The other day I was reading one of my LinkedIn groups and someone had asked what were the first things they should do to grow their business. When I saw the thread, a few people had responded and almost every answer included something like, “Create a website.”
I was not only disappointed to see that advice, I felt a little angry because this will not help. Yes, a website is important but it isn’t the first thing you need. What someone starting out or wanting to grow their business needs, first and foremost, is clients. Get some money coming in and then you can hire someone to create a great website.
This is how to start (or grow) your business:
1. Write down your big “why.”
Working in your own business means there is no clock to punch, no employer expecting you to be there at a certain time, no one but yourself to get you up and working each day. If you don’t have a big enough why it’ll be easy to procrastinate, not get work done and put things off until later. You will need a reason and self-motivation to get out of bed each day and start working.
2. Create a plan.
This doesn’t have to be a formal business plan but you do need goals and then a map to reach them. In this plan you’ll need such things as income goals, client goals, marketing strategies, a schedule, etc. Personally, I have long-term goals but then I set annual income goals, plan my year, month and each day. This keeps me on track and I have something to measure my progress against. For this to work properly, you will need to know your numbers.
3. Invest in a business coach.
I cannot stress this enough. You will move ahead farther and faster with a coach; you will make more money and fewer mistakes. Your coach will support you, push you out of comfort zones, teach you where and how to market your services, help you reach a larger market and guide you around the road-blocks. The smartest thing I did in business was begin working with a coach right from the start and I’m absolutely sure my business would have failed without one but instead I was able to leave my job and have tripled my income since then. I now work with two coaches so contact Pat Mussieux and Chala Dincoy. Have a chat with them and then decide which one to work with (or both.)
4. Decide on your target market and services.
Marketing to the masses is not only exhausting, it’s also impossible. When you specialize it will be easy to tell people what you do and how you help them, the people who need you will be able to find you and you can charge higher rates. In addition, you won’t need to learn everything, just become an expert in that area. This doesn’t mean you won’t work with other people but your marketing will be focused and targeted. When deciding on your specialty, be clear on why those people need you and the number one problem you solve for them.
5. Tell people about your business.
Send out a “warm letter” to everyone you know. Make it chatty and informal, briefly describing what you are doing, your business and your ideal client. Then ask for referrals. Follow this up with phone calls. Your first or next clients will likely come from the people who already know or people referred by them so don’t remain a secret — get the word out. Send a few of these letters every week and schedule times for follow-up. If you have had clients in the past, contact them for testimonials and to see if they need your services again or, if they are a current client, offer additional services. Get out and network, visit local meetings and find out where your ideal clients gather. Then choose the best ones and attend regularly so you can build relationships.
6. Set up your systems.
When those clients begin coming, you need to be ready with contracts, payment options, tracking, etc. For signing contracts, I use Echosign and for payments I use PayPal. For project management and time tracking, I use Client Spot.
7. Get help.
Let’s use the warm letter I mentioned as an example: you, of course, should write the letter but then hand off the delivery to an assistant. While you move on to other marketing and client work, your assistant handles the actual sending out of the letters, whether that is by email or printing and stuffing envelopes. Hiring someone for even a few hours a month will free up your time to do the things that bring in revenue — marketing and client work.
This list may seem like a lot at first glance but I can help you with each step. Invest in a half-day session with me, it can be done over the phone or in-person, and, instead of being unsure of what to do and how to do it, your business will be off to a running start. Your first step is to contact me and request a complimentary chat and then we’ll book our half-day together.
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