This year has been a massive learning curve, as I re-started a business that I had dabbled in a few years ago. January this year, various circumstances led me to open up shop again, 50% confident it would work this time and 50% terrified I would fail again.
By March I still only had one client, but then I found another client – one that grew and grew and built my confidence. LinkedIn found me two more clients, networking found me another two and referrals yet another two! Suddenly I was busy and juggling all this wonderful, creative, interesting work into the few short hours my kids were at school or day-care 3 days a week. Soon I was working late nights, yet feeling very happy. I had a couple of massive downers when I lost one client and another turned into the job from hell. I picked myself up and without too much effort actually found two more clients that have turned out to be much better in so many ways.
However, after a few months, the glow dimmed a little and although I still love my work and all my clients, I realised I needed to “work smarter, not harder”. Thanks for reading my story so far… I’ll share a few things I have learned along the way to help any of you out there just starting a business.
Time tracking is more important than I thought
Honestly, I was adding up minutes and hours in my head or adding them up on paper. Once I installed Toggle on my computer and started tracking billable time as well as all the unpaid stuff (admin, marketing, networking, spending longer on a task than I had quoted for or billed for) I could clearly see where all my time was going, and where I needed to improve my efficiency.
Support network – family, friends and professional networks
I cannot stress how valuable these networks have been this year. From friends and family willing to lend an ear to give me free advice or encouragement, to professional networks I am signed up to.
Working from home, by yourself, means you need to make the effort to build a work-social life and some “teammates”. Going to networking events or being part of an online support forum has helped build my confidence and my skills.
Highs and Lows – oh boy!
Clients that turn into nightmares, a month where I hardly billed enough to buy lunch, or self-doubt creeping in… I’ve had it all this year.
But I’ve also had glowing client reviews that made me cry when I read them (happy tears!) to hitting ALL THE GOALS ON MY 2018 BUSINESS PLAN…!!! Yay! You need to learn to be a little more balanced in your emotions and toughen up quickly. Actors/artists etc often say they don’t read reviews anymore as you’re only as good as your last review and they can be fickle. I agree to some extent and understand that getting good reviews and producing great work for your clients is awesome but be prepared for things to not always be that way and plan for Plan B.
By this I mean make sure you are investing your time and resources into at least 5 different avenues of marketing activities (social media, blogs, networking, paid adverts, website etc). Social media is great as it’s mostly free but you cannot rely on that only. Spread out your wings and try a variety of complimentary marketing tactics. This not only increases your reach but also your authenticity
Do you know your ideal client?
Please take the time to think about your services and your audience. What benefit can you offer to a customer; what problem does it solve? What’s the gender or age of your ideal client? Do they want to spend money on this or is it more of a life necessity? How will you reach your ideal client? Where will they find you?
If you’ve had a great year in business, then well done – take time to reflect on what worked and what didn’t. If you’ve had a rather challenging year, then don’t wallow – plan ahead and actively look for resources to help you next year.