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Blog posts tagged business development

Seven key steps from freelancer to business owner

May 06, 2014 by Guest contributor

Seven key steps from freelancer to business owner/ 3D golden number 7{{}}The transition from being an independent freelancer to a business owner is a process of shifting responsibilities and needs. For me, moving from freelance copywriter to founder and MD of my own copywriting agency has been one of moving from one set of challenges to the next – and developing processes or recruiting people to meet those challenges.

As the business has grown we’ve increasingly moved from being reactive to proactive, and that has been crucial in ensuring the continuing success of the agency. I’d like to share with you seven proactive steps you need to take to move your business to the next level. Many of these are true not just for freelance copywriters moving into agency territory, but anyone making the shift from self-employed individual to business owner and boss.

1 Stop marketing yourself – market your business instead

To give clients the sense they’re dealing with a bona fide business rather than an individual, you need to market your business as such. Outline the core values of your business and shift from using ‘I’ in your promotional copy to ‘we’. Consciously create a brand image that leverages the strengths of your agency and sets it apart from the rest.

2 Start delegating

Once you’ve got staff, use them. There are only so many hours in the day, so to grow your business and focus on areas such as marketing, entrust certain activities to others. Once I’d taken on other copywriters, I found I spent most of my time being an editor. Later, I went on to recruit one of my senior writers to work full time as an editor, freeing me up work on expanding the business and developing processes to increase efficiency.

3 Get your cashflow in order

As a lone freelance writer you can weather the lulls and cut back on the groceries till that big client finally pays up. But if you’re employing other people (or even sub-contracting to other freelancers) you must have a much better handle on your cashflow. Nobody works just for praise and promises, and if you can’t afford to pay them, you may find that your business suddenly contracts again.

4 Invest more in marketing

Continued business growth requires an investment of time and money in marketing. You also need to develop a cohesive marketing strategy that will exploit your business strengths and conform to current market conditions. If you fail to market sufficiently or effectively, you may find you’ve got an excess of manpower and a shortage of work.

5 Set up and refine processes

To produce a consistent product, you need to have processes that ensure quality. This extends to everything from gauging client requirements and expectations to briefing writers, invoicing clients and dealing with problems that arise. Remember, delegating will give you the time to develop these processes.

6 Consider expanding into different areas

One of the key transitions from freelancer to business owner is to redefine your offering. Where once we focussed solely on providing writing and editing services, now we offer PR, consultation and training. The larger your business grows, the greater the possibilities.

7 Develop recruitment and training policies

As a freelancer you are in direct control of the quality of your output. As a business owner your staff now play a crucial role in maintaining that quality. Effective recruitment and training policies will go a long way keeping standards high. Your staff are now one of you key assets. Look after them!

Blog supplied by Derryck Strachan, MD of content marketing and copywriting agency Big Star Copywriting.

Further reading

Are your beliefs holding your business back?

April 28, 2014 by Guest contributor

Are your beliefs holding your business back?{{}}Beliefs drive reality and they are intrinsically linked to our values – the things that are most important to us. What you believe to be true you make right by finding evidence to support it. 

So, if you believe that your target market is struggling at the moment and has no money to spend on your product, you’ll easily be able to prove that to be correct.  And yet if you were to say to yourself that your target market is making more focused buying decisions, you’ll take a different approach to your next sales or marketing conversation. Whatever is true doesn’t really matter. It’s the attitude and energy you take to it that will make the difference.

“If you believe you can, or you believe you can’t, you’re right” – Henry Ford

Thank heavens our brains are wired to filter information according to relevance.  Without that filtering we’d have more than two billion bits of information flying at us at any given second. How paralysing would that be?

Because of this filtering, we’re wired to focus on what we decide is important – our values. This focus drives behaviour and therefore business results. So, what we believe – and then say to ourselves is the truth – can mean that we don’t see evidence to the contrary. This can act as a positive or a negative, depending on what your beliefs are.

To make sure you are doing all that you can in this area to create success, begin to notice whether your beliefs are acting as ‘cheerleaders’ or ‘critics’ by considering these questions:

“What are the beliefs that you are running in terms of your customers, your product, your team or the market in general?” Grab some paper, make a list and then ask yourself…

“Are these beliefs building strong foundations and motivating me and my team to grow the business or are they looking for flaws and reasons that things go wrong?”

Whatever your beliefs are you have choice. You can make a change. Change your thinking and change your reality. 

  • Blog supplied by Sarah Lane, executive and personal career coach, trainer, facilitator, behavioural change specialist, busy mum of a three year old and author of Choices (the “book for people who want to conduct a midlife review, people who are at a point in their life to make a change”). You can follow Sarah on Twitter.

Further reading

The benefits of making friends with your competitors

April 24, 2014 by Guest contributor

The benefits of making friends with your competitors {{}}It’s natural to see your competitors as the enemy. In reality, though, they’re not  (ignorance and blindness-to-change are what you should really be watching out for). At Cartridgesave.co.uk, we’ve found that building relationships with our competitors has been invaluable in terms of support and knowledge sharing, while being fun, too. Here are the top five things we’ve learnt along the way.

1 The pros and the cons

Each business has very few real competitors. Operating in the same market as another business does not automatically make you rivals, because it's rare that you will ‘play’ in exactly the same space, targeting the same demographics with the same model, products and/or strategy.

Furthermore, it’s unlikely you’d disclose a secret that will unlock the key to your kingdom, even after one drink too many. This is because it’s not that easy to copy a business. Even when imitators try to rip off your business model, they’ll often copy the wrong thing, because they are not privy to your informed thought process.

Once you’ve pushed these two assumed ‘cons’ to the side, you can embrace the ‘pro’, which is, by creating relationships with businesses similar to yours, you develop a network of contacts you can speak to when you need to talk through issues affecting you both.

2 How to make the first move

Social media channels LinkedIn and Twitter provide great ways to test the water. You can’t guarantee that your approach will get a good reception, but they allow your recipient the opportunity to politely decline without either of you losing face.

However, you need to be clear on what you’re trying to achieve when you first approach a competitor (usually just a chat/social in our case). A few years ago, on our first ever meeting with a competitor, the owner had misunderstood our intention and thought we wanted to acquire his business. Needless to say, that was a mistake we haven’t made since.

3 Where and when to meet

Industry-relevant exhibitions provide a great backdrop for meetings. You’re both there already, so the pressure is off and no one has had to make a special journey. Plus, you’ll both have a packed itinerary, so grabbing a quick coffee between other appointments will keep things nice and informal.

Organisers release delegate lists in advance, so you can scour these to get an idea of who is going. Then all you need to do is drop them a quick ‘be good to meet up’ line via LinkedIn.

4 Don't limit ‘competitor friendships’ to your sector

Over the course of your business life, you’ll meet a number of like-minded entrepreneurs who you’ll not only respect, but also get on well with. Make sure you keep in touch. Not only will they make great company when you fancy a drink after work, but they may become invaluable at key times.

Keep these meet-ups casual. On most occasions you’ll find yourselves sharing the gossip over a drink. But you’ll find these contacts important sounding boards for problems, lead-generation, knowledge sharing and even mentorship over time. For example, at The Sunday Times Fast Track event, we met an MD whose business (on the surface) had little relevance to ours, until we got chatting and discovered he ran a massive call centre. His advice, over the course of that night and a few subsequent meetings, has really influenced and improved our customer service provision.

5 Ask

Most importantly, don’t be afraid to ask your contacts for help. We’ve found that people are flattered when called on for advice. The key is making sure you have a relationship in place before you make the call. It’s for this reason you need to grow your networks with people who can offer informed advice that is relevant and based on their own experience.

Blog supplied by Cartridgesave.co.uk

Further reading

How to be an exceptionally successful business

April 22, 2014 by Guest contributor

How to be an exceptionally successful business/Green frog on white background{{}}Would you be interested in working harder and smarter on your business if you knew that it would be very easy to do better than 80% of the people in your sector?

Factually, right now, about 60% of the people in your sector are only doing OK and 20% are struggling. This means that by stepping up and standing out, you could be in the 15% that are doing very well and if you really excel, you could be in the 5% that are exceptionally successful.

So how can you achieve this? 

1. Think big

Most people think small and therefore play small; there is less competition for bigger goals. You just have to act with courage. So whatever you’re thinking about doing right now, what would a goal that was ten-times larger look like? 

2. Build a database

Obvious and not news, but you need to recognise at the start that this is your business’s most useful asset, so spending some time at the start thinking about what information you need and how you plan to use it, will be time well spent once your business is up and running.

3. Stop being a “doer”

Instead, be a marketer of your business. The most successful business owners market their business in equal or greater measure to “doing” within the business. Every interaction you have going forward is an opportunity to market yourself. Use every opportunity. 

4. Deal with “the frogs”

Most new business owners are procrastinators who don’t spend the time doing the stuff they really to do to make their business successful (the frog!). Deal with the thing you need to do first thing in the morning, to make your business successful and then get on with your day. (Clue – if it isn’t generating sales or marketing related, you’re still doing the wrong thing!)

5. Follow up

It is not your customers’ responsibility to remember to come back to you, it’s your job to remind them you exist. And don’t give up. Regular contact will bring you business, but in some cases it might take years to land a target client.

6. Deadlines

I once heard a brilliant marketer say he had a mantra – “If I had to do X by Y or else I would die, could I get it done?” I’ve never missed a deadline by using it. 

Blog supplied by Anne Mulliner, author of Empowered! – How to change your life in your coffee break (RRP £12.99 Panoma Press). She is an award-winning executive coach and leadership development expert, who works with clients all over the world, sharing her passion for getting them to access their full potential. For more information visit http://www.jdicreativesolutions.co.uk/

Further reading 

Learning the value of staying small

April 25, 2013 by Gavin Lapidus

Learning the value of staying small/island of paradise{{}}I’ve always been business-minded, looking for solutions to problems, finding ways to improve things and thinking of ways people could do things better.

I have several family members with their own businesses and that probably influenced me growing up, because I’ve always wanted to run my own business, too. Working for other companies and helping them grow made me realise that this was something I could do for myself, so I set about trying to make that happen.

I was introduced to Nadine, who had 15 years of experience in the travel industry, and we launched eShores in 2007. Nadine and I worked from her spare room for 12 hours a day, seven days a week. Within four months we had built the business up enough to move into a small serviced office and take on two staff. That’s when we knew eShores had really begun!

We saw a gap in the market for a travel company that provided the ease of booking online with the level of service and support offered by high street agencies. We knew that if we were to go down the luxury route and provide high quality service throughout the whole holiday experience, we could create a business that was unique in the market at that time.

Once we’d seen considerable success with eShores we decided to try branching out by launching another website that offered cheap holidays that could be booked online. Quickly we found that marketing the second website was very expensive and difficult, because it didn’t offer anything different from other cheap holiday sites.

Trying to expand the business was a costly endeavour, but it made us realise that it’s not always best to branch out into a different area. If you have something that works, it’s better to focus all your time and effort in to making it the best it can be.

We don’t regret trying out the second business. It had an effect on eShores and took our focus away from the main core of our business, but this simply taught us a valuable lesson in keeping 100% focused on the main product, because this is what works best for us.

My advice to anyone starting out in business would be: choose the market that you want to aim towards and build it around that; and make sure you offer something different – you must stand out if you are to succeed.

Business partners Gavin Lapidus and Nadine Brown run eShores, which is now in its sixth year of trading.

Ten things big businesses envy in smaller businesses

April 17, 2013 by Robert Craven

10 things big businesses envy in smaller businesses/large and small goldfish{{}}Big businesses often bemoan their own lack of essential vitality and wonder what they could take away from smaller, more entrepreneurial business and incorporate into their own culture.

At first thought, the shopping list is negligible. After all, who would want all the hassle and grief of being an inconsequential price-taker without all the trappings of the corporate world? However, on second thoughts, there are a number of attributes that the bigger business is positively jealous of. 

  1. Passion and belief in the product.
  2. Excitement.
  3. Flexibility and ability to change direction, at the drop of a hat!
  4. Responsiveness.
  5. Speed of decision-making.
  6. Communication, no silos; simple lines of accountability and control.
  7. Commitment.
  8. Closeness to customers and suppliers.
  9. A feeling of being able to make a difference; in control of your own destiny.
  10. Clear focus.

The reason that small businesses exist is to satisfy a dream or fill a gap or an opportunity that others cannot see.

Most of these attributes should also exist in the larger organisation. They just seem to get beaten out of people as control, stability, safety and security become more important in what can only be described as the corporate mindset.

Robert Craven runs The Directors’ Centre, which helps owners to grow their businesses. He is the author of business bestseller Kick-Start Your Business and his latest book is Grow Your Service Firm

How to keep in touch with customers in the startup stage

May 17, 2010 by Tim Fouracre

Starting a business for the first time is undoubtedly one of the most exciting things you can do (if you enjoy business!). However there comes a point where customer demands can weigh on your ability to progress. Here are five tips on how to keep your customers happy during the start up stages.

1. Be honest
Some business owners feel that they have to present their company as bigger than it is, which can lead to customers placing greater expectations in terms of support and business development. It would be better to be honest with your customers and for you to tell them exactly how big your business is, if not understate your size. This is not suggesting that you slack on customer service. As a customer, if you know the size of the business you would rather be told that your problem will be dealt with tomorrow and then have the issue dealt with well, rather than the issue being sorted today and receiving a half hearted response. Having a set policy (see point number two) to customer support will make customers used to what to expect, it could be argued reliability is more important than punctuality and if done right it can buy you time.

2. Have customer service processes in place
Having a process (between yourself and however many employees) in place allows you to know what to do when an issue is raised. An example could be a customer calls and has a problem, the query is logged and then the customer is told how long it will be before they receive an answer based on number of problems in front. If the issue is an emergency/urgent (this can be difficult to distinguish as some customers may claim it is urgent, but in the grand scheme of things their query can wait) being able to fast track it will be important. It can be hard when customers get angry at you, however as long as you communicate why their query is taking a while to resolve then at least they will not feel left out in the cold.

3. Get your hands dirty
Despite point number one, it is important that you get involved in sorting out customer queries, even if you happen to have raised enough money to employ someone to handle customer support. Following this rule will also allow you to have a feel for your customers' needs plus it will allow you to identify your earliest customers. That sort of recognition towards a customer from a CEO or MD is greatly appreciated. How can you make sure that you keep your original customers close? Consider having a separate email address for them (even if it is not you responding to their queries). A phone line could be going a step too far as you don't want to be held back from the day to day running of the business.

4. Have a time to shut off
Have a time to shut off from customer problems so you can focus on another area of the business each day. It all comes back to the principle of focus, if you can break your day up into focused segments you will get each segment done better than if you try to multi task by doing a little bit of everything. Read this post on how to become a better mono tasker.

5. Listen, don't ignore
Always listen and never ignore the customer. Even if you do not feel that the customer is right or cannot act on what they have said this instant, by listening to them you will be aware of the issues that your customers are raising. If you simply shut out your customers in pursuit of growth you could end up with a backlash that brings about your downfall. Little and often should prevent customer enquires becoming overwhelming in the start up stages, it's a better approach than letting them mothball and ultimately build into an uglier beast. If you have been abiding by point three you will be able to prioritise your customers and keep the major ones happy.

Nick Braithwaite, Clear Books Small Business Accounting Software

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