6 Ways to Grow Your Business
You already know why I started my own business, and eventually I’ll write about how I started it… but today, let’s talk about how to grow a business.
First, let me just say…growing a business is HARD work! Especially when you’re just starting out. So don’t let discouragement overtake your drive and passion for this being your own boss thing. Keep going.
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When I started my own business, there were (and still are) many times when I let discouragement sink in. During those day or weeks, I wasn’t doing myself any favors. It resulted in not bringing in enough work. I would stress myself out hustling through the month trying to manage lots of time-consuming tasks, instead of being proactive to find even better opportunities or ways to manage my business.
I’m still growing my business. And I’ll always be growing and evolving it in some way. That is how businesses survive.
With my 1 year in business in the UK anniversary just passing (and 8 years in business altogether coming up soon!), I thought it would be fitting to share a bit about how I grew my business to the level that it’s at today. The level of “I can be my own boss and take care of myself and my financial needs each month…even if I were on my own in the world”. I worked hard to get here, and I’m very excited and thankful I made it here… but I continue to implement the following list so I don’t get too comfortable or stuck on a growth plateau.
6 Ways to Grow Your Business + Some Actionables for You!
These are things I did (and continue to do) to help my business grow
I find the right people to be my clients.
I try to connect with people who are like minded, passionate and driven…but also open-minded, trusting, easy-going, down-to-earth, and friendly. It makes the entire working relationship so much more pleasant and productive for both me and my clients.
As a web & graphic designer, I have a lot of competition. But there are a lot more people who need a designer’s help than there are designers in the world, so it’s just a matter of finding the right ones for me to help.
Referrals from clients
I nurture the relationships with my clients so they are happy to sing my praises. I started receiving very kind and generous feedback without even asking, so I now make “testimonial gathering” a part of the process when I’m working with a new client. The testimonial is like a review of a product…people seek them out to see what the experience of working with me is like.
By the way, this is THE number one reason my business has been going for 8 years.
Twitter, Facebook and the World Wide Web
Some people don’t understand Twitter, even me sometimes, but I’ve been on Twitter since 2008 and can’t ignore all that it’s done for my business! When I lived in Seattle, I didn’t know many people. Through Twitter I ended up making a few artist friends, again by cultivating relationships. I used it more like a social event rather than a marketing tactic. It led to quite a few opportunities!
Facebook, too. Join networking groups. I’m a member of a few and I’ve met so many wonderful people, some who have even become clients. I’ve also learned a lot about what my ideal customer wants and needs, which helps me design my services around their needs.
One other thing I used to do when I was just starting out was check freelancer websites like Elance and Craigslist… a lot. And it paid off. I landed a contract with a startup web design company and gained tons of experience as lead designer for awhile.
There were a few years I largely ignored Twitter, for one reason or another, but after I moved to England I started participating in Twitter hour chats. Months of this gave me some good connections, but then we moved again. So I joined in on our new region’s twitter chats, and after just one week, I connected with some other business ladies who invited me along to my first ever “tweetup”, which I talk more about, here.
Every business should have a website. Yes, you can run a successful business without one, but why limit your potential reach?
For years I did not have my own website to promote my Web & Graphic Design business. Ironic, much?? When I finally did sit down and plan it out, it came together very quickly. Since last November when I launched my site, and promoted the heck out of it on social media, I’ve doubled my clientele.
A client of mine hired me for a website makeover earlier this year. Since its launch in April along with setting up an Amazon Local campaign, she’s quadrupled her clientele.
After months of finding it difficult to meet people and make friends when I was living in Seattle years ago, an artist emailed me out of the blue. She found my art & photography website during a Google search and said she had been looking for someone like me to work with for ages! We met up and found we had a lot in common, so she ended up hiring me to do a photo shoot for her first album. I have countless other examples like this, too.
When I first visited England to check it out before moving here, I only knew my husband and my yoga teacher! How did I know my yoga teacher before I arrived? I Googled “Yoga in (my particular area of) Cornwall” and her website popped up in the results. I emailed her from her contact page and she answered me within a day with a friendly, helpful response. I ended up taking a yoga class every week during that visit, and when I finally moved there I continued to go to yoga class every week for a year (before my husband and I moved to Devon).
It took me a little while to get past traditional marketing habits. Most of us grew up with TV ads coming at us every 10 or so minutes, asking us to “Buy this new cleaning product thingamabobber”, and “Lose weight fast with these diet pills”. This is how advertising used to be, and still is (on TV and radio, at least).
The birth of social media started a new wave of business promotion that is more authentic and personal, with businesses and brands – small to global – reaching out to their customers in ways they never have before. I first remember encountering this in 2008 when I had a problem with my Internet connection. I mentioned it on Twitter and someone from the Internet company responded immediately asking how they could help. They ended up scheduling a maintenance worker to come to our home and install a new modem, the very next day! Pretty good service, right? Especially when you think about how difficult it is to reach tech support on the phone. I chatted with a real live human on Twitter instead of wasting precious minutes of my mobile phone plan listening to an unhelpful recorded message.
Be NICE, be gracious, be optimistic…. and be a solution to your client’s problems
People respond better to those who try to understand them and have empathy for them. Once you know you’ve found a great client, or they have found you, hold onto them for dear life! Do still set clear boundaries to protect yourself and your business, yes. But also be compassionate and go the extra mile for a good client. My testimonials page is filled with women I truly admire and try to support whenever I can with retweets, Facebook likes or shares, or even referrals because they are all genuinely lovely people and I believe in what they do.
Take Action: Take a look at how you write your emails to clients or potential clients. Are you clear? Polite? Friendly? Understanding of their needs? Does your personality shine through? So many people don’t know how to do this in text! The use of punctuation, italicized or bolded text, and paragraph spacing can make such a big difference in how people understand you. You may be thinking, “but doesn’t it take more time to do that?”. Doesn’t it take more time to email back and forth for days trying to figure out what someone is trying to communicate?
Observe your favorite blogs and newsletters, ones that you feel show the writer’s personality. What are they doing that draws you in and makes you understand them? How can you implement these things into your own correspondence with clients?
These are just a few ways I have grown, and continue to grow, my web & graphic design business. See what happens when you apply these ideas to your own business. I feel these are ways to grow in the long-term. They’re lasting and they build your business’ character and reputation.