This is  a shock to  everyone. Long queues of people lining up for daily necessities, upward statistical spikes of infected and deceased coupled with a  global lockdown of the economy until further notice. 

Now that living through these dystopian times is becoming a norm, for now,  the next port of call would be how to keep your business afloat?

While bigger businesses have enough cash reserves to get through difficult times this doesn’t apply to SMEs which usually don’t have financial depth to stay on the surface for a few weeks at best.

Doesn’t it sound like economy apocalypse to you? Literally overnight many people decided just to get rid of whatever they have obsolete just in order to recover some cash… 

And this is the moment where the game begins.

1. The burden of habits

While you’re rushing in panic through your house and thinking how to provide your family with everything, maybe this is the time to adapt, perhaps, dig into your talents/hobbies with a view to monetize them. 

I remember seeing a programme of GaryVee hustling from one garage sale to another looking for cheap stuff which nobody wanted. For example, old stickers, comic books, dolls, mugs, etc. 

You may ask, what all of this has to do with me? Well, it only shows that how a public figure, speaker, tutor, mentor suddenly finds himself wandering around the area looking for useless things. 

You will be surprised at the amount of money he later made on eBay and Etsy selling that stuff.

Bottom line? One man’s junk is another man’s treasure! 

As a helpful hint I would encourage you to take your funky smartphone and check your contact list. I believe you have hundreds or thousands of contacts of some old friends you haven’t called for a while. Call them and check out on them, how do they handle hard times. 

The egoistic side of your call is following: sometimes people talk and they share they dreams, ideas or whatever they’ve lost… and that could be a hint for your business… So, two birds with one stone, right?

2. No time to die

World is not going to be the same? Why, you may ask? – Because the crisis like this is not about money only, it’s mostly about changing behaviour patterns, habits, etc, and money will only follow.

While you’re reading this article there are other people out there looking for an opportunity to monetise.  

A dear friend of mine, a piano teacher, whose school went under three weeks ago has restarted her music academy online. With zero overheads she has capitalised on the current situation with a steady stream of revenue. 

Another example: I have a friend who is a hairdresser. And yet, as you expected he closed his business too. Whenever I check Facebook I see him posting old Russian comedies and other funny stuff like “homemade haircuts” just to cheer up the people being stuck at home. But hold on! When I look at his friends list it seems most of them are his customers! So posting memes about bad haircuts is not only about making them laugh, it’s a constant reminder about their relationship. It’s like whispering to somebody’s ear: “do you remember how great it was to visit my salon?” 

These two examples of businesses badly affected by the current situation represent two different approaches: adapt and follow your customer or stay low and invest your time in relationships. I’m pretty sure both of them are the winners.

3. Content is the king

Sometimes when we surf over social media or other websites we just “consume” the content on the screen without a second thought. Who would really consider (apart of specialists) that creating the content requires planning, preparation and work? As content consumers we often take it for granted “it is what it is” and move on. 

The examples I’ve mentioned above, even the first one of GaryVee hustling on garage sales in NJ, all of them before you see them, are planned, filmed/ photographed and prepared for “easy consumption” online. 

The same about my friends. A piano teacher – she posts on Instagram daily just her hands playing Chopin or Bach… A hairdresser – shows you how bad you may look and he is just waiting for you to come after businesses are reopen. What they have in common – content creation. 

No matter what you do, once you stepped out of your comfort zone into the wilderness of internet you will need to follow the rules. It’s like gravity – you can’t deny or defeat it! Once you’re there – you’re all in and your primary focus should be shifted to the content quality while keeping at the back of your head the main idea and main goal.

I’ll bet you will bump into the “I want to do pictures or video, but I don’t have professional tools!” Well, let me remind you that Apple started in a garage and that days Jobs and Wozniak didn’t have smartphones, broadband etc. Comparing to them you are in so privileged situation and it would be entirely wrong not to use it. 

What people may need? Face masks? Sanitisers? – That is too obvious and yes, if you have sewing machine – why not? At this point of pandemics nobody cares about certificates etc… and if you want to make a few  dollars/pounds or whatever rupees on the side – go for it.

Another idea – sell your time. Do you speak any foreign language? – Try to find some online sites offering private lessons and advertise yourself.

Yet another one – are you passionate about dogs? Why don’t you just record a story of your well-behaved puppy and how you’ve achieved that? Share with the world, make connection with people and perhaps you’re going to make some side income and also find new business opportunities…

Imagine someone asking you: “Oh… I’ve seen your puppy video… so nice… how did you do that?” – You can always reply, “yeah, I had some time as my workshop was closed for a while, so if you have issues with you car you want to fix – this is my number”. 

It is simple like that! Just do you best and talk to people as people in general feel much better if given the opportunity to do something good.

I believe you have a mobile phone with you… and yes, working with camera is stressful, but you have a lot of time to learn it and get to use to it. Just go and visit Udemy – an online resource of over 100.000 (right, one hundred thousand) online courses and most of them during pandemics are on huge discount. Perhaps there you will find new inspirations and ideas too.

Whatever you decide to do, the content creation is still something you need to think about twice before it goes as a meme online.

All you need is just to create an environment for your products or services… and don’t be afraid to show a little bit of yourself, because people don’t buy just form those pushing the product… they buy from those they have at least a hint of emotional attachment. 

For example: if you were running a butcher store, I’m not asking you to show pictures of slaughtered animals! Instead of that, while your store is closed, go to your backyard, start the fire of your BBQ grill… and take few pictures of smokey burger. Put the description – “if you miss normal life – call me and we will deliver fresh burgers to your doorsteps”. 

I could continue countless examples of how you can bring your completely traditional “offline” business back to life even without leaving the comfort of your home. 

Let’s take a closer look at content types. Among many of them two remain basic and you can get best of two worlds: lifestyle content (your BBQ) and packshots

Depending on nature of your business one of those types will prevail. If you in shoe, bags, accessories business – most of your content will be packshots. If you’re a butcher – well, the lifestyle shots creation is the topic worth exploring.

Depending of volume of products you have time efficiency gets more importance. Many years ago I was running my own online business selling computer parts. Every single day I was spending hour on checking images, retaking them as those provided were usually bad. I’ve personally checked over 7000 images and every week some 20-30 new were coming in. It was 2008, just right before the global crisis. That time the idea of introducing some automation crossed my mind however i was unable to find the right solution. 

Nowadays the access to the variety of online services, solutions etc is limitless.

When I was about to start my business in 2005 the obvious question was where to find transactional platform I could use for my needs? Magento? Prestashop? Opencart? It took me over a month just to do my research and find something suitable. My choice was x-cart which I adapted, translated and deployed… all by myself. 

Looking back from the perspective of 2020 it was heroic madness and today I would never ever do that again.

E-commerce engines made an enormous progress since then and currently for just a fraction of what I’ve spent you can have descent transactional website. The only thing you need to do is “feed the content monster”.

4. The content monster

Bad news first. Once your online store up and ready (or it even may be your YouTube channel, blog or anything else of your choice) you’re not done with content creation. 

Showing the product in its entire glory is just a small step towards success. Next thing on your to-do list is “how to make people know I’m here”. In times like this when almost everyone is moving their business online it’s getting crowded even in virtual space. 

Do you remember my friends? A piano teacher and hairdresser? The know how to feed their monsters every single day just by posting once or twice. That shows to potential customers that you are serious, consistent and you may probably have something they’re looking for. 

Good news: I promise you, after a week of constant publishing on social media, sharing your content with your friends, colleagues, neighbours you will be able to build small audience aware of your existence … and your brand. Keep reminding them that you are here for them and what you do – you are solving some of their problems. This is how the business work – you are helping me solving my problems… and I’m helping you to solve some of yours. Business in fact is nothing else but solving problems of others.

One of problems with content creation is its consistency. How in the world would you create 3000 pictures of shoes with a phone? How to make them to look attractive online if you never ever had a camera in your hands?There are two ways to make content monster happy: you can outsource photography or start doing it yourself

The choice is entirely yours but be rest assured – we’ve got your back in this. At this point I want to invite you for the next episode showing how automation in photography can help you to keep your business afloat.

Thank you for being with us today and till next time.

While you’re looking for ideas please check out following resources that might be helpful:

  • udemy.com
  • ecwid.com
  • X-cart.com – webstore engines and designs
  • Joomla.org – cost effective solutions you can customise for your needs
  • Local Facebook groups (people love helping each other)
  • eBay – learn how to use it if you still have no idea
  • Amazon.com – YES, you can sell on amazon too (In case you didn’t know)
  • YouTube – check out weird videos with covid or stuckathome hashtags 
  • Orbitvu.com – automated solutions for product photography

Good luck and stay safe.
Witold Jermolowicz