Are you a local, service-based business? Do you mainly serve clients within 50 miles of your location? If you are a pet groomer, speech therapist, stylist, consultant, wedding photographer, marriage therapist, personal trainer, chiropractor (or the like) these tips are for you!
The list below is not exhaustive, nor is it in order of importance. Instead, this is a list of tips I find myself talking about with my coaching clients often. I hope no matter what stage of business you are in, there is something here for you.
1. Know who you are and what you do
Take time to define who you are as a business, who you serve, and where you want to go. The more you can define your goals, the greater chance you have of reaching them. Yes, there will be pivots along the way, but the core of who you are and what you do should remain the same.
The more confident you are in where you are going as a business owner, the more clarity you will have on the activities you need to do to get there. You will also have more clarity on what you do NOT need to be doing which will help you spend your time more efficiently, leading to faster business growth.
2. Network, network, network
Far too often we believe that beautiful pictures on Instagram or the right Facebook Ad will be the only thing we need to get customers. While those things can play a part (or a huge part for the right business), it is important to get out and network face to face*. These relationships will shorten the time it takes to build trust and land clients. Personal referrals are gold!
Networking will build brand awareness, relationship capital and support like nothing else. It can look however you want it to look, but it should include face to face interactions in groups and one on one. For some, it may be to join a formal networking group, for others, it may be attending conferences and workshops. Whatever you do...get out there.
*A note about our current climate: virtual is not ideal, but it is what we have. If you can meet with people on a video call, this is better than “just” a phone call. Try to meet with people “face to face” as much as possible to have the greatest impact on networking.
3. Do a few things well
One pitfall of many business owners is that they try to do too much, especially at the start. Focus on the activities that are most closely related to your customers and work up from there.
For example, which marketing or networking activities bring the quickest return? As you build a customer base, track how you gained each new client, and try to repeat the process. Become an expert on these activities and create ways to easily replicate them.
4. Set specific goals. Always.
What are you focused on achieving over the next few days and weeks? Not just yearly goals, but over the next 3 months? Whatever it is – write it down and go after it.
When you think about goals, note that some are controllable, and others are not. For example, if your goal is to read one new book, that is controllable. But, if you want 8 new clients next week, that is uncontrollable.
For uncontrollable goals, break them down into controllable steps. If you want more clients, what are the things you can control? What marketing, networking, or other activities can lead to clients? These specific goals will keep you focused and allow you to see progress along the way.
5. Celebrate and take time to rest
When you hit goals and reach new milestones, don’t just move on to the next one. Create a culture (even with yourself) to take note of the good things that are happening. There are plenty of hard things to take our focus. So, find a way to celebrate the good. Write them down, look back at the end of a month and remember the wins!
Also, take time to rest. This includes sleep (!) but also includes time away from the business. Make time to exercise, have time with family and friends, etc. Do not underestimate the amount of re-charge time you will need the first couple of years. Starting a business is hard, so take time to celebrate and rest.
6. Give yourself time
I talk with many solopreneurs and small business owners that feel like a failure if they are not making huge amounts of money in the first 6 months. Friends, this is not realistic, ESPECIALLY in the service-based arena. Keep at it. Celebrate your wins and keep going.
For most people in service-based businesses, it can take 3-5 years to build the client base, following, reputation, and network needed to be successful. So, keep going! On rare occasions, people with huge networks jump into a new profession (like real estate or financial planning) and kill it the first year because they have already built trust with a large group of people. Know that this is the exception, not the rule.
If you are a chiropractor, a photographer, or digital marketer, it will take time to grow word of mouth referrals. If only 3 people have worked with you, it will take time to get to 6 and then 12 and then 24. Keep at it and stay focused on what you can control.
7. Don’t pay for things...until you need to
This one might be controversial, but my dad taught me to be frugal, so hear me out. If you think you need QuickBooks when you have 12 transactions a month and 3 customers, you don’t. A spreadsheet will work just fine. Truly evaluate each purchase for your business and how much return (financial and time) it will give. Is it worth it now? Can it wait a few months?
One of the first things I purchased was a scheduling software and it changed my life. But I did not purchase it until I had a steady stream of income with multiple clients. The time saving of online scheduling vs. the back and forth of emails was dramatic.
Yes, you will need to spend money as your business grows! Just make sure you are spending it on things that will move your business forward.
8. Ask for help
If you are struggling, ask for help. Find other business owners and ask what they are doing. Ask for advice, support, insight, etc. If you are still struggling, hire a business coach. But, find one that is a good fit for you and what you need.
Many of my clients tell me they have people in their network who can, “tell them what to do” but don't provide follow up, accountability, or help with how to apply these activities to their specific business. Others talk about online courses that had some good information but lacked accountability or specificity to their business model.
I am not saying these are all bad! I highly recommend online courses for specific skill-building or knowledge. But sometimes you need someone who will help advise you on YOUR specific business, with your unique needs. You need strategy and accountability. This is where a coach can be helpful!
In the end, this goes back to number 8. When you spend money, always look at the return on investment (ROI). If a coach can get you focused on the things that will move your business forward faster, they are worth it! If not, skip it!
9. Limit how much you do for free/discount/trade
If you want to start your business by offering free/for trade/or discounted rates, that is okay. Just be sure to set a predetermined limit of how much you will do. Decide that you will take on 2 or 4 or 12 clients for $X (and/or trade) and then start to charge your regular rate. Period.
If you keep making exceptions and giving discounts, no one will pay full price because they will never have the opportunity!
For your business to exist and grow, you need paying clients. While this can be mentally challenging at first, keep going. Talk with people about your pricing until your heart does not pound when you say the numbers out loud. You got this!
10. Find a great tax professional
The key is to trust (and like!) the person you have helping you with your books. They should be available, ready, and willing to answer questions, and able to give some strategy for your finances.
Talk with them about tax write-offs and how to keep records. They will not only save you money, but they will also save you headaches if you get audited.
Do you love numbers and keeping spreadsheets? It may be that you can keep your own books which can save some money and keep you closely connected to cash flow. But I would strongly suggest hiring a tax professional to help with tax filing. They will be able to help you navigate the tax laws and keep the IRS happy.
Starting a business can be overwhelming. There are many ups and downs and many days you will think you are crazy. So, keep in mind WHY you started your business. Take time to assess where you are and what steps you need to take to get to the next level. Then execute, execute, execute…and execute some more!
Execute when you feel like it, and when you don’t.
Learn what moves you forward and keep going. Create systems to make activities easily repeatable. Then…you guessed it…execute!
You got this!
Amy Lynne Coaching is located in Minneapolis-St. Paul, MN and works with solopreneurs and small business owners to help them reach their goals.
If you are interested in learning more about coaching with Amy Lynne Coaching, you can schedule a phone call here!