For twenty-one years, I’ve been self-employed. First starting out as a freelancer supplementing the family’s income, until my business became a company with contractors and a ton of projects. It ended when my marriage did. There’s a lesson in that.
Stick with me here because there’s some background info you need. That business overlapped with my fine art business. I have paintings in private collections around the world. Then I started up an indie publishing company because writing and publishing is my jam. Both of those abruptly stopped when I had an accident and lost full use of my left arm for the better part of a year.
Onward to the next business, because as a single parent with very little support, keeping the money coming in has been essential, accident or not. So I ran a business with a friend that taught artists how to market and sell their art. I didn’t need my arm to go live online and teach.
That business, oy, has run its course for various reasons and I’m here now relaunching. Again.
So when I say, how to launch a business and get out of your own way, it’s something I’m well-versed in. Running a business, setting one up and knowing that it needs to pay for everything, is a mind fuck. No matter how experienced you are, it will make you question everything about your skills, abilities and even the value of what you have to offer.
Here’s what works: go for the low hanging fruit.
What can you do, day in and day out, because you know it like the back of your hand? What is the thing you’re an expert in?
See, we’re all good at certain things. Things that sing for us. Think of it like your zone of genius. You *know* you’re good at this stuff, and sure there may be better people in the same field, but there are a ton of people who are below you in terms of knowledge and skill level.
This manages the mind fuckery of the business start up phase.
Figure out, very clearly, what you have to offer and for whom. If you’re unclear, no one will bite. Confused clients don’t buy. Get specific. The classic “helping” statement is a good place to start. If you’re on LinkedIn, you will have seen these all over the place. They’re clear, client focused, and to the point.
Helping [who] achieve [what] through [what you offer].
So one I’ve used in the past has read, “Helping heard-led visual artists create sexy AF profitable businesses, through mentoring, masterminds and courses.”
See how defined that is? If someone isn’t a visual artist, they’ll wander off. The sifting and sorting of marketing has begun. Even more importantly, YOU are clear on who you help, what outcomes they get and how they get it.
Why should you niche? Doesn’t that limit your audience?
Think of it this way: would you get a family doctor to do your brain surgery or would you go to the doctor that has spent years perfecting their skills and trade? It’s a no-brainer (sorry, not sorry)! In order to get the money rolling in fast, you need to be a specialist in your field.
In the art mentoring business, I mentioned above, things only improved when we focused only on visual artists and no one else. Sure, I love writers (hello!) but generalising actually hurt us in the beginning. Artists only really paid attention when we made it clear that they were our focus and speciality.
If I’m a client looking for someone to help me out with an issue, I’d always look to the experts first and you have to assume that’s going to be the case for your own clients as well. They want to know that they’ll be in good hands.
Also, when you specialise, you’ll be marketing your services to people who are most likely to say yes. You can’t sell the most amazing bacon to vegans. You can’t sell dog treats to cat owners. Knowing who you’re for takes you to the “yes” that much faster.
Next up, get a website made. These days there are tons of choices and you don’t need any web or tech experience to set up a one page, info and contact site.
My biggest advice here is don’t use the free sites that stick their branding on it. Having a website that screams “free!” and “cheap!” isn’t a good look for a business. Buy your domain (a shockingly cheap thing to get at around $15.00 USD for a .com for one year) and set up a business email address using it. Using Gmail or Hotmail or whatever for business can also be problematic because they’re free.
Your website should have info about who you help, what you do. It should have an about section, because you’re not a faceless corporation. It should have the offer with contact info. Make it super easy to buy from you.
Then it’s time to market yourself. Online, figure out where your audience is going to be. Are you B2B? Then LinkedIn is going to be the best tool. If you’re B2C then consider going to another platform. Don’t branch out too much because managing social media is an energy suck. Stay focused: build an audience, make connections and let people know how you help them.
Social media isn’t the be all and end all, though and it’s important to remember that.
When you build a business solely on social media, you’re building a mansion on rented land and that land can disappear without warning.
- Reach out to your friends and colleagues.
- Contact local networking groups to establish yourself in your community.
- Do some PR with press releases, podcast interviews and radio shows.
- Find compatible businesses that you can work with to cross promote. If you’re a web designer, for example, find a copy writer and pass clients back and forth.
Remember that you need to sell one thing to one person. That’s it. One consultation. One item. One course. Whatever you’re selling. One thing to one person and rinse, wash, repeat.
Your business will shift as you grow, and that’s fine. The most important thing is to get started. No business is perfect right out of the gate and if you’re waiting for the perfect idea, or perfect way to deliver what you have on offer, or waiting until you feel ready, you’re never going to launch.
You have so got this.