I’ve been in business for 6 years now (time flies) and since we work with so many social media entrepreneurs through Launchest, I wanted to share 5 things that I wish I’d known as I started my business.
When you start a business you’re aiming in the dark, and it can take a lot of trial and error to figure out exactly what to do and how to do it to successfully grow your business.
As I think back, here are 5 things I wish I’d known when I was just starting my business:
1. Sell Packages and Avoid Custom Quotes
When I first got started I spent a TON of time creating proposals for people – and EVERYTHING was customized. This created a few problems. First, businesses don’t know exactly what they want or need – they are looking to me for leadership. Eventually I packaged what I sold into a few different “packages” – they could do social media management, social media coaching or a strategic plan. Each of these had a clear scope, price (although I sometimes adjusted it based on the client) and I saved a ton of time.
I still did custom quotes for high-value clients, but 90% of the time I sold packages.
Seriously, this saved tons of time and improved my quote rate.
2. Build Processes
When you get started you need to have processes and systems for handling new clients so that things don’t fall through the cracks and you look organized. I’m not naturally organized so it took me a long time (and lots of missed opportunities) to build processes around both managing my business, managing clients, managing my sales process.
As I think back I missed so many opportunities because I didn’t have the right processes in place.
3. Follow Up and Do What you Say You Will
The biggest complaint that most people have when trying to do business with someone is getting quick, timely responses. I’ve had companies come to us for recommendations for social media execution because they already talked to 5 people, and none of them sent the quote when they said they would! I had this experience when hiring a contractor for my house. The guy I hired was the one who gave us the estimate on the spot – the others were days (or weeks) late!
I’ve lost lots of business and credibility over the years to poor follow-up. Now we have a system (see #2) that tracks followup and manages this process. We are often complimented on our speedy turnaround and followup process 😉
4. Qualify Prospects Early
At the beginning of my business I wasn’t very good at qualifying prospects. I just didn’t know if someone had the budget and would spend money. I remember spending 2 hours on the phone with a guy who wanted social media for his Real Estate business. We happened to be running a special social media for real estate agents workshop, so he could get the advice he needed for only a few hundred bucks (instead of thousands in consulting). He said he didn’t have that kind of money. What a waste of time!
Here is a tip: Throw out a “ball-park” figure early on. This allows you to see if you are even in the same ball park and will quickly end conversations with people who simply don’t invest in their business or have unrealistic expectations.
5. Focus First on What Matters Most
It is really easy to waste time on things that are either fun or more interesting than what you really need to do. When I first started out I spent tons of time on things that didn’t matter, and not enough time on the things that would grow my business quickly. You have limited time. Use it wisely.
Focus first on getting PAID CLIENTS. Nothing else matters. You don’t need to set up an LLC (I’m not a lawyer, but you technically don’t need an LLC to start a business). You don’t need endless research. You need to get out there quickly with a credible business and a good value proposition.
Don’t waste time or make excuses. Make money.