Going out on your own is equal parts exhilarating and terrifying. We all have notions (for better or worse), about what being a freelancer will be like, but what’s the reality? I started my own creative business almost 10 years ago and here are 10 things I’m glad I did, which I’d done or learned along the way.
1) Moonlight while you’re still at your current job
Some of the most successful entrepreneurs spent a couple of years working full days at their regular job, and early morning, nights and weekends on their new business. It’s not for the faint hearted, but laying the groundwork before your income depends upon it can significantly increase your chances of building the business you want to have. Which brings me to my next point.
2) Know what makes you unique and what problems you solve
A successful, creatively fulfilling business is no accident. You’ll need to know what makes you unique, who your ideal client is, and what they struggle with. Not sure what your ideal client’s struggle with or need? This exercise will help you get clear AND provide with you the language you need to speak directly to them.
3) Get your pitch down
Now you know all of the above, it’s time to craft your compelling pitch. Instead of thinking of a pitch as 30-second ordeal you subject strangers to at networking events, think of it as a conversation starter. As Seth Godin puts it:
“The best elevator pitch doesn’t pitch your project. It pitches the meeting about your project. The best elevator pitch is true, stunning, brief and it leaves the listener eager (no, desperate) to hear the rest of it”
Need help crafting your compelling pitch? Let’s chat.
4) Have a couple of clients lined up
Starting out with a client or two helps take the heat off in those first crazy months. If it’s not a conflict with your current position, take prospects out for lunch and pitch your services. Remember to make it all about them and how they will benefit, not about you and your new venture.
5) Work it. Every Day.
Being an entrepreneur means doing everything (at least in the beginning) – including things you hate and things you’re not good at. Does the idea of making a cold call send shivers down your spine? Push through the fear and do it anyway! It likely won’t be as bad as you think. And if it is, you’re no worse off than if you didn’t call.
6) Don’t take yourself too seriously
We tend to over-think every decision, and that’s often driven by a fear of what others will think. Remind yourself often of Eleanor Roosevelt’s wise words: “You wouldn’t worry so much about what otehrs think of you if you realized how seldom they do”.
7) Join an accountability group
Going it alone can be isolating, so it’s important to have support. One of the best things I do for my business is participate in an accountability group. We set 90-day goals and meet via Skype every week to share our intentions are for the week, what we need help with, and to offer resources and support to each other. At the end of the week we check in via email and share what we achieved. I swear I do most of the stuff on my list because I told my group I would!
8) Build your community
Now I realize that networking is not something most of us get excited about. But I’ve come to realize that, like everything else, it’s something of an art form and once you ‘get’ the new rules and find your tribe, it’s actually really fun and rewarding. Modern networking is built around starting conversations (that go both ways…imagine that!), forming authentic relationships and focusing on giving, rather than getting. The great thing about this type of networking is that you can be yourself, release any negative emotions around ‘selling’ and feel great when you connect with someone who has a genuine need for your services or knows someone else who does. This is not about short-term gain, but building your relationships and your reputation, little by little. It takes time, but the pay off it truly worth it.
9) Build your list
I cannot overstate the importance of building a list of good quality prospects. Your subscribers are people who are genuinely interested in what you have to say and will potentially buy or refer your services to others. So how do you go about building a quality list?
- Newsletters, blogs and social media are a great way to share content that builds the ‘know, like and trust’ factor. Not sure what to share? Focus on your client’s challenges or aspirations and offer solutions and inspiration.
- Be consistent. Whether you decide to send out a newsletter weekly, bi-monthly, monthly or quarterly, be clear about how often people can expect to hear from you and deliver when you say you will.
- Share great content. Remember, this is about your audience, not an opportunity for you to share your random thoughts and observations. If you wouldn’t submit it to a publication, don’t send it to your list.
Quick etiquette tip: never add someone to your list without their permission. If someone gives you their business card, follow up with an email saying how great it was to meet them and how you’d love to stay in touch. Briefly describe what you share in your newsletter and how often and ask if they’d like to be added. Be sure to give them an out so they can graciously say no if they don’t want to be included.
10) Keep on keeping on
No one said it would be easy, but if you’re doing something that adds value and meaning to the lives of others, it’s always worth it. Know when you need to push through the tough times and when you need to take a little break (which could be as simple as going for a walk or treating yourself to ice cream cone). And don’t forget to celebrate the small wins along the way.
If you’re ready to make the jump, but would like some support as you make the transition, let’s chat! Book a free 30 minute consultation with me and share your challenges, ask questions and talk about solutions.