It won't be long before I'll be in my 32nd year as a solopreneur and 19th year as a website designer, dragged into becoming more of a techie than I really ever wanted to be. During all the developments in the world of internet tools for business marketing over these two decades, my focus has been to learn the tricks and find the resources to pass along to my colleagues in private practice as psychotherapists, life coaches, alternative healers, and intuitive readers.
Today I'm thinking about the best lessons I've learned and keep passing along to my clients that can ease some of the burden of marketing yourself in an increasingly crowded online marketplace.
Invest Your Time and Money in the Right Things
Starting out, it's tempting to take a lot of workshops, subscribe to a lot of emails, maybe hire a business coach, spend hours in online forums asking what to do and how to do it in order to learn how to get your business noticed so your client schedule will fill up quickly. The best advice has been around forever:
define your ideal client
know what they want (not need)
have a well optimized website and blog frequently
do some networking and build referral sources
regularly engage in the social media platform where your clients are
offer demonstrations or information products as sample of your personality, skills and/or knowledge
You'll hear variations of those 6 points time and time again. You really don't need to pay with your limited time or budget to hear them more than 2 or 3 times.
Capitalize on Your Personal Skills
A well known secret is that marketing a one-person business is easiest when you are using your own personal skills as the starting point. I mean, if you are an extrovert and love talking to people about yourself, networking is going to be easiest for you. If you are an introvert and love writing, blogging or social media are going to work best.
Too many solopreneurs try to shoe-horn themselves into marketing methods that force them to work against their own personality type. This is a big mistake. You'll quickly resent and avoid the tasks. Consequently, your marketing efforts will fail to produce many, if any, clients.
If you are inclined to follow the leaders, find a couple business gurus who match your personality type -- so that you aren't pressured to become something that isn't natural for you -- whether online, in books, or in person. More than 3 can become confusing and overwhelming. It's most valuable if they have their own experience in your line of work.
Extroverts & Designers Need Good Web Presence
It's surprising at the end of 2017 how many solopreneurs still don't have a website, aren't blogging, and aren't strategically active on Facebook. As an introvert, I wouldn't be getting any clients without these methods as a central part of my marketing plan.
Locator directories are fine, but limited, and using them as your only web presence is like tying one hand and both kneecaps behind you.
Maybe there is a yoga pose where that posture feels good, but it doesn't work for business owners in this day and age.
Attending networking breakfasts and courting allied professionals to refer to you can work for some, but ultimately those efforts aren't set up to directly reach the broad audience of likely clients. And those methods rely on other people to remember to refer clients to you -- which in my book is a very iffy strategy.
But then, I'm an introvert, so that book I use might only be self-justifying my own preferences.
And yes, my fellow website designers -- you DO need your own website. Potential clients want to see your work for others, your range of services, and your pricing. You also need to present your professional credentials on your Facebook personal timeline page and link to a Facebook business page. When you haven't done this, it screams amateur and drives away the projects you are hoping for.
Domain / Webhost Convenience is Fine
Old school techies used to insist on keeping domains registered separately from webhosts. This is how we have people with GoDaddy domains and Hostgator hosting WordPress websites, and using Gmail or Yahoo to communicate with clients. That's four things to keep track of.
But the internet world has changed considerably in the last 5 years or so. That type of separation is no longer necessary, and for those who aren't too tech savvy it can be very inconvenient.
Today it is perfectly fine to register your domain name with your webhost, if the company is well established and reputable. I recommend Wix for the easiest hosting of domain, website, provision of design tools, and facilitation of domain-specific email. Wix also offers spam protection on email addresses purchased from Google through Wix.
All billing then is handled via Wix, and your Wix dashboard is a one-stop shop for all your website needs, including blog, SEO tools, and easy to use and understand analytics.
Simple Marketing Plans Work Well
The idea of a marketing plan can seem scary for many solopreneurs. We think a plan has to include taking financial risks, spending money before it's earned, analyzing which method brings the most clients and how long they stay clients, determining how many clients you need based on how much income you want, and holding ourselves accountable for other depressing business realities.
It may be considered heresy to say this, but I've learned that it's totally possible to skip the bean counting and goal setting that the big companies do, and just use a basic task list as a plan.
But here are the secrets to success when you do that:
schedule time for marketing tasks every day
treat that time as a not to be missed appointment with a VIP
balance introvert with extrovert tasks over the month
make sure your tasks use your personality to best effect
forget counting dollars and results
count only that you did or didn't do the day's tasks
give yourself at least one day off a week
forgive yourself for not getting a task done
redouble efforts to complete tasks
replace finished tasks with new ones
Researching a blog topic is just as much a marketing task as is passing out business cards at a MeetUp. Designing a flier about your coming workshop or thinking through how to expand services to a new niche are all important marketing tasks. Give yourself credit for the prep work you are doing.
A marketing plan should be flexible and realistic, and support your personal energy and internal image as a business person. If it stresses you out, restructure it so that it's fun, self-rewarding, and productive.