Naomi Dunford, the founder of IttyBiz, has been in the blogosphere for a long, long time (nearly 10 years). She’s earned quite a name for herself, recognized by the likes of Forbes, Copyblogger, and Problogger. Between marketing, creating, and helping itty bitty businesses flourish, she’s also a mother of two young boys. She is living proof that when you combine consistency and strategy, it will pay off.
Thanks for joining us, Naomi. Making money online is somewhat of a new territory in business. How do you explain to people what you do?
I try to avoid it, if I can. 🙂
Well, there are two types of people who might ask what I do. People who might care, and people who almost definitely don’t.
When people who might care ask – like I’m at a networking event or a conference or something – I quote my Twitter bio and say, “I support business owners during times of significant growth. Because growth is great, but also REALLY HARD.”
When people who don’t care ask – as in, my cousin’s new girlfriend – I say I’m a business coach. 1% of people find that interesting. 99% of people walk away to find another drink.
Do you think that anyone has the potential to be an entrepreneur – what qualities have been the most helpful in your journey?
Ha! Great question.
Technically, I do believe anyone has the potential to be an entrepreneur, but only because I believe in neuroplasticity. Anybody can ultimately be an entrepreneur, but for some people, it’s going to take a lot of brain retraining to get there.
You have to be willing and able to change your mental patterns and defaults. All the normal fears – rejection, success, failure – if you want to be an entrepreneur, you must embark on a lifetime quest to get over them.
The most important qualities, for me, have been bravery and self-reflection. Both of them took almost a decade of entrepreneurship for me to develop. (See: neuroplasticity, above.)
What was your original vision for IttyBiz – your core mission that you set out to accomplish when you started?
I wanted to help 1000 people quit their day jobs. There’s a lesson here: Don’t pick a core mission that can be accomplished in less than a year. It leaves you with no direction.
The new design is much more feminine. Also, there seems to be less profanity. What was your strategy behind the change?
I actually took the profanity out several years ago, but I did it really quietly, so nobody really noticed that much. I never wrote a blog post that said, “From now on, I’m never saying **** again!”
I took it out for a few reasons. One, when my youngest son learned to read, he didn’t like the swearing. (He’s a Virgo. He likes rules.) Two, when I didn’t swear, public sharing went up. IttyBiz used to be a lot of people’s dirty little secret, but they couldn’t exactly share it on Facebook – their minister and mother-in-law and PTA president were following them. I like social proof and I trust numbers – I wanted shares more than I wanted to say bad words all the time.
As for the more feminine design, I just wanted it to be more a reflection of me. I really tried to stay gender neutral for a long time – I love the boys and men in my life, and I’d gotten REALLY sick of everybody saying, “I want to support women business owners!” Yeah? Who was supporting my dad when he started his business? Who will support my sons? I didn’t want to make it about gender.
Then I realized, um, I’m really, really feminine. I’m Manolo Blahniks and pearls and velvet and pretty teacups. And I wanted to give a happy sigh when I went to my website. So I changed it.
Through your pivoting process, what is your biggest takeaway for entrepreneurs who want to rebrand their business?
Can I pick two?
Let’s hear it.
One, prepare to go through a lot of self-reflection. Your brand is like a wedding dress that you have to wear every day for the rest of your life. Prepare to torture yourself with self-doubt, wondering, waffling, questioning, and potentially existential angst.
Two, after you’ve gotten over all that, it doesn’t take nearly as long as you think it will.
Definitely something to think about. So, what is your top priority for IttyBiz moving forward?
I’ve thought about this question for a week, and I’m no further ahead than I was at the beginning. I don’t think I have a top priority. I’m not a top priority kind of person. I’m just taking it one year at a time.
As a blogger, how do you make sure that your income is sustainable every month?
Month-on-month sustainability is over-rated. Only broke people care about that kind of sustainability.
The trick to stopping the feast and famine cycle is to make your feasts so big, you don’t notice the famines.
Profit does not operate on a predictable schedule. Accountants make their money in Q1, ice cream shops make their money in Q3, and Nintendo makes their money in Q4. Trying to avoid that is like trying to make the sun rise in the West.
Come to IttyBiz, take a class, work hard, and have a $100,000 launch. Watch how you don’t care so much about sustainability anymore.
I think you’ve just rustled a few feathers. You’ve always maintained a very brazen, ballsy attitude in business. How did you balance feelings of self-doubt and insecurities with maintaining authenticity in your brand?
You have to separate the brand from the person. That way you don’t change your branding every time you have a bad day.
I also find (and mileage may vary on this one) that creating ludicrously high goals helps to keep the demons at bay. There’s only so shy and retiring you can be when you’ve got money to make.
At what point should a blogger start hiring employees?
When they can afford it, and when they’re absolutely, positively CERTAIN they know what they’re going to have that employee do.
(Hint: In aggregate, virtual employees are usually about 5 times faster at doing things than their employer. They don’t get existential about it, and they don’t stop in the middle to go to a branding webinar. So you’ll need more for them to do than you think they will.)
One more question…what does a typical busy day look like for you?
Ahh, that’s two questions.
You’ve got me!
On a typical day, I take between two and four coaching calls, and a couple of sales calls – people who might become clients. In between, I stare at the ceiling moaning, “I really should [write that blog post / get back on Pinterest / approve those graphics].”
On a busy day – like leading up to a product launch – I work 14 hours, and the hours that aren’t client or sales calls are mostly spent writing or editing. That’s maybe a couple weeks at a time, three or four times a year.
My son also has an office in my office, so he’s in and out a lot, although mostly just because he’s looking for food.
BRAND SECRETS BONUS QUESTION:
If you lost everything and had to start over with only $100, how would you spend it?
Premium theme from Bluchic – $79
Custom font from Creative Market – $12
Custom header from Fiverr – $5
Latte – $4
Let’s see where the magic happens!