If you’re a small biz owner—or if you are just thinking about opening a business–you need to know this important piece of info: almost 50% of all businesses fail within their first five years. >Gulp<. How did I ever survive?
Lately, I have been thinking about this, because I have done some mentoring with college alumni, other young editors just starting their own businesses, and a small business group I once helped to lead. Folks are always asking me how I got started and to share my suggestions for success. Here’s a few.
Take a workshop. They don’t have to cost too much, or take too long. In fact, when I first started, I took a free SEED workshop from my local Small Business Development Center that was only a couple of weeks long. I learned how to write a business plan and to figure out what to charge for my services, and I got to meet and talk with other entrepreneurs like me.
Network, network, network. And did I mention networking? Yeah, I know. You’ve heard it before. But I have found that networking works. I keep records of how every new client finds me. After seven years in business, I still have a 78% rate of clients referred by someone else I know—another satisfied client, a colleague from a networking group I belong to, or someone from whom I have purchased business services. (The other 22%? From online sources like my website and social media. So make sure you have a website.)
Treat your clients well. No matter what, I believe good customer relations is key to everything else. I treat my clients like people, listen to what they tell me, deal with them honestly, charge them fairly, admit my >gulp< mistakes, and offer refunds when I really screw up. In return, it’s remarkable how much my clients choose to share with me about their families, their hopes, their dreams, their successes and failures. They enrich my life, and they tell me I help them as well. And that makes me feel good.
I’m only kidding when I say I wasn’t really trying; that was just to get your attention. It’s hard work, both starting and maintaining a business. Best to base your business on something you really like doing or know well—and don’t be afraid to get advice along the way.
©2014 Fran Fahey