Starting up any business is both an exciting and daunting prospect. The last thing anyone wants is to invest all their blood, sweat and tears for their business to be a failure. The whole point of starting your own business is for the perks that it brings. Whether you want flexible working hours to fit in and around the kids, to have a better quality of life, or even for the hope of earlier retirement, every business owner wants theirs to be a success!
Although there is no simple remedy or quick fixes that ensure your root to the top (unless you manage to be one of the lucky ones to have your videos go viral), there are ways of propelling your chances to achieving your goal of being a successful business owner.
Read on to find out my 5 must-know tips to enhance your chances of success!
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It's not what you know, but who you know
One of the most common mistakes made by new business owners is that they focus solely on education and training programmes. They'll read endless amounts and watch video tutorials over and over again to do everything within their power to know their job inside out. Yet the hard reality that many face is that you can have all the knowledge and ability in the world, but if you haven't got customers, you aren't getting paid!
And let's face it, we all need to pay the bills!
Of course, it is rewarding to be able to give something back to the community, to treat your loved ones and to support others who are in need, but unless you have gone into a non-profit business, you aim to bring in paying customers. I often give away freebies or do discounted photoshoots to say thank-you to customers or to say I love you to my close friends and family, but I also rely on earning a living to provide for my family.
For some people, they fall into running their own business because they build a client base whilst still working full-time for another employer. They simply get to the point where it makes sense to go it alone. The risk (we'll touch more on risks a little later) for them is a lot lower because they already have work lined up. My husband was fortunate like this because he worked as an electrician and comes from a family of builders. Naturally, private work made its way to him which enabled him to be at an advantage when deciding to start working for himself. He was trained with ready-made contacts and he had work in the pipeline (his words not mine).
It would be great if this was the reality for everyone starting a business, but unfortunately, it's not always the case. Some of you may be new mum's looking for a way to earn money whilst being there for your beautiful baby. Maybe you want to take your hobby to the next level or maybe you have just had enough of being messed about by your previous employers.
Whatever your circumstances, you must invest just as much time in marketing as you do in training!
I have learnt several different marketing strategies, which I share in more detail in another blog, Promote your business: 12 ways to get your business brand out there, all of which are simple and effective.
It's not who you know but what you know
I know what you're thinking, didn't you just say it's not what you know but who you know? Well, that's because it's true and I put it top of the list because it's arguably the biggest and most common mistake made by new business owners! Yet it is also true that you need to know your job if you are going to build a successful business.
Do I know people who may need their car fixing? Of course I do, but nobody in their right mind is going to ask me to fix it because they know that I would have no idea what to do. Now if by some crazy turn of events they did trust me to fix it, they definitely wouldn't recommend me when their wheels fall off.
Plainly put, people need to know that you are good at your job!
Nothing beats building a business than through word of mouth and a good reputation comes by doing a great job, delivering on what you have promised and by building trust with your clients. You'll never be able to achieve this if you don't have the skills to carry out your work.
Invest time in training courses, books and whatever other resources you can find. Learn from other peoples mistakes and experience and learn the tricks of the trade! Write down any cool inspiration, handy hacks and never stop learning!
Oh and don't limit what you learn to just your job. What do I mean by that? Well, I'm a photographer but I also need to know how to run my accounts, analyse marketing strategies and a whole bag full of other things that enable a business to function efficiently. If I only know how to use my camera, I will not achieve my goals or deliver the same high level of service that I want to.
Why limit yourself and only be average when you can set the sky as your limit. So as they say, the world is your oyster! Don't hold back!
A worker is only as good as their tools
Why is that the cheesy sayings last? Well if I were to hazard a guess it would be because they hit the nail on the head. Good, reliable tools are worth their weight in gold. If you have the right equipment it can shave hours, even days off your workload and that means more money for less work. Of course, you have to initially purchase them, which sometimes really hurts, but ultimately they are an investment well worth having.
Now, remember I said tools, not toys. There are always cool gadgets out there that are fun to use but I'm talking about the tools and equipment that are necessary. If one person paints a house with a brush and another with a roller (we recently painted our hall and landing, yay!), it doesn't take a rocket scientist to work out which will be quicker, and in business, time is money.
To be successful in business you need to know how to budget properly and what to prioritise your time and money on. So with that in mind, I'm not saying that you have to go out and buy all the best equipment straight away and you definitely don't have to buy tools for work that you may get in the future. For any photographers looking to start up their own business, you will find my, Becoming a wedding photographer: the bare necessities, a useful read.
Regardless of your business, my advice to you would be to list all the tools you can think of that you need to carry out your job. Then take that list and break it up into sections. What can't you do without? What are you going to need in the immediate future? What might you need if you get a particular job? What are the luxury items that you would love to have one day?
By writing a list and ordering it by priority you can invest in the bare essentials and then start building your tool kit as money permits.
Remember, no customers = no work = no money.
Don't waste cash on tools you don't need when that money could be invested in marketing.
One last thing to consider. Could you hire your tools and equipment? It may not be the most cost-effective way but needs must and as the work starts pouring in then you can go out and buy your own.
Whatever you decide, I can't emphasise enough how important using good, quality tools and equipment are if you are going to deliver the best service possible in the most cost-efficient manner.
Now I'm not suggesting that you have to have a degree. What I mean by this is that working hard does not mean working smart. For some, this statement is actually what they do for a living. They go into companies and tell them how to work smarter. The list of things that they should do differently and sometimes not even at all, ultimately, assuming the advice is followed, turns dying business into a well-oiled machine. The benefits? Less stress, more time, happier clients, and more profits, just to name a few.
The point is that by working smarter we can achieve so much more. For some of you that may be more time with the family. For others, it will be putting the joy back into your work, and hopefully for all of you, more profits.
Now there are so many ways to work smarter. Sometimes it even means not doing the work yourself at all! Yes, you heard me right. If something will take you a week to do that would take someone else a day why not pay someone else to do it for you? Many people pay someone else to design their website or do their bookkeeping and that's OK! This frees up time for you to invest elsewhere. The likelihood is that they'll do a better job anyway as it's what they do full-time. It may even mean fewer things go wrong in the future and if it's something that your clients will see then the more professional it looks the better. It's a win-win.
Another thing you may be doing is investing to much time in the wrong marketing strategies and not enough time in others. By analysing where your online traffic comes from the better prepared you'll be to decide where to invest the most time marketing. If you get all of your work through social media but next to none through paid adverts in local papers then why not invest elsewhere?
Do you send duplicate paper copies on top of your digital forms and emails? Do you need to? Do you use templates or start everything from scratch? The list can go on and on with different ways that you can cut down your workload and save on other administration costs. Some are extremely simple, others take a bit of planning and research and some you'll need time to adapt to as you break old habits (and we all know how hard that can be).
Remember, one thing that no one can ever get back is time. It is one of the most valuable things in life. Why be stressed out with jobs you don't like or you aren't good at when you can hire someone to do it for you? Why spend needless hours behind a desk when you could be out with your friends, enjoying more time with the family or simply snuggled up on the sofa with a glass of wine and box of chocolates?
Working smarter is the way forward!
No risk no reward
The final thing I want you to be aware of is that starting up any business is a risk. In truth even working for someone else carries risks with it. It ultimately boils down to the level of risk that you are willing to take. When my husband and I decided what type of mortgage to have, whether a tracker or a fixed, we had to decide whether we wanted to know exactly what we would have to pay for the next X amount of years or if we wanted to chance it on the tracker and hope that it went down or stayed the same throughout. Although the decision was calculated, it was a risk either way.
Go for a fixed and we could overpay if the base rate doesn't rise, but we would know that it can never go higher. Or do we get a lower rate now with the chance it could rise above the fixed payments? What if it rises so much that we can't afford the payments? Now we could have read economists views, asked our financial advisor and made an educated guess, but few saw the last recession coming and nobody foresaw the world shutting shop with the coronavirus pandemic.
My point is that there is always a risk, and we can only make the best-educated decision based on the information at hand. It also needs to be one that we are comfortable with. Now it's generally accepted that the greater the risk the greater the reward, but in my experience a little bit of luck and good timing often plays it's part as well. Think about it, if you purchased a house in 2006/2007 the prices were sky-high. 6 months to a year later and the market crashed. Had you purchased in say 2009, that would have massively benefited the financial position you were in just a few years later and it was simply down to the time you purchased your house.
Many put off starting a business because they decide the risk is too high, and although I respect their decision, I'm obviously of the mind that those risks are well worth taking and that there are many ways in which we can lower the risks and make sure we are making the wisest and most educated decisions when starting our journey into the world of business.
Dream big dreams, set realistic goals, be proactive and work efficiently and I'm sure your business will thrive.
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I'm always cheering you on.