I was at one of my favourite networking events a couple of days ago and a question was raised by one of the other attendees. It’s a question I hear on a weekly basis and think about regularly so I thought it was time I wrote a blog about it! The question was “What do you wish you’d known when you first started your small business journey?

Of course, there are loads of things that I wish I had known in the early days but sometimes learning along the way is far more beneficial in the long run. However, there are five things in particular I think everyone should know when first starting out and so I thought I’d share them in this blog.

  1. There is no such thing as “one size fits all” – Just because a certain approach works for one person, it doesn’t mean it will work for everyone and so if there is something you don’t feel comfortable with don’t be afraid to question whether you really need to be doing it. For example, I am not at all comfortable with making sales calls, especially when they are of the “cold call” variety. I know some people, including fellow VAs, are able to make calls like this and get work from them but this is not where my strengths lie and I know I wouldn’t fill the potential customer with any confidence in my skills during a phone call like this. Instead I choose to build relationships in other ways. Basically, if it works for you, great. If it doesn’t, try something different. Just because so-and-so who has been in business for 30 plus years says you should do something in a particular way, doesn’t mean you should. Work to your strengths.
  2. Generally speaking, people don’t like to be spammed – We’ve all met that person at networking events who collects everyone’s business cards and then as soon as the meeting is over starts spamming them. In my experience this is a massive turn off for most people. There is a very fine line between putting your business out there and annoying people and if you annoy them, they probably won’t want to buy from you. There’s nothing wrong with a regular newsletter providing you get permission to add the person to your mailing list, and the content you produce is beneficial to the reader, but building relationships is key and it’s always worth asking yourself how regular is too regular!
  3. Sometimes it IS personal and that’s ok – This is probably the hardest for me to accept personally but it’s important to remember that as in life, you will never be absolutely everyone’s cup of tea! Sometimes a potential client will choose not to use your services, not because you aren’t skilled enough for what they need but, simply because they just didn’t gell with you. The only advice I can give in this situation is to take it on the chin and move on. If you try to change who you are to fit in with every potential client you will end up feeling overwhelmed.
  4. When it comes to social media, QUALITY OVER QUANTITY – I used to believe that in order to be seen I had to post three of four things a day on Facebook in particular. As you can imagine, I ran out of content fairly quickly and so the quality of my posts went down. I have since had the opportunity to learn from a number of social media experts who assured me that two or three good Facebook posts a week is far more beneficial to a business page than constantly posting. It is a myth that the more you post, the higher your reach will be.
  5. Your competitors can be your best friends – I have at least two regular customers that have been passed on to me from other VAs. Building relationships with your competitors is actually far more beneficial than keeping your distance or worrying about them. Not only can they help your business by passing on the clients that don’t suit them for whatever reason, but they can also be an amazing source of support. Afterall, they know the stresses of your particular industry better than anyone else.

If you take nothing else away from this blog I hope you will remember my first point that one size does not fit all. Being true to yourself will attract the right clients for you so don’t feel you have to copy what someone else is doing, even if they have been in business for triple the amount of time you have.

What I wish I’d known 18 months ago!