We have had the pleasure of working with brands at all levels of industry, from budding new startups to national agencies. But no matter what level of business, we always have a soft spot for the start-ups. It’s such a genuinely special and exciting part of the entrepreneurship journey and to be there on the ground floor with all the energy and emotion is such an amazing experience.
When first starting out, everything is so new and still unknown. It’s so easy to feel like you need all the top tools and to be everywhere at once in order to really get your name out there. But we promise, the path to authentic maintainable success is so much simpler.
When we say “simple”, we don’t mean “easy”. Don’t get us wrong, these tips will take time and energy, but anything really worth pursuing does. But we promise, as you jump in with both feet, these top 10 tips will not only help you start up, but launch and thrive with an authentic and genuine following of followers and dream clients that will last.
1. Always Sign up for Free Webinars
Soaking up information from industry pro’s is an invaluable investment in your new business. Paying for courses and classes, online or offline, can get incredibly expensive and require more time than you might have to give in these early stages of your business. When a leader in or relating to your business offers a free webinar or training, sign up. Even if you can’t make it. Chances are there will be a recording sent out after for you to watch on your own time at your own speed and you can really take advantage of the information. This will also help you get a taste for the teachers who resonate most for you and help you to better invest in the right courses later when you have the financial stability to do so.
2. Take Advantage of Free Trials
Just about all software or programs (at least any program worth investing in) will offer a free trial with no money down. It’s easy to get excited about the next new technology or app on the market, but it can get expensive. Especially when just starting out, and funds are tight. If a program offers a 30-day free trial, take advantage of it. If there is a free level of a software, try it out and master the first level before jumping in with three $$$ and make sure it’s right for you. See if the program fits your style and your business. If not, you saved yourself some money that could be better invested elsewhere.
It’s easy to get excited about the next new technology or app on the market, but it can get expensive.
Some of my favorite programs with free trials that changed our business:
- Canva: By far the most incredible free online design program. We recommend it to all my clients, both start-ups and established brands who aren’t professional designers but want that professional designed look for their online marketing materials. Eventually, when you’re ready, upgrade to the Canva for Work account and gain access to even more amazing design options to help maintain the professional consistency of a long-time professional company.
- Calendly: This program changed the way we run my calendar and my client intake process. They have a free starting basic level to introduce you to the program and see how it best fits your business. Then, when you’re ready, invest in the higher packages and utilize even more organizational elements such as auto-reminders to clients for appointments, custom messages, and different event types.
- Dropbox: As a designer with clients all over the world, sharing and accessing files and information in large amounts very quickly is critical to maintaining a smooth, streamlined creative process. But it really doesn’t matter what industry you work in. Organizing files that you can access on any device anywhere in the world, is always valuable. And with a fantastic free starting level, you can get organized from day one no matter where you find yourself working.
3. Get Social
Start getting social. Even if you don’t have a website. As scary as it may seem, not having a website at the start of your business is not always a bad thing. (And I’m a website designer! I should want you to invest in a professional website). Not quite yet – in order to build a valuable website, any designer and developer will need content: text, services, packages, pricing, info, resources, photos, videos, blog posts… and from my own experience, most start-ups (not all but a lot) don’t have much to build with. So instead of focusing your energy and money into a big fancy site with no content, take advantage of what won’t cost you a dime – social media. Get your name out there, start curating quality feeds, become someone worth following, and continue to work on your content. Then, when you really have enough for that quality professional website, you’ll have established some credibility, become a recognizable face in your market, and your target clients will trust you more vs launching to an empty house.
As scary as it may seem, not having a website at the start of your business is not always a bad thing.
Pick three platforms to focus your energy on:
- A platform to become an authority on, a thought leader or go-to resource.
- A platform that you enjoy spending your time on. If you have to be on social media, enjoy as much of it as you can. Pick a place you naturally enjoy engaging on.
- And finally, a base platform that you might not lead, or enjoy spending lots of time, but is an easy link between your top two platforms and a solid base for maximum reach.
4. Start Building Your List – Now
This is something lots of other business owners might have said in the past, but that’s because it’s so important. Just like social media, even if you don’t have a website, you can still start building your list. Programs like Mailchimp are free and don’t require a website to work. Create a simple freebie, or opt-in that you can promote on social media, and use it as your link in your bios that will begin creating a list for you before you even have a website. Then, like a social community, when you finally have that awesome package, product, or website, you’ll already have a list of people to celebrate with and promote to that ALREADY TRUST YOU and will most likely help you grow faster.
5. Digitally Detox Your Social Commitments
Just like picking three platforms, simplify your online social commitments. Yes, it’s tempting to join every Facebook group under the sun or subscribe to every newsletter you find, but you only have so much time in a day and trying to be everywhere usually results in you being nowhere. Pay attention to the emails you enjoy reading the most, or Facebook groups that really meet your needs. Your time is the most valuable resource you have to give, even to yourself, so give it, and spend it wisely.
6. Pretty Isn’t Profitable
As much as we want that perfect logo, or professional website, and beautiful Instagram feed, all the pretty things in the world will never equal the value that quality content and consistency bring to a brand. Focus on what makes you unique and identify the people who can gain the most value from working or following you. That will keep them engaged more than a pretty logo or beautiful, but empty website.
7. Never Underestimate Business Cards
These little pieces of paper can make even the newest start-up look and feel more legitimate. Picture this: you’re working in a coffee shop when just starting out and a business person walks over to ask what you’re doing. You share a bit about your business, and what you do inspires them enough to want to maybe stay in touch. They then ask for your card. You either have one, feel awesome, look professional, and create an opportunity for another meeting, or you don’t have one and hope that they remember your name or business and look you up later. Do not underestimate the business card.
8. Join a Mastermind Group
You’ve probably heard this term too, “Mastermind”. It’s usually a small group of business owners, not necessarily at the same level of business, but all with the goal of growing together. You can get together weekly, monthly, quarterly (whatever works for your group) and help answer questions, provide feedback, and lend support. Starting a business is really hard, and can be really lonely. Find your group of people that will genuinely want to help you grow and be successful.
When starting out, you’ll find yourself seeking validation from friends and family, but that isn’t always the right avenue.
9. Everyone Loves to Be a Critic…
Yes, criticism is very valuable, when it is constructive, and when it comes from a credible source. When starting out, you’ll find yourself seeking validation from friends and family, but that isn’t always the right avenue. They are usually more biased and will praise your efforts without really knowing what they are talking about, or worse, critique you with no valuable experience or credibility to do so. So yes, sharing what you’re doing with friends and family is great, and you want to involve the people you care about most, but don’t seek validation. Instead, seek support and guidance, but leave the professional criticism to those more qualified to give you guidance and understand your professional goals. If I ask my mom what she thinks of a site, she is always going to love it, no matter what issues it might have. If I ask my father-in-law if he likes a site, he will always get lost because he doesn’t use websites much. So while we love our parents support, we leave the professional criticism to the professionals.
10. When You Get Tired, Learn to Rest, Not to Quit
Starting a business is really really really really really hard. And long, and tedious at times, and emotional. Did I mention it’s hard? But it isn’t all an uphill battle. It’s also one of the most rewarding endeavors of your life and can really, authentically, change your life in ways you never imagined before. But doing what you love and loving what you do don’t always line up all the time. There will be tough clients or projects that you’ll have to face along the way, and they are just apart of the journey. When times get tough, or you get tired, learn to rest.
Take a step back, or an hour off to refocus and regroup. Don’t quit. You can do this
If you’re a start-up, we hope you find these tips helpful as you pursue your passion and create your dream career.