I am at a crossroads.
I am trying to figure out where to go next and I was wondering whether you would like to follow along on my journey.
Those that have been following me for a while may have noticed that the blog has been quiet for a long time. Social media just rolls along with much personality or any kind of magic. My training programs have not been actively marketed. I had been standing at these crossroads for quite a while, then moved down one road, but due to circumstances beyond my control, I have been sharply pulled back to the crossroads. But this time I will not be staying at these crossroads for long. It’s time to move. I will not be waiting for Godot anymore.
The Initial Journey
See, in 2011 I started on a journey. I made a decision not to look for another job with another employer, but to strike out on my own. I had a mission and I had passion for that mission. I had been working with entrepreneurs and small businesses through my work as project manager and consultant at an incubator and I could see that I had something that all of those businesses needed: marketing knowledge and skills. What’s more, I love working with entrepreneurs and startups because they are at the stage where there is the most creativity and strategic development and the possibilities are endless.
So off I went with a packed lunch and new shoes, as we say in Icelandic (“nesti og nýja skó” :) ) and started my journey as a marketing consultant to SMBs and entrepreneurs. I soon built a strong audience in my native Iceland and got a lot of clients. I also soon found that hours for dollars with this target group was difficult and exhausting work. At one point I remember working with about 20 different businesses, trying to have an understanding of all of their markets, and remembering where they were at and where they were headed – and working with all of those different businesses on their strategies and marketing plans. My mind was about to explode.
On top of that, as I was mostly working with laymen when it came to marketing, I found myself explaining the same fundamental principles again and again. “Yes, you do have to decide on a target group and you can’t sell to everybody.” “No, you can’t just ignore the competition.” “A brand is not just a logo.” “No, one big ad in the newspaper is not enough.” “Yes, you do have to do marketing continuously, all the time”, and so on and so forth.
Moving Beyond the Basics
So I started to develop materials that I shared with my clients, so as not to continually have to repeat myself, and that developed into a marketing training program in Icelandic called Markaðsmál á mannamáli (or ‘jargon free marketing’ in English). I started to make it a prerequisite for working with clients that they went through the training. That way, I didn’t have to waste time saying the same things over and over again, and the time I spent with clients could be used to build on the basics, not cover them. (It also meant that only those committed enough to do their marketing properly would become my clients, as the others couldn’t be bothered to do the work of going through the training). During all this, I was also speaking, teaching and mentoring, but always to this target group, so always pretty much covering the basics.
For various reasons, and with encouragement, I decided to then take the training program to the world. So I translated the whole thing into English, called it Marketing Untangled, recorded all the videos again, set it all up, this time inside this wonderful Rainmaker system, and hit a wall.
The fire blew out…
I had spent four years working with small businesses and entrepreneurs. I had given it all I had. I had developed the training program first with a development group, then version one in Icelandic, then a second version in Icelandic, then an English version. And this is no small feat. In the English version there are 70 modules, 68 videos, 45 worksheets and everything else that goes into a program like this, and I had effectively created it 4 times, pretty much all on my own (for the English one my husband helped me set up the lights and camera, and my VA helped me input the materials into the system). All the while I had also been consulting, teaching and mentoring.
What’s more, I realized that if I was to build my business this way, it would mean continuing to work on my own a lot, just me in front of the computer, and I really missed working with a team (working with clients and teaching is not the same as working with a team, as some of you will know). Sure, I would continue to build my virtual team, but that is not the same as working with a team in the same place on the same projects – something I absolutely love.
And not only that …
There are many differences between large and small businesses – let alone large businesses and solopreneurs. One of the big ones is that a big business can do whatever the market calls for and just pull in the resources for it as needed. So if Coca Cola sees opportunities in selling tap water under a brand name, they can do that. They don’t have to be passionate about the idea. It just has to make business sense. Nothing more.
If small businesses, let alone individuals, try to work on and sell something they don’t believe in, are not interested in, are not passionate about, they eventually burn out. The business is not just business, it is a large part of your life, and it has to give you something more in return than just money. (Well, at least this applies for most of us, some people can do things purely for the money, but I’m not one of them and I am happy to say that the same applies to most of the people I know).
So on top of everything else, I was getting bored, I had lost my passion, and I was ready for more in terms of my professional capacity. The fact that I was only utilizing about 10-20% of my knowledge and experience in marketing was slowly putting out the fire in me. I wanted to use all the knowledge I had accumulated over the years to its fullest, I wanted to do, not teach – and definitely not teach the basics any more.
The Search Starts
So from late 2015 I have been searching. I’ve explored numerous things. I was going to be the online marketing director for a brand going into the US market, but their distribution deal fell through. I went to London to workshop another business, which I then pulled out of as it didn’t feel quite right, and soon after that it fell through anyway (my gut was right on that one), I started a branding agency with a few others that wasn’t to be for various reason, I started a health related business with a partner which is still going but is not likely to be anything near full time any time soon – and anyway, the nature of that business is the same as my training – pretty much just me, on my own, in front of the computer.
When I had been exploring without results for about a year, I decided that it was time to just do things the old way. Get a job. Get a job as a marketing exec at a company where I could be doing, rather than teaching, and using my knowledge to the fullest.
Now, getting an exciting marketing job in the Icelandic market is … well, let’s say a challenge (the total population of Iceland is just north of 330 thousand people, so you can deduct what that means for the job market). But, I got absurdly lucky and in October 2016 I started working as a CMO for a SaaS company. The business has a lot of potential, I am doing exactly the kind of work I want to be doing and as a bonus, I work with and share an office with two of the greatest people I’ve ever met.
Back to Square One
However, due to internal dynamics beyond my control (and which I don’t feel is right to discuss here), my time with these great people will be coming to an end at the beginning of June. So I am finding myself back at the same old crossroads, considering what route to take.
Do I start looking for a job again? I’ve looked at the market and good opportunities are few and far between (mind you, there are also so many inefficiencies in the process of matching jobs and candidates, that it’s absurd – that would material for another very long blog post! :) ), do I go back to pure online marketing of my own businesses, sitting alone at the computer … I don’t think I can. I’m way too much of a people person. Do I start another, different business? Do I buy a business that is already running? Or do I go back to consulting and freelancing, and upgrade my clientele?
I’m not sure. I have decided to take some time out to think and explore. Just stop for a moment and breathe. Only do what I want to do and none of the things I think I should to do.
And that brings me back to the beginning.
The Journey Starts Again
This is the first post about this journey. Right now I’ll be giving my website a bit of a makeover to reflect the new, older and hopefully a tiny bit wiser Thoranna, and once that’s done, I will be blogging on there again. Until then, I’ll publish my posts on my LinkedIn profile – come follow me there if you are interested. :)
The posts to come will be quite different from the posts that have been on my blog up to now. Yes, I’m sure there will be some concrete marketing knowledge in them for you, and I can pretty much guarantee that I will be pointing you in the direction of some great sources for your marketing and your business in general. But they won’t be me directly teaching in the same way as I have before. Rather they will talk about my journey and my musings about business, marketing and life – life as a freelancer, life as an entrepreneur, life as an employee, professional life as I experience it. And it will be uncensored, undiluted me. No more writing what I think people want to read, no more writing purely for keywords (there is a time and place for that, but not on this blog of mine), no more hiding anything for fear of what people think. That’s the mission at least. ;)
What to Expect
To give you an idea of the kinds of things I may be blogging about (nothing is set in stone though), here are a few points:
- There will more likely than not be blogs about the craziness that is life today – I’ve already written one (which I may or may not edit before I publish) about the culture of always being busy and what I think that is doing to us all.
- Directly marketing focused posts will be more advanced than what my readers have been used to up to now, but then, I think I’ve covered the basics pretty well, and the training is always there for those that want to go more into those.
- Posts based on what I am doing in the businesses I’m working on, experiments and all sorts of stuff like that.
- I plan to let the books I’m reading and courses I’m taking inspire my posts, and on the reading and course lists in the coming weeks and months are topics like:
- People skills and networking
- Website conversions
- Growth hacking
- And much much more …
I believe one should always be learning – or die otherwise – and the things above are among the things one can always be learning more about. :)
Oh, and I am working on the Marketing Untangled book series again. Some may remember the first book, Marketing Untangled: The Small Business & Entrepreneur’s Map Through The Marketing Jungle. That was just the start that prompted a series, which has been lying half written for way too long now and I’m finally working to finish them. For me, I think it will be a symbolic close to a chapter in my professional life. I’m sure I’ll write a blog or two about that as well. ;)
Want to Join Me?!
If you want to join me on this journey, make sure you are on my email list. I’ll be sending the blogs out there as they are published. You will be able to find them on my LinkedIn profile, and once the website has been refreshed, they’ll all be there as well.
If you don’t want to follow my journey, that’s fine. All I will say is ‘au revoir’ and I wish you all the best. You know where to find me. ;)
Well … here we go. Step one – freshen up that website!