“Don’t try to describe a KISS concert if you’ve never seen it.” ~ Jimmy Buffett, Manana
If someone had told me just ten years ago that I would be running a writing business now, I would have laughed in their faces. I thought of people who ran their own businesses as being a different breed of people. People who ran businesses… well, frankly, they were the types of people I didn’t want to be around.
It didn’t occur to me until a bit later that I could run my own business and still keep with my personal morals, ethics, and values. My sole focus didn’t have to be on extracting every single *penny* out of my coworkers and my clients. I didn’t have to be like any of the bosses I worked for. Instead, through business, I had the chance to offer something of value to people.
One May morning in 2010, my business was born. I stood up in front of a group of total strangers and declared that I was in the writing business. I would be able to provide all of the value that they needed at reasonable prices. One person took me up on the offer, and there was no turning back.
I wanted to share some of the important lessons that I’ve learned as a business owner.
- There are two parts to every business, whether it’s one that you just started yesterday or it’s been in business for 200 years. Operations and marketing. Loosely defined, operations are doing the specific things that you do, and marketing is telling people about it. These two work hand in hand to grow the business.
- If you want to make money, it doesn’t really matter what the business is. As long as you treat people like people and give them what they want, you can make money. That means giving them the benefit of the doubt, being kind and patient, and otherwise not being a douche. Every business, large or small, should treat their customers this way.
- A business cannot run on marketing alone. A quality product or service is necessary. If
you do your work to the best of your ability, others will talk about the job that you’ve done. In turn, they will give you good reviews, introduce you to people, and make the overall process smoother. Even if you have the best marketing in the world, if your product or service is shoddy you’ll destroy all that work.
- All sales magic happens on the person-to-person level. If you treat people well and are enthusiastic about helping them with their tasks, you will find that you’ll get the project more often than not. Really, being personable works.
- Don’t see marketing and sales as something sleazy. At its heart, it is building relationships. Every business transaction is a relationship. If you treat others as people and not walking wallets, this leads to happier faces and more businesses all around. We’ve gotten several long-term clients just by being kind, enthusiastic, and following through with our promises.
- If you’re working in Upwork or another similar site, always make sure that you keep track of the time on their work tracker app. Seriously. It will save you from putting in a bunch of hours and not getting paid. And always make sure that the escrow is funded if you’re going with a fixed price job.
- Scalability is where you’re going to make the money. Working less and making more is truly worth it. The *real* money is made when you can sell systems rather than services.
What I’ve also learned, and the origin of the beginning quote, is that it’s really necessary to actually jump into a business and live it to really understand it. If you’re able to kick off a new business and get it going and off the ground, it’s incredibly rewarding.