Last week, we looked at defining what success looks like for you, learning to set boundaries, and using one calendar for your personal and professional priorities. But what are those priorities? Where should you be putting your focus when you’re starting out and looking to grow your business? What are the most important things you should be doing?
Here are 5 things you must do when starting to grow your business:
1. Refine your strategy
For all the talk of ‘lean startups’ and being ‘agile’ and ‘learning by doing’, I’m still a big believer in the power of a good business strategy and plan. You should have at least a basic overview of how your business is going to work before you start with anything else, certainly before you spend money on things like websites and business cards, or try to create new products and services.
Having said that, your strategy can and will evolve as you go, and it’s important that you keep your plan front and centre as you start to grow your business and refine it as you see what works and what doesn’t.
Learn how you can design a sustainable business outside of the 9 to 5
The 5 pillars scorecard consists of 50 statements that will help you discover where you are on each pillar, give you an indication of specific areas to focus on, and offer you clear next steps for how to improve your score.
Questions you’ll want to answer include:
- Who is your ideal client?
- What main problem do you solve for that client?
- What makes you credible in solving that problem?
- How will you reach your ideal client with your message?
- How will you get your ideal client to buy from you?
Make sure that you block 1-2 hours every week to review your strategy, learn from what has been happening and refine as needed.
2. Start building an audience
You can’t simply decide to put out your products and services one day and expect people to buy. As obvious as it may seem, you’d be surprised how many people forget this basic fact. People need to, first, know that you exist; second, connect with you and your message; and, third, only then, when they ‘know, like and trust’ you, might they consider buying from you.
So you need to build an audience before you try to sell anything; and, as this takes time, you need to start right now. This means putting your ideas and expertise in front of your ideal client, and finding a way to engage with him or her.
When starting out, you’ll want to first:
- Launch a website – This is going to be your hub, the platform that you own 100% and the destination you want to get everyone to eventually. Start simple and don’t over-think it: remember that you can edit the copy as you go, and that you won’t have a lot of visitors when you start out anyway!
- Choose your channels – You can’t be everywhere, so choose 2-3 channels you want to focus on. Are you a strong writer? You might want to focus on a platform like Medium or LinkedIn Pulse. Are you more visual? Try Instagram. Comfortable on video? Have a go at YouTube or Facebook Live.
- Start putting yourself out there – It can feel uncomfortable at first but the only way you’ll get over this is by doing it! Start by commenting and engaging on other people’s posts and sharing articles written by others on relevant topics, and then begin to create your own content as you begin to feel more confident.
You can get more sophisticated as you go, but it’s better to start small now than to put it off until later when you really need to have already built that audience.
3. Learn from others
Immersing yourself in a topic or industry can do wonders for building your expertise but also your confidence. Surround yourself with people who are doing what you want to be doing: join conferences and other events, listen to podcasts, sign up to email lists, or go old school and read lots of books!
Just one word of warning here: you may get overwhelmed by all the information that’s out there, and you can also be put off by seeing all the competition. After an initial exploration phase, it can often be helpful to draw back a bit and focus on what you’ve decided to do in your own business, so that you don’t get distracted by what everyone else is doing. It can be useful to choose one person to follow, someone whose message really resonates with you and who is a few steps ahead of you in the process, so that you can learn from that one voice – and then you can always move on to someone else when you feel ready, or want to learn something else.
If you’d like to follow me to help you move forward with your business, you can:
- Join my Facebook group, where I’m answering questions every day and running a live training every Wednesday Join here >>
- Subscribe to my YouTube channel, where I’m sharing quick tips as well as longer training videos Subscribe here >>
- Sign up to my video series to take your ‘one step outside the 9 to 5’ Sign up here >>
I’m very open about sharing my own personal challenges and experiences along with concrete tips and guidance, and I’d love to have you join my community!
4. Balance long-term goals with short-term needs
I’ve realised recently that this is one of the hardest things – both when you’re just starting out and when you’ve been in your business for a while – but it’s also one of the most important. The challenge is to work towards your big vision, making decisions and taking actions that will build your long-term brand and move you closer to your future goals, while also meeting your short-term needs.
Those urgent, short-term needs will often include bringing in money (either via your current full-time job or via some other means while you grow your business) as well as other priorities like taking care of a family crisis, or getting over a bad cold! It’s so easy to neglect the actions that are needed to move you closer to your long-term goals, those ‘important-but-not-urgent’ tasks that will allow you to quit your job, shift your focus towards your true passions, or make some other big change in your life.
The problem here is that if you don’t take action towards those long-term goals, your tendency to focus only on your immediate needs will keep you stuck where you are today: you’ll never reach your goals. So make sure that you’re keeping your eye on that bigger vision, even when you’re having to ‘put out some fires’ in the immediate short term.
5. Take consistent action
Finally, following on from the previous point and just as important and difficult, you need to be taking consistent action: every day, every week, every month. A common story is that you get excited and motivated by some new project, take massive action over one weekend or over a period of a few weeks, and then that energy fizzles out. You lose sight of what you’re trying to achieve, you get distracted by some new shiny thing, or else ‘life’ happens and soon you’ve stopped altogether.
The real magic comes from taking consistent action towards your goals in the face of all those temptations and distractions, even when you don’t yet see the results. The reality is that results will often come months after the action that you take today and so you need to be disciplined and keep the faith that your efforts will pay off.
Make sure you’re clear on the areas you need to focus on and then block the time each and every week to make sure that you’re taking action consistently in each of those focus areas. Find an accountability partner to check in with you and give you a bit of a ‘stick’, and plan a reward that will serve as a ‘carrot’!
There are all sorts of strategies and tactics out there when it comes to how to grow your business but success often comes from the simplest things. Stay focused on what you’re doing, keep learning and refining as you go, and you’ll soon see the results of your efforts.
If you’re ready to invest in getting outside help for your business, then you can book a free session with me where we’ll take a look at where you are today, where you want to get to, and how I might be able to help you achieve your goals faster and more painlessly than you would if you kept trying to do it by yourself!