I’m in a truth-telling mood.
There’s a lot of business advice out there that doesn’t quite ring true so I decided to kick off 2013 with a blog post that clears up some of those myths.
As you embark – or continue – on the wild and wonderful journey of self-employment, I wonder if you’ve heard these…
Myth #1: People don’t value things they get for free
This advice has a basis in truth. It’s certainly unwise to give too much of your core service away for free, or drop your prices un-strategically.
However, the problem is when you take this rule of thumb too far and start holding back your genius and wisdom. You don’t respond to a question on a forum because it feels like giving away your crown jewels. You feel you have to protect your ideas and approach. You worry that if you give a solid taster of your work, people will think that’s all you’ve got and won’t feel the need to come back and pay for more.
We see this kind of protectiveness on websites where visitors only have one option: buy or don’t buy. A far more effective website for a service professional is one where you share your expertise for free through strategic methods: blogs, talks, articles, videos, teleclasses and webinars. These all fall under the banner of content marketing and they help take strangers through to paying clients.
When you’re generous with your expertise, you help prospective clients decide whether to work with you. People do value freebies which showcase that you empathize with their needs and have helped others like them. Then, when they’re aching for more than you can broadcast through your general marketing, be sure to sign-post them to where to go next – that is, your paid-for products and services.
(Not sure where on earth to start with content marketing? Blogging is a huge passion of mine and I’m currently cooking up a How to Blog to Get Clients masterclass for this year – watch this space!)
Myth #2: Be wary of your competition
Every time I hear the word “competition” used in relation to business, there’s a jarring effect. It doesn’t match up in my mind; it’s like people are talking about a different business world from the one I see.
Instead, I encourage you to see yourself as part of a wider movement. Who are your colleagues, your peers, your partners in crime?
Three of mine, who I refer to most often, are Jac McNeil, Mark Silver and Tad Hargrave. They all do work in the same general arena as me (conscious business, authentic marketing, helping service professionals/solopreneurs), so technically could be called “competition”, but I’ve only seen there to be mutual benefit from referring to each other. They sometimes get clients because I rave about them, I sometimes get clients because they tell people about me. Each of us has a different flavour and a different set of services on offer so we complement each other, rather than compete.
That person or organization you’ve been seeing as competition – how could you be of mutual benefit to each other?
Myth #3: Don’t go into business with friends and family
Like the classic film-making advice to not work with animals and small children, people say it’s a recipe for disaster to work with people you know.
Absolutely – if you hire someone just because you know them and you aren’t clear on boundaries or expectations or how it’s all going to work, it can become a minefield. But hire the right person and you can create a dream team.
Here at You Inspire Me, our Tech Genius is my good friend Daniel James Paterson. He’s a social entrepreneur in his own right who recently won a Manufacturing Leadership 100 award as well as a £20,000 award to support his work with SolarAid. He also happens to be the perfect strategic partner for my business and is a whizz with the tech stuff, leaving me free to focus on what I most love. (You’ll meet him if you’re coming to the You Inspire Me Community Meet-Up event on 17th January.)
So, if someone you know happens to be a brilliant web developer, photographer or accountant, perhaps don’t be so hasty in looking elsewhere.
Myth #4: You need a super shiny website and massive list to run a profitable business
At the last count, I have 1,703 people subscribed to my email list (which we manage through professional list software provider, AWeber). That’s a relatively modest list size and even while I was growing this list with far lower numbers, I’ve been able to run a profitable business. Size matters less than what you do with it, as they say.
My current website, considered beautiful when it launched in 2008, started to look pretty outdated in the last few years. A fresh new header perked it up and soon you’ll see the launch of a brand new You Inspire Me online home sneak preview here). The rebrand is very exciting and will help take the business to the next level. However, the existing site has supported me in enrolling hundreds of enthusiastic clients over the years so a strong, cohesive visual brand was not the make-or-break element for profitability.
You can absolutely get clients in spite of your website flaws and in spite of being in the beginning stages of gathering a community of interested people if you focus your business on meeting needs – in other words, actually offering what your Tribe want and need and are ready to buy.
Myth #5: When you do what you love, you’ll always love it
I coach people on how to get clients but I also help them to un-get clients. Shock announcement: human beings aren’t always fun to work with. You can find you’re following your passion but still enrolling clients who seem to be draining the very life force from you and who you’re eager to finish with.
This can create a vicious circle – you might then hold yourself back from marketing because deep down you don’t actually want clients. (Identify with this?)
Yes, you can sharpen up your enrollment process and screen better for your ideal clients, but now and again someone might slip through the net who presses all your buttons and makes you wonder why you quit your day job.
And while your friends and family are looking at your autonomous lifestyle with envy, the reality is that you dread certain aspects of being self-employed; the path includes painfully steep learning curves around accounts, technology, rejection, visibility, hiring other people, and much more.
Running your own business is not all roses, so let’s bust that myth. Be compassionate with yourself, bear with the dips, delegate tasks you find draining, and reach out for support.
So, there are a few myths I wanted to shine a light on, to help you navigate your way into 2013. Now I’d love to hear from you:
Which business myths have you bought into that haven’t served you? Any of these pieces of advice you believe actually are true? And any other myths you’ve stumbled upon that you’d like to bust for us all here?
As ever, leave a comment below, let us know.
© Corrina Gordon-Barnes 2013