Ad | This post is a collaboration with Twill – all experiences are my own.
On January 3 2018, I handed in my notice at my full-time job and catapulted into the world of freelancing. With just two clients under my belt and £500 in my bank account, this could have been catastrophic for my mortgage payments and my relationship. Alongside showcasing some of my service offerings of: copywriting, social media management, content creation and photography – to this day I still receive messages asking the best way to find clients, how to survive the freelance world and what our rates should be.
The world of freelancing is a tricky business. Starting a business is exciting, but it can also be overwhelming. One of the main things that businesses need to understand when starting is how to comply with regulations. For physical businesses, this can include anything from customs clearance (when import or exporting goods) – all the way to online businesses are keeping records of sales and complying with GDPR regulations. By taking these types of precautions, in the long run they will help you build stronger relationships with your customers and avoid any violations later down the line.
Not everyone survives and it’s hands down one of the hardest and mentally-challenging things a person can do. Most of us can’t rely on the bank of mom and dad and the safety net is usually paper thin. You have to rely on your own intuition to problem solve, manage invoices, taxes, clients, workload… and the list goes on. At the best of times, it’s being swallowed by a tsunami of trepidation with an equalling-thrilling feeling of hope and excitement.
This month, I’m collaborating with Twill – an international logistics partner for small and medium businesses, on some of the best ways to sustain and grow a business in the current climate. Because let’s face it, I should know a thing or two by now on how to run one considering my own freelance food and hotel blog, my digital marketing agency Emma Victoria Digital, in addition to growing a successful plantable card business – Blooming Heck UK.
Taking part in this Twill ‘Go Global Guide’ Campaign means I now get to share some of my very own tips and tricks with you that I’ve picked up over the past 4 years. Since surviving maternity leave and starting a brand new business all amid the pandemic – I’ve definitely got something to show for it.
Without further ado, here are some of the best ways to sustain and grow your very own business in the current climate. Let’s get to it…
Do your research
The number #1 rule of business is to know your market. Or at least pretend to! Audience research is essential to setting your course for success and before you even think about setting up a company (whether it be a blog, a website or e-commerce business) – simply ask yourself this: will my company make a difference?
Find out if there’s an opportunity to turn your idea into a successful business model. Conduct your own market research that will tell you if the need exists, who the target audience is, and if you’re considering a product-based business – how much are your customers willing to pay and what channels they prefer to buy from. Tap into the collective knowledge of the crowd to validate your product idea and ideate on new ideas. Study the competition, analyse market trends, and get feedback from your customers to create a targeted business plan. If it’s feasible to turn your idea into a profitable business, that is half the battle won.
Find relevant clients & prospect customers
One of the most asked questions I get is ‘How do you find clients?’
A gigantic leap on this now being being ‘How do you find customers?’
After all, it takes time to build relationships and gain the trust of potential sales sources. But after a few years of putting this into practice I know one thing to be true. The answer is simple: know where to look and how to approach. No matter what kind of services or products you provide, it’s essential to build trust with those looking to work with you and purchase from you. After researching your target audiences (as above!) – here are a few simple things you can do to ensure the work keeps flowing:
- Ask former clients if they have work for you
- Put a call out on social media detailing what you can offer
- Create a website with information and examples
- Create a polls for e-commerce clients on what products they want from you
- Sign up to job newsletters
- Reach out to family and friends for worth of mouth support
- Showcase examples via your portfolio
- Have a visible presence online and through social media channels
With so many ways to source clients and prospect buyers, it’s crucial to then develop your content marketing message based on their needs and wants.
Understand your finances
One of the biggest set backs for any business can be financial growth. We need to remember that it can take years to develop profit, and in the current climate it can be more difficult than ever to sustain a business model with the cost of living crisis. In understanding the basics of your money, you as the business owner need to ensure you keep a close eye on your flow of cash coming in and out of your business. The easiest way to do this would be to find an accountant to do the hard work for you. Another step would be to set up a separate bank card dedicated for business spending only. If you mix your personal spending and business, it will quickly become a headache for tracking your expenses and when it comes to completing your tax return.
Invest time in your own business
Any time or money spent on running a business is an investment. Whether it be signing up for digital courses (Google and HubSpot have plenty of free ones you can browse through!) or in browsing through the best software products to supercharge your branding, you must remember that to invest in yourself is the best way forward to success. This doesn’t particularly mean spending thousands on brand new equipment (although having working products will inevitably save you hours of time and stress!). Other such ways of investing time in your own business could look like:
- Setting time aside each week for business development and growth
- Creating company goals to work towards
- Outsourcing work and content to others to free up your own time
- Updating your channels, website and socials each week
- Find inspiration in your daily routine, whether it be working from somewhere new or buying yourself a new book. You’ll be surprised at how quickly ideas flow when you stop forcing things
Remember that when you invest time in yourself and business, you not only build self-confidence but you’re giving yourself the opportunity to leverage and boost your earning potential.
Make your business accessible & inclusive
Whether your company is virtual or a real-life bricks and mortar establishment, accessibility and inclusivity should be at the forefront of your business plan. To truly connect with customers, you need to be accessible. That means opening the doors and welcoming them into conversations with your brand. By having these factors in place, they will help to drastically save you money and increase your profit whilst driving sales to your business. Being accessible means creating a consistent and open format for all of society and allows access to all resources in a way that enables everyone, including those with disabilities. This further involves understanding the needs of every person who interacts with your business – alongside fulfilling those needs with conversations that build brand trust and loyalty. A question that needs to be asked is: can people easily find what they need from you? Are you products labelled correctly and in a user-friendly way? Is your brand responsive and reachable to all of society without discriminating? Other such ways can appear in:
- Using specific colour combinations for those with impairments
- Auditing your website / business layout for easy customer purchasing
- Providing alt-text on all website images as they describe the function and appearance of a photo or graphic that some people cannot see
- Creating clear descriptions in plain language
- Using captions on videos
- Large links, buttons and controls
- Removing trip-hazards
- Making your brand a ‘safe space’ with inclusive language
In all, I thoroughly enjoy being a business owner and it means connecting with potential customers and clients every single day. I get the best of both worlds by simultaneously running a blog, creative marketing company and an e-commerce brand, as it enables me a wider scope of opportunity. By helping clients solve problems and get their business moving forward, this further helps me to learn new business concepts each and every day. As challenging as it can be with all the daily challenges, I honestly wouldn’t change any of it for the world.
Follow me on my journey to success!
Emma Victoria Stokes – Blog
Emma Victoria Digital – Social Media & Copywriting Services
Blooming Heck UK – Plantable Card Business in Birmingham
Twill is the international logistics partner for companies that want to change the way
business is done: forward-thinking organisations that embrace change to improve, grow,
flourish and thrive. This post is sponsored.