business

9-5 to CEO: How I Accidentally Started My Business…and Grew It

In 2012 I was a waitress.

From 2013 to 2014, I was working multiple internships to put myself through college.

By 2015, I was a college graduate who accidentally started a business. 

Going into 2020, I’m the owner and CEO of a marketing consultancy with a payroll. 

My business started when I was approached by a few individuals I knew from previous internships who needed small tasks completed. Ghostwriting, some social media help, and simple website design. 

I was bored outside of my marketing 9-5 and said, “Sure! I can help!” From there, word spread, and I found myself juggling anywhere from 4-5 clients on a monthly retainer outside of my regular job. 

In 2016, I took a phone call from a former boss who offered me a contract position working for one of the biggest marketing operations in our nation’s history. (Buy me a drink, and I’ll tell you all about it.) 

I gained confidence and grew leaps and bounds because of that contract, and I’m forever grateful for it – along with the agency positions I was able to take afterward. 

This amount of experience allowed me to take what was just a handful of clients…to almost ten times what I originally had in 2015. 

Almost five years later, I registered for an official LLC, hired an accountant, and now have a team that works with me to establish winning content and marketing strategies for businesses, brands, and charitable organizations.

Had I been asked if I wanted to be an entrepreneur when I was younger, I would have laughed. I never thought that it was something I would want to do – or that I’d even be good at – but I stumbled into it literally because of a few LinkedIn messages years ago. 

I’ve been able to work remotely and live as a #digitalnomad, but it’s not all sunshine and rainbows. I attribute these aspects to the growth and success of my business and would suggest them to any aspiring entrepreneur or business owner.

Push yourself. 

Be willing to put yourself out there. I had absolutely no idea what I was doing when I started, but had I not been willing to face this venture early on, I probably never would have started.

Work more than 40 hours a week until you don’t have to.

At my busiest, I’ve worked 100 hour weeks and a “slow” week is somewhere around 60 hours. Even on some holidays, I check my email and try to knock out smaller tasks. Even if I’m on vacation, I’ll check in with my team in the evenings and am available. It’s hard to not completely unplug – especially when I want a break – but it’s not always an option. “Busyness” as a status symbol annoys me and going into 2020, I’m working on being better about balancing my life.

Learn how to delegate.

In late 2018, I realized that I needed help if I wanted to really grow. So, I hired incredibly smart and talented people. I “let go,” in a sense, and learned how to delegate and divide and conquer so I could better serve my clients and grow my business. 

Listen to your clients.

I listen! It’s one of the most valuable qualities I bring to my clients. Most of the time, the problems they “think” they have with their marketing or overall media strategy isn’t exactly what they need to be successful. 

Network and do all you can to grow.

I’m naturally more introverted, but as the saying goes, “you don’t grow in your comfort zone.” I’m thankful for networking organizations in Indianapolis and around the world that allow me to meet with like-minded, entrepreneurial people who push me to be my best self. 

How to Make Time for Professional Development

Making time for professional development can be a challenge, especially when we already balance work, volunteering, family time, and other activities. Learn to leverage what extra time you do have for professional development. It may just be the difference between where you are now and where your 5-year plan says you’ll be. 

Establish your goals

To make the most of professional development opportunities, it’s important to understand WHY you want to grow. Determine if you’re motivated by a career change, increased wages, or to boost your confidence. Clarifying your priorities will help provide a clear vision for your next steps.

Schedule time

Though professional development doesn’t necessarily need to be part of your daily routine, it does need to be on your calendar. You never know when you’ll be ready to look for a new job or start your own business. Put a few hours on your calendar every month, or look for networking events in advance so that you ensure you prioritize your future for when the right opportunity comes.

But nevertheless, establish a designated date, time, and place to make certain you follow through. 

Read regularly before bed

Despite reducing stress, improving cognitive performance, and increasing creativity, reading is an excellent opportunity for professional development. Books are an excellent medium to learn timeless professional principles and reading before bed will allow you to implement the most important takeaways before you enter your next workday.

Write regularly in the morning

A popular, but accurate, rule for this decade has been to create before you consume. Because we are bombarded with thousands of messages and notifications daily, creating before the noise enters allows you to generate new ideas and implement them.

Establishing this discipline first thing in the morning will allow you to enter a creative state before you consume any other information. It reinforces the information you glean throughout the week and can become a quick habit to capitalize on a new strength before the weight of your day is on you. 

Make podcasts apart of your routine

Even when life is busy, podcasts are a great way to access industry experts during your commute, time spent getting ready, or even during your exercise routine. Take some time every few weeks to research and subscribe to your favorite podcasts.

That way, as new episodes are released, you receive a notification directly instead of searching for episodes every time. The GaryVee Audio Experience, Marketing School, Tropical MBA, and Sales Gravy are some great ones to help you start.

Find a way to grow in your role at work

Sick of your job, but need a way to pay the bills? Take some ownership and see if it’s possible to grow in your role with different skill sets. Whether it’s creating processes for marketing efforts or event planning, there are ways to further your career while in your current position. Be vigilant for ways to expand and gain more responsibility.

Take an online course

Though we’d all love to go back to graduate school, realistically, student tuition continues to rise, and the value of a college education is sharply declining. Before you embark on an MBA program, look for established skills you can develop and find an online course or certificate program. Google, Udemy, Skillshare, and Coursera are excellent resources to consider. 

Find a community

Instead of attending networking event after event, choose an organization or recurring event to invest time in. Change your presuppositions about networking, and see it as a long term vehicle to foster mutually beneficial relationships instead of taking shortcuts to have a longer contact list.

Cast your net deep instead of wide by developing valuable connections you can trust. The Chamber of Commerce in your city, a BNI group, or a community like America’s Future Foundation is a great starting point. 

Ultimately, take time to refine your goals, choose one opportunity to further your professional education, and find a mentor or community to hold you accountable. Do these three things over time, and you’ll have a bright future ahead.

Why Your Lead Generation Isn’t Working

The success of most businesses hinges on lead generation.

If you don’t have people inquiring about your product or service, you won’t be in business – or for long, anyway. Even if you have a blog, work in retail, or volunteer with a nonprofit, understanding the process of acquiring leads is pertinent to gaining any kind of traction for your organization.

Essentially, lead generation is a process that finds the clients and customers you need to need to attract.

This is significant since your ultimate goal should be for prospects who are unfamiliar with your organization to become leads that eventually purchase from you, sign up for your offer, or volunteer with you. Lead generation is an ongoing process that provides your business with a steady pipeline you can scale and grow.

It’s important to develop a plan to ensure you have a sound process to not only generate quality leads but to keep them. Here’s why your lead generation process may not be working.

You aren’t qualifying your leads

Even though it may seem beneficial to have a large volume of leads coming in, those leads only to create more work if they don’t fall into the category of your ideal client. For instance, if you sell pacifiers and are targeting young moms, having 100 leads from mostly 50 + year old men won’t help you generate revenue.  Your lead generation process should be tailored toward your ideal client, and therefore should ask specific questions and offer the information that will convert your lead to a customer.

You don’t have an inbound marketing strategy

In an oversaturated market place with many competitors, it is no longer enough to simply sell to your audience. Furthermore, the most successful companies have found ways to serve their clients. Research the inbound methodology to learn more about ways to educate your audience and offer them value. Most people are skeptical of providing their information in fear of being spammed, so you’ll want to create content worth your ideal client’s time.

You don’t have automation sequences in place

When you create offers or lead magnets, most times your prospects want the information they inquired for immediately. Creating automation where sequences are enabled to send them to lead magnets and other relevant content will keep them engaged. Your audience also may not be ready to purchase from you immediately, so create a drip campaign to warm your audience. This will enable you to set up sequences to follow up with your audience and warm them to your product or service.

You don’t have a landing page

If you don’t have a landing page created, it may be challenging for you to generate leads. Having a page for this purpose will more clearly outline the purpose you’ve established for your leads. Different than just any normal page on your website, a landing page will better educate prospects on your offer clearly articulating the benefits for them, in addition to streamlining your marketing efforts for ads and retargeting.

You’re not running ads

SEM and social ads are great ways to better reach your audience. Using Facebook Pixel to target your existing traffic and creating ads is the best way to continue to engage leads. The rule of 7 explains it takes 7 times for your prospects to see your offer before they take action. 

Your offer isn’t good enough

Sometimes your end of the bargain and whatever lead magnet you provide to gain customer information simply isn’t as valuable to prospects as it may be to you. Focus on creating offers and lead magnets that your current client base already wants. Ensure that you are adding value, and allow that to shine through as you aspire to get more leads.

Make Money as a Freelancer with No Experience

In a culture where multi-level marketing companies are ripping off individuals by promising a “be your own boss” mentality, it’s clear the desire for work-life balance has never been greater.

But opportunities do exist where you don’t have to purchase another “starter kit” to make additional income.

Whether you’re looking to supplement your income or develop your own business, here are some strategies to start gaining additional freelance opportunities, even with no prior experience.

Focus on what you know

Freelancing may seem overwhelming, but everyone has something to offer. Think about some of the skills you may have developed over the years. Are you good at generating attention and traffic on social media by getting people to like or comment on your content? Consider social media content development and management.

Do you enjoy blogging? Look into copywriting. Are you good at organizing projects into scaleable action steps? Try project management. Do you simply find yourself telling your friends about different products or clothing you really enjoy? You can make money with affiliate marketing.

Thanks to the internet, there are opportunities to make an income doing just about anything. Find a niche, and start considering ways you can monetize your hobbies or talents.

Start a blog

Considering that search engine ranking currently only requires blogs to be about 300 words, creating content has never been simpler. Begin building a blog based on your niche to essentially create your own portfolio. Don’t have a niche just yet?

Choose a few topics that you’d like to learn more about, and use your blog as an opportunity to explore them. Though you don’t want to stay broad forever, choosing a variety of different topics will help you rank in the short term, enable you to discover topics you’re passionate about, and allow you to continue developing a portfolio in the process.

Look into certification programs

Certification programs have exploded over the last several years as more companies take on the inbound marketing methodology. And in many ways, they provide more accurate and hands-on tactics that you’ll never find in a Bachelor’s program. Find a certification program around your area of expertise, and develop your skill set to be more desirable to your prospective clients.

Create samples even if you have no experience

Though not having experience seems to discourage many people from exploring different projects, start generating your own experience. For instance, maybe you’d like to get a marketing position that’s centered around using Salesforce Pardot, but you’ve never touched it.

Instead of being discouraged, start watching their tutorials, learning the platform, and try filming a tutorial using it. Or if you’re an aspiring graphic designer, try creating mockups for companies you’d like to work for. Even if the opportunity doesn’t work out, you’ll have a portfolio to pull from, and proven initiative.

Work for free

Though this concept may sound counterintuitive, if you’re looking to change career paths or continue freelancing long term, think of your experience of working for free almost as an internship. With many internships, you train for free as a part of a program, and then can be offered a full-time salary at the end of the line.

Working for free with this mindset can give you practical experience in less time than going back to school ever would. Additionally, it will allow you to explore opportunities and learn what you do and don’t enjoy, without any obligation to continue your work.

In many ways, this is more desirable than working at a lower rate, as that rate may force you to work more for less, and continue to fulfill your obligation you may not be sure of. But if you produce results working for free, you can then either use this for referrals or renegotiate for a new rate.

Take advantage of websites like Upwork

Websites like Upwork, Freelancer, or Fiverr allow you to bid for positions and gain clients.

Once you’ve started honing your skills, look for jobs and bidding on opportunities to put them to work. Such websites will connect you to various companies and solopreneurs all looking to hire talent.

Start networking

LinkedIn is the one platform where it can become socially acceptable to elegantly slip into the DM’s of business owners. Update your profile, and start connecting with your future clients. Share a bit of what you do on messenger, post content on your profile consistent with your freelancing goals, and continue to follow up with leads.

Also, consider looking for jobs in your niche and applying. You never know when your freelance work could land you a higher paying position than your current one, or if a company would consider hiring you as a 1099 employee instead of hiring for the position depending on their needs.

Just start

All in all, it can seem overwhelming to jump into any new opportunity – especially without the background behind it. But online opportunities are seemingly endless, and with unlimited resources at your disposal, take the jump to start freelancing and see where it leads.

What’s CRM and How to Use it for a Small Business

CRM, or customer relationship management software, has transformed the way brands interact with their clients online.

Typically, one way to measure business growth is by the clients you acquire. And with more businesses growing their online presence, there doesn’t seem to be a “ceiling” when it comes to online clients.

But your growth is only significant if you care for your clients well.

Even though it may seem easy to manage your clients with a spreadsheet, as your pool of clients expands as your business grows, you’re going to need to keep better track of them.

CRM can help.

Even if you’ve only got a handful of clients at the moment, inputting them in CRM will help you better serve them. From drafting email templates to save you time, creating an automation to stay in touch, in addition to remembering the last time you connected with a client down to their daughter’s name, age, and last ballet recital, CRM can help you create personal conversations and add value to every lead that comes through your door.

So, where do you start? Here’s how to take advantage of CRM right now.

Use a free platform like Hubspot, Zoho, or Bitrix24

MailChimp is also considered CRM, but these platforms will help you create contacts and implement capabilities that will help you as you continue to grow. Though MailChimp is an excellent email marketing, platforms like above will help with segmenting and other advanced features.

Do some research, and consider the platform that will serve you best in the long haul. That way, you won’t have to learn one and then completely change gears as if your business strategy shifts.

Upload all of your contacts to your platform of choice

If you’ve got a large email list, this may take time, but optimize your spreadsheet according to the platform you plan to use. As you upload your contacts, write as many specific notes as you may have about a given client, if applicable, down to the last day or time of year you were in touch, to any personal details you may have acquired. This will make your marketing memorable and personal.

Create templates

Hubspot will allow you to create up to five free templates, so either start from scratch or modify their templates. Whether it’s a customer service email or a follow-up sequence in regard to the sales cycle, templates will bring simplicity to email marketing. Make your life less hectic by creating some templates you can quickly modify instead of hitting copy and paste 100 times, (or putting the text in your email signature and then sending it out as your actual signature by mistake).

Create Chatflows

Chatbots are everywhere, and due to the desire in customer gratification, it doesn’t look like they’re going anywhere. If you sell a product or service and want to deliver a satisfying experience for your customers to get in touch with you quickly, look into creating a bot with your CRM. Even leaving a reply as simple as “we’ll be in touch shortly,” will allow your customers to be heard.

Explore landing pages and lead captures

Landing pages and lead captures convert followers to your email list, so consider developing them and advertising your free offer on Facebook or Google Ads to create more contacts. They can be instrumental in growing your business and bring you targeted clients likely to buy.

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