From Freelancer to Small Business Owner: Thriving in Your New Role
September 28, 2023
In the first part of this series, we discussed steps to transition from a freelancer to small business owner. We looked at identifying responsibilities to manage yourself and which ones to outsource. This is the time to make sure you are managing responsibilities successfully including:
- Compliance with local laws and regulations:
- State Licensing
- Tax Code Business Regulations
- Employment and Labor Laws
- Antitrust Regulations
- Environmental Regulations
- Successful implementation of new systems and processes to streamline your company's production
- Regular communications with professionals hired to help with your transition, as well as banks/lenders to make sure finances are in order
Now let's focus on maintaining and growing your business.
Implementing Systems and Processes
When starting a business, you will wear many different hats – admin, bookkeeper, marketer, strategist, etc. During this time, you should have developed procedures to streamline activities and make the best use of your time. For example, using a spreadsheet to track expenses and log payments.
Once you have a process in place, it becomes easier to train someone how you expect tasks to be completed.
In part one we talked about hiring a virtual assistant to assist with these tasks. If you have enough ongoing tasks to delegate, it may be time to hire your first official employee. Investing in this employee will free up your time to focus on bigger projects and increase your revenue.
The systems and processes you have already developed should be simple enough for the employee to take over in a short period of time. This will make it easier for you to effectively manage your employee, and eventually a team for long-term success. (Learn the ins and outs of hiring an employee in part three of this series.)
Increase Your Digital Presence
Now is the time to ramp up your digital presence. The first step is reviewing your existing online presence. Do you have a website, a Google Business Page, social media business pages? Are you on Angie's List, Yelp or similar pages? If so, make sure your "About Us" and current services and/or products are consistent on all pages.
You also want to make sure you are responding to comments and inquiries on all of these pages – after all, people are paying attention and trying to interact with you on the platform that works best for them.
If you are looking to create a robust digital presence, you should have a marketing strategy and sales funnel on your website. This includes sharing information on your social media pages, driving traffic to your website and securing email addresses of people who are actually interested in your product/services. This will allow you to regularly communicate with a custom-built audience that is interested in what you are talking about.
When it comes to social media, the keys are maintaining a consistent, branded presence; using imagery; and regularly engaging with followers – treat your pages like a cocktail party.
This may sound funny, but people who constantly talk about themselves and fail to engage will lose the attention of others and push them away. Rather than always posting about your company, share helpful information with your audience like links to related articles, shout outs to industry partners and participate in the conversation. Above all, be social!
You can also use your social media channels to reach more people who are like your current followers using advertising. This is a much more cost-effective way to spend advertising dollars as you are reaching your targeted audience.
Know Your Audience
Speaking of audiences … Having a target audience is a powerful form of focus. You eliminate unnecessary expenses involved with over-targeting and reach customers who feel as if your product or service was created just for them.
As a freelancer, you built a client base and catered to a specific audience. This helped you to become a leader in your industry, whether local or beyond. To remain the expert, you must stay current with your audience's needs. Continue to make sure your messaging is strong, compelling, and clear.
On the other hand, as you grow, you may need to revisit your targeting. This is especially true if you've yet to identify it from a growth perspective. Will you offer more services and expand your product offering as you grow? If so, who are the people you will be targeting?
Identifying your target audience will improve your marketing efforts exponentially and help you better focus your messaging. When you know exactly who your audience is, you can communicate in a language you both understand. For example, if your audience is commercial roofing foremen, there's no need to explain what a nightly tie-in is. (What's a nightly tie-in? – if you don't know, you probably aren't interested in the product.)
Bottom line: it is much easier to speak with people who love what you do or offer than wasting resources on those that do not.
Expand Your Offerings
Perhaps you want to expand your offerings allowing your customers to use your company as a one-stop shop for all their needs. Consider adding to your portfolio, which could make your company more desirable than others in your industry.
As a freelancer, you may have been a Jack-of-all-trades offering a wide range of expertise. But given resource limitations as a single individual, you could only do so much. As a business owner, you can add staff members to focus on specific areas of your industry, doing the legwork needed to successfully complete client projects.
On the other hand, as a freelancer, you may have just focused on one niche of your industry. As a business owner, you can expand services to complement what you already offer. For example, your personal expertise may be in flooring installation. But as a business owner, you now want to offer the whole gamut of general construction including electrical, plumbing and sheet rock installation. By doing so, you create this one-stop shop for your customers. And by making the process easier for your end client, you are more likely to get referrals for new clients.
Another way to expand is to determine whether your service is scalable. Instead of charging for the time it takes to deliver your product or service, consider fixed pricing, package rates and monthly retainers for services. These options create a continuous revenue stream for your company making it easier to meet your income goals. For example, create a fee schedule for graphic design services: a flat fee for a single-page flyer, a monthly retainer to develop graphics for social media posts, and a package rate for website graphics.
Lastly, by expanding your offerings you create more revenue streams for your business, which can help you stay successful over time.
Growth Mindset: Setting Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)
As a business owner, you have to look at the big picture and growth:
- How many new customers were added last month?
- How many email subscribers were secured?
- Is social media growing?
Not only do you have to look at your business' growth after the fact, you should also think ahead. Without knowing exactly what your business is seeking to achieve, you end up with a daunting list of goals you feel should be targeted, but no way to get there. This is where Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) can be helpful.
KPIs are a set of measurements used to gauge a company's overall long-term performance and how effectively a company is achieving key business objectives. Businesses use this system at multiple levels to evaluate their success at reaching both short-term and long-term targets.
To develop effective KPIs, you must:
- Determine your company's objectives
- Develop a plan to reach your goals
- Assign an individual/team to achieve the goals
Essentially, you are developing a strategy with defined actions you and your team can take to reach a set goal. For example, you want to grow. You can do this by offering more services. In addition to what you already offer, what services are your clients and prospects looking for?
Once the need is identified, determine if this is something you can do with your existing resources, or do you need to hire additional help? Once you have identified the steps to get to the goal of growth, you and your team can take action.
KPIs provide a vital tool for improving performance, making better business decisions and gaining a competitive advantage.
As a small business owner, you must have a mindset of future growth for your business to thrive.
Sometimes it is hard to think about the future when you are so consumed with the present. But if you set aside time to regularly think about the future of your business and set goals, you will develop a great tool for success.
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