When my corporate comms role was made redundant during a ‘financial restructure’, I was cast out into the seething masses of unemployed. This was at a time when the Queensland government had decided to ‘restructure’ and over 12,000 people were also looking for new jobs.
I struggled to find a job – after applying for 77 jobs and only getting one interview (I think my negative energy had something to do with that), I thought ‘what if I start my own business…be the mistress of my own destiny?’
It’s even worse now.
Now…we are cast out into a world that economically and socially will look and feel different. But some things remain true.
Like many who venture into small business, I had little or no skill in business management and marketing. As a writer, I could spin a yarn but when it came to marketing myself, I was out of my depth.
I started my business and stuffed up more times than I even thought possible. I got things sooo sooo wrong, but I kept going. Head down, bum up. Still do.
I soon realised my zero marketing budget and cross-my-fingers-and-hope approach was not going to help me get clients. So, I did something that made me VERY uncomfortable…
I started promoting myself using the very tools I used to help my clients. It felt gross and uncomfortable, but inquiries started to roll in.
This is what I learnt:
Business is all about connection and relationships: In order to connect with people who have no idea about me, I had to let them in. Not all the nitty gritty about my life, but to share parts of my story that was relevant to my business, I developed free content to help people, I networked up a storm, I gave and gave in Facebook groups, and I learnt how to use social media.
It took TIME: Even though it took a few months to get my first client, I did not give up. I kept going, knowing I needed to be persistent, consistent and resistant to my inner voice and desire for things to happen right now.
There’s no room in business for modesty: Being humble is OK; it can be appealing to others. After all, we live in a country plagued by tall poppy syndrome; no one likes a bragger. However, being too modest wins you no business. If you don’t share your story, no one else will. If you don’t celebrate your wins, no one else will. If you don’t let people know you exist, even if it makes you feel yuck, no one else will. Who wants to be the best kept secret?
Your business success is up to YOU. Even if you have someone else doing the work. Not everything works: It’s all test and measure. It’s all trial and error. If you persist, even when you think nothing is happening, you are building relationships with your audience.
There are good times and bad times in business – It’s just like the rest of life. Learn to ride the roller coaster and take advantage of the good times and plan for the bad. Don’t wallow in indecision. Don’t pick at your mistakes. You’re human; not perfect, just someone doing your best.
There is NO SUCH THING as a sure thing: Ditto, a guarantee, perfection or absolutes. Have a plan, work to it but be prepared to change and adapt. If it doesn’t work, try something else. The fail is in giving up. Get help. Seek guidance.
It takes a good three to five years to build a solid brand: Yes, in this age of influencers and 24/7 news cycles, it is easy to get distracted by the bright shiny objects, so you need to follow your own path and stick to your plan. Be consistent in how you show up; do not just stop and start. By dropping lots of content and profile building breadcrumbs so when it’s time to buy, you’ve already developed know, like and trust with your audience. You show up in searches because you have done the work. think about it, how do people go looking for someone to work with – they Google them or ask for referrals. I get recommended ALL THE TIME by people who have never worked with me but feel they know me, because I always show up and I’m everywhere. Do things like blog, Lives, videos, podcasts, awards, be active on social media, write articles …
There’s no such thing as free: You will pay for whatever it is with money or time. And if you want to promote your business, you have to be OK with spending one of those or both. I know, you’ve gotten to the end of this and thinking, what, no magic bullet? No. None. the only way to build a good, solid business is to do the work, to do it over and over, to learn from mistakes and keep moving forward. The magic bullet, if you really need one, is something you already have in spades. It is in all of us who are on this business journey, the magic bullet is persistence.