When I started this journey, I never dreamed of nine years down the road. I was trying so hard to get through each day (and still am, in some ways) that looking this far into the future seemed crazy.
I think I’ve aged 10 years in the last year plus, and I definitely have a few more gray hairs. But Clearly Conveyed Communications is still here, and I’m so grateful to everyone who has supported my little dream along the way.
I’m blessed to work with some of the best clients in the world and collaborate with fellow small business owners, creators, movers and shakers.
I’m going to take a minute to soak in this moment and celebrate before getting back to work. Thank you again to everyone who has supported the CCC journey in every way, large and small. I can’t wait to see what’s next.
Cheers to the future!
THANK YOU for your support,
Let’s chat (about small business life, your marketing needs or what you’re celebrating):
While most kids were playing with blocks or dolls, I was publishing magazines or newspapers with feature articles, ads, sports box scores and all.
In college, I majored in Journalism and Mass Communication, but I took every writing class I could—business writing, media writing, creative writing, copywriting. I wanted to be well versed in nearly any writing discipline, so I could pursue numerous avenues in my career.
I Jumped at Every Opportunity to Write
As I started my career, I jumped at the opportunity to handle any writing opportunity. While I was pursuing my love of writing, I was also gaining more attention at work and building my portfolio (unknowingly at first).
Before long I was ghost writing for my manager and members of our executive team. As I continued to write, I developed a reputation throughout our company (a $350 million company with around 115 employees) as a go-to writer and editor. Eventually, I was published under my own byline in our company newsletter, which was a thrill.
You Can Pick Up a Lot By Asking Questions and Listening
As my career progressed, I started to think about my future. What did I want out of my career? A corner office and impressive title? Or something else?
I worked at the corporate headquarters of a franchising company, so my job involved interacting with and supporting small business owners around North America.
Every day, I was learning more about running a business, even subconsciously. I’m naturally curious, so I would ask questions while communicating with our franchise owners. People like to talk, especially about themselves, their businesses, and their accomplishments, so you can pick up a lot by paying attention, asking questions and listening.
Guess Who Some of My First Clients Were?
While I was helping our owners, I noticed some of them were looking for affordable marketing and writing services beyond what our company offered. They knew they needed help in these areas but couldn’t afford to hire large marketing agencies.
After nine years of honing my skills and building a professional network in corporate America, I left that company and struck out on my own. Guess who some of my first clients were? The same people I had been helping.
Starting My Own Business Seemed Like a Crazy Dream
While it was a long road, the idea to start my own business came during an aha moment 15 years in the making. (I realized I wanted to write for a living while I was in high school, although I couldn’t see myself—a country kid from an unincorporated village—as a writer.)
One day at work, I realized that so many small business owners don’t know how to market themselves and couldn’t afford traditional agency fees. With my diverse background in marketing, I could start a business offering professional marketing services and experience at affordable rates.
I could give brands a voice via marketing, writing and social media services, so business owners could focus on the reason they’re in business, and not struggle with marketing decisions, writing copy and developing social media strategies.
After I realized I could start my own business, it still seemed like a crazy dream. But I did start thinking about it a lot. The next day, I began thinking about business names and what would make my business unique. The more I thought about it and talked about it, the more it became a real possibility.
At a company event, I finally made the decision: I had to go out on my own. A year later, I left and never looked back. On May 15, 2012, Clearly Conveyed Communications (CCC) was born.
You Learn a Lot About Running a Business When You Jump Out On Your Own
When I started my business, I never dreamed of today—eight years down the road. I was just trying to get through each day. Eight years later, I’m still trying to get through each day, but I can’t imagine doing anything else.
You learn so much about running a business when you jump out on your own. (I know I did!) As much as I researched and planned (and you should research and plan), at some point you have to jump in and learn as you go. (Here’s some lessons we’ve learned over the years.)
To get started, I focused on the professional network I had spent the previous nine years building. I reached out to contacts I had made and relationships I had built over time to let them know I was in business. Not only were these people potential customers, but they were also connectors.
In addition, I worked out an extensive transition plan with my former employer. It helped them maintain their services as we hired and trained my replacement, and they were my first paying client. It was nice to have income as I was building my business and looking for more clients.
I Didn’t Foresee that Businesses Would Want to Outsource Their Social Media Management
While I planned on starting a marketing company that focused heavily on writing services, I didn’t foresee the interest in businesses outsourcing their social media management. I started receiving so much interest in this area that I added a new page to my website.
Today, social media management and content creation is a significant part of my business. In turn, they’ve led to additional writing opportunities.
Offering an array of services as a marketing company allows me to present a full-service front to my audience.
For example: We partnered with a fellow marketing company, owned by a volunteer firefighter, to handle FDIC’s (Fire Department Instructors Conference) social media for six years. (See picture above.) We developed a year round social media presence for them, so firefighters could connect, learn and train virtually, too.
A Trend in Content Marketing: Long-Form Content
While my company creates a variety of content, we’ve noticed a trend in content marketing for long-form content, and we’ve jumped on it. It seems counterintuitive to our short attention spans and the constant state of information overload we live in today. However, quality long-form content performs well online, draws traffic and gives you a lot of content to repurpose.
The key is to make it readable (and skimmable) with appropriate visuals, short paragraphs and different sections, or headings. White space and proper formatting are your friends on screen.
SEO is important, but remember to write for people, not search engines, because they’re the ones actually reading it. You can still include keywords and appropriate tags and code while making your writing readable—by humans.
While we enjoy creating long-form content, CCC pursues all types of project-based work and programs. For example, we love writing all the copy for a new website or managing a company’s entire social media presence (as opposed to only creating content). These projects and programs pay more, so we can devote the time and resources to producing our best work. They’re also easier to schedule in advance, so we can utilize our time as effectively as possible.
Putting Our Clients First Helps Us Grow Our Business
Having said that, we will take on small programs, including minor content editing and distribution, or some one-off projects, to make more contacts and build more relationships.
Doing good work for people and helping them with their needs, however minor, can result in referrals.
We’ve been fortunate to be referred several times, resulting in new customers and opportunities.
That’s why we always put current clients first. It may seem better to focus more on business development, because small business owners usually don’t have the resources to wait for new customers.
However, we’ve found that by putting current clients first, we’re their first call—for any marketing activity. As we continue to help them with their needs, they continue to come back and refer us to their clients, business associates and friends.
In fact, we work with some businesses through our clients. They can expand the services they offer without hiring full-time employees or making a significant investment.
For example, a company who sells branded merchandise and printing services can add writing, social media and additional marketing services to their service offering to truly become a full-service marketing agency. As long as we work closely together, it’s a win for all three companies—CCC, our client and our client’s client.
Marketing: What to Consider Before Expanding Social Media Platforms
How do we market our marketing and writing services? We practice what we preach—although sometimes we’re a little slow to take our own advice.
We always advise clients to consider their resources before jumping into social media. It takes time and dedication to build an active, engaged community on a social platform. You don’t need to be on every social platform available or jump on the latest trend.
While social platforms all have their own strengths, they tend to copy each other. Has a new platform grabbed your attention? What features do you like? Wait a minute, and they may appear on a platform where you already have an engaged community.
For example, Snapchat become a darling in the social media world, and then Instagram (and later Facebook) added ephemeral content, or Stories. TikTok has exploded in popularity over the past year, but Instagram has recently announced that it’s rolling out a new TikTok-like feature, Reels, to new markets and expanding its capabilities.
This feature isn’t available in the U.S. yet, but we’ll probably see it eventually. There may be reasons you want to expand to new social platforms, but think about it first and make sure you have a strategy.
When CCC started, we jumped on numerous social media platforms and overextended our resources. Slowly, we reassessed and cut back to where we are today. That has allowed us to focus more on original content creation and distribution for ourselves instead of mainly curation.
Curation is important, because it introduces you to new people and delivers a wider range of voices to your social media communities. However, original content will help you stand out and bring on new clients.
Why Writers Should Have a Blog
If you’re a writer, you probably have a blog, or at least you should. Your blog serves as a place to showcase your writing, and it can lead to partnerships or business opportunities.
Try to set up a consistent publishing schedule based on when the most readers are stopping by your blog. While it’s important to be active, only commit to what you can do. If you’re on your own and spend a lot of time on client work, then you may only be able to publish once a week or twice a month. Don’t try to publish too often for the sake of publishing; your content will likely suffer.
House your blog on your website. It will be easy for your readers to learn more about your services, and your fresh blog content will help optimize your site’s search performance. While I’m not a big fan of consistently removing content (which is a trend today), updating older content helps boost your blog’s performance. Fix any broken links or missing videos you come across, and add any relevant, new information on the post topic to inform your readers.
Don’t Publish Your Content and Wait for People to Find It
Producing quality blog content can be time-consuming, but there’s even more work ahead after you publish. Distributing your content is important, so it’s seen by a larger number of potential readers.
Don’t publish content and wait for people to find it. You have to actively and consistently promote your content, because there’s such an overload of content today.
Don’t just blast your content across various social platforms in one format at the same time. Share each article in a format best suited for each platform. Repurpose your content so you get as much mileage as possible out of it.
Write a long-form article? Share bite-sized tidbits on Twitter, each time driving more traffic back to your article.
Record a video sharing highlights of the article, and post it on your LinkedIn profile or Page.
Share your article as a link preview post to your Facebook Page or group.
Share behind-the-scenes content while you’re writing to tease a new blog article in your Stories and to let your audience know when it will publish.
Content is king, but distribution is queen—and she rules the roost.
Meet Your Readers Where They Are
Some readers will prefer to read your content on these distribution channels instead of subscribing to your blog. We’re living in the age of assistance, so you need to meet people in the moment—where they are.
Building active, engaged communities on social media takes time, but these communities are full of potential readers and people who will share your work.
Use your social presences to interact with your audience and request their feedback. Instagram Stories has numerous stickers you can use to interact, while Twitter offers polls and the ability to have conversations with people around the world.
Facebook Groups have become increasingly popular, as you can offer a smaller part of your community first access to your projects, advice in a specific area (i.e. non-fiction writing tips) or a community of peers for fellow writers to bounce ideas off of. Depending on how you utilize Facebook Groups, you may be able to monetize them.
While CCC receives most of our work through referrals, social media and content creation are crucial in our marketing efforts. Even when you are referred for an opportunity, people will often look you up online first.
Do you have a strong presence on LinkedIn? Is your website up-to-date? What comes up when people Google you? Make sure you have a strong digital presence, so people actually contact you when you are referred to them.
What To Do When Your Writing Business Slows Down
If business has slowed down, spend more time creating and distributing content. Be even more active in your social media communities and work on growing them. Genuinely engaging with others will help you grow your community and may lead to new opportunities.
One of our larger clients watched our social efforts for some time before reaching out to us. Everything you do online is visible, so make sure you’re being your best self. Setting aside 10-15 minutes per day on a platform, including reading and commenting on other blogs, will help you make new connections and grow your communities.
We’ve had success utilizing these tactics, even though they take time. Social media is a long-term game; don’t expect success overnight. Instead of trying to create content that will go viral, focus on building and delivering value to your audience one day at a time.
This year, we’ve focused on creating more original content and distributing it more. By cutting back our overall social presence, we have more time to focus on our current communities and how we can help them.
By doing so, we’ve landed a few new, smaller clients. We’re excited to continue helping them, so we can grow these accounts into larger ones. You never know where an account or new opportunity might lead.
How Writers Can Expand Their Services
Speaking of opportunities, expanding your services or collaborating with fellow writers, editors and marketing agencies (or even fellow small or local businesses) can help you grow your business as well.
Are there additional services you can offer that make sense with your current business? Or maybe you already offer them, but people don’t realize that you do. If you see a trend in your industry or notice interest in a particular service, highlight it on your website and social channels.
Working with other companies who complement your services can help you land larger clients and opportunities. If you write copy for the web, look for a designer to partner with so you can offer complete website solutions.
Or look for companies that you can refer your clients to for related services, so they always come to you first. Building relationships with fellow business professionals and owners will make them more comfortable referring business to you, too.
This has been a stressful and trying year, so we hope everyone is pulling through it as well as you can. It may be the time to try a new idea, launch a related service or partner with another company. We wish everyone the best of luck moving forward in 2020 and beyond.
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A version of this post was first published on WriterCEO.com. Thank you to Colleen M. Story for sharing our writing and marketing tips!
This week, Clearly Conveyed Communications turns seven! It’s hard to believe my little venture is hitting the 7-year milestone on May 15th, but I’m so grateful to so many people who I’ve met and worked with along the way.
As we celebrate our seventh anniversary, I want to share seven tips I’ve learned during our seven years in business.
You can be a small business owner. Entrepreneurship isn’t only for people with extensive resources, a trust fund or a Harvard MBA. It’s hard work to build a business, but it is possible to do it from scratch. Have an idea?
Remember your why. The day-to-day grind of running and growing your business can be overwhelming at times. Remember why you started your business, and keep a prominent reminder in your office or close at hand, so you can see it when you need a boost.
Celebrate the little (and big) victories. Small business owners have big dreams, so remember to take the time to celebrate victories, large or small. These successes will keep you going during tough times and losses, which will happen. What are you celebrating?
Be ethical always. Some people say there are no ethics in business today, but I disagree. In the digital age, trust is more important than ever. As we spend more time online and on social media, it’s imperative that you’re honest with customers, partners and yourself. Don’t promise results you can’t achieve, or work with people who use unethical business practices.
Your time is your most important asset. As a small business owner, you have to weigh every request on your time, and learn to say no to opportunities that aren’t a good fit for your business. It’s hard to turn down a potential project or client, but it may help you grow in the long run.
Focus on paid work. As a small business owner, you need to focus on revenue-generating activity as much as possible. If you can’t bill for an activity, can you delegate it or stop doing it? That may not be possible, but you need to regularly review how you’re spending your time to make sure your cash flow remains strong. Too much non-revenue work can put you out of business.
Put your current customers first. We all want to grow, but remember to put your current customers first. You’ve probably heard that it’s much less expensive to do more business with current customers than to find new ones. By spending time on (and with) your customers, you can find new opportunities to grow your business with them, and you’ll deliver an impressive customer experience that will encourage referrals.
Thank you to everyone who has supported us along the way. What an incredible journey it’s been, and we can’t wait to see what the future holds!
As a small business owner or entrepreneur, you have BIG ideas for your business. But do you have the budget to match?
Don’t let a tight budget keep you from marketing your business and showing your tremendous products or services to potential new customers. These three tips will help you market your business in a big way without blowing the budget.
Think Big on a Short-Term Scale
Would you love to shoot drone footage of your landscape projects? Rent a drone for a day and capture footage for your website, blog and social channels. If you’re interested in high-priced equipment or technology, see if you can rent it. You’ll stay on budget and test the equipment, so you’ll know what you want if you can buy one in the future.
You can also rent big-ticket items for occasional needs to keep capital free for other purchases. Looking for designer clothing for a photo shoot? Rent styles that fit your project if you don’t plan on using them regularly. There’s no need to buy them to use one or two times.
Along with renting big ticket or low use items, barter goods and services with fellow small business owners or professionals. Perhaps a graphic designer will design a marketing piece for you in exchange for you writing copy for her website. If you go this route, be honest about the value of your services, so it’s a win-win for both parties involved. You don’t want to damage your reputation by shortchanging a fellow small business owner or business professional and losing potential business.
Stock photos and other tools draw a bad rap, but they are lifesavers to small business owners everywhere. Search sites such as Pixabay or Creative Commons to find photos you can legally use in your marketing efforts. (Note any citations required and follow any stipulations mandated by the photo owner.) Then, modify these photos to fit your needs with tools such as Canva or PicMonkey. Canva offers free and low cost stock photos as well.
You can use PowerPoint to remove backgrounds from images (if you have permission to do so), add text to images and add filters. Create a visual for a specific social platform by changing your slide size to the preferred size of the platform, and then save your design as an image file (JPEG or PNG) to share. Screenshots are another visual option, depending on what you’re trying to show.
Don’t forget about social platforms when editing photos! Most platforms offer an array of filters, stickers, text options and more to add personality to your photos and make them stand out. Keep your brand in mind when modifying photos or editing visuals. Does it fit your brand image? Do you stick with a certain aesthetic on social? Have fun and show your brand’s personality, but don’t use a filter, sticker or other edit that doesn’t fit your brand.
Build a WordPress site (or pay someone to build you one) instead of having a custom website designed from scratch. WordPress offers hundreds of themes, both free and paid, that allow you to find a look that fits your business. You can customize your site extensively, even if you don’t know how to code. Build a beautiful, user-friendly site on a much smaller budget that will serve your customers and potential new customers well.
With the internet, there is more information and tools at your fingertips then ever before. You can handle a lot of tasks for your business yourself, but be honest about your capabilities. Don’t try to DIY something that ends up looking cheap or unprofessional and hurts your brand.
Take photos of interesting sights when you’re out and about to use for future content. It’s nice to be able to use your own photos and not have to worry about finding stock photos like we mentioned earlier. If something captures your eye, take a photo. You never know what will be a good fit for a future blog article or social post.
Can’t afford a professional video crew or photographer? Ask a friend with a steady hand to film a short video of you talking about your business or take some pictures of you in action. The cameras on most smartphones today are high tech, so you can still look professional while staying in budget.
While we’re on the subject of creating content, there are a number of free, online tools to help you create a variety of content types. Create GIFs, convert videos to GIFs and edit images with EZGIF.com. Find out what colors are on a website or in an image with Color Combos or ImageColorPicker.com. View vector art, find free fonts and much more at PRISM. Create videos with Adobe Spark or Animoto.
Know Your Tools, Capabilities and Limitations
We’re not trying to dissuade you from hiring a professional. At some point, you’ll come across a situation or project where you need professional skills and expertise. However, we understand that budgets can be tight for small businesses and startups. It may make sense to handle as much as you can internally for now until you can afford to outsource tasks and free up your time to focus on why you’re in business.
If that time has come for you or you’ve hit your limits with your marketing efforts, let’s talk. We offer professional services and experience at affordable rates, so that time may come sooner than you think. Have a question or looking for a specific tool? Ready to recommend another affordable tool? We’d love to hear from you in the comments below.
A small business owner thinking big (on a budget), Jaime
Let’s connect! Say hello on social, share your favorite affordable business tools or ask us a marketing question on the platforms below.
Editor’s Note: Thank you to Vizaca, an online magazine for global entrepreneurs and small business owners, for interviewing me about my small business journey. It was a pleasure to discover this resource and share my experience with others.
Tell us about yourself?
I’m Jaime Shine, founder of Clearly Conveyed Communications. I’m a writer, marketing professional and social media strategist helping brands communicate with their target audiences.
While most kids were playing with blocks or dolls, I was publishing magazines and newspapers – feature articles, ads, sports box scores, the whole nine yards. From promotions director to advertising roles to branding projects, I’ve always been interested in all forms of marketing. That interest blossomed into a career path and led me to open my own business in 2012.
It’s been a crazy ride, but it’s the best decision I’ve ever made. Growing up in an unincorporated village, owning a business isn’t something you do. I’ve learned so much about business – and myself – along the way.
How did you get your idea or concept for the business?
It was an aha moment 15 years in the making. One day at work, I realized that so many small business owners don’t know how to market themselves and can’t afford traditional agency fees. With my diverse background in marketing, I could start a business offering professional marketing services and experience at affordable rates. I could give brands a voice – via marketing, writing and social media services – so business owners could focus on the reason they’re in business, their sweet spot, and not struggle with marketing decisions, writing copy and developing social media strategies. While I work with brands of all sizes, I do have a soft spot for fellow small businesses and startups.
“It was an aha moment 15 years in the making.”
How much potential market share can you achieve in next 3 years?
I’m not focused on market share, because I realize I’m a small fish in a big pond. My focus is on finding the right mix of clients that generate enough revenue while still allowing me to deliver the personal service they expect.
What was the best book or series that you’ve ever read?
Three books have impacted my life the most.
A Big Life in Advertising by Mary Wells Lawrence gave me big ideas about my future (in marketing and advertising) when I read it in college. Lawrence left her mark in a male-dominated space and encouraged me to do the same.
On Writing by Stephen King is a memoir by my favorite author and a straightforward, practical guide to help writers perfect their craft. This book (and a professor) inspired me to pursue writing as a career.
Susan Cain’s Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking felt like it was written for me. There’s value in listening to all voices – not only the loudest – in business and in life.
What are the best and worst purchases you’ve ever made?
My home makes me smile every time I walk in the door. Even though I bought it at the worst possible time (right before the Great Recession), it was a smart decision. It’s hard to believe I’ve been here for 10 ½ years!
Owning a home can be frustrating and expensive, so my worst purchase has probably been a service company who failed to live up to my expectations (or even show up).
What takes up too much of your time?
Owning a business takes a lot of time. I’ve implemented processes to handle administrative work more efficiently and am starting to outsource some activities, such as IT, but there’s still room to improve. The more I can focus on my clients and revenue-generating activity, the more my business will succeed.
What three pieces of advice would you give to college students/new startup business owners who want to become entrepreneurs?
Learn from every opportunity. Pay attention and make yourself useful in every situation, from the classroom to volunteer work to your current job. It may not seem related to what you want to do, but there’s insight to be had if you’re looking for it.
Network, network, network. Your professional network can be a big boost to your career or business, but it’s up to you to build and maintain it. Get to know professionals in your industry, offer your help when appropriate and listen when they speak.
Plan and adapt. Starting a business is a big risk, but you can mitigate your risk by planning as much as possible. Why do you want to start a business? What market need are you satisfying? Who is your target audience or ideal customer? How will you pay for your business? Despite all your planning, you’ll need to adapt – to changing consumer tastes, market conditions and life occurrences. The ability to adapt is one of the biggest advantages of startups and small businesses, and you’ll need it to succeed.
Who has impressed you most with what they’ve accomplished?
I’m impressed by Richard Branson, both his accomplishments and his outlook on life. He’s experienced successes and failures but learns from every situation, even today. He’s an innovative thinker, calculated risk taker and genuine human being.
Tell us about something you are proud of – about your greatest challenge.
This spring, my business celebrated its sixth anniversary. Most small businesses fail, so I’m proud that Clearly Conveyed Communications is still giving brands a voice. It’s been a long, winding road, but what a feeling of accomplishment!
How should people connect with you?
Visit my website for my full contact information, so we can connect via your preferred channel. I’m looking forward to hearing from you.
Are you an entrepreneur or small business owner? Vizaca can help you showcase your business, connect you with the right audience and promote your products and services worldwide.
I started running later in life (i.e. post-school), and I’m so glad I did. Besides being excellent exercise, it’s fun to be a part of such a wonderful community. The running community embraces runners of all capabilities and provides support in the form of running partners, groups and tips from more experienced runners.
A Supportive Community
A supportive community is one way that running translates to running a business. As an entrepreneur or small business owner, you’re probably working alone. Tapping into the entrepreneurial community can help you grow and manage your business. Whether you frequent a co-working space or join an online community, fellow small business owners can give you advice, help you brainstorm ideas and offer support from someone who understands what you’re experiencing.
Runners tend to have a long-term plan, incorporating when they’re competing in races, rest days and specific things they’re working on (i.e. a stronger kick, running technique). Small business owners need to plan as well, so they can run their business effectively and look for growth opportunities. Looking at your bigger picture helps when making decisions about what opportunities to pursue and which areas to focus on at specific times. Of course the best plans should always be adjustable.
Rest Days / Down Time
As noted above, part of a runner’s long-term plan is incorporating rest days. They’re vital to performing well, in running and business. Small business owners tend to wear a lot of hats, which can make it difficult to unplug. It’s important to your long-term outlook (and health) that you take time for yourself so you can be at your best when focusing on your business. Don’t burn yourself out and short circuit your business before you’re able to achieve your dreams. Running a business is a marathon, not a sprint.
When I run, I listen to my tunes and try to empty my mind (or think of inspirational movie scenes if I need an extra boost to reach the top of the hill). I’m not thinking about customers, business issues or other important topics. That’s probably why I come up with some of my best ideas or feel confident making a decision I’ve been thinking about after a run. The combination of physical activity, clearing my mind and the euphoria of finishing my run seems to spark creativity and clarify my decision-making process. The next time you’re struggling with a business decision or client project, go for a run. It may spark an ‘aha moment!’
Running translates well to running a business on several fronts. Runners can draw inspiration and insight from their hobby while they tackle the tough task of running a business. Not a runner? It’s never too late to lace ’em up and hit the pavement or trails. Couch to 5k can help you get started, or find a running community to join. You’ll find the same support, camaraderie and inspiration as you find in your entrepreneurial or small business community.
Happy running (a business)!
Just a (small biz owner &) runner from Akron,
Let’s chat (about small business life, running, your marketing needs or otherwise):
Something crazy happened this week: CCC celebrated its 5th anniversary. In the midst of client projects and deadlines, I almost missed it — which is so appropriate. It was just another day in what has become my life as a small business owner.
When I started this journey, I never thought I’d get here. Sure, I made plans and thought about where I — and my business — would be in five years, but to be honest, none of it was real. There was too much treading water just trying to stay afloat.
Looking back, I’ve learned a few things and will continue to do so every day. That’s part of the process, one that I enjoy.
Here are five lessons I’ve learned in five years as a small business owner:
This is the hardest thing I’ve ever done — and my greatest accomplishment (to date). Finishing my first half-marathon is a close second, but the daily grind of starting and building my own business has permanently changed me. It’s challenged me beyond my wildest dreams, and shown me what I’m capable of. You can read and plan all you want (and you should), but until you jump in, it’s hard to imagine.
You have to learn to say no. Your time is your most valuable commodity, especially because you probably won’t have the money to hire help when you start out. It’s not about missing opportunities or being afraid to take chances; it’s about taking control of your time and your business. Saying yes to everything and everyone will leave you burnt out and likely out of business.
Enjoy the everyday moments. Take time to sip a latte on a patio on a beautiful spring day while brainstorming a blog post or contemplating future business decisions. It may be tough for you to take time off from your business for a long time, so enjoy these moments that relieve stress and sustain you for another day.
Be honest — with your clients, prospects and yourself. It may be uncomfortable, but it will benefit all involved in the long run. As difficult as some situations may be, try to step back and take a look at the bigger picture. If you’re not best suited to help a prospect, refer him to another company. If you’re continually running into issues with a client, have an honest (yet professional) conversation. It will either spur changes or an end to the relationship, which may be for the best. Long-term, mutually beneficial relationships cannot be built on lies and half-truths — in business or in life.
Stay true to why you started your business. It can be difficult to remember your vision as you get bogged down in day-to-day activity, start to grow or deal with a catastrophe. Whether you create a vision board or have an image burned into your mind, keep it front and center. Remembering why you started the business can help you make decisions and decide which opportunities to pursue.
It’s been fun looking back on the last five years this week, which have been an incredible journey. Right now, there’s more work to do, but maybe I’ll be able to sip a latte on a patio this weekend to celebrate this special milestone in CCC’s story.
Thanks to everyone for your support!
Starting chapter six,
Let’s chat (about small business life, your marketing needs or otherwise):
On Sunday, my company, Clearly Conveyed Communications, celebrated its 4th anniversary. Along with some gray hairs and a sense of accomplishment, I’ve learned numerous lessons along the way.
4 Lessons I’ve Learned in 4 Years as an Entrepreneur:
Starting and growing a business is a thrilling roller coaster ride. If you love roller coasters (like I do), you’re probably thinking that sounds great. Keep in mind though that you’re riding 24/7, and there are no stops — for bad days, client disasters or even life (which doesn’t stop while you’re trying to start a business). If you like consistency and scheduled days, then don’t start a business. The most even-keeled entrepreneur has experienced many “What the f%#k am I doing?” moments.
I’ve developed a new definition — and appreciation — of living lean. Most entrepreneurs and startups are not raking in venture capital money and operating on million dollar budgets. They’re trying to build something for the future and scrape by in the present. You have to scrimp, save, shop smartly and still make hard choices. There’s nothing romantic about trying to figure out how you’ll pay your mortgage (or rent) next month, but you have to find a way until you can grow.
You’re not doing business until you get paid. Looking for new business, maintaining your professional network and taking care of clients is all part of owning a business, but it’s important to not focus too much on activity. You’re not doing business until you can bill and collect payment. Otherwise, you’re doing charity work, which is commendable, but it won’t pay your mortgage.
Your time is valuable; learn to spend it well. Every entrepreneur and startup owner needs more hours in a day, so you’ll learn to value your time quickly. You have to balance how much time something will take versus the (realistic) potential reward. Every opportunity or client won’t be a good fit. As painful as it can be to walk away, wasting time on a situation that you know won’t work is even worse. Use your time wisely so that you’ll be able to spend quality time with friends and family, sleep and exercise — all necessities in the long run.
No matter what happens, remember this:
Starting and growing a business is an amazing accomplishment. You took a huge risk to create your own future and build something for yourself. It may be hard for people around you to understand what you’re doing, let alone why, but you have to keep your goal in mind. Always remember why you started your business and what you want out of it. That will help you keep going during those “What the f%#k am I doing?” moments, although close friends, hobbies and happy hour will help too.
There are so many lessons I could have mentioned, because starting a business will teach you something new every day. Some days you won’t be in the mood to learn, but try to pick up as much as you can. The experience will come in handy in the future, wherever your crazy, amazing roller coaster ride stops.
What lessons have you learned as an entrepreneur or small business owner?
Did starting a business create an unexpected opportunity for you?
Feeling the rush,
Let’s chat (about business, your marketing needs or otherwise):