10 Lessons I Learned In My First 6 Months At Share As Image

Today is bittersweet.

Why?

Because, my friend, this is the last ever blog post for Share As Image . We’re shutting off the lights. Winding down. And focusing all our efforts on Stencil.

But, if that’s the bitter part, what’s the sweet part?

It’s that it’s not the end. Because we’ll be right back in the New Year with a new name, on the Stencil Blog!

Phew.

It’s been a heck of a ride so far, and I can’t wait to see where we go from here.

But when you’re looking to the future, it’s also good to reflect on the past. It’s easier to know where you’re going, when you know where you’ve been. And, today’s post is just that. A reflection on what I’ve learned over my first six months here with Share As Image.

#1: You Can Never Know Enough About Your Customers

You just can’t. No way. Never.

Because just when you think you’ve got your customers down to a tee, they throw a curveball in there. And if you’re not ready to adapt to it, then you set yourself up to fail.

Adam and Oliver and I do so much research into our customers you wouldn’t believe. There is a graph for anything and everything at Share As Image HQ. But, even then, you do something to surprise us.

In fact, one of the reasons we’re changing to Stencil is because of what we’ve learned about you over recent months. And I’m sure once we launch you’ll throw a few surprises our way too.

But it’s important to research and get to know your customers.

Never guess. Never think, “Oh, it’ll be alright”. Take the time to reach out on a personal level and become friends with your customers. The insights they give you will surprise you and change your products, for the better, forever.

#2: Never Be Scared To Take Risks

Risk taking is scary, there’s no doubt about it.

But there is no script to running a business. No right way, or wrong way. And everything you do, from updating your Facebook page, through to adding a new feature, is a gamble. You have no idea how people are going to react.

Take this blog, for example.

I try to take risks on this blog every single week. Some of them pay off. And, well…some of them don’t.

We thought this post about writing great content was going to be a sure fire winner. But it absolutely tanked, getting one of the lowest shares and page views of any post ever written on the blog:

 

Screen Shot 2015-10-22 at 09.41.31

 

While this post about Creativity, we weren’t even going to share on the blog. Until we decided to take a punt on it last minute. And, it’s one of the most popular articles that we’ve got.

Screen Shot 2015-10-22 at 09.42.14

 

And this really personal article I wrote, that was a little off-base for normal, performed far beyond expectations:

 

Screen Shot 2015-10-22 at 09.43.28

 

 

#3: Outreach Is Everything

One of my favourite sayings ever comes from Tim Ferriss who said:

“Your network is your net worth”

Over the last few months at Share As Image, I’ve never found that to be more true.

We’ve created content for sites like Nichehacks, Robbie Richards and Buffer. And, we’ve made some of their readers part of our audience too.

There have also been great contributions on our blog, like this post from Walter Chen, that have let you guys connect with someone brand new too.

But it’s not just posting that’s important.

It’s that we’ve helped them. They’ve helped us. We’ve grown together. And all of these relationships – and many more, who I’ve not mentioned – have come from simple emails, Tweets and blog comments. Who knows where these relationships go down the line, either?

If you treat your business as if it’s just you against the world, you set yourself up to fail. Because it will be you against the world, and the world always wins.

Find people who are important in your niche. Talk to them. Get to know them. Help them. And, if you need it, ask for help yourself. You’ll be better off in the long rung for it.

#4: You Need To Love Your Brand

Here’s a little know fact about the Share As Image brand…

We hate it.

The name Share As Image shakes us to our core every time we hear it. It’s like one of those drunken tattoos that you spend your adult life hiding under a sleeve. We know it’s there, but we never acknowledge it.

And if you don’t love your brand. Or your name. Or whatever is about your business that upsets you, then you’ll never put your heart in to it. Your desire to work will go. And you’ll always harbour resentment for it.

Yes, it’s important to have a brand that your customers love. But it’s also important to have a brand that you love, too.

Which is another, powerful reason we’re becoming Stencil.

#5: Test, Test And Test Again

When I was a Personal Trainer, way back when, someone once said to me, “It’s important to be good. But it’s more important to know why you’re good.”

That’s a philosophy that Adam and Oliver have firmly ingrained in to them, and the Share As Image/Stencil model as well.

From which buttons that are used in emails, through to how we lay out the page, and the writing you can see in the animation on the home page. All of it has been tested, tested and re-tested to make sure it’s good. And that we know what makes it good.

If you’re not testing you’re making life hard for yourself. Because you’re stopping yourself from having clear, strong data to make your decisions from. That means taking risks is much harder because you have no idea how things are going to go. At least with testing, you know you’re not losing 1,000 customers a month because your landing page copy sucks.

No matter what it is, test it. Then test it again. And do it one more time, just to be sure.

You’ll see results in your business – and your back pocket – in no time at all.

#6: There Are No Bad Decisions (Only Living With The Consequences)

This is one of our Mantras and it’s a powerful one for you to adapt.

There is no such thing as a bad decision. You can’t predict the future, and there is no such thing as certainty. And one factor that holds a lot of businesses back is actually ever making decisions. Ever. They’re often quite happy to sit back and stay in their current position forever, without rocking the boat.

But making the decision isn’t ever the problem. It’s what happens after you make it. And, that’s an important distinction to make. Because you have the choice of how you deal with what happens. 

For example, if you decide to change your prices, and lots of customers leave you, that would look like a bad decision on the surface. But it only becomes a bad decision if you choose to get angry about it, panic and let the decision define you.

But if you sit back and say, “Okay, we’ve lost a lot of customers. That sucks. But, we wanted to up our prices. So now it’s time to find people who are willing to pay more money for us” it becomes an opportunity to improve and grow.

Make the hard decisions. And, if they do go south – which some will – be strong enough to deal with the consequences.

#7: Not Everyone Will Love What You Do (Deal With It)

When you decide to put yourself out there, no matter what it is you do, someone out there won’t like it.

There are people out there who hate my writing. There are people out there that hate Share As Image. And, there are people out there who hate the assortment of names you use in your headlines:

 

Screen Shot 2015-10-22 at 09.54.33

 

But that’s the sign that you’ve created something worthwhile. That your product or service or skill is actually valuable and making a contribution to peoples lives.

Don’t get bogged down in the haters and the nay-sayers. Accept that they’re there, and they will always be there, and move on from it.

#8: Don’t Strive For Perfection

This is the easiest route to madness. Because, it doesn’t exist.

There is no:

  • Perfect layout
  • Perfect blog post
  • Perfect product
  • Perfect new feature
  • Perfect sales funnel

There is only what works for you, and what doesn’t. It doesn’t matter if X competitor is doing Y and Z. If it doesn’t work for your audience, your customers or your business model. It’s not worth your time and effort.

We have plenty of competitors in the design space, the social media space and the productivity space. And we love all of our competitors. But we learned, after time, that their perfect strategy would never work for their business. And ours would never work for theirs.

So don’t strive to be perfect. Good enough, no matter what the Guru’s tell you, is always, well…good enough.

#9: It’s Better To Work Smart Than Work Hard

You can read a lot about productivity on this blog. And, with good reason:

I hate working hard.

I do. I’m lazy, and I’ll openly admit that.

You should hate working hard, too. Because hard work doesn’t always equal results. It definitely equals you getting tired and worn out. But, it doesn’t always mean you’re going to get the result you want.

The only work that gets your results is smart work.

That is, choosing the important work that’s going to bring you the best return on investment.

Let me give that some perspective for you:

We get a lot of emails asking for new features. But, a lot of them are one-off asks. Someone might want the ability to use a specific icon or font. And then we’ll never hear anyone ask for that again, ever.

Now if we were to add every single one of those features we get asked for on a one off basis, we’d definitely be working hard. But for what result? Probably not a lot.

But if we get a lot of requests for something then it’s worth adding. Because a lot of people will benefit from it. So, instead of adding 200 new features a year, we’ll maybe add four or five. Which is smart work, and we only invest the time we need to, to get the biggest result.

It’s a win for us. A win for you. And a win for me getting to kick back and watch Star Wars.

#10: When’s It’s Time To Change, Change

Change is scary.

In fact, as we go through updating to Stencil, you can hear constant screams of, “WHY ARE WE DOING THIS?!” and, “DON’T GO IN TO THAT ROOM ALONE!”. Because as much as we are super stoked about this product, and have every faith in, it’s scary to do. We have no idea if you’re going to love it or hate it.

But there comes a point where, if you stop changing, you stop growing. And either way you become outdated, useless and forgotten about. The Internet – and the world itself – is a brutal place like that.

The sign that something is scary is usually the sign that you should do it. That’s it’s going to be the best thing you’ve ever done, ever.

On the other side of fear lies your greatest lesson ever. Go and find it.