Are you a solopreneur? A freelancer working from home? A small business owner?
Then you’ll probably be able to relate to my experiences: at times feeling isolated, unsure, overwhelmed by how much there is to do?
Feeling there are not enough hours in the day? Wondering if what you’re doing is the right decision?
And thinking there must be easier ways to make a living?
Well, I’ve been there and have experienced the ups and downs of starting and running a small business.
As Click and Tap approaches its 3rd birthday, and it’s my 8th year of being my own boss, I wanted to share with you the lessons I’ve learnt.
1. Surround yourself with friends and like-minded people who energize, support and inspire you.
There’ll be days you wonder if you’re doing the right thing and that’s exactly when your network of friends can pick you up.
Meet regularly for coffees. Arrange to meet in a café with your laptops to work there over a flat white.
Working in a positive, buzzing atmosphere amongst supportive people can really help boost your productivity and creativity.
2. Know yourself and what your strengths and weaknesses are.
Do more of what you enjoy and what you’re good at. Knowing yourself means you’re also aware of what you’re not good at or just don’t enjoy.
Don’t spend ages trying to learn something you’re not interested in, and get stressed when you don’t get the results you need.
Ask for help. Outsource. Find someone who does love that part of running a business you just don’t get. It’ll free you up.
(If marketing, copywriting, social media or writing blog posts is not your strong point, I’d love to help. Get in touch).
3. Take advantage of all the free ways to promote your business.
There’s lots you can do to gain exposure for your business for free.
Get your business listed on Google My Business, Bing Places for Business and online directories, like Yell and Yelp. Create a professional-looking email signature with links to your website and profiles. Volunteer to give talks to share your expertise. Write regular blog posts on your website. Share your knowledge on social media and contribute to online forums. Ask happy customers for referrals.
Don’t miss out on all the ways you can promote your business without spending a single penny.
4. Make GOOD use of social media.
Take your time to choose the right platforms for your business and focus on them – don’t try to be everywhere and feel overwhelmed (and wonder why it’s not working for you).
Then, make sure you have a social media strategy and plan in place so that you know what to post and why you’re posting it.
Remind yourself that you’ll get better results if you post well-crafted content which your audience wants a few times a week and respond to everyone who engages with your content, rather than posting a torrent of content too often without enough thought and without spending time engaging with your followers.
5. Get involved with business networking.
It’s not just to land new clients (but hopefully, that will happen too); business networking is about learning from other business owners, sharing support and advice, creating new friendships and getting your name out there. That’s a lot of benefits!
When networking, my advice is to always be yourself and make sure you also talk about things other than your business, listen well, share your own knowledge, and spend time following up afterwards. That way you’ll get the most out of business networking.
6. Be flexible. Adapt.
Be prepared to make changes to your business to adapt and grow.
If an aspect of your business is just not working or not viable, change it, remove it or do what you need to move your business on. Don’t stagnate – reflect often and ask yourself: is that part of the business really working? Should I really offer that? How can I make this service better?
7. Don’t overthink.
It’s good in many ways to be perfectionist, of course, and to want things to be just right when it comes to your business. However, if it means delays, doubts and time wasting, listen to your instincts. Either just go for it, or drop it.
8. Get out of your comfort zone.
Are you a reserved, introverted person? Then the idea of business networking or giving a presentation probably fills you with dread. I have met so many business owners at networking events who are quiet sort of people, but who nevertheless go and get loads out of it. You may need to try a few networking groups out, but do try them. In my experience, there’ll be like-minded people there that you click with, and you’ll be given a warm welcome.
The same goes for social media: it’s not everyone’s cup of tea to tweet or manage a Facebook page, but you’d be missing out if your business is not engaging on social media.
Challenge yourself and you’ll reap the benefits.
9. Support other solopreneurs and small businesses.
Celebrate other small businesses’ successes. Re-tweet their tweets. Recommend them to others. Share their Facebook posts. Use their services. Buy from them. All small businesses will appreciate your acts of support, however small, to grow their business.
10. Keep learning and developing your skills.
Whether it’s skills you already have that need brushing up, or brand new skills you need to run your business, make sure you block out time in your schedule to upskill.
Last year I took two courses and got two shiny new certificates: the HubSpot Content Marketing Certificate and the Google Digital Garage digital marketing certificate. Updating your knowledge and gaining new qualifications not only keep your skills and knowledge up to date, it also gives you confidence. You can proudly display them on your LinkedIn profile (see how I’ve added the certificates to my profile) and website.
11. Take time out for you.
Being your own boss means flexible working hours. This can mean that you could literally spend all of your waking hours on running your business. Your to-do list is never-ending. Therefore, it’s vital to build some down-time into your weekly schedule. Time away from your business. Not only when you’re exhausted, but regularly. Be it a walk in the fresh air, a gym class, a spa morning, or a cup of tea with a friend; build in some time to look after your own wellbeing.
You’ll return to your desk with renewed energy to tackle that to-do list.
12. Pat yourself on the back.
When you’re your own boss, there may be manic, exciting times for your business as well as quieter times. Whatever the reason for the quieter times (it might be that your business is busy only at certain times of the year, or a project you were hoping to start is cancelled at the last minute), accept that there will be fluctuations in income and enquiries. Those quiet times can be worrying, but accept that that’s to be expected and use those quiet times wisely to reach out to new clients.
Therefore, it’s important to acknowledge and enjoy your successes. Did a client thank you? Did you get new subscribers to your mailing list? Did you get a new enquiry? Have you exceeded your targets this month? Have you just got paid? Celebrate all your successes.
When your hard work has paid off and you can say ‘I did that!’, it feels exhilarating and rewarding.
13. Get used to self-promotion.
Promoting yourself feels awkward at first. Being a marketer, you’d think it would be easy for me to market myself, but it’s much tougher promoting yourself than other businesses! I’ve worked with lots of small business owners who feel uncomfortable about what they feel is ‘shouting about what they do’ and getting out there and promoting themselves. But you’ll get used to it the more you do it and you’ll learn what works. Speak to me if you’re unsure about how to go about marketing yourself and your business.
So, these are some of the lessons I’ve learnt in the last 8 years! Whatever stage you’re at, I hope these lessons will be helpful for you. Which tips particularly resonate with you? What other tips would you add? Let me know in the comments below.