Sunday, 12 October 2014

Setting up a business - facing up to fears

My business classes at the Barbican Training Centre are coming to an end tomorrow night - and the last thing each student has to do is give a short presentation on the two projects they worked on during the course. Here's a summary of mine.

The two issues I wanted to work on were: gaining more clients (I had one client when I started) and to have an online presence (I had nothing). So my two projects were to develop marketing materials, and actually do some marketing.

When I started writing my website content I realised that my writing and editing work with councils and for other clients just didn't fit together. The things I wanted to tell my council clients would not appeal to my other clients, and vice versa. So I changed my business and website name and address to 'Writing for Councils'. Suddenly the words flowed, and I had a coherent message and range of services to offer.

That left a question, what about my other clients? After talking with the business mentor provided as part of the course, I realised I didn't have to solve everything at once. I could focus on 'Writing for Councils'. I could let the other writing and editing work evolve organically. That was a huge relief.

The two scariest things for me about my two projects were:
- everything related to the computer, including setting up a website and social media
- having a 'cup of coffee' with potential clients.

But look at these things - how scary are they?

I took two months from purchasing my laptop to taking it out of its cardboard packaging ... that's how wary I was! But now I love it. And I have people who can help me if things go wrong with my website or the computer itself. And as Susan Piket (Barbican business tutor) kept saying, having a website for your business is non-negotiable these days - you have to have one.

After attending a workshop run by Peter Hercock (Monaco Business Services) on 'rethinking' I realised I was preferring to think about the potential of getting new clients rather than  actually making contact and asking someone to have coffee with me - with the risk that they would say no thanks. But that was the worst that could happen - and that would mean I had exactly the same number of clients as before!

It helped to treat these coffees as 'practice'. I didn't have to do it perfectly.And every time I did it would help me do it better next time.

The other thing that helped was seeing these cups of coffees as part of the 'marketing cycle' referred to in my previous article, selling your services. The meeting wasn't a failure if I didn't come away with a job. Just getting to know someone better counts as successful marketing.

I have now had two of these 'cups of coffee' with potential council clients and I was really nervous before both of them. However, one has led to a big contract, and the other led to an invitation to write a proposal to do some work for them. This is hugely encouraging.

The biggest lesson of all for me is when doing something new that will help my business - think a whole lot less about it and just jump into doing it!