June 1st, I announced to my friends on Facebook that my new business was open for business. A year or so in the making—Map Your Progress has evolved very organically, as it wasn’t something I’d foreseen—or rather, knew that I was going to create.
What is Map Your Progress, anyway? I’m still trying to figure out the clearest and most concise way to answer that. When people I ask me, I say something like: I draw things out of swirls that help people visualize their goals and track their progress toward them by coloring those swirls in as they take action.
The elevator pitch needs some work. Cheers.
Back to June 1st: I wasn’t sure how it was going to go. I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to generate enough sales to cover my rent and car payment. Really I was equal parts freaked out and excited. This was the first time I had the courage to really step out on my own and see if I could produce work that people would be happy to buy.
For the first 11 days, I was a bit concerned. Sales were trickling in. To be fair, I hadn’t started a true marketing push. I was mostly getting things set up. But then it was time to clear my throat and may-I-have-your-attention-please it. As someone who has made my living for the last 15 or so years as marketer, I understood that I needed to take the advice I’d been giving to clients: Be brave, be authentic, say something worth hearing.
That night, I wrote a blog post about paying off my $26,000+ credit card debt. I told the story of how I came to launch Map Your Progress and what the experience has been like. The next day, I posted it on Facebook and the magic started to happen. Rather than tell the story again, I’ll direct you to the #mapyourdebt post if you’d like to know the details.
So that sucker got around. And as of this moment, has been viewed by 69,144 souls.
Praise Jesus, the Universe, the Internet—praise all the powers that be—for once again, life has shown me that courage and kindness work.
Y’all bought some maps! Not only within the United States but Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Norway, and Israel. That still blows my mind. My business went global in a weekend.
I’m excited and encouraged that my initial sales goal to sell 100 maps in June was nearly doubled at 191. I’m thrilled that total revenue came in at $9,302. I’m even more thrilled that I have enough cash as a result to cover my rent and car payment this month. Someday soon, I hope to pay all my bills. July could be that month! Fingers crossed. After that, back taxes! Never did I ever think I would be so pumped to pay off back taxes. That’s the power of the swirl.
So yes, it is awesome to see the sales come in. As my money guy and self-professed Budget Nerd, Mark, says: Cash flow is oxygen. And I enjoy breathing. Yet, my heart is sustained on connection and feeling alive; the comments that you all have been sharing, and the emails I’ve received have been tear-inducing, heart-enlarging, and smile-plastering.
When one of those comes in and I read it, I often stop, look around my room and think, really? I get to do this? I get to share my art, heart, and people dig it? And I get paid?
In a word that’s really two: HELL YES.
There’s so much to come. Every day I’m learning. Every day I’m hearing from you and excited to be having these conversations. Mark is challenging me to check my perfectionism, prioritize my time and money, and create a sustainable business. Now that I’ve gotten a taste for how much fun this is, I want to keep going.
And I want to share all that’s unfolding with you. That’s why I’m intending to write these progress reports on a regular basis. Monthly would be a win.
Before I fully committed to building Map Your Progress, the last company I worked with is a progressive start-up called Buffer. I was fortunate enough to be invited to their Bootcamp (which is essentially a contract period to see if there’s a lasting fit). I was only in Bootcamp for 3 weeks (before we decided it wasn’t a perfect fit) and it was a huge gift. I learned so much. And I got to experience how powerful it can be to offer customers transparency. The team at Buffer has shown that sharing the journey, including the highs and lows, and being open about the learning process is inspiring and magnetizing. Following their lead, I want to share how this adventures goes too.
In terms of the numbers, here’s how it all shook out in June 2015: The public spreadsheet with all the details.
And some of the most memorable parts for me:
#mapyourdebt Blog Post
I was hoping that people would be into it, but I was delighted to see how much. Further excited to see it picked up a couple times through other media sites and shared so much. The bulk of my sales came from those who read the post.
Not having any idea how sales we’re going to go, I went with my 100 maps sold as the goal for June. 191 rules. Here’s the map that I created to track those first 100 sales. Was deeply satisfying to color it all in.
Happy to be over $9k—since I didn’t have an expectation as to how this was going to go, I’m excited to see what’s to come. Still learning about my profit margin and how those vary per product size and material. I'm making adjustments to ensure that I'm making a reasonable profit on each sale.
Honestly, I didn’t realize that I would have global customers 18 orders in. I thought it would happen someday, just not June 15th. Ha. Thank you Richard, for being my first international customer!
Holy conversion rate of .7% (which I'm still validating at this moment). While I don’t have something to compare it to, it just feels low and I’m curious as to why it is what it is. Brings up some good questions for me in terms of the user experience, shipping/handling (just trying to cover my costs, but can seem expensive, I know), and checkout process (is it too much of a pain on mobile?). Looking forward to exploring this in the coming month.
This one stings a bit. Trying to validate if that 529 is truly legit, or reflects any robots. Part of me would be happy to have it be legit, as that’s a lot of people who added maps to their cart. Part of me is real sad that if that is a legit number, those folks didn’t see the value in completing the sale.
Given that so much of my traffic this month was mobile (due to the popularity of the #mapyourdebt post) I’m wondering how the mobile checkout can be improved. I think it’s a lot easier on the desktop and will be looking more closely at how I can make it as easy as it can be to checkout on mobile.
I recall that Fab does a brilliant job of this in their app and can maybe look there for some inspiration. Indeed, it was *so* easy to buy on their app, I deleted it off my phone in an attempt at self-control. Ha.
I’ve been fortunate to receive some very kind and lovely notes from those who read the #mapyourdebt post and somehow stumbled upon mapyourprogress.com. It feels amazing. AND it feels even better to hear from the Mappers (customers who have purchased maps) about what they intend to track. Here are a couple favorites that I’ve turned into graphics. You can see more as they appear by following this Pinterest board for map ideas aka #WHYIMAP:
I’m really fortunate to be in a phase where I just want to work on Map Your Progress all of the hours, all of the days. I wake up excited to see what I can create. I fall asleep despite the campaigns and new product ideas parading around my brain. The best way I can describe this is that I feel alive and on purpose. This is what I wanted. What I’d hoped I could spend my days doing.
In the next 30 days, these are the things that I’m going to be exploring:
Structuring My Time
I’m finding that it’s soooooo easy to spend hours of the day ultimately pinging between different metrics and social feeds, trying to see who said what, liked what, shared what and bought what. I’ve started at times to feel like a lab rat hitting the button for the dopamine fix. I’m going to try structuring my mornings so that I’m spending an hour each morning on the three critical parts of my creative output: writing, drawing, and content creation (that’s fancy marketing speak for stuff I post on social media and send out in emails. Emails that I haven’t yet created, but soon will).
With so many thousands of folks who have come by the site in the last couple weeks, I was hoping that just a few more of them might have wished to purchase a map. Totally fine if they just weren’t into it or not ready. But I suspect there are things I do have control over that I can improve to invite more sales. I want to make sure that I’m taking good care of those who visit. It’s like having people over for a party. I want them to enjoy themselves.
Several folks (including my Mamáh) have asked me about patenting and legal protections for my designs. I hear you and I appreciate you. I’m going to be digging into this further. Initially, I wanted to see if there was resonance or traction with the maps before investing in the time and money it takes to set all that good stuff up. I’m convinced that there’s something here, in the maps. So, I’m going to be sorting this out real soon.
IT COMES TO THIS.
I keep coming back to that quote by Annie Dillard: “How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.”
That’s what’s driving me right now. The days. All the hundreds of things I want to do to grow this and connect humans all over the world who are up to the same kind of dreams. Who are reaching for the same things and wanting to color their way to something that feels better.
When I think about growing my business, I think about more than the profitability. Sure, that’s vital. Just as important to me, though, is my quality of life as I go about this. The days. How I experience them. And what I’m giving to my customers.
For me, it’s not about getting the most profit possible. It’s about giving the best experience possible. That’s where my perfectionism sneaks in. I want to take care of everyone, immediately, and have everything look pretty. It’s hard in some ways to be in the beginning, where things are extra messy and don’t look exactly the way I want them to, or go as quickly as I want them to go. Then I remember that’s actually how life goes. That’s the stuff. I’m a lot happier when I go with it instead of trying to paddle upstream.
So, I’m embracing the messy to the best of my ability. Enjoying the new connections I’m finding with customers all over. And lit up about what lies ahead. So often the uncertainty of the future is unnerving and a bit scary. Right now, it just feels exciting and like hearing the opening bars of a song, which convince me I’ll like it immediately. I love what I'm hearing.
So much yes!
P/S Yet another blessing of the #mapyourdebt post reaching so many people has been introducing them to my other baby, SanctuWhereWe. The anonymous shares have been coming in like never before, which is so life-affirming. Lovely humans have been sharing some heart-shaking things. I promise you that I will be posting them and revitalizing the social feeds for SWW as soon as I can.