook, for example, and saying, “Thank you so much for your support with my business. I’m really trying to grow it and get the word out to more people. Maybe you could do…” And give them a clear call to action. “Maybe you could do X, Y and Z to help me with that”.

[00:09:09] – Steve
You know, I follow people online and I really like their cards or something like that, but doesn’t necessarily mean that I end up buying it until maybe something comes along where I think, “Ah, I know I need a card for this thing — I’ll go and buy that card”. Unfortunately, unless you’re one of those people who hoards cards and puts them in a drawer… And you’re incredible if you do that. So organised!

[00:09:34] – Frankie
I know those parents.

[00:09:35] – Steve
Yeah, yeah. Unless your friends are one of those people, you’re waiting for them to have that moment.

[00:09:43] – Frankie
It’s frustrating when it doesn’t translate into actual sales quickly, but actually just showing up, being persistent, showing your work off in different ways, talking about your story, who you are, how your process works, all that stuff will pay off in time, but you won’t see it necessarily.

And when you’re working on your own, particularly, it’s really easy to feel really negative about it because you feel like you’re plugging away and plugging away and nobody’s buying it. But you’re right in that they won’t necessarily buy it NOW.

Like I’ve got loads of stuff saved on my Instagram page. I’ve saved posts that have products in that I haven’t bought, but I know I will, if you see what I mean. But I haven’t purchased them yet. I’m waiting to buy a present for somebody, or for when I’ve got a bit more money, or for Christmas or whatever it is. Those are things I’m like, “yes, I love that!” But, yeah, I haven’t committed to the sale yet.

[00:10:30] – Steve
You need to believe that it will come, don’t you? That patience and persistence. Really, the only way to get around that is to try and reach as many people as possible. There’s no point us going into all of this stuff that can make your Instagram grow.

[00:10:45] – Frankie
That’s a whole other episode, isn’t it?

[00:10:46] – Steve
Yeah. And there are so many resources online for people who will help you grow your Instagram. There’s loads of people doing it. And another thing is Pinterest, if you’re not already, so that it’s not just your friends, but you’re growing this other audience. And that takes a lot of hard work and time.

[00:11:05] – Frankie
Keep doing what you’re doing, basically. Have faith, keep the faith.

[00:11:10] – Steve
Looking at what Rachel’s doing, she’s doing so many of the things that you would hear somebody tell her she should do, right? She’s showing her products on Instagram, but she’s also showing her face and herself and a bit of a personality. I mean, one thing you can maybe try doing a bit more — or at least I haven’t seen you doing it so forgive me if you’re already doing it — is what we talked about a few weeks ago with Ben… Showing the process, like, Hannah from Ink and Tot does this really well.

[00:11:36] – Frankie
Yeah, she’s great at that.

[00:11:37] – Steve
She shows the process of what she is creating on her Instagram stories and then on her feed, and as a viewer, you become invested in it and then eventually, when it might be available to buy, you’re more likely to go, “Oh, I’ll buy it now because it’s there!”

And actually, speaking of Hannah, another thing she does great, she gets people to sign up for her mailing list and then every now and again, she sends like a printable download.

[00:12:02] – Frankie
Mmm. A freebie.

[00:12:03] – Steve
Yeah. That you can make with your kids. So it’s based on her artwork and stuff, but you make it with your children and they can draw it and stuff, and so that always seems like a really nice idea as well. It gives people a reason to sign up to your newsletter.

[00:12:16] – Frankie
And it gives people a reason to share your brand on the internet as well.

[00:12:20] – Steve
“Look what we made with our kids!”

[00:12:21] – Frankie

[00:12:21] – Steve
So I was thinking that beforehand and I was going to suggest that… But funnily enough, I was looking at Rachel’s Instagram and she was saying, “Oh, my newsletter is going to go out soon!” And I went, “Oh, okay”. (So it goes to show that that works, Rachel). And I signed up and a couple of hours later I got an automatic email. Thanks for signing up. And guess what was on it?

[00:12:47] – Frankie
A freebie?

[00:12:47] – Steve
A freebie download.

[00:12:49] – Frankie
Yes. She doesn’t need our help, Steve.

[00:12:52] – Steve
No, she’s already doing the things.

Diversifying your income is important. I mean, it’s important for all freelancers, in a way. If you only have one revenue stream, then it makes it tricky if that particular thing dries up.

[00:13:07] – Frankie
So when I spoke to Rachel at the meetup, she was talking about starting graphic design work and she was quite hesitant about it and quite scared about it. And if you go to Rachel’s website, she talks about her graphic design, but it’s right at the bottom of her About Me page and she literally says, “I’m a fledgling graphic designer, maybe contact me”, kind of thing. It’s really hesitant.

Like I get that sales is scary and selling stuff is anxiety provoking. It just is. I feel like there’s some pep talks that she needs to have with herself or a coach or friends or whatever to be like, “Yeah, I need to be more braver and bolder”. But again, that just comes with time. Being more upfront about, “Here’s my product — would you like to buy it?”

[00:13:46] – Steve
Yeah, yeah, yeah.

[00:13:47] – Frankie
But as you say, as you said already, she’s doing all the right things. It’s just maybe doing it with a bit more like… what’s the word? Gumption?

[00:13:54] – Steve
Bit more “Ta-da!!”

[00:13:55] – Frankie
Yeah. Here it is. No apologies, no, like, hesitation. This is what I do. I do it really well. Are you interested in working with me or buying my product?

[00:14:04] – Steve
Yeah, if that’s something that you actually want to do, then, yeah, put it just a bit bolder on your website so that it’s clear that that’s something that you offer. And also tell people that that’s what you do. Tell your friends and your family and your connections that you’ve made through your other jobs and stuff. And also talk about it on your Instagram stories so that it’s not just your products, but also you’re doing this. Because, at the moment, it is just a tiny bit on your website. And also, I personally, I would say, maybe get rid of the word ‘fledgling’ graphic designer and just say you’re a graphic designer.

[00:14:37] – Frankie
Yeah, man, own it! Just go with it.

[00:14:38] – Steve
Because you are.

[00:14:40] – Frankie
Yeah, exactly. You’re a really good, talented graphic designer and artist. You went to art school, man. You’re more qualified than I am. Call yourself a graphic designer if that’s what you’re doing, if that’s the service you’re offering.

[00:14:51] – Steve
You know, as far as your portfolio goes — you have a portfolio because your portfolio is your shop, it is your Instagram. You clearly can design, it’s the products that you already have.

[00:15:02] – Frankie
And also if you talk about your graphic design on your Instagram alongside your shop products etc, both will feed one another. So people find your prints and then go, “Oh, she does custom design work! Amazing, I’m going to hire her for that”. Or they’ll come to you to do a design for something and then buy loads of your prints because they love your work. Like, one will always feed the other.

I was also going to say… And I’ve touched on this already, blah, blah, blah. Is it worth getting an accountability partner or a mastermind group or a co-mentor or someone in your life that you check in with on a regular basis to just be like, “These are things I’m afraid about at the moment. I’m feeling cautious about this. I’m a bit scared about that. I know it’s going to be fine, but can you just tell me it’s going to be fine?” Like, somebody to just, maybe push you to be more confident and have more gumption and be more like, “Here’s what I do, guys! Book me!” But also to keep you accountable, to actually do the things that you know you should be doing.

[00:16:06] – Frankie
It will come in time. That confidence will come in time. It will. But if you have somebody else to push you on, maybe it’ll come a bit quicker than it might have done if you go on that journey on your own.

[00:16:19] – Steve
I’ve mentioned this in my vlog, but I have a huge respect for anybody who runs any kind of store because it’s actually really hard. I didn’t realise.

I made these Being Freelance mugs, which at some point are going to make an awesome draught insulator when the winter comes. I have a lot of cardboard, but that’s about it because it’s so much effort! Like, promoting it and then figuring out the website bit and the postage and the packaging and the… Oh, good grief.

I don’t think we can overstate how much you are doing the right thing, though. You are selling your own products, marketing yourself brilliantly. You’re also getting your products wholesale into shops, which is no mean feat. And you know what? That should be a major tick in your confidence because shops would not stock your cards and your prints or whatever if they didn’t see the talent and the potential in it either. They know what sells, they know what looks good, and so that should be a good thing for you. I would definitely continue to push forward your prints and your cards because they’re great.

[00:17:26] – Frankie
They are really nice, guys, please go and buy one!

[00:17:28] – Steve
Yeah. For that matter, there’s Father’s Day stuff. And this is going out before Father’s Day, right?

[00:17:33] – Frankie
Yes! Boom.

[00:17:34] – Steve
All right.

[00:17:36] – Frankie
Also, this question is about the constant conundrum as a self-employed person — looking busy in order to be busy. Looking desirable, looking like you’ve got work when frankly, you don’t. In the hope that somebody will book you. And it’s such a fine balance between being honest and upfront, and being inauthentic or being afraid of being inauthentic versus looking a bit desperate.

[00:17:59] – Steve
Totally. Like, you want to look successful, people want to work with successful people. And also, it would be depressing not to put your best self forward, in a way. Right? Because good energy and good stuff comes from putting that forward.

Okay, so if you need a Father’s Day card, you know where to go.

[00:18:18] – Frankie
Yes, do it.

[00:18:19] – Steve
If you’ve actually, unlike us, got something useful to say to Rachel, then let us know what it is on Twitter, on Instagram and on Facebook, or within the Doing It For The Kids community.

What would your advice be?

Let us know your thoughts using #DIFTKpodcast on Twitter and Instagram, and join in the conversation via the DIFTK Community on Facebook.