If you’re new to business or you’re working a side hustle, let me save you some time and heartache. I’ve spent an entire decade as a solopreneur/small business owner now, freelancing as a social media consultant and trainer. While I’ve learned much about social media, of course, I’ve also learned a few lessons about being in business. These are some of the things I see new business owners struggling with every day and while I’m certainly not perfect at any of this, I’ve come a long way in 10 years.
You can’t work with everybody
When I first started my business I had a mastermind session with a group of well-established local business owners. It was organized by a business support group and the goal was to help me find a way to overcome any roadblocks I was experiencing in starting and growing my business.
One of the advisors told me they had a friend who had just invented a specialized widget of some kind to help firefighters, and asked if I would like an introduction to them to do their social media marketing. When I said that wouldn’t be a good fit for me they scoffed and said “Never turn down business. If you don’t know how to do it, say yes and then figure it out.”
I never understood that way of thinking. Not only was selling widgets not really what I was trying to do in social media (still very misunderstood at the time), but it just wasn’t a project that appealed to me. Why would anyone tell you to accept work that doesn’t appeal to you? Isn’t that why entrepreneurs get out of the corporate world? So they can control what work they do?
Yes, there is a social media strategy for every business. I firmly believe that. But it does not mean that I am the right person to implement that strategy. Every social media consultant out there will have different strengths and if you want social media to really work for your business, you’d best find a social media consultant whose strengths match the needs of your business.
There is enough business out there for everyone
It seems there is a new social media consultant or trainer starting a business every week. Over the 10 years that I’ve been in business, I’ve watched many talented people start consulting firms and virtual assistance agencies focusing on social media. Because we all have different strengths, and different levels of experience, finding work has never really been a problem. In fact, in the past year, I’ve probably referred out as much business as I’ve kept because I can only manage so many clients. The key to not falling into the scarcity mindset of “there are too many social media consultants” is differentiation. If you don’t stand out, you blend in, and everyone is looking for the one who stands above the crowd. I even keep a list of some of the best social media consultants in Halifax on my website so if I’m not the best fit you can find someone who is.
Keeping up with change is a lot of work
If you’re a person who likes routine, and likes things to stay the same from day to day, then entrepreneurship, and especially social media marketing, is definitely not for you. Social media platforms change constantly and on any given day I could be looking for a feature that’s been deprecated, or even just moved. All industries change and to be successful we have to find ways of keeping up with all the changes. I spend a lot of time reading blogs and websites dedicated to noting all the changes so I can disseminate the information to my clients in an easy-to-understand way. I’m very thankful some people do that part of things full time so I can weed through the resources and find what’s relevant to my audience. If you want to keep up with the changes, join my weekly live roundups in my Facebook Group, or subscribe to my newsletter, which includes the latest changes.
Always be educating
It may sound unbelievable, but when I started this business in 2011 many small business owners were still under the impression that social media was a fad that would disappear, so they didn’t need to think about it as part of their overall marketing. Compare that way of thinking to how most small businesses think about social media after a year of not being able to see people in person. We’ve definitely come a long way and I don’t think social media is on the decline yet. I’ve spent the last decade building my presence on the strategy of educating small businesses about social media and it’s not only helped me build a reputation as knowledgeable and helpful, but the blogging about social media keeps me on top of Google rankings and brings invaluable backlinking and collaboration opportunities.
Networking is about them
10 years ago I attended every in-person networking event I could fit into my schedule to get the word out about my business. It was exhausting. Of course I also spent a lot of time simply networking online with those who were early adopters and had embraced Facebook and Twitter already. While I promoted my latest blog posts or workshops online, I also spent a lot of time just chatting with people and getting to know them. This allowed me to become one of the go-to people who could always connect you with someone you needed. Networking was never only about getting my name out there, but helping people in my network get connected to the products and services they needed.
If you find networking difficult or scary, try going into it with the mindset that you’re going to help someone find a person/service they need. It really helps to change your mood if you know you’re going in with a service mindset, rather than a sales mindset.
Take Time Off
I know the word “vacation” seems like a foreign concept to many new (heck, many old, too) entrepreneurs, but it is so essential to keeping up your motivation for your business. Find big and small ways to take time off.
My schedule is largely dictated by outside sources at the moment: teen schedules, specialist doctor appointments, pandemic issues, etc. However, I take many weekends off from work, I mean, when else could I binge watch Netflix? I don’t work most evenings unless there is a specific event to attend. And I take actual vacations where I don’t work for an entire week.
Time away from work is essential. Plan for it. Work for it. Take it and celebrate it. Working yourself to death does nobody any good. The more you normalize taking time off, the more your clients will understand and respect you.
You don’t need to be on every social media platform
10 years ago I joined every single new program and platform that came out. Back then I had a lot more time to experiment with new platforms, but I also quickly learned that 9/10 platforms would fail. I often would sign up for a platform to reserve my username and check it out, but then I would wait to see if it gained any steam before getting really active. As a social media consultant, I felt it was important to have my preferred name reserved everywhere…I still do but I spend less time chasing that.
I was an early adopter of Pinterest, but a tad late on Instagram. Even I have to pick and choose where I spend my time. I went all-in on an interactive, live video platform called Blab, which was the precursor to Facebook Live, and all of the other live video systems we have now. Getting in on these platforms early did afford me some benefits, namely learning how to use them when nobody else was ready to get into them and figure it out. But every network you add to your roster takes a new strategy, more time, and a lot of effort in community building.
That’s why you need to be judicious with your choices. Go ahead and join new platforms and check them out, but only go all-in on the ones to which you can truly dedicate your time. If you’re not sure whether or not to go all-in it can help to look at your target audience and see if they are hanging out on this new platform. If your ideal client isn’t hanging out there, it may not be worth the time just yet.
Fearlessness is a lie
I no longer believe that anyone is truly fearless. Those leaders you look up to who appear to be fearless, still have fears, but they have learned how to work through the fear. Fear is an emotion and we all feel it at some point. You can’t prevent yourself from feeling fear, especially when you’re trying something new in your business. You can, however, control how you react to the fear. Whatever it is you’re trying to do, but you’re scared of it, go ahead and do it scared.
One tool I’ve found helpful is to literally think about the worst thing that could happen if I do the thing. Starting a new podcast about being flawsome? The worst that could happen? Hmmm… nobody listens, nobody wants to be interviewed, it costs me some time and money. I’ll get over that. Or maybe the worst thing is that someone gets upset with something I say? Either I stand up for myself or I apologize. Either way, I’ll get over that too. Neither of those worst-case scenarios is going to tank my business. Do it scared.
Perfectionism Prevents Progress
Small business owners and solopreneurs are often terrified to start using social media for their business because they look at all the others out there doing it and see “perfection”. Of course, we all know that most people are showing a highlight reel on social media. When you look at someone else’s social media it’s easy to think it’s perfect because you don’t notice all the little things they might be concerned about.
In the No BS Social Media Blueprint I do a whole session on getting over this idea that you need to be perfect on social media. I embrace the philosophy of being Flawsome, embracing your flaws, and doing the thing anyway. Am I a perfect example of how to do social media, a podcast, or a live video? Definitely not, but I don’t let chasing perfection stop me from putting things out there. Imperfectly done is better than perfect and not done.
No template is ever good enough
Every social media consultant on the internet has a template of some kind. There are templates out there for every nook and cranny of your business, but not a single one is going to be perfect for you. Whether you’re writing your first business plan, a content strategy, a social media plan, or a budget, someone else’s thought process isn’t going to perfectly match yours. Use templates to get the creative juices flowing, but don’t discount your own thoughts, processes, and misgivings about what you see.
BONUS: Good SEO is a great investment for success
One of the best things I did early on in my business was hire an SEO specialist to help me get my website SEO straightened out. I thought it was going to be this big, complicated thing, but for a small business like mine, SEO is quite straightforward. I’ve been following the advice of that consultant and using other tactics I’ve learned along the way to build a high authority website that Google loves and others want to be featured on. If you want to learn everything I know about SEO, start with this blog I wrote on SEO for Beginners.
For the most part, I’ve enjoyed being my own boss for the last 10 years. I look forward to another 10 years of learning…and then maybe I can start to think about hanging up the social media consultant’s hat. What has been your biggest lesson learned during your entrepreneurship journey? Let me know in the comments.