What I’ve Learned in Three Years of Business
Today is Cinc Social Media’s third birthday. Before I go out and celebrate with a huge bowl of ramen and a piece of cake, I wanted to take a minute to share a few of the lessons I have learned running my own business over the past three years.
Working from home is the best…
After a decade of being stuck in traffic or sprinting for the train, my morning commute now consists of taking six steps from my bed to my desk. My collection of suit jackets and high heels have been replaced by an old band t-shirt and denim shorts, and I’ve probably saved half a trillion dollars by eating at home instead of grabbing my coffee and smashed avo toast on the way to work.
These days I very rarely sit through pointless meetings that could have been an email or listen to phone conversations from colleagues that don’t understand volume control. I don’t catch whatever stomach bugs or colds are doing the rounds and my boss never hits me with unrealistic demands at 4:45pm. And I can always find a fork in the kitchen. It’s the best.
No-one cares if you go back to bed, but your bank balance will.
If you’re an employee and you don’t show up for work, someone’s going to wonder where you are. If you don’t show up a lot, they’re going to get mad. If I decide to hide under the covers for the day… absolutely no-one cares.
It may sound blissful to be micro-manager free, but if you can’t feel those eyes on the back of your head, it means no-one is watching your back.
When you work alone you need to have the structure and discipline to get things done when they need to be done. You need to get out of bed and deliver the things you promised to do, when you promised to do them. You need to keep working through that afternoon slump… even though you could totally take a nap. And you need to stay on top of your invoicing, book work and finances.
While no-one cares if you do all of these things each day, you will care deeply when you run out of money because you didn’t send that email or get that job done.
It is still all about who you know
I haven’t spent a cent on advertising my business since I launched in May 2015. I certainly haven’t practiced what I preach when it comes to marketing Cinc Social Media – but luckily for me, that hasn’t mattered a bit.
Almost every single one of my clients has come from a former work connection. Having established a reputation as the person to talk to about social media in my former role, my former colleagues still turn to me, and recommend my business to their connections today. While I have met some clients through networking events or my day to day life – it is word of mouth that has kept me in business.
A perfect example of this is one of my long-standing clients who asked her neighbour if she knew anyone who did social media marketing. The neighbour, whom I’m told worked for the Courier Mail and knew me from my political days, passed on my details. I still have no idea who the journalist was (Thank-you, I owe you a beer!), but their little bit of advice delivered me a wonderful client, who has then linked me with two more clients. It really is all about who you know… and what they think of you.
Learn from the people you work with
Over the past three years I’ve had plenty of opportunities to team up with other businesses, agencies and professionals on projects. I’m a bit of a bowerbird when it comes to knowledge – I love to pick up and keep any shiny bit of information that I can stash away for later. Working with another business is always a great opportunity to meet new people, discover some great software products and learn new things. Likewise, working with clients I have developed so many new skills and picked up tips on how to run my business.
To be brutally honest, not everything I have seen has been great. I’ve been astounded by how much some people charge to deliver so little. And I’m yet to see first-hand a successful, smooth project that involved outsourcing work overseas to very poorly-paid workers. Other work has just reinforced my decision to stay my own boss and make my business succeed.
The one thing I have learned that is constantly reinforced by all of these experiences?
Do what you said you were going to do. And do it well.
If you can, do it all
The name may be Cinc Social Media, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg of work I do. Over the past three years I have been paid to do everything from summarising newspaper headlines each morning to organising a one-day music festival.
When I started my businesses, I planned to make social media training my main focus, as I believe the people in the business are best placed to share their story in an authentic and sustainable way. But my business plan has sat deep in a desk drawer, virtually ignored, as I’ve carved out a strong business doing a little bit of everything and anything I want to try.
Along the way I discovered that while a basic media monitoring job requires getting out of bed at 4am (damn you, daylight savings!), that job can lead to a paid trip to Sydney to live tweet the Prime Minister’s speech at a ball. It’s amazing where you can go, once you have a foot in the door.
For my clients, my jack of all trades status means they can have almost all of their needs met by someone they trust with a consistent quality, look and price. They like not having to coordinate with multiple businesses to tackle projects that require design, copywriting, social media content and strategy. And they know I will do what I said I will do… and do it well.
For me, doing it all means my business is more sustainable… and fun. Keeping my services diverse ensures a change to Facebook’s algorithm doesn’t equal the end of my business. I know my income stream won’t dry up if Twitter dies tomorrow. It’s also a lot more interesting to have a day filled with a mix of social media, website, project management and design work, rather than pumping out the same kind of content for the same kind of clients day after day. I know that this mix of work keeps me fresh and inspired, which means better outcomes for my clients. It also means I’m excited to keep my business rolling on for many more years to come.