There is no such thing as ‘free’ when you’re running a small business
When my corporate comms roles was made redundant during a ‘financial restructure’, I was cast out into the seething masses of unemployed... This is what I've learnt.
Six years ago, I would never EVER have dared speak or write about myself. I plodded along doing what I did well and kept to the shadows. My job in corporate comms and journalism was to make others look good – to shine the light on them, not to talk about myself.
When my corporate comms roles 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?’
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 PR agency and stuffed up more times than I even through possible. I got things sooo sooo wrong, but I kept going. Head down, bum up.
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 enquiries 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 used Facebook groups, and I learnt about 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 persistent, consistent and resistant to my inner voice and desire for things to happen right now.
- 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. 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 rollercoaster and take advantage of the good times and plan for the bad.
- 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 pivot.
- 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.
- 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.