Last year I wrote an article listing 20 ways to be awesome online. There are many more than that, so I’ve decided to share with you another 21 tips to help you with your startup, small business, or freelance career.
When it comes to managing a business on your own, you have to do everything in the beginning. As you succeed and expand, you hire more people with specific skill-sets to take over things so that you can be free to strategize and bask in the success of your amazing new business.
“The most awesome stage”
Last year, Facebook's VP of Design thought the TNW Conference main stage was the best she'd ever been on.
The problem is that first step, when you’re all alone or with just one or two colleagues and you have to do it all. It is challenging, to say the least, but well worth the effort in the end. I hope these tips help you make the journey easier and more pleasant!
1. Know Thyself
Before you begin anything, before you even decide what your business will be all about, you have to get to know yourself better. As you start working, you’ll spend quite a lot of time alone, you’ll face obstacles your own mind puts before you, and you’ll fight the occasional urge to quit. Knowing your strengths and weaknesses, what you’re good at and what you should avoid, what hours you’re most productive, etc. will help you later on.
2. Instinct = Good, Impulse = Bad
You’ll see a lot of “big bosses” in the corporate world talk about their instincts, and you’ve probably stumbled upon a few bosses who act on impulse and ruin it for everyone. It’s very important to know the difference. Never act on impulse, think very carefully before you do anything. Instinct, however, should always be taken into consideration. Don’t trust it completely and blindly, but let be a guide in the overall decision making process.
3. Write Down Your Goals
Please don’t say “making money”. Take a piece of paper and write down what you want, you as a person, not a business. This helps in a number of ways. For one, writing it down gives it a more permanent and fixed spot in your brain. Second, it will help you actually define your goals, down to the specific details.
Start with the general things like “I want to have more time to…”, “I want to be independent”, etc. and get more and more specific. Save this somewhere where you can read it from time to time as a reminder. Tip: Write it, don’t type it!
4. Do Your Research
Whatever you do, always research before making a decision. When it comes to business, you can’t just rely on your instinct or “personal opinion”. As much as you’d like to believe you’re right, that’s not always going to be the case and you need to back every decision with evidence.
Before choosing a channel to market (e.g. which social network to use), do your research to see where your audience is located and where they are most likely to interact with your brand. Before deciding on a new product or service, research to see if there is even demand for what you want to offer. From the moment you decide to start a business, every action you take to promote that business should have a clear explanation as to why you chose that action.
5. Learn the Don’ts
Every industry has a list of “don’ts”. This list isn’t out there to find, but it’s in the air and the audience in the industry knows full well every item on that list. This list will include things not to talk about, taboo topics, language you shouldn’t use, issues that may be sensitive, etc.
For example, if your audience is vegan or vegetarian, you shouldn’t post anything about products that test on animals, or if your audience is from California, calling it “Cali” will make it clear you’re an outsider. Forgetting about these “don’ts” not only angers your audience, but it shows them that you don’t really know them very well.
6. Try New Things
We said in tip #2 not to act on impulse, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be open to trying new things. Online marketing opportunities come and go every day with new social networks and technologies presenting themselves.
I use websites like ProductHunt.com to find new trends. Research if you can, but if it’s completely new on the market, try a test run to see if it works for you. Just don’t go all in for something you know nothing about.
7. Original (but not at all costs!)
Everyone wants to be original, and that’s great. But it’s come to the point where I’ve heard CEOs do ridiculous things just because no one has done it before and they’re convinced it will be remembered as original. That’s not good! Be original because you thought of something unique that your audience wants, that they might be interested in, that you are excited about. Don’t just do random crazy things so that you can call your business unique.
8. Strategize and Plan Ahead
Make a plan that supports your goals. Strategize and plan for the short term and the long term in every aspect of your business. Write down where you want to be in ten years, five years, a year, and a month from now. What do you want to achieve and how will you do it? Everything you do should support this strategy.
9. Be Dynamic
So you’ve written a solid strategy and business plan, but don’t expect to stick to it on every detail for the next ten years. Things change in the market, new technologies are developed, your audience changes, etc. Stick to your strategy as much as you can, but be dynamic and open to changing it when needed to support your ultimate goals.
10. Track Everything
Everything you do needs to be tracked, whether it’s on social networks, emails, app downloads, etc. Track everything so that you can see if your work is paying off, what needs to be changed in order to improve results, and what channels to abandon.
11. Document Everything
This isn’t the same as tracking. Document everything that you do and when you did it. When you opened a Facebook page, when you made a slight change in design on your website or product – these things can help clarify changes in revenues, conversion, and traffic in the future. You’ll also want to document all emails concerning the business for legal purposes – you never know when you’ll need proof of a correspondence.
12. Stick to a Budget
When you make your strategy, you should define a clear budget. This is not something you should be very dynamic about. Stick to it as much as humanly possible. Your budget should also take into account unexpected expenses for emergencies – the amount will depend on the size of your business.
13. Don’t Procrastinate
That’s a given, but it’s really important to mention. In the beginning, when you just start your business or your career as a freelancer, it’s very difficult to deal with the burden of having everything on your shoulders.
In an office, your boss is looking over your shoulder making sure you’re meeting deadlines, but when the only person you report to is you, it’s easier than you’d think to start procrastinating until you realize that a year has gone by and you’ve done nothing. Be strong, be tough on yourself, and get the work done.
14. Seek Accountability
I said don’t procrastinate, but it’s easier said than done. One of the things that will help you is to seek accountability. Tell someone what you’re doing, what your goals are, and when you plan on reaching them. Share your progress on social media or a blog, like Medium.com, anything to give you a sense of accountability and push you to get things moving.
15. Be Realistic
Be realistic, not only in the goals you set for your business, but in terms of what you expect of yourself every day. If you’re not used to working 12 hours a day, don’t start with a to-do list that’s two pages long. Take baby steps and understand what you’re really capable of. The same goes for the people you work with. Help them realize their potential, but don’t push them to the point of collapse.
16. Follow Influencers
Follow the influencers in your industry to stay updated with what’s going on concerning your business, but also follow influencers in areas that pertain to your personal development. This could be influencers in the self-help industry, or people who write about marketing and business, or even influencers in the field of yoga and meditation.
For example, I follow Robert Scoble because I believe his articles are very informative and helpful to me. Investing in your own development as a person will do wonders for your business and achievements.
Network online and offline. Join webinars, forums, discussions in LinkedIn groups, anything you can find that interests you and will help you build a business. See what events are happening in your area (Meetup is great for this) and join those that either have potential partners or speakers with information that could help you. Get to know people and stay in touch.
18. Learn People
As you network more and read about your audience more online, you’ll start to learn people. It is a great skill that should be developed and will help you understand the people in front of you better – what they’re going through, what they’re feeling, how they react to certain situations, etc. Learn to be more intuitive about people, because in the end everything you do revolves around them.
19. Give Credit Where Credit is Due
Always give credit to people who help you. From quoting someone in an article and linking to their blog or Twitter account to praising a colleague or employee for their work. Everyone will be happier and happy leads to better results. Plus, it make the working environment much more pleasant, which is something you’ll enjoy as well.
20. Choose Your Team Wisely
In the end, your business will rise or fall on the people that run it. That is why it is so important to take the time to build a great team to back you and your business up. When you do find the right people, give them what they deserve to keep them happy and working with you.
That means giving equities and shares, especially in the beginning if you don’t have any cash flow from your business yet. Remember, in the end it’s better to have 50 percent of a successful company than 100 percent of a company with zero income, so don’t be cheap!
21. Finally, Relax
There’s a lot to do, a lot is resting on your shoulders, and it’s a big world out there. Scary, yes, but relax. You’ll do it, if you keep your eye on your goals, if you don’t procrastinate, and take things slowly, one step at a time. You’ll get there! So find a way to zone out for a few minutes every day to clear your mind, and relax.
Got more tips you’d like to share? I look forward to reading them in the comments below!
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