With 23 years running my own business under my belt, I may be doing a few things right. So when friends or acquaintances say they are thinking about starting their own businesses, I’m happy to chat about my own experiences.
Assuming you have searched your soul and are positive you’re suited to the independent life – you’re disciplined, resourceful, good at what you do and can maintain your sanity working on your own, among other qualities – these suggestions I recently gave a friend may help you get started:
Get a website. People expect you to have one, and you look less professional if you don’t. Writer Paul Lima calls this “the foundation of your business.” See more of his thoughts in Secrets of Successful Independents.
You might also want to start a blog. This gives you a chance to share your expertise and get noticed by those all-powerful search engines. Keep a blog journal to jot down ideas for future posts as they occur to you, for those times when you’re fresh out of ideas.
Get a business card. As old-fashioned as they are, you still need one to give to people you meet in person. If you aren’t sure about the specific services you will offer, keep it plain with name, email address and phone number.
Join your industry association. For communicators, the top choice is (still) the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC), and if you are more of a PR person, the Canadian Public Relations Society (CPRS) or Public Relations Society of America (PRSA). Check if they have a job board or a member list where you can search by name or industry for companies you might approach.
…and go to association networking events to meet people face-to-face. Bring your business cards. Go in with an interest in meeting people rather than hitting them up for business.
…and volunteer with your association. This blog post describes the value of volunteering, including showing what you can do.
…and if it has a special interest group for independents, join it. IABC chapters that do are B.C. (Independent Communicators) and Toronto (Professional Independent Communicators). I believe the Dallas, Ottawa, San Francisco and Washington chapters also have special programming for indies.
Build your profile on LinkedIn. This blog post shares tips for fine-tuning your profile.
Be active on LinkedIn. This keeps your name in front of people and it will be more likely to show up in a search. Go in every day and post an interesting update, comment on someone else’s update, or ask to connect with someone you know. (It’s not a numbers game!) Join groups and participate in discussions. Follow companies you’re interested in.
Build your social media presence on Twitter, Facebook and other channels where your prospective clients might be. This post talks about how to use social media to find/get found by clients.
Talk to previous employers, friends and family. Let them know what you are doing and the type of work you’re looking for. Word of mouth is powerful and you never know which friend of a friend might have work for you. See these prospecting tips from Steve Slaunwhite, who advises finding prospective clients by connecting, not selling.
Talk to other independents and ask for advice. Buying them a coffee or lunch is okay too. 🙂
Get childcare if you have small children at home. Yes, you’ll work when they are asleep, but you can bet they’ll be awake and demanding your attention right when you have an important call to make.
Are you a freelancer? What other advice would you share? If you’re considering making the leap, what other questions do you have? Let me know in the comments.
- If you’ve been dithering about starting a business, read this and start it, already! I wrote this post when my colleague, Marnie Hughes, was writing her e-book, Writer Inc.: Starting and Growing Your Writing Business.
- Some advice from Marketing Mentor Ilise Benun on estimates and proposals.
Image: “ponsulak” and FreeDigitalPhotos.net.
Revised and links updated March 2019.