Tuned into the news lately? If so, you know the focus of politicians and other big players in America is centered on the economy and job creation. But some of you may be so bold as to decide to create your own job, if you will. Jumping in and launching a business of your own can be scary, thrilling, exciting and fulfilling all at once. But if you are looking to start your own company, there are a few things that you need to keep in mind.
These guidelines go for each and every type of business, whether you are looking to make it big in technology services or looking to develop your own consulting firm. The following tips and resources will help you take the next step from freelancer to the more expanded roles of business manager or team leader.
Be scared, thrilled, fulfilled, and excited all at once
At the forefront of every freelancer’s mind sits the question, “How can I achieve the most success with this?” I think that weighs on most people’s minds – freelancer or not. But for freelancers and contractors, the question weighs a little heavier. If you are a freelancer you know the many benefits that come along with it: You set your own schedule, better work-life balance, the chance to work remotely and more. But you also know the kind of hard work it takes to win clients, win business and transform your handful of projects into a full blown career based on your expertise and skill sets.
1. Lay a Solid Foundation
In building your start up and building your team, you must first build your foundation. In this case your foundation is more than just your great idea, it is also a base of clients. From the ground up, look to your own social network. The terms successful business professional and personal network go hand in hand. Nowadays freelancers have so many more opportunities to get their name and service out to the public – we are no longer constrained to purely face-to-face interaction. And while that kind of interaction is and always will be important, technology has provided us with other options as well.
In the case of winning clients, start by setting up a website for your business. The benefits here are twofold: a website gives you the ability to stay connected with your client base and also allows you to attract new clients. From there, you can always rely on advertising through Google ads, Twitter, Facebook ads, and blog articles to get your company name out in the webosphere. After all, viral marketing is all the rage these days.
And the best thing: Most of these tools are fairly simple to use. For instance, you can set up an account with Google to access Google AdWords, a platform that lets you not only design your own ad and choose the keywords associated with that ad, but also set a specific budget that is built on payment based on results (i.e. Google will only charge you if someone clicks on your ad, rather than charging you based on the placement or display of the ad itself). With the given control on spending, Google AdWords is extremely beneficial to anyone starting their own business as monitoring your budget is essential in getting your company off the ground.
2. Use Social Networking to Build, Build, Build
And speaking of budget, a free way to connect with potential clients is through social media, and more specifically, through the 900 million users on Facebook. About a month ago, two friends of mine were looking into the best ways to build a brand for themselves and their real estate agency. They had the company name – both of their last names began with the same initial and as we all know, many have adoration for alliteration – pun completely intended – but they needed an effective way to get that clever company name out to the public. So they started by creating a Facebook Page. Ultimately, your Facebook Page can serve as the central hub for your business’ online presence. Use it to post statuses, photos, videos and articles that your target market would find useful or interesting.
3. Go One Step Further with Facebook Ads, Linkedin, and Elance
Once you have your Page established, you can also connect with clients through Facebook Ads. Facebook gives you the necessary instruments to not only set up your ad, but it also offers helpful advice regarding ad targeting and pricing and scheduling. Similar to Google AdWords, Facebook Ads allows you to specify your budget and in some ways, tap into its database of users. Solopreneurs like yourself can build out your audience by targeting Facebook users based on relationship status, location, education and more, making it effortless to reach a good base of clients and customers.
With your advertising campaigns up and running, you also need to think about those personal working relationships. That foundation of clients I mentioned early becomes that much stronger if you can transform those clients into repeat ones. Yet most of the time that is not going to occur with the click of a mouse over an online ad, but rather with a personalized email message, a Skype call, or a face-to-face conversation. Well, solopreneurs and small businesses, look no further than business networking sites like LinkedIn and online employment platforms such as Elance.
LinkedIn is an excellent resource for finding job opportunities, potential team members, and connecting with new clients. Take advantage of the many people that use the site every day. You can peruse its members through search factors such as industry, company name, and title – and with InMail, you can directly message these individuals, present your business and ideas, and bam – you’ve just got yourself into a working relationship. Congratulations.
4. Bid Your Jobs
And if you’re looking for a more direct connection, Elance and other project-bidding sites might be the perfect match for you. These sites offer thousands of job opportunities where freelancers and solopreneurs can submit proposals on jobs (at no cost) and work with thousands of clients (ranging from small to medium sized businesses to the big fish like Oracle, Microsoft and Google). So if your business specializes in web page design or you’re looking to be a book editor or translator or virtually anything else, this is a great place to start. And if I didn’t stress the importance of healthy business relationships enough, you can read this article that’s all about how to build better business relationships online.
Nowadays, you have plenty of options that will get you on the fast track to success in starting your own business. So use them. Turn them into your biggest advantage. Be scared, thrilled, fulfilled, and excited all at once. Brush any remaining dirt off of your shoulders and know that you got this.
Samantha Prasad is a Marketing Associate at Elance. As part of the Talent team, she works to ensure freelancers have a great experience working online and achieve high levels of success as online professionals.