by Tracy Jensen | Featured Contributor
They say hindsight is 20/20, right? While I have provided freelance and consulting services periodically over the years, my LLC, Frizz Marketing, is actually only a year old. It’s been an interesting journey so far, and not without its bumps.
As I review my own first year, I asked a couple of other women about what they have learned during their own early days of business ownership, and from working with their clients.
Theresa Sullivan is the founder and partner at Wayfinder Advisors, a coaching firm dedicated to helping professionals pursue purposeful lives and careers.
The biggest mistake I made in the early days of my coaching business was considering any business to be good business. This meant I did a number of things:
• I let clients dictate the terms of where and when we would meet.
• I provided insane discounts just to secure a client.
• I took on clients to coach who really just wanted someone to vent to versus wanting to actually DO something.
I thought the more people I had as clients, the stronger my business. Instead of determining who I wanted to coach, when I wanted to do it and what I wanted to specialize in earlier, I felt desperate for any client who walked in the door.
What I learned: I am stronger – and so is my practice – when I coach clients around topics I know well and that bring me energy, and on my terms.
I learned to stay strong on my rates, and to only accept clients seeking coaches in my areas of focus. By doing that, I cleaned up my practice so I was only coaching “my people” – and those people started referring new quality leads who were prepared to pay my rates and understood where I specialized. The end result is better clients with less work, and better brand recognition… You can’t have that until you understand your own brand.
Shannan: Learn to appreciate the benefits of boundaries and balance
Shannan Younger is a freelance writer and editor who can be found at Between Us Parents.
Anyone who works for themselves knows that minimal resources often means that there are precious few, if any, people to whom you can delegate tasks. It’s up to you to get it done, and “it” can be a very, very long list of tasks.
I worked a lot of late nights and weekends chipping away at that list. Turns out that it’s a Sisyphean task. I’ve learned that the list is never going to be completely done, and even if it could be, having balance in my life is more important.
Working from home has tremendous advantages and I love it, but it can also make setting boundaries challenging. I failed at setting boundaries and finding balance in the first year of owning my own business. I’ve learned, though, that they are tremendously important to a healthy family life, and they are also beneficial professionally. Having some time away from work often fuels my creativity and makes me more efficient when I’m back at my desk. The research backs this up, of course, and I wish I paid greater heed to it from the start.
I work with a lot of young businesses. Some small business owners start out thinking they need to cut costs at every possible corner to make it. They’ll slap together their own logo (or buy a really cheap one from Fiverr), and will spend eighty hours fumbling through learning just enough about WordPress to put together a website.
The problem is amateur design screams amateur business. And as much as we don’t want to admit that we judge books by their covers, we totally do.
Look at your design materials through the eyes of a first-time customer. Make sure you compare them to the design materials of your competition. Do you look more or less credible than the other businesses out there doing what you do?
If your online gift shop is too busy screaming “beginning web designer” while your competition’s website is sipping a cup of tea and whispering “upscale gift shop,” you need to have an actual designer help you.
Letting go is hard. Losing customers because you’re not a designer is harder.
What would you add? What lessons have you learned from running your own business?
Tracy Jensen is Founder and CEO of Frizz Marketing, a Chicago-based marketing firm. Tracy has over 15 years of experience in communications, branding and community outreach. Through Frizz, her focus is helping small businesses and nonprofits extract their central identity and voice, cultivating compelling and authentic content. Her specialties are strategy, email marketing and content creation.
Equally content in front of a group as she is typing from her home office, Tracy has spoken on a variety of topics from social media to fundraising tactics. As a writer, she has contributed to a range of platforms, including BlogHer, EverydayFamily, Mamalode, Scary Mommy, and BonBon Break.
A single mother to two, Tracy believes the only limitations to success are the voices within our own heads. When in doubt, fresh air, a good cup of coffee and a book can cure just about anything.