Start your business: a guide (part 1)

We have been through a lot of ups and downs this past year. Some of us lost their jobs, some of us changed their jobs and some decided to start out on their own.

I’ve been there back in 2017. The first year (not month) was the toughest. I remember forking out money to set up my website and everything else before I had any income. And when I did have an income, it was only a trickle the first month. But when you successfully land your first client (and you will), I kid you not, it’s one of the best feelings in the world.

Mind you, it never gets easier. If you think that running your own business and being your own boss is a breeze, you’re in for an unpleasant surprise. Add being a parent to the mix whose child is at home due to COVID-19 restrictions, and there you have it.

But, I’m writing this to help you out, not to frighten the living daylights out of you. I’ve always been one to say it as it is; no beating about the bush. Bear with me.

So, now that you are ready to get started, I’d like to give you a helping hand. I didn’t have any guidance when I set foot on this path and always thought it would be nice to have had someone shed light on the road ahead.

OK, let’s cut to the chase. Where do you start?

1. Research, research!

Assuming you know what your products or services you’re going to offer are and that it is the right business venture for you, research first. Make sure there is a market for what you’re offering. Never assume people will buy your product just because YOU (or your family) like it.

  • Who are you selling to? Who are your primary customers?
  • What are their needs, frustrations?
  • How does your product/service help them?
  • Are there any products/services similar to yours?
  • Who is your competition?
  • How will you set yourself apart?

2. Plan it out.

A business without a plan? That’s a no-go. Don’t even think about going there. A business plan can be simple, nothing out of this world, but you need to have one. Specify your objective and map it out. What direction are you planning to take? This will change as your business grows.

Sample Business Plan to help you with writing your own: Samples by Hubspot.

3. Funding.

Service providers, online businesses, brick & mortar businesses – you all need the same thing: funding. The expense may differ depending on the business type but it costs money to start any business.

First you need to determine how much startup funding you will need. I can assure you that you will have bills and invoices to settle way before your business takes flight.

  • Will you self-fund?
  • Will you look for investors?
  • Will you be taking a small loan?

So make sure you put a lot of thought into this because you need this information before you launch. You can even seek (or perhaps it’s better if you do) professional guidance from trusted financial advisors.

  • List the expenses
  • Estimate how much these expenses will cost
  • Draw a full financial picture
  • Use this to calculate your initial fund

What kind of expenses? Equipment, office space, utilities, marketing, salaries, market research, website, communications etc.

  1. Refine your idea
  2. Conduct market research
  3. Check out the competition
  4. Write a Business Plan
  5. Draw a financial map

This is PART 1 of my guide. What will you expect in PART 2?

  • Registrations
  • Location
  • Structure
  • Marketing

Becoming self-occupied or self-employed also mean: paying your own taxes, vat and social security contributions. But we’ll cover that in PART 2 😉

You will probably start small and you will have moments of failure. Learn from them. Don’t toss everything to the side as soon as one thing goes wrong. That’s life, it’s a learning process.

Amanda x

Temporary bathroom office setup

Featuring The Learning Curve | Bath Toys

Most of you may have gone back to their place of work. My place of work was already my home way before COVID-19 took us by surprise. Truth is, working on my own business whilst taking care of Beth (who is now a toddler) has been the biggest challenge yet. So my options were to work:

↠ At night once my hubby is off work (he’s employed fulltime and has been working from home for a year now)

↠ When (and if) she naps in the afternoon

↠ During 1 hour Hey, Duggee! or Peppa Pig breaks (I hate doing this but sometimes, it can’t be helped)

↠ AND, during her bath time.

Last week, while she was playing in the tub, I was sitting on the closed loo with my laptop, tapping away. I glimpsed at the mirror and seeing me like that thought out loud, “what has my world come to!” This has become a thing and the fact that I was talking to myself out loud, doesn’t paint a better picture.

So, this bath time routine is playtime for her and worktime (or reading time) for me. Usually, I work from my phone. The laptop is too bulky to balance on my knees. And Beth, who loves water, splashes away in her tub. Having said that, most days, I tend to end up playing with her, and end up drenched.

Until a couple of weeks ago, she was still playing with her beach toys and I have been looking for actual bath toys for a while. Last year, I vowed to support more local businesses and not just during Christmas time but throughout the whole year. So instead of going on Amazon, I looked at the local scene first.

QUUT Bath puzzle | Mini Review

I rediscovered The Learning Curve whilst browsing Facebook. Rediscovered because I was already following them but their sponsored ad gave me a nudge. Turns out, they’re a husband and wife team with two kids of their own. Their online toy range is eco-friendly and sustainable – and that’s a big plus for me. I also loved how readily they helped with tips and suggestions according to Beth’s age.

After a little research (I can’t help it) I purchased a QUUT Bath puzzle and so far, Beth loves it. These BPA free puzzles are made of durable yet soft foam, encourage creative play and given they’re puzzles, stimulate fine motor skills: hand-eye coordination, spatial awareness and concentration.

If you’d like to see the whole range, this is it: QUUT Bath toys. And HEY, good news! For a limited time, you can get 5% off your purchase 🙂

Use this code: byamandalia5 

Until next time,

Amanda x

Find your brand voice! 7 Questions to get you started.

I can’t help but come back to writing about brand voice and tone. I think mainly because it’s just so essential and yet easily overlooked.

2020 has seen the rise of e-commerce and a further shift towards mobile marketing. Having and maintaining an online presence is now more important than ever. You can take your business much further if you have established your brand voice.

A brand without a voice is like having a latte without the milk. Pointless (albeit doable, apparently, with xanthan gum – but still not the same. You get my drift).

Your tone of voice is what sets you apart from the rest. It’s what makes you different, unique and relatable. 

What is a brand voice? What is tone of voice? Before getting started, learn more about brand tone & voice here ↠ WATCH YOUR TONE!

Now that you know the WHAT and the WHY, let’s get on with the HOW. Answering these questions will help you develop the voice of your brand:

↠ What are your company’s core values?

↠ Who is your audience? Your customers, clients, community?

↠ Which companies or brands do you admire the most?

↠ What 4 adjectives best describe your brand?

↠ Now, describe your brand as if it were a person. What kind of personality would s/he have?

↠ How do you want people to feel when interacting with your brand?

↠ Why you? Why should people choose you over others?

Mailchimp Content Style Guide is one of my favourite style guides, which I hope you will find helpful.

QUICK TIPS

  1. Find your purpose
  2. Be Authentic
  3. Look & listen to your audience
  4. Be consistent across all channels

Amanda x

bBrave AntiBullying Campaign

bBrave is Malta’s first (and only) Anti-Bullying NGO. I’ve been part of the team since 2018 because it’s a cause close to heart. All of us at bBrave are volunteers; each and every one of us do this because we truly believe in what we do.

I set my mind on improving bBrave’s online presence whilst focusing on building a more cohesive brand image and the right voice.

ANTI-BULLYING WEEK CAMPAIGN | NOVEMBER 2020

Tagline: UNITED AGAINST BULLYING

Mission: Anti-bullying awareness & support

Platforms: Facebook, Instagram & LinkedIn

Anti-Bullying Week is a yearly one-week event taking place in November.

Bullying doesn’t have an age, so our target audience here was (and still is) quite broad. We aim to reach kids, parents, teachers, employers and employees. The pandemic had me rethink our strategy and pushed mainly for online & mobile.

The objective: spread the anti-bullying message.

The idea: be bold yet simple to get the message across as loudly and as clearly as possible.

Content writing for social media was created in both Maltese and English to maximise our reach.

The Results: 460,000 Reach | 598,000 Impressions | 1K+ New followers

However, we broadened our reach further and made use of traditional media (TV appearances, radio, newspapers) and collaborations with local organisations to get the word out.

The work doesn’t end with this campaign. It’s ongoing and challenging.

Show your support & go follow!

Amanda x

Guest Post: @StefanLia

2020 turned out to be an unexpectedly weird and a somewhat disappointing year. Yet, looking back, I must admit that, despite all the restrictions, I have managed to work around them. Who in a million years would have thought that a pandemic will hinder our daily lives? (Well, Bill Gates actually did foresee this).

For 2021, I have a couple of projects lined up. One of which are guest posts. Stefan sums up his experience of 2020. Have a read.

Looking back at 2020

Undeniably, this has been a strange year to say the least. For most it has been pretty difficult. Higher stress level from actual or potential job losses and cancellation of long-awaited holidays and big events such as weddings and graduations. For some, lockdowns proved difficult due to their personal situation.

People could not meet people. For most of us, not being able to meet your vulnerable loved ones for fear of inadvertently infecting them which could lead to much serious consequences is difficult. Worst of all, is the pain that those who lost a loved one as a result of the virus went through. 

Clearly, this was not a good year, a bad one for most, if I were to make a quick evaluation. Yet there is always a silver lining.

If, like me, you are lucky enough to work from home, I am sure you can appreciate the time spent with you family. Yes, kids drive you crazy and an important meeting may have been interrupted with your dog’s barks. Yet, look back at those moments with a moments of fondness and a way for colleagues and collaborators to see the other side of you.

A lot of people had free time on their hands – less going out, difficult in practicing hobbies meant that, for once, time could be on our side. A lot have taken online courses, refreshed their skills or learnt something new to take with them in the new year. That is surely one of the best investment one could make during 2020!

There was also increased realisation by some of our impact on the planet. We all saw the pictures of deserted major cities and quite frankly I am still sad to see no crowds in our capital city, Valletta which is generally bustling with local and foreign shoppers. Yet one cannot deny that we are pressuring our environment and greater awareness of that may lead to actual change in attitude that future generations will thanks us for.

Finally there is there was the realisation of the importance of front-liners in such crisis. Medical staff, law enforcement and other individuals putting themselves at risk on a daily basis as part of their daily job. Such key function within a country are sometimes underappreciated. With the pandemic, this was brought into the limelight and hope is that this will bring positive change for the people doing these jobs, being better conditions, salaries and greater appreciation.

As we prepare to celebrate a different Christmas this year, no work parties, no travelling and no big lunches or dinners, we can only hope that 2021 will be a better year. We will, for sure, take both the good and bad from 2020 with us to make the most out of it!

Stefan Lia is a governance & risk professional, father to 19 month old Bethany and 3 year old Nina (dog). He also happens to be my hubby ♡

Would you like to be featured on my blog? Let’s talk!

Amanda x

A few of my favourite things.

One thing you will most definitely appreciate when you start out on your own is support. Ever since I started my own business I realised how a single dose of support can keep your engine running through thick and thin (that, and a lot of hard work).

The COVID-19 situation we found ourselves in had me thinking. I realised I needed to support small local businesses even more, whenever possible. As a solopreneur myself, I know of the hardships we had to endure this year due to COVID-19 related budget cuts and restrictions.

So, without further ado, I am listing my top favourite tried & tested products from local businesses worth following and buying from. These small businesses work hard and deserve our appreciation ♡

MADUMA

My current stationery stash is all MADUMA. I have been a fan since day one. I even interviewed Kimberly, the brain behind MADUMA, in another post | MADUMA INTERVIEW.

Ikħal is my go-to colour. You can find it here: Ikħal Stationery Set

Rebels with a Cause

Rebels with a Cause are all about sustainability. Their reusable makeup remover pads are my Rebels with a Cause ultimate favourite.

You can find them here: Reusable Makeup Remover Pads

Kartolerija

For my birthday this year, a good friend of mine sent me this beautiful diary for a hopefully more beautiful year than 2020 ever was.

Their diary is available here: Djarju Elfejn Wiehed u Ghoxrin

Concrete creations

Another good friend of mine got me these handmade tealight candle holders. Love them.

Take a look at their creations here: Concreate Creations

The Learning Curve

I’m always on the lookout for educational toys, preferably not plastic ones. Bethany’s favourite is the natural Acvitivty Loop.

You can find it here: Activity Loop

The mama manual

I remember attending Nakita’s book launch and was super excited for her. If you’d like (or need) to get organised, this one’s for you!

You can order it here: How busy mums get organised

J-okini

I have a mild obsession with Japan. I even started learning the language but had to put a pause on that due to my whirlwind of a life. Sumie has the most amazing things and the perfect matcha. She even goes the extra mile and sends you matcha recipes and info.

If you love matcha tea, I suggest it you get it from here: Matcha Green Tea Powder

Pots by Veronica

These pots are actually painted by hand. The perfect seasonal gift!

You can find them here: Christmas Pots

Vanilla Mummy

I’m always trying to be creative with fruit smoothies and veggie snacks. These are a life saver. I’m being serious. Plus, they are reusable.

Check out the starter pack: Nom Nom Kids Starter Pack

Merlin

If you haven’t made my acquaintance yet, well, let me tell you. I adore books. Not love, adore. And by the looks of it, Bethany’s love for books is blossoming.

This is Beth’s favourite of the month: Kuluri u Forom

Well, that’s the end of the list (for now)!

Take care & stay safe

Amanda x

🎄 Have yourself a GREEN Christmas!

It’s the season of excess and it’s easy to get lost in the glam of it all. Let’s admit it. During this period, more than in any time of the year, we tend to overindulge and overspend (sometimes without even meaning to, or so we tell ourselves). Albeit this year, we might have already taken a step back as for most of us, 2020 has not been so kind to our pockets.

One thing is for certain though. Every choice and purchase that we make has an impact on our environment. If we had to make small adjustments to our spending habits, we would diminish our carbon footprint in the long run. Being responsible for our natural resources will also help ensure a better life for our future generations. So, why not avoid leaving your resolutions to the new year and make it a holiday resolution instead?

As soon as Halloween is done and dusted, we roll up our sleeves and get working on the Christmas gift list. Getting started early eases the way towards better and wiser spending decisions. It allows you enough time to also think about the environment. I’m pretty positive that if you’re rushing through the gift list, the environment would be the last thing on your mind.

Also, have you ever noticed how just one shopping spree can fill half of your recycling bag with the extra, double packaging alone? The alternative is too much of a hassle, you might think. Zero waste? How is that even possible? It’s true that the consumerist environment we have been immersed into doesn’t help on this account. But, at the very least, start small. Start by going for something light in packaging or sustainable in itself ↡ ↡ ↡

I realise that most of the times, it’s more convenient to just go with whatever.  The “U iva, issa mhux għar-recycling” mentality usually kicks in. What you might not realise is how in the EU member states, 40% of plastic production is for packaging and only 30% of plastic gets recycled. The rest is either incinerated, ends up in landfills or litters the sea. So, whilst recycling may be one of the solutions to tackling plastic litter, in reality, according to the EU Parliament, only less than a third of plastic waste in Europe is recycled.

Try thinking about this whilst your eyes are scanning the shelves or online stores for stocking fillers and Secret Santa gifts. Say your eyes rest on scented candles. Choose the one with less packaging. Avoid purchasing the one moulded in a plastic container, nestled in a cardboard box wrapped in more plastic. Or better yet, choose natural, reusable gifts or ones that are made from recycled sources.

Another idea is to look for locally made or grown gifts. Ordering something from halfway around the world comes with an added cost. Transportation contributes to greenhouse emissions and keeping it local is much greener. This way, you’d also be eliminating single-use outer packaging.

Not all gifts have to necessarily be store-bought. Gift giving is a gesture of thoughtfulness. I’m sure your loved ones will appreciate the time and effort you put in making something yourself. Having something homemade is considered a luxury these days.

Sustainable gift giving is not only about making better gift choices per se, but rather, transforming the whole experience surrounding it. There are several ways to cut down ways and have a greener Christmas without being a Scrooge. All you need is a little imagination and think things through.

By now, I’m also sure you are aware that wrapping paper is not eco-friendly. Most of the wrapping paper we buy contains glitter and synthetic inks which are not recyclable. Opt for other alternatives like brown paper, paper tape and twine. Try using newspapers, old posters or scarves (double the gift) to artfully wrap your gifts.

Think a little more about the environment while crossing out gifts on your Christmas list. The best gift you can give the environment (and ultimately, yourself), is to have a more sustainable Christmas this year. With a little effort and a touch of creativity, you can be kinder to our planet this holiday season. Let’s not forget what really matters!

Happy holidays and stay safe!

Amanda x

What’s NEW? MADUMA products & a mini-interview.

I have been following @madumamalta right from its birth. I even (and unashamedly) entered a giveaway and actually won. I was stunned; the last time I had won anything was in primary school (back then, I won a plant against a 25c fee. It died a while later).

If you follow MADUMA on Instagram, you know they’ve been hinting at launching new products TODAY. Well, guess what? I’m sharing the news IN THIS POST 😍 Here’s a sneak peak.

But first, let me introduce you to the person behind this much-loved local brand who is super nice and, let me tell you, down to earth. Kimberly takes the time to check in and see whether everything is OK whenever I publish a story featuring the MADUMA products. The last time she did, I asked her for an interview and she said YES 🙌

Photo by Naomi Gradel

We decided to keep it virtual for the sake of everyone’s safety.

I would love to know more about MADUMA. How did it all start?

The idea of MADUMA began when I was studying for my Bachelor’s degree at MCAST. I decided to focus my thesis on the demise of local trades, especially the historically rich floor tiles that you used to find all over Malta. I wanted to create awareness about this beautiful trade and do
my part to preserve Maltese culture. This sparked the idea of combining my two biggest passions, design and fashion, that led to me creating my own fashion label, focusing on the beauty of the Maltese floor tile.

So, tell me, Kimberly. What inspires you?

Whenever I walk into an old house or shop with traditional Maltese floor tiles. But not just that. My inspiration for new colours and ideas derives from exploring new places; especially when I’m on holiday and more relaxed.

I know for a fact that there are many creative people out there with great ideas who are afraid to take the leap. What advice would you give them?

Listen to your gut and just do it, even if people around you don’t believe in you or your idea. Do not let people discourage you from following your dreams, even if these people are the closest to you. If you believe in your idea, that’s all you need.

I have to ask this. What is your favourite MADUMA product (and why)?

It’s hard to pick, I love them all! I think it’s like asking a mother, who is your favourite child? This might be an unfair question, but I think if I really had to pick, it would be the organic cotton t-shirts because they were the first products that started my brand.

You, in three words.

Ambitious, brave, detail-oriented

Something on your bucket list:

To see MADUMA products being sold in brick-mortar shops around our beautiful island.

I’m sure it won’t be too long before you tick that one off your bucket list!

Now, for the good news! MADUMA launches these Maltese-tile inspired and potential stocking fillers today!

☆ Pocket mirrors ☆
★ Magnets ★
☆ Pack of 4 Magnets ☆ (so you can get all patterns if undecided)

Maybe we’ll be seeing other products in these new colours as well? 🤔💙

I’m always looking forward to see what Kimberly comes up with!

Show your support & go follow!

Amanda x

Why I keep photos of my toddler off social media

If you scroll through my Instagram feed or skim through my stories, you will occasionally see my little bee. But never her face.

Before reading this post, know this. This is my personal opinion, and for the record, everyone can do whatever they like. To each, their own. It’s not the first time that I liked a picture a friend of mine shared of her kids.

And as a mum, I know how it feels. My fingers itch to share a story of my toddler and show her insanely cute moments to the world. Her first smile, her first step, her continuous blabbering while we play.

But that’s just it. I don’t want the world to have access to her photos and videos. Her face. Once publicly online, they’re there forever even if you delete them. I have no way of knowing who saved her pictures on their devices.

I pondered on this throughout most of my pregnancy. On the one hand, I wanted to share happy pictures of our little family. On the other, my paranoid side kept kicking in. What if a stranger sees them? How would I feel if her pictures and videos had to fall into the wrong hands? Do I want that nagging feeling of doubt? No, I didn’t.

Unfortunately, it happens. Images, sometimes even retouched, resurface on the Internet. I revolt at the thought alone. But how can you know where the picture of your child is?

I’m quite a private person, so not sharing her pictures didn’t feel like anything out of the norm for me personally. Instead, I got creative. I include her in pictures, always fully clothed and her face never shows. The people closest to me, the ones who matter, see her in real life anyway 😋

She can start her own digital footprint when she comes of age. At least, I hope that when she’s a teenager, she’ll appreciate that I haven’t shared any ’embarrassing’ pictures of her 😅

Are there any parents out there who are on the same wavelength or is it just me?

Until next time
Amanda x

Featured image by https://www.instagram.com/kagrabowska/

Watch your tone!

Finding your brand voice requires more effort than you think. In my first post discussing tone of voice (TOV), I pointed out how some businesses tend to spend all their energy on perfecting their image and not spare a thought for their voice.

For those of you who missed the intro, you can catch up here 👉#TONEOFVOICE

I understand that not everyone is good with words. I see this everyday, everywhere I go. Both offline and online. That is why a TOV guideline will come in handy for your team. Different people, different manners, different ways of communicating. However, your brand must be consistent on all fronts.

The way your brand logo, colours, and fonts are of significance in recognising your name, so are the words you use and most importantly, how you use them.

Think of your voice as your personality. Your tone reflects that personality and sometimes changes depending on the context.

Source: CoSechedule

Both your tone and voice are about expression. An expression of your company’s values. Here, we’re looking at how and what you write rather than following writing rules per se. Mind you, grammar is just as important. I shudder every time I see desert on a restaurant menu.

Quick tip: revise everything before publishing a message or sending material for printing. Have someone else take a look. A fresh pair of eyes can save the day.

Here’s an example of what you might think is a simple greeting. When you’re representing your brand, which one would you go for?

Or, think about this example below:

A. “Thank you for reaching out.”

B. “Hey, thanks for reaching out 🙂”

Phrase A reads more serious than phrase B. The latter reads more easygoing and fun. Different word choice and use of emojis have set a different tone to the same phrase.

Take a look at these Brand Voice Examples:

Starbucks
Mailchimp
Old Spice

Quick tips

  1. Be straightforward and avoid jargon.
  2. Use the active voice and write positively.
  3. The tone of voice needs to reflect your business objective.
  4. If in doubt, read aloud. Is it too humorous? Too formal? Too sassy?
  5. Write all this down & create a guideline.

Why does it matter?

Your tone of voice is what sets you apart from the rest. It’s what makes you different, unique and relatable. It helps in creating an emotional connection with your customers. This familiarity you create is most likely to lead to loyalty and trust.

That’s why having a brand tone of voice matters.

Need help? Let’s talk.

Amanda x