Starting a new business is an exciting (and scary) step. Just over three years ago, I made the leap from full time teacher and part time freelance writer to full time business owner. And while I already had a website set up, I was pretty lost at what to do next.
I got myself on Facebook and started researching what others in my field were doing. What did I find? Too much!
Ever feel like Dug from Up? <squirrel!> I do. All.The.Time. And when I was first starting out, seeing all the bells and whistles that everyone else offers was frustrating, intimidating and downright depressing. How would I ever compete? Everyone else is SO much more successful than me.
What I’ve learned over the years is that allowing yourself to get sucked into the comparison trap is counterproductive and toxic. You don’t know where others are in their businesses, so there’s no way to gauge their apparent success over your own. (An notice I said “apparent” there. There’s no telling if the way they portray themselves online is real or not. It may or may not surprise you that sometimes what people post online isn’t actually real. Or is a silk-screened portrayal of their reality. Did you catch the sarcasm there?)
[bctt tweet=”Don’t worry what others are doing online. Focus on the essentials.” username=””]
So what’s a new business owner to do? If you’re looking to market yourself online (and really, why wouldn’t you?), there are a few places you need to focus.
Develop a Website
An online business needs a website. Many business owners start with a Facebook page to start to build awareness. And while that’s okay, remember that you don’t own the content you share on Facebook. Facebook does. So if its algorithms decide that your content isn’t worthy of its users, you lose.
With a website, you own your content and you can customize it any way you’d like (within your budget). Because I was strapped for cash when I first started out, I chose to build my own website using Shannon Mattern’s free WP+BFF course. When I redesigned it, I hired out much of the work but having a good feel for the back-end of my site continues to serve me well. I can make most changes myself, without having to go out-of-pocket or rely on someone else’s schedule.
[bctt tweet=”Every online business needs a website. Period.” username=””]
Use Professional Content
I may be biased, but professionally-written content is where it’s at. To me, there’s nothing more unprofessional than visiting a website riddled with typos and text that’s difficult to translate. If you’re not a trained writer, take a course on how to write content or hire a professional to do it for you. Writing for your website or blog is a different beast than your English 101 research paper. It requires certain elements to keep the reader interested and it also allows you to break grammar and sentence structure rules. A lot.
Connect in Facebook Groups
Building an online business can be a challenge, especially if you’re working from home. It’s difficult to meet others and get yourself noticed online because the online space is already so crowded. Facebook groups are a great way to network and get your name out, but you have to do the work to make it work for you.
[bctt tweet=”Connecting in Facebook groups is a great way to network, without leaving home. Or your pj’s.” username=””]
When you join a Facebook group, check the group’s rules and, if appropriate, introduce yourself and post a link to your Facebook page or website. Then, interact. No one likes spammy posts designed to sell your products or services. People are in groups to connect and interact with others. Find a few people who resonate with you and invite them to a Skype coffee date—no strings attached. Just a time for two business owners to sit down and find out more about one another.
Be selective about the groups you join because if you’re involved in too many you’ll quickly become overwhelmed. I know. I tried that. And be patient. It takes time (sometimes a lot of time) to really get noticed online and start building relationships.
Don’t Stress Social Media
If you’re looking at what others are doing, you’ll notice that they’re all over social media. Some of the folks I’ve connected with have very active accounts on every social channel imaginable. As a newbie, it doesn’t pay to try to do it all. In fact, if you try to do too much, you’ll end up not doing anything very well.
Find out where your audience hangs out and be there. Start a Facebook page, open a Pinterest account, start tweeting. But choose just one for now. Wherever your audience is, do that and do it exceptionally well. When you develop a rhythm, you can expand to other social platforms. Don’t worry about doing everything right from the start. You’ll only end up making yourself crazy.
Find a Partner
I’m not suggesting that you join forces with someone else to help you run your business, but it definitely pays to have someone else on your team. Whether you hire a business coach or find an accountability buddy (or both!), I’ve found that having someone I can regularly bounce ideas off of really helps. I don’t know everything about business and sometimes I get stuck in a rut. That’s when I shoot a note off to one of my accountability buddies (I have three, all who fill different needs for me) or schedule an appointment with my coach. They help me talk through challenges and stay on the right track in my business and all have been invaluable to my success.
Know that as a new business owner, you are not alone. There are so many others out there who are in the same position as you, or have worked their way out of the “newbie” title. After only three years of full-time business, I know I still have a lot to learn and I have a lot of goals I haven’t yet accomplished. But I know that if I stay true to my character and my mission, I’ll get there—and beyond!