The Path Traveled.

I started my business two years ago, a marketing agency/consultancy within a niche market.  I’ve learned a ton, and I’m able to run my business and help clients even better now than when I started.  And maybe most importantly, I really like doing what I do, and the energy and freedom I get from doing it.  Not everyday or every minute, but most minutes.   Here are 10 important things that I’ve learned over the past 24 months:

Don’t be afraid to go (or stay) narrow.

It’s impossible to be valuable to every marketplace, and there are some built in disadvantages to trying to go to an enormous marketplace (like the cost of marketing and sales, for starters).  You can’t be absolutely everything to absolutely everyone.  Pick and chose your market, and narrow it as necessary.

Always be helpful and generous.

If a client, prospect, colleague, member of your network, or anyone, really, asks something of you, do your best to provide it. Within normal limits of smart business, of course.  If the request is to offer free advice, keep a limit on that.  But karma is real and karma is incredibly powerful, so do exactly as you would want done right back.

Ask for reviews.

You don’t need me to tell you that endorsements, testimonials, and reviews help your business enormously.  Clients are generally happy to give you a brief few sentences about your work to use as marketing.  Don’t be shy about asking for input.

Be generous with time, but set a fair price and charge it.

It’s your job to set a price that makes sense for both you and your client so everyone leaves happy.

Charge for value.

On occasion you might need to charge for your time, but whenever you can, try to charge for the value your work brings to your client instead.

Ask for help.

We aren’t islands.  Build a strong network.  Help your network when they ask for your help.  Ask for help and advice in return.  Give referrals.  You’ll get referrals too.

Always keep prospecting.

Clients come.  Clients go.  Sometimes unexpectedly.  It’s essential to keep up with your prospecting at all times, during either feast or famine.

Practice what you preach.

If you’re in a service business (like me), then it’s essential to do what you advise others to do.  Yes, cobblers typically have shoes with holes, I know, but go to extra lengths to practice what you tell your clients. It helps with credibility, among other things, and it’s just common sense, right?

Know when to call it a day.

This day and age, we all probably have enough to do to work 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. But I make sure I know when to quit because I value my health and well-being.  And my sanity.  Set limits to your day, and work equally hard on your life outside of work.  If you’re an unrelenting workaholic, find out why and short-circuit that behavior.  Having down time makes us infinitely more productive during our work-hours.

Give something back.

You just landed a big project, and it feels great.  Want it to feel even better?  When you do well, give something to those in need.  Pick a charity and make a donation.  It’s good for the soul.  Give time.  Money.  Advice.  Anything.

It’s rather remarkable how quickly one learns to swim when thrown into the deep end.  A new business is like that.  One challenge after the next.  Immersion really does work.  I’m stoked for what the future, both near and far, brings.  If you have experiences you’d like to share from your own new business, please do.  I’d love to hear them.