5 things I've learned from being in business 3 years

As my business turns 3 on 13th February, I've been reflecting on things I wish I'd known or done when I started out.

1) Outsource as early as you can

I waited for ages to get my amazing assistant Louise, and my web designer Lisa, but they have transformed my business. Don't wait until you are collapsing under work to outsource. Get someone to start small and grow with you as your business grows.

There is a saying that you should get someone when you can afford 50% of their fees. I think it's a good rule of thumb to get you started.

If you find it hard to delegate, just do a few hours or tasks to start with. I find I can't outsource email easily but have no problem with social media posting.

2) Don't be afraid to experiment

I've tried all sorts of things in my business. I started as a freelancer exchanging time for money (as most people do). Then I discovered online courses and email marketing, and I have experimented with various offers, some more successful than others.

Some things will go really well and your customers will love them, and others just don't hit the spot. Try to minimise the effort up front. So for a course, plan an outline but don't record more than 1 module before you have sold enough places to make it worthwhile. Then if it bombs, you've just wasted the time setting up a sales page and sending emails. Plus, you may find the course changes shape once you get feedback from people.

3) Get set up right from the start

Although you don't want to spend loads on IT at the start, it's worth investing in some tools to help you with your business. Things like Asana (which is free) for managing your tasks and projects, plus Toggl for tracking your time.

I also always recommend having an accounting system (see last week's blog). Have a good system of recording income and outgoings and for collecting information for your accounts or self assessment tax return. Keep 30% of your income aside for taxes and national insurance if you are self employed. For more on taxes click here for my free download.

4) Find your tribe

This took me a while, but I've found my tribe. Mine are pretty much all online these days. I'm in Janet Murray's Build Your Online Audience where I have learned all about how big an audience I need to sell to, how to create great social media content and how to write great emails (still all work in progress!). Plus the community is amazing and supportive.

I'm also a member of Atomic with Andrew & Pete. You can join for £1 for the first month (please mention my name if you sign up via this link). This is how I joined and there are loads of people in there for support and networking plus lots of potential clients.

Rob and Kennedy's email marketing is another membership I'm in and I love their energy and email campaigns to help me sell more. Join their free Facebook group here.

Finally the Freelance Business Lounge is brilliant, and has been really supportive of me growing my tiny business. Emma runs a great community and there are weekly calls to connect with people.

Connection has become really important to me, as many of my friends and family don't understand what I do so my online tribe are more important than ever.

5) Know where you are going

You don't always have to have a 5 year plan in your business, but you do need to have a set of goals for at least the next 12 months. They can move and flex, but you need to have some idea of where you are going.

This will then help you plan what you are going to launch, be consistent with your social media and emails, get sales leads and ultimately more clients.

Knowing your niche is part of this. Niching into pricing has made it much easier to plan content and talk to my ideal clients (although I don't have an ideal client all mapped out, just a type of client).

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