NOTE: This blog post is as general as I could write it. Each person and business type should be treated individually. You may not agree with everything written here and I wouldn't suggest this for every business or person either. Speak to myself or someone on a one to one basis about your business and get the guidance you're looking for. If you want a GENERAL suggestion, please read on :)
Being self-employed is both easy and hard in Ireland. Here in the Republic of Ireland we’re very fortunate to have so many supports in place to help us set up and scale up. There are funds, mentors, and networks whose whole existence is to make it easier. The hard part usually lies with us ourselves.
We tend to get in our own way. We want things just-so! It must be perfect to be right,we want people to look at us as professionals. I agree – it is important to do this, but it doesn’t have to be perfect. Of course, there are some exceptions, like anything to do with data protection and health and safety of course. However, everything else can be just done,rather than done perfectly. If you do your best, maybe ask someone else to give a look over your text first or put it through Grammarly.
Like this blog post was written in Word and checked by the Editor, just to be sure. Over the years I learned that I don’t always get it right, I’ve accepted I’m infallible and as a good friend of mine says “We don’t save lives!” so let’s get a sense of perspective. It’s important to mitigate any problems and even more important to learn from past mistakes.
If you’re about to start a business, then here’s a few things I would like to recommend to help you get started.
Get some Terms and Conditions from the Beginning.
Not all terms and conditions are to do with money or when and how you receive it. Some are to do with how you can be contacted and how quickly you’re likely to respond. Others are about what you expect from your customer. You expect them to tell you everything you need to know, so you can provide what they are looking for. Look at your competitors’terms and conditions and make your own, it’s a form of protection for both you and your customer.
You Can’t and Shouldn’t be Like Them
You can’t emulate a business that’s been around longer than you have, there’s no point trying to. What you do very likely bring to your business is enthusiasm, drive, and very good past work experience and / or qualifications. This is not a bad thing! You maybe a new business but you’re also not a jaded business. You’re forward thinking, progressive and accessible. Stop referring to yourself as a beginner or a startup if the only thing that is new is the company. Your experience will take you further than your brand name.
Don’t make yourself broke spending everything you have on a website at the beginning. You can just have a basic one page or standard 5-page, small website if you’re selling online. Obviously, that’s a different story if you’re an online shop with lots of products but you don’t have to sell everything from the beginning either. If you’re business still exists 6 to 12 months from now, you can just expand, add more products or services, and add more pages. It looks better to grow your business over a period of time, than to spend every cent you have on a website that you can’t make the most of. I’m sure you want to earn money sooner as well so use a template website, use as basic a package as you can get away with and in a years’ time when you have some money in the bank, get it updated.
I would of course advocate for the power of social media! I do also realise its limitations. Your audience isn’t always looking at their social media. They are on the street, driving, at events or on holiday. So don’t throw all your promotion into social media alone, it won’t work. Depending on your type of business it might still make sense to get on the radio, TV, or papers/magazines. You might benefit from large board ads or bus advertising. Using free social media or even paid will only reach some of your audience, some of the time. You need to chat with a friend or a colleague and really workshop where your audience is and meet them there.
Email marketing has only got better since GDPR came out. Now people are on your list because they want to be, because they know they will get great value from you. Treat your email list however big or small as special. These people want to read your information! Give them as much value first and fast and they will give you support and commitment for a long time.
I found starting out lonely at times and struggled to keep myself motivated all the time. Once I got an accountability buddy, I saw my business grow from strength to strength and my self confidence grew along side it. Find someone from your Start Your Own Business Course or a network that you’re a part of and if you’re both at the same stage in business it doesn’t matter if you’re in the same sector. Just meet up once a week for 30 minutes and keep each other encouraged and supported, it can make such a difference.
Online Diary or Booking System
There are free diaries like Google Calendar and plenty of online booking systems you can use. Having these helps you prioritize what you need to do. It also forces you to put in your working hours! If you have a doctor’s appointment, book it off, so no one books you for that time. Managing your time is how you make your business from here on, so get used to one of these early. If you have a shop or location that your based from, you would be opening and closing at the same time so treat your business the same if you’re based from home.
Businesses starting now will have no choice but to do things faster, as your competitors have had time to get used to using AI, doing video, and using tools and systems that you haven’t even seriously considered yet. This doesn’t mean you have to do them all at once, just acknowledge that they need to be done and as soon as possible and don’t allow yourself to get overwhelmed. There are online and in person courses, workshops and mentoring that you can take to bring you up to speed with these things.
Be Ready to Talk
You’ll be the face, voice, and writer of your business. You’ll be writing the social posts, the press releases, the sales pitch,the presentation. You’ll be shaking hands, offering business cards, creating lead magnets for your email list, and updating and mastering your elevator pitch for when you’re standing outside the school gates and walking the dog.
People will talk to you everywhere, at any time about your business. Make it clear however, that each person that talks to you must value your time. Again, imagine you have a shop and you’re selling clothes. You can’t show them the clothes unless they meet you there and try them on. They must devote some time to speaking to you and more importantly listening. You’re unlikely to make a sale of your product or service if they are only killing tme with you and will only listen until their child comes out. Arrange an appointment with them, get them in the mindset that your knowledge, product, or service is valuable and that will sort out the tyre kickers from the buyers.
Listening to Experts
Yes, listen to them, download their products, watch their videos, buy their time and all the rest. BUT you are now the expert in YOUR business. No one will know it better than you. Glean information, take what you need and apply what works for you and your business. Be open to learning and updating your knowledge on a regular basis. Find the leaders in your field and follow them to further educate yourself.
Acknowledge you will suffer from this from time to time, we all do. It will pass, read your testimonials, speak to your friends, give yourself regular time out to debrief. It’s hard to work constantly IN your business. So much easier to work ON your business. Over time it will get easier,and you can accept it that you are good at what you do. You’ll also find it easier to say No to things as well! Eventually you’ll stop altogether doing things you don’t want to do, or you’ll be able to delegate it to someone else. Trust me, it’s a treat when you can!
When it Gets Hard
It will, several times! Don’t give up. All the time you know in your heart you’ll regret it, don’t give up. Seek advice, share the burden, speak to Mentors, other business owners and even your competitors! Everyone has been through what you’re going through at some stage and some how come out the other end. Sometimes you just need to take a break, shut the shop, do a duvet day, book a spa break. Other times you just need to rant to someone. You’ll know what you need. Give yourself a chance, we have all messed up at some stage. You should try doing social media for a living, your messes are ALL public… 😊