Business

You Can NetWORK Yourself Out of Business

WHAT IS EFFECTIVE NETWORKING?

Effective networking is strategically building relationships to grow your business and expand your knowledge of other like-minded businesses & services. If I were honest with myself, emotions aside, that's how I would define it but here enters the classic networking pitfall. 

Networking feels good. Sometimes networking doesn't feel like work at all.
Often times networking replaces working entirely. That's the danger zone. 

When my husband and I started our first business together back in 2011, which is still in business today, we had NO MONEY.  Like most entrepreneurs, we didn't know the proper process to follow to get started and we were extremely low on capital. We covered necessary expenses like payroll and equipment but when it came to marketing there wasn't any cash left to invest in it. So we scrounged for the funds to purchase memberships to a few chambers of commerce and networking groups and went to town trying to grow our business. We probably met over 1,000 people throughout the Lynchburg Region when it was all said and done but very few jobs were received as a direct result of these conversations. So much time and money spent on fostering relationships but I wasn't seeing much of a benefit. When I finally slowed down to evaluate the situation I realized that I wasn't being effective with my efforts. I changed a few key things and immediately I saw a drastic increase in sales and fruitful connections. Here's what I changed.

Strategically build relationships

Just like anything else in business, failing to plan is planning to fail. Develop a system of benchmark goals for your networking efforts and be willing to phase them out if they don't meet their goals. For example, if you join a networking group that meets for an hour each week that encourages people to connect outside of the meeting you're probably investing at least 4 hours a week in the group. 4 hours to drive to and from the meeting, meet, drive to and from a coffee date and have the actual coffee date itself. How much is 4 hours of your time worth? For me, $400. So even if the group costs $100/year or $8.34/month, I need to make $408.34 off referrals before I even break even. That's almost $5,000/year before you even make a dime. If you're making that kind of money from a group, hands down stay involved but if not, move on. The longer you stay, the more money you bleed.

Grow your business

A common pitfall to networking is people over emphasis paying it forward. They send work to other people in hopes of their connections reciprocating and it never happens.

No one will care about your business more than you. Sometimes the best thing you can do to grow sales is mind your own business.

Even though helping others is a valid way to deepen connections, you have to make sure your business doesn't suffer because you're preoccupied trying to help everyone else. Focus on networking to grow your business and if an opportunity arises to send work to someone else happily make the connection.

Like minded businesses

The easier you make it for people to refer you, the more referrals you'll receive. Realtors, mortgage lenders and insurance agents pass referrals all the time because they interact with the same customer and they need each other to get their job done. When you connect with complimentary businesses, you make it a lot easier to stay top of mind. The last piece of advice is make sure they are like minded. If you take pride in being punctual, reliable, trustworthy and committed to excellence, those are the types of people you should refer. Think of referrals as a recommendation. You'll be putting yourself out on the line by vouching for another product or service. Take those referrals seriously. 

Networking is a powerful tool but just like any tool it must be used properly with care to achieve the desired result.

Why I Started a 2nd Business

Have you ever stopped yourself from doing something you truly wanted to do because you feared what people might say?  Fear had a hold of me like something fierce the past few months and I almost wasn't able to shake it loose.  What if people think my first business failed?  What if people think I'm unqualified?  What if people think I'm full of myself and want more attention.  What if, what if, what if.  

Scared I wouldn't be good enough.   Scared of dozens of things that hadn't happened yet.  I flocked to my smallest social media following (Periscope) to share my concerns in a "safe environment" before I told the world.  New Years Eve I literally shook with excitement as I turned my phone on and launched my business for all the world to see.  I figured if I announced it on Periscope that I would actually follow through and low and behold...I pushed the button.  I will be forever grateful for the courage God sent my way to plow through my what ifs.

God even gave me a couple phrases that I kept repeating to myself leading up to the launch: Stop Giving Power to the What IFs, You Can Only Control What IS You Are Competent, You Are Enough. 

Since launching, I have booked five clients in four days.  I do not say that to brag.  Please understand my intent.  I simply want you to know that in the midst of my weakness, God is being glorified.  People are being helped.  Lives are changing and I am thankful.

I am thankful God allowed me to borrow courage from my husband until I had enough of my own.  I am thankful for all my successes and failures that have allowed me to be a better strategist today.  I am thankful that I am able to give more & do more to be a beggar of the poor.

I didn't start this new business because Life Focus was on the rocks.  I started it to meet a need that I believed existed not just in Lynchburg but in communities all around the world.  Business owners every day are spending hundreds if not thousands of dollars with no plan, no strategy.  It would be like driving to a place you've never been without a GPS and a full tank of gas.  You could stumble your way through it but you may not hit the target.  You might get close but who knows if you'll run out of resources before you get where you want to be.

I make marketing roadmaps for people in need.

I had to do that for Life Focus when we started from nothing and I am incredibly grateful for the opportunity to do that for other businesses in a big way.  I started this business and let God evolve it into what he wanted it to be.  At first this business had no online component and days later over 80% of my clients are people I've never met.  I have a complete peace about it and I can't wait to see what will happen next.

19 Websites & Apps Every Business Should Use

Everyone has 24 hour days, celebrities and no names, rich or poor, none of us can make more hours in the day.  So the goal is not "make more time" or simply complain about the lack of time, it's about finding creative ways to be more efficient.  I've got to be honest. There is NO WAY you're going to get this time management thing down if you don't understand one KEY concept.

The first step to strong time management skills is humility.  You have to be able to admit that you can't do it all. 

If you believe that you can live life saying yes to every opportunity that comes your way and NEVER drop the ball, just you wait.  Give it time.  There are two solutions to feeling overwhelmed in life and business: DELEGATE OR AUTOMATE.  

If you have the luxury of an intern, virtual assistant or employee, add those extra tasks to their do list.  If not, find apps and websites to make your life easier.  I wish someone had been honest with me about the struggles of time management when I started my first business.  I could have put plans in place a lot sooner to live a balanced life.  

I hope you find this info useful!  Without further ado, here's my top pick list!

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19

CREATIVE MARKET

Creative Market is the place to go when you need design elements with a "Pinterest" aesthetic like watercolor backgrounds, handwritten fonts, etc.  There are plenty of websites out there where you can buy ready made designs and templates to make graphics but I LOVE the range of designs offered on this site.  Super responsibly priced and they do bundles all the time to take the price down even more.  The August Bundle has 130 items in it ranging from WordPress themes, business card designs, fonts GALORE, for $39 saving you well almost $1,900.  It's insane.  They only do the bundles for 7 days though so it's important that you check back monthly to see if a new bundle has been released.  By the time this post went up, the bundle had expired BUT they are offered six free design elements until the next bundle is ready.  

18

BITEABLE

Biteable helps you create cute animated videos in minutes.  I own a video production company and I still use sites like Biteable because sometimes you just need to make something quick for a YouTube outro or Facebook ad and it's not worth a heavy time investment.  Now I'll be honest, you don't want this to become your only video marketing strategy because after a while people will be able to tell it's stock video BUT you can definitely get away with it for a couple video here and there.  Here's a video I made for our client AB Kramer Group with Biteable.

17

UNSPLASH

Unsplash is ALL THE THINGS.  I go to this website at least one a day and recommend it at least one a week.  FREE high resolution photos, ALL DAY, EVERYDAY.  Photographers use it as a way to get their name out and you can download and use whatever you want. I used Unsplash to create my 30 Day Quote Graphic Bundle & it helped jumpstart my list overnight for FREE99!!! 

16

SCREENCAST-O-MATIC

Screencast-O-Matic is an integral part of our business.  I use it for recording Brand Boosts with my remote clients so they don't have to worry about scribbling fiercely during our calls.  I use it for creating video tutorials for my resource library and my YouTube channel as well.  For $15/year, it's well worth it. 

15

SCREENCAST

This is not a typo :) Screencast is what I use in conjunction with Screencast-o-matic when I want to use screen capture videos to clarify a client question or give them a preview of their website while's being built.  It's an awesome way to email the videos. Just upload directly to screencast and your client can stream the video recording without having to download the file or use a site like YouTube or Vimeo.

14

ZOOM

Early on in my business I used Skype for strategy sessions with my clients.  When that bombed I moved on to Google Hangouts and finally settled on Zoom.  The video quality is the best I've seen so far and it's so easy to use.  I also use Zoom for hosting small webinars (max 50 people) for just $15/month.

13

COOLORS

The reason why some online entrepreneurs have better visual branding than others is a consistent color scheme.  When you see certain colors not only do they communicate a feeling but you equate that feeling to the brand that presented that color combination to you.  Coolors helps you create a color palate for your business by pushing the spacebar until you see a combo you like or uploading a photo and having it grab color codes from that.  It's amazing.

12

CANVA

I could give you 12 ways to use Canva for the rest of this post because it's so incredibly wonderful.  I've shared some of my Canva tricks on my Made in Canva workshop video but essentially it is a website that allows you to build graphics online for free.  The templates range from business cards to YouTube thumbnails.  It's definitely helped me save on design costs and now it has an app so you can use it on your phone! 

11

MAILCHIMP

When I speak to a lot of my older clients they say the name "Constant Contact" when I ask them what they use to manage their email list.  MailChimp is free.  Unlimited emails up to 2,000 subscribers and you can hack it to your deliver your opt-ins for free as well!

10

CONVERTKIT

Once your business has a solid email marketing strategy and you've got at least a few hundred people on your list, I would suggest migrating to ConvertKit.  I'll be honest though.  I bought one month of ConvertKit and cancelled the first time around but I didn't like the landing pages and I didn't have a strategy.  Now I'm in love with it!  I've had to use some work arounds to get it to work with Squarespace but I've already seen in increase in my list since the change. 

9

FRESHBOOKS

I HATE QUICKBOOKS.  There is something about the user interface that just makes me sad but Freshbooks is my jam!  Their customer service is out of this world.  They let you invoice clients for an entire month before you decide whether or not to pay for it.  They gave me a 2nd account for half price since I was a loyal customer with Life Focus.  AND they offer discounts to non-profits.  Try it for a month, download the app and see if you love it as much as I do!

8

TRELLO

To do lists are fantastic but when you're managing a team you have to figure out a way to do that electronically to really be efficient.  I used to be head over heels for the website Asana but after a while no one kept it updated.  I discovered the website Trello and I use it every day.  I use it to keep track of my daily tasks, manage my team, record stats for my social media accounts and even keep track of leads.  It's a free site and it definitely worth implementing if you are a visual learner.

7

SHARE LINK GENERATOR

Share Link Generator is a new find.  I had been using Click to Tweet for a while to help promote my content on Twitter but I needed something to use that would help me share content on Facebook.  Share Link Generator is that and SO MUCH MORE.  You can paste your blog post/web page link into the generator and share your content easily on Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus, LinkedIn, Pinterest, & in Email.  Click here to see how it works. (If you’re looking for another option try https://www.websiteplanet.com/webtools/sharelink/)

6

WETRANSFER

WeTransfer is a super easy way to share files.  I would love to think that everyone knows how to navigate Google Drive & Dropbox but that's just not the case.  WeTransfer is a free way for people to send you files and it's a perfect solution for those people in your life who aren't exactly technologically savvy. You can transfer up to 2 GB for no cost and you can always upgrade if you want to do more.

5

HOOTSUITE

Scheduling social media posts is A MUST when you are a busy entrepreneur.  Sites like Buffer & Hootsuite are a fantastic tools but if I had to pick Hootsuite would be my favorite.  I just like the way the Hootsuite interface looks :)  Pick on day of the week where you load in your posts for the week and then let them post on auto pilot for free. Services like Meet Edgar cost $49/month but allow you to develop libraries of content that continue to post automatically.  So when you outgrow Hootsuite that's a great way to level up!

4

GOOGLE APPS FOR BUSINESS

You can't survive in business without using Google.  It's just that simple lol.  I use Gmail, Google Drive, Google Spreadsheets & Google Docs EVERY DAY.  If you don't have a professional email like (hello@about90marketing.com) you can actually set that up directly through Gmail and you'd like login like you normally would but your emails would use your domain name instead of gmail.  Google Drive is also a great way to collaborate with clients so make sure you utilize that feature.

3

DROPBOX

Dropbox is my JAM when it comes to saving space on my laptop.  Google Drive is a great way to collaborate BUT Dropbox creates a folder on my desktop like my normal hard drive that allows me to still use my Microsoft Office suite without bogging down my computer.  I can leave town and still have those files without having to carry an external hard drive.  If you take photos as a hobby or as part of your business, DROPBOX DROPBOX DROPBOX.  Also, I use the Dropbox app to give me easy access to Instagram graphics I've created on my computer.  I pull them up in the app and save them to my camera roll for easy upload.  Otherwise I would have to email the photos to myself and download that way.  SO MUCH BETTER with the Dropbox app.

2

CALENDLY

I don't need an assistant because of Calendly.  It does all my scheduling for me.  I set up different blocks of time depending on what I have going on in my life and I send people the link to the type of appointment that best fits the situation.  I use it to schedule photo shoots, coffee dates, Zoom calls, you know name it!  It also sends reminders 24 hours in advance automatically so no reminder phone calls or emails needed.  It's heaven!  BONUS TIP: If you love Calendly, check out Doodle.  If you need to schedule a meeting with more than one person use Doodle.  You offer up dates and times to the group and it takes a poll to see which date/time works best.  No more email trains back and forth.

1

SQUARESPACE

HANDS DOWN.  THE BIGGEST WEBSITE THAT IS A GAME CHANGER FOR STARTUPS IS SQUARESPACE.  Yes that was totally necessary to put in all caps.  Squarespace is an incredible website builder that gives you a clean, modern look and feel without downloading an obscene amount of plugins like you have to with WordPress.  All our sites are built on Squarespace.  They take care of your hosting.  All you need is a domain.  PLUS their customer service is BALLIN so if you ever run into trouble, they are ON IT.  If you want to go beyond their templates, I highly recommend Megan Garwood.  

Yes, I know this was an EPIC blog post but this will save a ton of time searching for helpful sites and apps online.  Bookmark this page and be sure to share this online.  Did I miss any good apps?  Share your favorites below!

*There are links listed above that are affiliate links however I did not recommend a tool I do not use and absolutely LOVE. 

Purpose of Professions

A profession is a paid occupation, especially one that involves prolonged training and a formal qualification and an occupation is simply a job. 

I truly believe that if more people understood the purpose of professions there would be fewer mid-life crises in the world and ultimately joy would abound.  We live in a world where we need money to pay for things.  Unfortunately people don’t just give their money away, so we work for money and we call that a job.  Some people clean for a living, others teach, but we all work so that we can provide for ourselves.  Unfortunately we live in a day and age where people define themselves by what they do.  “I am salesman, a firefighter, a nurse, etc.”  We put so much importance in our professions that we become slaves to them.  If we feel like we have an honorable job like a teacher we feel good about ourselves but if we can only get a job as a janitor we think less of ourselves.  The worst situation is when people fight to turn their degrees into careers and plummet into depression when they are unable to do so. 

Your identity should always be in Christ and not in your job title or profession. 

God uses people not professions to further his kingdom.  He used the equivalent of the IRS, prostitutes and men with speech impediments to do miraculous things.  God can use you no matter what you do for a living.  If your job title matches your degree that’s a blessing but if you can provide for yourself that’s also a blessing.  No matter who cuts your paycheck.  So when you feel like a disappointment because you spent money on a degree and your job title has nothing to do with it, remember that God is still being glorified.  When you feel like your job is nothing to brag about, boast in God’s provision.  God is good. Always.

The Painful Truth About Family & Friend Discounts

We’ve all done it.  We’ve all had that relative that wanted to use your services but didn’t quite have the means to afford you.  So what do you do?  Or maybe you haven’t experienced that first hand but you’ve had a friend who just needed a little help in the early days to “make it” in the long run.  It’s a common temptation for compassionate people to bend the rules for those closest to them, but it can be the death of your business.  Have you ever stopped to think that if anyone should want to see you succeed it would be your family and friends?  If anyone should pay full price they shouldn’t they be first in line?

Perhaps this short paragraph was a wakeup call for you but you’re asking yourself… “ok, now what?  What do I do when someone asks for a discount?”

After years in business I think I’ve stumbled across some strategies for navigating the treacherous waters of friends and family discounts and I would be more than happy to share my findings.  Here are my top 5 tips for navigating discounts in business.

Are Family & Friends Discounts Ruining Your Business

Thank you HitTheGem.com for the opportunity to write this contributing post!

Common Mistakes of Entrepreneurs

Have you ever noticed that successful people tend to have things in common?

Some are physical traits like expensive looking clothes, fancy cars, etc.  but other traits are more conceptual like the courage to embrace failure and adapt quickly on the pathway to success.  The same could be said about "entrepreneur newbies".  You've mustered up the strength to walk away from your 9 to 5 but the future's unknown.  You're not sure how you'll get paid & where to startbut you know it's time for a change.  I've found that the fastest way to grow in business is to learn from the mistakes of others.  Here are the top 5 things I knew before I started my business.

Common Mistakes of Entrepreneurs

1 // going too fast, too soon

I'm an eager beaver.  I'm Type A.  Call it what you want but I tried to do too much too soon.  I developed five year plans before the ink had dried on my business plan.  I was already brainstorming ways to monetize my site when I was still picking a URL.  I started thinking about what I would do when I hit my first anniversary but I was still setting up the bank account.  SLOW DOWN.  Most entrepreneurs start daydreaming of a life free of a morning commute long before they have taken the time to plan how they will survive financially in the early stages of their business.  Resist the urge to do it all and focus on doing the small things well. (Tweet This).

2 // put in your two weeks notice before you had clients

Employers appreciate loyal employees.  They like to know that they have delegated tasks to capable employees and the job is getting done.  Do not put in your two weeks notice until you get to the point of being overwhelmed by your dual career (Tweet This).   The road of the self employed is a rocky one, especially in the beginning.  Give yourself the best head start you can by keeping your new endeavor to yourself until it becomes an inconvenience to your first job.  This will free you up to try new things with your side hustle without the pressure of having to make enough money to pay your bills.

3 // getting subscription happy

I definitely believe there are some key sites that you should pay for in the beginning BUT you can easily go overboard with subscriptions.  Keep your expenses lean in the beginning and focus on making much more than you spend (Tweet This).

4 // paying someone to make your first website

I'm sure one of the first things you added to your to do list was "create a website".  Every business needs to have one because it is the #1 tool customers use to make their decision to buy.  The problem is most entrepreneurs will delegate this.  They will outsource it to a tech savvy friend or pay a professional.  DO NOT OUTSOURCE YOUR FIRST SITE.  I feel strongly about this if you couldn't tell from the caps :) Creating your first website on your own will force you to think critically about your business. (Tweet This)  Even if it looks awful, now you know exactly what you need a professional to do.  Don't pay them to sit through your brainstorming session.

5 // binge watching tutorials with no application

I am SO guilty of this one.  I love knowledge.  Love it, love it, love it.  There is so much information available online about growing your business that it's easy to binge watch and never apply.  Your business doesn't grow from reading tips.  It doesn't count unless you implement them. (Tweet This)  One of my favorite books had 183 tips to transform my business.  In order to maximize all that valuable advice I took it a page at a time.  Read the tip, decide if it was applicable to what I was trying to do, apply and then move on.  It's a much slower pace than you'll want to go but ultimately it will produce better results.   

Knowing When To Let a Client Go

No one wants to fire a client.  I don’t know many people who find joy in cutting off relationships, but in the business world, we have to be willing to let a client go.  It’s always helpful if you can vet potential clients on the front end, but too often clients don’t show their true colors until the relationship has begun.  In order to have a healthy client base, you’ll need to prepare yourself, prepare your client, & have an exit strategy.  If you take these steps when building your business in the early days, then you’ll be able to prune your client list without a second thought.

Thank you HitTheGem.com for the opportunity to write this contributing post!

Knowing When to Let a Client Go