The Hard Truth about Running a Small Business

There’s just nothing like the thrill of taking a product or service that you’ve come up with, create on your own and then getting it out to market, watching it sell and get used and make a difference in people’s lives, of those people who are using it. There is a financial realm of challenges. There’s a social realm of challenges and then there’s a mental and emotional realm of challenges and so I’ll just kind of touch on some of those. So, financially it is, you will make more money per hour flipping burgers, no doubt about it. I mean there’s just a period of time where there are so many things that you have to do that you don’t get paid for that the work that you do, that you actually get paid for is just a small part of the time that you’re spending in your business.

There are websites to create and business cards to do and strategy to come up with and all kinds of communication and marketing. There are just so many things that you have to do. You have to go into it with a bootstrap shoestring budget mentality where your personal take-home pay, you are counting on it being next to nothing, even nothing if at all possible. To live on savings for a period of time so you can literally make nothing from the business. So how does that sound? Go spend all this time, all this energy and make nothing. Don’t we love entrepreneurship, it’s so great? I paid my mortgage on the 30th day that it was late for like eight months in a row, and it was just an absolute struggle and a mad dash and just a crazy wild goose chase every month to try to scrape up the money to be able to pay my mortgage.

There are taxing times when you’re in that early stage and relationships suffer. Sometimes families don’t make it through that. Sometimes there’s divorce and separation and lots of hard and hurt feelings because the business requires everything you’ve got. It requires everything. And that is a hard thing for people to realize before they actually do it. If you allow the business to completely dominate, your family will struggle. That takes me into the second realm, which is the social realm. You’re not going to see your friends for a while. You’re not going to go do fun stuff. You’re not going to go out and hang out, you’re just not going to do those things. I remember times where I’d see friends, I hadn’t seen them for a long time and they’d be like, “Man, you used to be a lot more fun. We used to do a lot of fun stuff together.”

You have to sacrifice some of the less important relationships for a period of time. Your mind plays such games on you and there are so many ups and downs and such a roller coaster that it’s just really easy to get down and to be in a negative funk. When you’re not making money, and you’re not accomplishing goals, and it’s taking way longer than you thought, and a customer’s complaining about this, and your spouse is saying, “We don’t have money for that.” There are just so many things that mount that it just becomes a brutally challenging mental game to get through. That is the thing that I think is what breaks down most entrepreneurs and prevents them from achieving the success that they originally sought in the first place.

Everybody has skeletons, has issues they deal with. I guarantee you they’re going to come out when you’re trying to run a business. So if you don’t want to face some of those things, then you’re going to have a hard time running a business because you got to face some of that stuff if you’re going to win, if you’re going to overcome these things. That’s why I talk sometimes about the triumph of the human spirit, because you’re beating down things that would hold back most people or specific challenges that you’ve had in your life that are trying to hold you back. You’ve got to overcome those things. No doubt, there were times where I was delusional about what we were doing.

I think the thing for entrepreneurs is to err on the side of passion. So accept that there might be times that you’re going to be a bit delusional about it. Just be conscious of that and recognize that other people are going to have some perspectives. Our outcomes are determined by our thoughts, then our thoughts lead to our words. Our words lead to our beliefs, our beliefs lead to our actions. Our actions lead to our habits and our habits lead to our outcomes. So thoughts, words, beliefs, actions, habits, outcomes. The outcomes that we want can literally be created by the thoughts that we choose to feed our system. I think that entrepreneurs will serve themselves very well to get very clear on their purpose, their values, and their mission. Get clear on that, their core, and then the advice becomes a lot easier to filter and distill.

Four Tips for Small Business Automation

Today we’ll give you four basic tips for small business automation.

1: Embrace technology.

Most small businesses wait way too long to implement automation systems. If you’re feeling the weight of daily tasks slowing you down, it’s well past time to invest money in small business technology and software. Otherwise, you’re trying to save money by losing productivity and that equation never works out in your favor. Also, ensure that you invest time on the front end to set up your automation tools properly. This will ensure longterm success for your entire team.

2: Track time spent on tasks.

Set up a time tracking system for a day or a week or a month, to learn how much time is being spent on everyday tasks from mundane to critical, examined the time tracking data to learn which tasks should be automated immediately and which ones can wait for a later date. There are going to be lots of automation options that can improve your business. This type of planning gives you a clear priority list to start from.

3: Reduce the number of processes.

Even if, well, especially if you’ve been running your small business for a while, it’s time for some aggressive house cleaning on your existing marketing, logistics, sales, and customer service processes. Take two weeks to a month, and make it an absolute priority, reviewing everything until you’ve gone top to bottom. Schedule time with each team and walk step-by-step with them through their processes. It’s a near mathematical certainty that not only will you find processes that can be optimized, but a host of them that can flat out be eliminated altogether. Just like moving from one house to another, get rid of the junk you don’t want anymore before moving into new automation. The automation, in this case, is the new house and the processes are like a bread maker or a multi gym, I don’t know. I’ve may have forgotten to proofread this.

4: Secure employee buys in.

You can have the best automation software on earth, but if your team isn’t on board, you’re doomed from the start. Help your team understand not only how automation works, but how and why it will make everyone’s jobs easier and more effective. It’s very natural for team members to take the implementation of a new system as a sign that they are falling short somewhere. You no doubt have a great team, so take time to guide them through the functions of the automation, but also how the entire team will benefit. Give them confidence that they are being given a tool, not a replacement. Make certain that you bring the staff along for their automation ride step-by-step.

5 Foolproof Ways To Get NEW Clients

The first foolproof way of getting clients is to post your work on Instagram. Marketers and advertising agencies post their ads in a place where people are looking, kind of like People will want to have adverts for you where you are. And it’s the same for us. If you’re a graphic designer and you’re wondering how I get my work and how other freelancers do it, it wasn’t overnight, but basically, we posted on Instagram and sites like that. If you post your work on Instagram every day curating what you put out there, putting your best work, the work that you want to work on and talking about it and having sort of a presence on Instagram, clients will look at that, because everyone is nearly on Instagram now. It’s the largest social media in the world. Everyone’s on there and the amount that you can do just to post your portfolio and get people to share your work is incredible. So try and post to Instagram every day, do that for a year and I guarantee you will gain clients.

The second foolproof way of gaining clients is by asking local businesses. If you’ve just started out in graphic design, whether that’s lettering, logo design or just any sort of branding sort of scheme, then you should ask your local businesses in your town or city. Doing this means that you are actually putting your name out there. When you actually allow them to hear you and what you do, maybe they won’t give you a job then, but they will come back to you for a job. And I have done this before locally as well. So whether it’s a coffee shop or whether it’s a big bank or whatever kind of thing in your local town or city, go for those places. Go for those places that are mid-tier, where they’re not too bureaucratic and there’s not a huge corporation side to it. You can literally just go to any sort of coffee shop and say, “Yo, I’m a designer. If you need any work like this on the wall or menu design, then just hit me up. I’ll give you my business card. Keep me in mind. Thank you.”

Doing that means that you’ve got your name on a list in their head. It is so vital to have our names in people’s heads for the specific job because when they say that they need a menu design, who are they going to think of? The guy who came in or the guy who emailed? So ask local businesses and see what they say. And I guarantee you over time you will gain clients. It may not be fast, but you will get them and a steady flow of them.

The third foolproof way of getting clients is by asking and emailing and messaging large businesses. Nowadays it’s so easy to message huge corporations and to get your name in there. All you really need is an email or an Instagram account. There are tons of Instagram accounts from companies such as Heinz or any sort of company really, like Starbucks. If you wanted to message them and if you wanted to work for them, put your name down and message them and offer a service to them in a nice way. I love Daniel Wellington and I wanted a watch from them and I also wanted to do some work with them, whether that was sponsored work or client work, because I do both because of the channel on my Instagram. So I direct messaged them on Instagram and said, “If you want any work done, let me know. I’d love to collaborate with you on something.” And sure enough, a few weeks later they emailed me and asked for it and they wanted me to collaborate with them.

I know that’s not a client, but it works in the same way. If you were to ask a large corporation in an email, then someone in customer service will remember your name and they will also probably transfer your name over to a designer’s list. So don’t be afraid to message big corporations. What’s the worst that could happen? They may say yes or no, or they may not even say anything at all. That’s the worst that could happen. The best thing is they say yes and they give you a good wage.

The fourth foolproof way of gaining clients is by teaching what you know. If you’ve noticed, my YouTube channel is a lot about teaching things and I gain clients a lot from YouTube, where companies see my channel whether they’re large, small or mid-tier, they see my channel and they assume that I’m pretty good at what I do. They can see my work, they can see my personality and how I work. By teaching what I do, that gives clients the ability to have an insight into my process and have an insight into who I am as a person and a designer.

If you don’t know what to teach and you’re just starting out, just teach what you know already. I guarantee you that it will be valuable for anyone else in the design scene who’s wanting to learn design, and over time you’ll establish yourself as a teacher in this sort of area. Whether you’re qualified or not, people will look to you in certain areas of this and you’ll gain respect and clients through that respect, and the numbers on your social media channel. So go ahead and make videos or just teach in blog posts what you do and how you do it. Give people value and they’ll come back to you and give you value.

And the fifth foolproof way of gaining clients is if you’re in a bit of trouble, ask your friends and family. Personally, I don’t really work for friends or family and that’s not because I don’t want to. That’s just because I have such a different view on client work and I charge quite a bit, and I don’t want to seem that I’m extorting my family or friends. Because of the process that I do, it takes a long time and a lot of them may not understand exactly how long it takes, hence why I don’t work with them. But if you’re a designer that’s just starting out and you want to charge a little less than your usual rate for large companies, start off with friends and family. Put it on your portfolio and do your best because the word of mouth from a successful client or a satisfied client is much better and more effective than a Facebook ad or just saying on Instagram that you’re available for your service.

Keep in mind when you’re working with friends or family, whether it’s paid or not paid, send them a contract and an invoice. Now you send an invoice when it is not paid because you want to show the value of your work. So if I do free work for someone, I still send them an invoice with the amount that it would have cost with all the lists and the itinerary of things like the items, 6,000 for instance. And then I’ll just literally put zero in the subtotal, and that shows the client how much his work was really worth.