In part one of this two part article, I shared with you the “5 hard truths” about being self-employed. Not to scare you off mind you but to share with you the lessons my wife and I have learned after 15 years of being self-employed. Now let’s talk about the 5 things you can to do to increase your chances of success.
Tip #1 – Write a Business Plan
I’ve been fortunate enough to speak to a variety of groups and individuals on how to market their business. Time and time again the first thing I tell them is to write a business plan. Do you know how many of them actually listen to me?
My guess: 5%.
Remember hard truth #3 about if you fail to plan, you plan to fail from my first post? It’s there for a reason. You wouldn’t just get in the car and drive from New York to San Francisco without at least a map or GPS, would you? Of course not. So why would you start a business without a plan? You wouldn’t.
Business plans don’t need to be these crazy 100 page missives that outline every last detail for the next 10 years. But they do have to have common elements like:
- What is your product or service?
- Who is your target audience?
- How will you market your business?
- How will you finance your business (and your life) while things are in startup mode?
- Where will you conduct business (your house, an office, etc.)
I could go on and on but my suggestion is to head to Amazon.com for a book or better yet schedule an appointment with a counselor from SCORE – http:// www.score.org/ – which is a not-for-profit group of retired executives who help budding entrepreneurs like you success. And it’s free!
You can also check with your state or local governments as many times they also have free services for small business as well and there’s always the SBA (Small Business Association) http://www.sba.gov/ .
Tip #2 – Develop Structure to Your Day
The biggest difficulty most entrepreneurs have is staying motivated. It’s easy when there’s no boss waiting for you at the office to hit that snooze button 100 times. So skip the sleeping in and get up just like you would every day at the same time. Make a good breakfast take a shower and go to your office, Even if it’s a spare bedroom or a coffee table, go there. And work.
Sure you can check Facebook every so often and even answer the door for the cable repair person. But being self-employed does not mean you can go to the movies in the middle of the day. You wouldn’t do that at work and if you did, you’d be fired.
Develop your routine and stick to it. I find having two dogs helps keep me focused as even if I want to sleep in, they bark for their breakfast and their morning walk. And trust me when I tell you if I’m late, I get a whole lot of attitude from my furry friends.
Tip #3 – Surround Yourself With People Smarter Than You
As business owners, we put a lot of pressure on ourselves to know it all. I mean after all, we’re the President or the CEO. But the fact is you can’t possibly know everything you need to know to start or run a business. There are people out there (maybe entrepreneurs themselves) who have skills you don’t possess and would need to spend too much time learning to be effective.
You’d be surprised at what others are willing to share. Through free seminars, online videos and tutorials and even peer-to-peer. If you’re thinking of starting your own business, you obviously have some skills to share too. So create those alliances and before you know it your network will be filled with people willing to help.
Tip #4 – Elevators Aren’t For Just Going Up And Down
When I was little, there was a diner my parents took me to that had these sugar packets. And on them were these pithy little sayings. One that really stuck with me was:
“He who has something to sell, then goes and whispers in the well, is not so apt, to get the dollar, than he who climbs a tree and hollers.”
And while I’m all about marketing your business, this doesn’t mean you have to be that person who corners everyone and talks endlessly about it at BBQ’s and parties. You will quickly become the social pariah that everyone avoids or makes some random excuse just to get away from.
But it does mean you need to practice casually working into conversation about what it is you do. Learning to refine your elevator pitch is one of the most difficult things you’ll need to learn as an entrepreneur. And doing it in a natural tone of voice is even harder. So how do you get good at it?
Practice, practice, practice. Try it out on friends and family until they tell you it sounds just like you’re talking to them. And not reading from some awkward pre-written statement off of an index card.
Now you might be saying “I can’t come up with a good elevator pitch – I’m doomed!” Not necessarily. You know what I’ve found makes the best speech? Belief in what you’re doing. What you’re selling. What service you’re offering.
When I talk to people about divorce mediation, I’m passionate about it. Why? I know of what I speak. I’ve seen firsthand what a litigated divorce can do so the service I offer has personal meaning for me. When you deeply care about the service or items you’re offering, the elevator pitch becomes a piece of cake. Not stale burnt cake mind you but moist and delicious cake. With icing even!
Tip #5 – It’s Always Darkest Before The Dawn
It’s an exciting time starting your business. Your friends (at least the supportive ones anyway) will ask you a lot of questions, you’ll be out and about marketing, networking, growing and learning. For the first six months, maybe more. But then reality hits and you haven’t gotten a single client or made a sale. And you want to pack it in.
I’ve seen it time and time again. If the person in question had just given it one more try, one more month, that sale would have come through and the new client signed up. But their expectations were not in line with reality and they didn’t have a plan on how long they’d stick it out or could afford to. (There’s the need to write that darn business plan again)
Like I said before, starting a business is easy. Running a business is hard. Making a sale is even harder. Sure it’s a great idea but is it something that someone will pay you for? The short answer? Yes. As long as you did your research, determined there was a need, defined your target audience and put the time and effort behind it to market to that niche.
You Can Do It!
Is running a business for everyone? No, far from it. But if I haven’t scared you off yet, then you just might be the kind of person we in the self-employed ranks are looking for! There are a lot of resources out there available to help you along and put you on the road to success. And if you forget everything I told you just remember this one thing…
Write a business plan!!!