Do what you loveTo do what you love, you first have to know what kind of work you really want to do. This discovery requires deep introspection and an understanding of which kinds of work get your creative juices flowing and which kinds dry them up. Doing what you love also sometimes requires that you ignore what other people want you to do for a living. You may decide, for example, that you’d really like to start a photography studio, but your spouse or best friend may think something more practical, such as buying a successful pet store in the local mall, makes more sense.
Ultimately, you must decide what you really want to do for a living. It’s your dream — you’re the one who gets to choose it (and live it!). No one else has the right to tell you what kind of work you should love — and do.
Treat your business like a businessIf you want your business to be a real business — an organization that generates the kind of money that will allow you to become financially independent — you have to treat it like one, and not like a hobby or a momentary fling:
- If you’re starting at home, set aside an entire room in your home — not just a closet or a shelf — exclusively for your business.
- Make a serious investment in business equipment and supplies: a decent computer, a fast Internet connection, and whatever else is required to effectively and efficiently run your operation.
- Create a marketing plan and follow through with it.
- Publicize your company’s products and services to a wide audience of potential customers and clients.
- Build a strong customer base and make plans for future growth.
Become an expertPeople naturally respect those who know more than they do. By specializing in a particular area of expertise — whether it’s where to dig a new water well, how to scrapbook, or what to do in a financial crisis — you assume the role of a presumed expert, even if you’ve just started your business. It makes good business sense for your clients to hire an expert instead of someone less experienced. By avoiding the mistakes and dead ends that someone with less experience may make, you can help your clients spend less money by hiring you, even if your hourly rates are higher.
Don’t be shyAlthough you may never have had to sell yourself or your products before, you can’t avoid doing so when you own your own business. After you generate momentum and build a strong customer base, then you can rely more on referrals from your happy clients to do the marketing for you. But when you’re getting your business off the ground, consider and attempt every possible method for getting the word out about your products and services.
Build a solid customer baseOne of the most important ways to establish a successful business is to build a solid base of customers who stick with you through thick and thin. This solid customer base becomes the foundation on which you grow your business. Of course, building a solid customer base is much easier said than done. At the heart of the process is creating an organization that values its current customers and goes out of its way to ensure their satisfaction and happiness.
Ask for referralsThe word-of-mouth referral is probably the least expensive and the most effective way of getting new business — for any business. That makes referrals the most important way for businesses to market themselves. Here are some of the best ways to earn great referrals from customers:
Do great work.
When you do great work, your clients are happy to give you great referrals. When you do less-than-great work, you’ll be lucky to get a kick in the pants, much less a referral.
Do your work on time and within budget.
If you consistently deliver on your promises, you’ll soon have more business than you ever thought possible. And you’ll earn your clients’ referrals at the same time.
Keep your clients well informed.
When clients spend their money on you, they want to be kept apprised of your progress, not only to stay in touch with the project, but also to keep a watchful eye out for problems before they get out of hand. Whether the news is good or bad, your clients and customers appreciate forthrightness and candor.
Always keep your word — even when it hurts. If you promise to do something, do everything in your power to keep your promise, no matter what it takes.
Customers and clients appreciate vendors who are flexible and willing to meet their needs — and they often pay more for it. Think about what you can do in your business to better meet your customers’ needs, and then do it.
Thank your clients for their referrals.
Everyone likes to be appreciated for what they do. Your customers are no different. Thank them for their referrals with a hand-signed card or small gift.
Many small businesses get the vast majority of their new business through referrals. They really are worth their weight in gold!