You’re the Boss – Now Don’t Screw it Up

event_198250242What’s the biggest threat to a freelance or entrepreneurial business? Hint: It’s not unreasonable clients, slow pay rates or competition. It’s the big kahuna – you.

Here are three ways – learned from experience – that small business owners screw things up.

Lack of a business concept. I’m not talking about five-year plans, projections, or other doorstop-sized documents (although you may eventually need these). I mean a concept that can be written on a napkin.

Here’s mine: Provide exceptional content to clients who won’t compromise on quality.  These ten words direct everything I do. Provide:  I provide copy — I don’t necessarily write it. This makes my business scalable and gives me the capability to handle large projects. Exceptional content:  Not every project requires highly intelligent, beautifully crafted language. I offer a premium product that commands a premium price. Clients who won’t compromise on quality: Rather than marketing to a specific sector, I target the top-tier players in industries where I have experience and contacts.

Poor pricing. I know a talented medical copywriter who freelances for academic publications. She charges $30 an hour “because that’s what the market will bear.” Another writer friend, with a similar background, charges $125 an hour working for pharmaceutical companies. When he heard about the academic writer, he called and offered to outsource his overflow to her for twice her current rate. She refused because “It felt like a sell-out” and “I want to control my own client relationships.”

The moral is, maybe it’s your pricing structure – maybe it’s your market – or maybe it’s your attitude. If you are charging less than you should, chances are you’re self-sabotaging.

Failure to build the appropriate pipeline. Most of us market our services to some extent. But are you “fishing where the fish are biting” – reaching out to prospective clients who a) need your services and b) are willing to pay for them?  In my case, joining the local chamber of commerce might be fun, but most small businesses won’t be able to afford my services. I’m better off attending major conferences and building connections at well-funded, status-conscious organizations.

Are you getting in your own way as you try to build your business?

Copyright 2015 by Deborah Gaines

On Choosing Your Battles

Are you charging in the wrong direction?
Are you charging in the wrong direction?

Marketers, here’s a hard fact: You will never have enough resources to promote every new product, program or hire with the vigor its advocates think it deserves.  Instead, learn to choose your battles. Here are three I would avoid:

The Battle of New Orleans.  Remember the last skirmish in the War of 1812 — the one that was fought after the war was won? Don’t engage in the marketing equivalent. I once worked for a university that started life as a teacher training program. We were tasked with “debunking the teachers college stereotype” to a generation that had never heard the words normal school.

Pickett’s Charge.  Robert E. Lee’s classic case of hubris during the Battle of Gettysburg sent the Confederate Army — fresh off victories in Chancellorsville and Fredericksburg — stampeding into disaster.  Since then, overconfidence has sunk many a marketing initiative, from Zune to Crystal Pepsi.

The Battle of Zama.  The Romans turned Hannibal’s secret weapon — his elephants — against him in this humiliating defeat. Kind of like the Internet turned the #AskJPMorgan Twitter campaign into a bloodstained rout.

Like most disasters, these could have been avoided through a combination of research, planning, and a good long look in the mirror. Make sure your clients do all three.