We hear so much different information about what we need to do to become successful business owners, but what actually works? Many people are curious how established entrepreneurs made it big so I did the dirty work and asked 10 business owners their best secrets for getting your business off the ground, finding clients, and turning your passion into a profitable business.
What I did that really made a difference when I started out is work on collaborations before I did ANYTHING – before I created a product, before I ran my first webinar, before I created a sales funnel.
It’s extremely difficult to start a business and grow quickly without connections and deep relationships. Influencers in your field are well known either because they spent a ton on advertising and didn’t grow their audience organically or because someone referred them and spoke kindly about them to their audience. When you’re starting out, you most likely don’t have thousands to spend on ads, I didn’t. So, I highly recommend you invest time and/or money (think live events or hiring so that you can connect) and create below the surface relationships.
– Brie Beeks, Business Coach and Ladyboss Leader at Blissful Bosses
When I started my business, it felt like I was marketing to crickets. I did everything I was “supposed” to do, but wasn’t going anywhere.
Then, I decided it was time to come out of my shell and start talking to people. No joke, I saw results the very first week. Reaching out to people to collaborate or just to chat can be intimidating, but it’s totally worth it. You’ll quickly find that most business owners out there are just like you. We all want to create offerings that sell, to fit in, and for people to like us. Because of that, most people love the opportunity to connect with someone new.
To get started, try replying to people on your favorite social media platform. For me, that was Twitter, but Instagram and Facebook are also great options. This will help you get used to communicating with people you don’t know too well and you’ll start to build connections. From there, reach out to a couple people to jump on the phone or Skype. “Coffee chats” are totally a thing now so no one will think it’s weird to get on Skype and chat about random things for 30 minutes. In fact, I schedule at least 4 coffee chats each and every month. Those people become good friends and tend to refer a lot of business over so there are so many benefits!
If you’re still finding yourself stuck in your own little world, it’s time to branch out. It’s totally worth it.
– Krista Miller, Strategic WordPress Developer at Krista Rae Development
Narrow your niche
Picking a clear niche has made a huge difference in my business. It seems to be the advice that everyone loves to ignore, but it really works!
A lot of people resist niching and I resisted it for a long time too. But once I got clear on what I do and who I work with, marketing got so much easier. Instead of being a copywriter who writes lots of different types of copy, I decided to focus on email sequences for business that want to convert subscribers into buyers.
Now I can explain what I do in one sentence. When your services are that clear, it makes it easier for people to remember you and send you referrals. You become the go to expert in that area and people are willing to pay more for someone who does one thing really well.
I know one reason a lot of people don’t want to niche down is because they’re afraid of limiting the kind of work they take on. The effect is actually the opposite. I’ve had clients come to me for emails and ask if I can also help with other copywriting projects. Even if you want to offer other services, focusing on one niche can open the doors for all sorts of work.
– Sarah Anderson, Email Copywriter at Spitfire Scribe
I started my freelance writing business almost three years ago. I had no tech experience and my background is in teaching children with special needs.
But, I had twins and I didn’t want to go back to the typical 9-5 job. I wanted to stay home and take care of my twins, but needed to find a way to contribute to our finances. That’s when I discovered that other moms were freelance writing on the side.
If I look back at my journey into entrepreneurship I believe the number one thing that made a huge difference when I started out was taking action. I have helped hundreds of freelance writers with my coaching and courses and I know a big fear for them is taking action. They read all the information, work on perfecting their website or pitch and then get overwhelmed by it all.
For me, I broke it down into steps. I created a website solely to promote my freelance writing business. From there I created a few sample pieces of my writing. Then I looked at various job boards and submitted my pitch. I didn’t let fear take over me. However, early on in my career I did have my confidence shaken by another writer who basically told me I shouldn’t write. Since I don’t have a journalism degree, I wasn’t sure if I could really do this. I had a strong support system, though, which helped me overcome my fears and has allowed me to continue writing.
In the end I took action and didn’t let anyone stop me.
– Elna Cain, Blogger and Freelance Writer at Twins Mommy and Write Your Way to 1k
Connect with others
Make connections, don’t be a lone wolf. The best thing you can do when starting out is to start building connections, not only with your target audience but with fellow entrepreneurs. When you are starting it can seem hard to prioritize “socializing” on your to-do list but seriously reach out online and in-person and start making connections from day one.
Be open to new opportunities and collaborations. Making connections will not only help build your client base, but it will make you a much happier, less lonely entrepreneur.
– Mariah Tomkinson, Business Coach and Strategist at Bloom Hustle Grow
The best advice I can give to entrepreneurs who are just starting out or who are struggling to get traction in their current businesses is to experiment.
People will sell you formulas based on what worked for them, but your business should be as unique as you are. You have to capitalize on your own strengths and weaknesses to create your own formula–and that will require a lot of trial and error. Give it time, and trust your process.
– Mallie Rydzik, CEO Mindset Coach and Business Strategist at MallieRydzik.com
Many entrepreneurs talk about niching down, but I don’t think that’s necessary or even realistic when you’re just starting out. Being open to opportunities that come your way is especially important when you’re just getting your business off the ground. I spent the first year of my business saying yes to nearly everything so that I could truly understand what I enjoyed and what I didn’t.
Trying out a variety of work can help you discover your personal strengths and weaknesses quickly and really understand how to structure your work accordingly. If I had followed the common advice to pick one service or niche and stick with it, I wouldn’t be a developer today.
I started as a web designer and offered development services quietly on the side until I realized that development work better suited my strengths and what I enjoyed doing. It’s your business — remember that it’s OK to change your mind and tweak things as you go along.
– Lisa Butler, WordPress Developer at Elembee
Grow a community
The very best thing I did when starting my business was make time to connect with people. Whether it was peers in my industry, other bloggers in my niche, or readers who sent me emails looking for help.
Spending time growing your community – while welcoming people into your community with open arms – and building relationships will take you SO far when it’s time to start selling your products or services and turning a profit!
– Krista Dickson, Blogger and Infopreneur at Blog Beautifully
I’ve managed several blogs and businesses over the last decade. With each business venture I’ve pursued, I’ve found that the true key to success is to worry less about making money, and place more importance on making a difference. Sometimes in order to make money, you have to be willing to give away your time for free.
Joining Facebook groups where my target audience regularly hangs out has been the biggest key to my recent success. It’s not so much about promoting my website and my business so much as it’s about establishing myself as an expert. A large part of my business strategy involves me interacting with tens of thousands of people regularly – answering questions, providing insight, giving feedback, and generally just being a nice person.
Every now and then, I get the chance to link to my website. People are much more interested in seeing what you have to offer and what services they can pay you to do after receiving so much help already for free. Basically, the key to success is to pay it forward – people remember who helped.
– Kimi Kinsey, Graphic Designer and Brand Strategist at Pink Hexagon
Choose a great team
My secret to having a booming business as a virtual assistant/digital marketer is hiring the perfect team members. I have quite a few people who help make my business as amazing as it is, and I truly couldn’t do it without them. So I 100% believe that having an awesome team is the key to success as an online service provider, but it’s super important to make sure that you don’t just have any old team…you need a GREAT team.
I’m super picky about the people I hire and always make sure to figure out if we would work well together before making the leap to bring them on board. Being scrupulous when choosing new team members is always worth it in the long run.
– Miranda Nahmias, Client Acquisition and Systems Specialist at MirandaNahmias.com