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Do I Need Advertising or Public Relations?

Do I Need Advertising or Public Relations

It’s a really important question – and one that business owners’ return to time and time again. Do I need PR or advertising to grow my business? The answer…it depends! As like most things in life, it’s situational and really depends upon your goal, budget and target audience.

In this blog, I break down some of the most common scenarios businesses face and whether ad or PR is the better strategy to address each. Let’s go!

I want immediate and guaranteed publicity for my business.

You want to start with advertisingWith advertising, you get what you pay for, rarely will it be more or less. The benefit of guaranteed media placement is that you can count on it showing up when and where you want it to. If your business needs this immediate boost in publicity and can’t risk anything less, advertising is the way to go – at least to start. Where PR can come in, is when you want to complement this with the power of organic media exposure that, when done right, can garner a whole lot of media attention for a fraction of the cost of paid placement.

I have a limited budget, but a great story to tell.

You want to start with public relations. If you have a naturally great story to tell, your business will do well with the boost of some public relations. PR thrives on taking a great story and bringing it to the forefront of media and before your target audience. With advertising, you have limited space to tell your full story, so it might not have the same impact if you try to fit it into a 15 second commercial spot or on a bill board. With PR, you gain the platform, like a featured segment on the morning news, or several paragraphs in print or online to really dig into the meat of things.

I can communicate my core message in less than 8 words.

You want to start with advertising. This is the reverse scenario of what we described above. Maybe your business is able to fully articulate its unique selling proposition in 8 words or less. In this case, you might better be suited for a strategy more focused on advertising. A short message can be easily communicated through digital ads, short commercials, sponsored social media posts and billboards. Once you determine this short message, you can advertise it consistently throughout these various facets to benefit from repetition.

I want to promote the charitable angle of my business.

You want to start with public relations. Even if your business is for-profit, you can still hitch your wagon to the promotional power of charitable giving. If your business or organization has a genuine charitable component (people can easily tell when you’re not being sincere!), this unlocks a lot of PR opportunities. Your story will more easily be picked up by local media and often TV stations or digital community calendars offer free promotion of such activities. Sure, you can also pay for this promotion, but why? When it’s charitable in nature, think PR first.

My business has some negativity publicity it needs to counteract. 

You want to start with public relationsIf you find yourself needing to counteract negative sentiment toward your business, this is a job for public relations. It’s important to add the “human” element to your business in such circumstances. For example, you may want to pitch your CEO for a media interview, host a press conference or issue a press release to address the issue. You can also implement some strategic activities to repair your brand, such as a free community event, open house or giveaway.

People are familiar with my brand, now I need to keep it top of mind.

You want to start with advertising. If you’re an established brand and your target audience is aware of who you are and what you do – congratulations! You’re ahead of most businesses out there. But seriously, this puts you in a prime position to benefit from paid advertising, because what you now need to focus on is maintaining this awareness and staying top of mind. Carefully placed digital, radio, television and/or outdoor advertisements with help you to continue to capitalize on what you’ve worked so hard to create.

What I hope is an obvious disclaimer is that every business and its particular situation is different. While I hope to provide some helpful, general advice and a starting point for your strategizing, it’s important to seek the help of experienced ad/PR professionals who know your market, understand your target audience and can help direct your messaging through the most effective channels.

Do you have another question related to how advertising and public relations are different, yet also work together? Join in the conversation by leaving a comment below.

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Posted by on October 29, 2018 in Business & Success, Life

 

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How to Stay Focused While Working from Home

How to Stay Focused While Working from Home

It’s becoming more and more common for people to work from home, either full-time or even just a few days per week. If your career allows you to work virtually, it’s likely you’ve found yourself trying to be productive at home only to be derailed by a myriad of different distractions.

For the last seven years, I’ve grown my public relations business while working exclusively from home. During different periods of time, that included juggling work with infant babies at home and trying to schedule conference calls around nap times. The good news is, I survived! And throughout my experience working from home, I’ve developed quite a few tips and tricks to that have helped me to stay focused and productive.

Here are my go-to tips for staying focused and making the most of your time when working from home. Take a look!

Make a Mental Commute

When you work from home you don’t have the benefit of a commute. Maybe you’ve never viewed a commute as a benefit, but think about it for a moment. Physically moving from one place to another gives you the mental separation of work and home. During your commute you can get yourself in a “work” mindset. When you work from home, however, you have to make a conscious effort to change from your “home” mindset to your work one.

One tip I highly recommend is having a dedicated office space that feels separate from the rest of your house. This allows you to “commute” to your office and on that commute you can clear your mental space and walk into your office ready to work.

Stick to a Routine

Sure, working from home gives you extreme flexibility in your schedule, but this can also be a trap. To be effective when working from home, it’s so important to stick to a routine. There will certainly be days where this routine will be disrupted, but for the most part you must establish a core routine and stick to whenever you can.

Pick a routine that fits your personality and workload. Are you more effective in the early morning or do you thrive in the afternoons? Unlike a traditional office environment with a strict 9-5 schedule, you get to set your own schedule. However, once you set one, let it give your day structure and stability.

Set Your Work Hours

Along with setting a routine, you also need to establish your work hours. When working from home, it’s easy for work and personal life to blend together. If you’re not careful, you’ll find that you’re never fully present in either space, because you can’t separate the two. By setting work hours, you’ll know that from 7am until 3pm (or whatever you choose) is the time to focus exclusively on work-related tasks. Outside of that time, you must train yourself to put work aside, stop checking emails and shift your focus to friends, family and yourself.

Resist Chores and Errands

During your set work hours, resist any and all temptations to dive into tasks that are not directly related to work. I’ll admit that when working from home, I’ll throw in a load of laundry, put away dishes and tidy up some rooms as I walk through. These are small and necessary tasks that shouldn’t divert you from more than a few minutes of work time. The tasks I’m addressing here are the ones that can sabotage your work productivity for hours. Tasks like sorting out your closet, reorganizing a room or running personal errands can steal hours away from your day and can reasonably wait until the evening or weekend.

Give Yourself Small Breaks

Although you want to squeeze the most you can out of every work day, you can only accomplish this by giving yourself small breaks. Why? Because no one can be productive 100% of the work day. We all need mental and physical breaks in order to return back to a task and be even more productive than we would be otherwise. Trust me on this one. Allow yourself short, timed breaks where you can get some fresh air, stretch your legs, get a snack or cup of coffee and then return to your desk ready to work again.

Close Up Shop!

Finally and most importantly, when you’re done for the day – be done! Don’t linger around refreshing your inbox and fishing around for people to ask you for something. Disconnect, go offline and enjoy your time off. After all, you’ve earned it! The best part of having a productive work day is that you can close up shop knowing the most important tasks are taken care of and everything else can wait until tomorrow.

Do you work from a home office? How do you stay focused throughout the day? Share your tips and best practices by leaving a comment below!

 

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5 Things Consultants and Freelancers Need to Stop Doing

5 Things Consultants and Freelancers Need to Stop Doing

As a Public Relations consultant, I work with a lot of other consultants and freelancers. The majority of these interactions are fun, inspiring and seamless. However, over the last seven years I’ve run into some consultants and freelancers who do things a little differently.

Don’t get me wrong; I love people who think outside the box. However, when it comes to how some consultants and freelancers bill, I get a little discouraged when I see practices that take advantage of clients. In particular, there are five billing practices that quite frankly I find to be cheap shots. And for this reason, I never do this to my clients or other partners I work with.

Learn what they are!

  1. Making sales tax an added line-item

For many purchases, seeing sales tax as a line item on your bill is a pretty standard thing. When it comes to how consultants and freelancers bill, however, I find it a bit tacky to make sales tax an additional line item. Just include it in your hourly rate! Sure, you might feel like you’re making 6% more on every job, but I promise you’re turning off future business that would result in a lot more income long-term. Unless you’re selling someone and actual product or good, adding on sales tax feels like you’re grasping for more dollars.

  1. Billing for an initial meeting

As a business owner, you know you need to invest in business development. And yes, this means sitting through a ton of coffee meetings and networking mixers. I never charge a client for an initial meeting, unless it’s specifically scoped out as a service with deliverables – and we’re all clear on the cost and terms. I’ve seen some consultants and freelancers charge their hourly rate for an initial meeting. Especially if that first meetings turns into more work, it’s best to chalk that time up to business development and build trust with your client by not immediately slapping them with a bill. After all, they didn’t bill you for their time to meet with you!

  1. Billing for answering emails and phone calls

Maybe even worse than billing for an in-person meeting is billing for every phone call and email you answer for a client. I’ll admit, I’ve run into some long-winded and chat happy people who require more of my time than others, but unless email and phone responses are scoped out in a proposal, I don’t sneak that into a client’s bill. If you’re truly bothered by answering client messages, or you feel like they’re getting out of control, the better thing to do is address it head on with your client and set boundaries for your time.

  1. Padding time sheets

Over the last seven years, I’ve gotten a pretty good feel for the amount of time it takes to complete certain projects. It’s pretty essential to giving clients accurate proposal, remaining competitive and staying on budget. What this also means is it’s easy to identify when another consultant or freelancer is listing really high hours for a job you know couldn’t have taken that long to complete. I’ve gone to bat for my clients a time or two to challenge how it takes 2.5 hours to switch out one word on a graphic. The best way to earn more money is to do good work, and more opportunities will come. Padding a time sheet will only help momentarily, then clients will catch on and move to the next freelancer with more reasonable costs and billing practices.

  1. Going over budget without notice

My final pet peeve is when consultants or freelancers give you a proposal for the scope of work, but when it comes time to invoice the price has increased – and without notice. I fully understand how projects can expand beyond the initial scope of the proposal, but again the right way to handle this is communication. Inform the client as soon as they’ve exhausted your scoped hours and ask them how they wish to proceed. Better yet, give them a budget for the additional expense to finish the project the way they want it done. More often than not the client will give you the green light to proceed, but it makes a huge difference to get permission, and to be upfront about the larger invoice that will be coming their way.

Do you have another pet peeve to share when it comes to working with consultants and freelancers? Join in the conversation by leaving a comment below!

 
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Posted by on September 24, 2018 in Business & Success, Life

 

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5 Things My Clients Have Taught Me About Public Relations

5 Things My Clients Have Taught Me About Public Relations

Throughout my career as a public relations consultant, sure I’ve taught my clients a lot. But what’s been most surprising is how much they’ve taught me in return! Working in a wide range of industries has afforded me the ability to track some powerful trends and spot inconsistencies that require us to rethink strategies.

It should be obvious, yet all too often it’s overlooked at larger firms, that every single organization must have its own unique public relations strategy if they want to see the best return on their investment. Even for businesses in the very same industry, no two strategies should be identical. It simply doesn’t work!

So what are the most valuable PR lessons my clients have taught me along the way? Here are the top PR “best practices” I have learned, not from a textbook, classroom or industry group, but from my clients!

  1. Public Relations is a lot more than writing.

When earning my Public Relations degree it felt like the vast majority of what I was doing was creating content in some form or another – pitches, press release, op-eds, video scripts, media talking points, website content, social media content – and the list goes on infinitely!

However, now as a PR consultant in “the real world” I see that content is only the starting point. My clients have taught me that the real value I bring to the table is what I do with the content I create for them. Never should this fall on their shoulders! Rather, I take the lead with our dissemination strategy, never giving up until we get the full attention the content deserves.

  1. You don’t know what you don’t know.

My clients have also taught me that I cannot be (nor should I desire to be) a one-man-band of solutions. Rather, I’ve learned to rely on my network of fellow contractors and consultant who serve in a variety of fields and specialties. These counterparts lend advice and expertise to the unique challenges my clients face from time to time. Whether that’s monitoring new SEO trends, understanding advertising best practices or learning how to save some money on the way we design and print a marketing piece, having a network of trusted professionals is what allows me to see my own blind spots. After all, we don’t know what we don’t know!

  1. There is no template or formula that works for everyone.

I love the vast variety of industries my clients expose me to. It’s challenging yet rewarding to be able to develop a mini expertise in so many different categories.  What this has taught me, more than anything else, is that there will never be a one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to creating a public relations strategy. Everything I do must be custom built. Sure, some similar tactics may carry over, but they will be heavily tailored so that no two email blasts, no two direct mail pieces and no two press releases will ever be the same.

Even the same event for the same client, year-after-year will continue to morph until it’s almost unrecognizable from its first year. That’s a good thing! Through this, my clients teach me that there are no shortcuts, no templates and no magic formula. The value of what I provide is complete customization in everything I do.

  1. Complacency will kill your business.

I love when clients come to me with new ideas for how they can revamp their communications efforts! It shows they value the power of communications and also that they’re keeping their eyes and ears open to new trends. What they’re also teaching me is that complacency is a business’s worst enemy. I learn from example. This same passion and drive for trying new things is what inspires me to also try new things! It’s the kick in the butt I need to always strive to take my offering of services to the next level, to forge power partnerships and to restructure business relationships so that everyone benefits.

  1. Persistence is key.

Finally and most importantly, I’ve learned that in order to see the greatest return on your investment when it comes to public relations strategy, you have to remain persistent and consistent with your efforts. We live in a society where instant results and instant gratification are expected. However, communication takes time! It also takes many touch points with your target audience for them to really start to pay attention to what you’re saying.

Through having many of my clients serve as examples, I’ve been reminded time and time again that investing in forming real, meaningful relationships with your target audience always yields the great return – and this simply takes persistence!

In your own industry, have you found that your clients or customers have actually helped you to learn things you didn’t know before? Share your story by leaving a comment below!

 
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Posted by on September 17, 2018 in Business & Success, Life

 

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20 Fun Facts About Bennis Public Relations

20 fun factsI love sharing insights into the business I started more than seven years ago, Bennis Public Relations. At just 23 years old, I was well aware I didn’t have everything figured out. Actually I was pretty certain I knew nothing about the entrepreneurial journey I was about to embark upon, but I was certain I was passionate about following this calling and would do whatever it took to make this a successful career.

On a fun and light-hearted note, I want to share some of the little known facts about Bennis Public Relations, and me personally. Entrepreneurs are quarky people, and I am no exception. So as I draw back the curtain a little further, I hope you’ll get a kick out of these facts that are fun, interesting and maybe even a bit strange.

1. My business is named after my maiden name, and my son is also named Bennis. I love that when he gets a little older he’ll realize the business I started from ground up and poured a lot of passion into, also shares his name. Hey, maybe he’ll take it over someday?

2. Less than 2 months after I started this blog on WordPress (as a trial for my own blog building services) I was featured on WordPress’s homepage and as a result I got almost 7,000 views in 1 day. August 24, 2011 still holds my record for most views.

3. My only overhead expenses are $10 a month to Hootsuite and $40 per year to the PA Public Relations Society. Almost unbelievable I know, but it’s true. I don’t pay any other subscriptions, memberships, fees, payroll, rent, etc. (Taxes are a whole other story, of course). I love running a lean business!

4. I have no desire to have employees. I continue to grow every year without having to hire employees by raising my hourly rates, taking on new clients and finding ways to be more efficient with my time. It’s just me (and my network of vendors) and that’s how I like it.

5. One of my titles is the Executive Director of the Carwash Association of Pennsylvania. That’s right, CAP has been my client for several years and for the particular services I provide to them, I serve as the E.D.

6. I rarely work more than 6 hours per day. Again, I LOVE efficiency and I love that with my business model, the more efficient I am, the more time I have to devote to other passions and projects. Some days/weeks I work well over that! But I know those long hours every so often afford me short work days most every other day.

7. When I first started my business, I had just enough clients to pay the rent. I hadn’t figured out how to pay for other expenses or even taxes when I made the entrepreneurial leap to quit my former job. But I hustled hard and went into survival mode. That work ethic had afforded me what I have today.

8. I have successfully turned nearly all “competition” into partnerships and collaboration opportunities. I love meeting with other PR professionals because nearly every time I do I’m able to identify our unique differences and turn them into collaboration opportunities.

9. I started doing freelance public relations work when I was still in college. During my senior year at Penn State University, I met a professional speaker and best-selling author through one of the events I planned through an internship and he and I started doing work together that last for about 5 years. He’s how I bought my first car!

10. My husband is a serial entrepreneur too. Between the two of us, we run four businesses. His current and largest venture right now is a tech startup that provides performance-based fundraising – and it’s changing the world! Read the stories at http://www.pledgeit.org and you’ll see I’m not exaggerating.

11. Throughout running my business, we grew our family by two sons. As an entrepreneur, I can’t really take a maternity leave, so I literally never missed a day of work, even if it meant answering emails from the hospital (yes I packed my laptop in my hospital bag). It’s one of the hard truths of running our own business, but the payback is so worth it!

12. My dad is part owner of Bennis Public Relations. He gave me the money I needed to fully incorporate Bennis Inc. in 2011. He jokes that Jeff Bezos’s dad was the first to invest in Amazon. I don’t know if I’ll afford him quite that payback!

13. My cat, Pinot, has been the closest thing I’ve had to a colleague. She’s been with me since day 1 of starting Bennis Public Relations and lays by my side just about every time I open my lap top to write. She’s also been my most popular blog topic by far!

14. Most of my friends and family have no idea what I do. I’m not offended! Unless you’ve studied it or work in the industry, public relations doesn’t really fit in a standard “box” especially with how it’s evolved thanks to technology. I usually just say I do a lot of writing, and leave it at that.

15. As far as I am aware, I’ve never run into a roadblock for my gender. In the day and age when everyone is shouting “the future is female,” I’ve never found I needed to apologize or compensate for being a female business owner. I simply let my work ethic speak for itself. In fact, I’ve beat many male businesses for different jobs, not based on gender, but based on the ideas and follow-through I bring to the table.

16. A lot of people confuse me with a publicist. Frankly, I think I’d make an awful publicist. While I have worked with people to enhance their personal brand, I most commonly work to enhance the communications and branding for businesses and organizations.

17. In high school I was voted “Most Likely to Succeed.” I thought it was silly at the time – and my mom thought it was pretentious and borderline offensive. Now looking back, I think that title may have subliminally inspired me. And though I didn’t get “Best Dressed,” I think this one has served me a lot better.

18. Though I have a dedicated home office (behind a hidden door to boot) and several office locations in downtown Harrisburg I can use as I wish, I prefer to work from our home living room. I’m a creature of habit!

19. I still have my very first client on retainer – that’s been 7 years now! The work has ebbed and flowed over the years, but I love being able to say I have the consistency of working with clients for many years, some even from the start.

20. And for #20 the fun fact I want to end with is that I’m proud to say I have had the privileged to serve 100+ clients from coast to coast in just seven short years. It may sound crazy, but I serve 25 different client accounts monthly, with many more one-time projects scattered throughout. Entrepreneurship has been a crazy one, but I wouldn’t change it for the world!

So now that you know a little but more about what shapes me, and as a result by public relations business, what fact do you find more interesting? Or maybe you’d like to share your own quarky and random fact.

Join in the conversation by leaving a comment below!

 
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Posted by on September 10, 2018 in Business & Success, Life

 

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4 Tips for Taking Control of Your Monday Routine

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Mondays have such a bad reputation! I wish I could say it was completely unfounded, yet I too found myself fatigued and overwhelmed by the start of the new work week. That was until I noticed that by making a small series of changes to my workday, particularly my Mondays, I was able to regain control of my time and workflow and break through the mental barrier of Monday’s insurmountable task list.

Take a look at my four tried and true tips for taking control of your Monday routine so that you can dominate – not dread the start of your work week. Here they are!

 1. Wake Up Early

This doesn’t sound fun and frankly it’s not, at least for the first several times you try it as part of your new routine. So often we allow ourselves to come off the weekend feeling groggy and unfocused. Monday morning hits hard and it’s tempting to want to hit snooze up until the last minute. All this does is start you on a crazy cycle – a cycle where you’re waking up already feeling behind, and not really any more rested than if you hadn’t slept that extra hour.

My first tip is to commit to waking up one hour earlier than you normally do on Monday (and eventually every work day). The reason is that starting your day one hour earlier will help you stay ahead of your task list the rest of the day, and also better react to those unexpected and emergency tasks that might pile onto your schedule. In one hour you can take care of a ton of “little” tasks that can weigh on your mind. You’ll then be able to dig into your bigger tasks with a clear focus and less stress.

2. Take Care of the Easy/Little Tasks

Inevitably there will be a list of little tasks and emails that have piled up over the weekend. Start your day by getting these off your plate. Answer the emails that only take a minute or two to address. Knock off those tasks that require less than 10 minutes of your time. Check your voice mail and respond to phone calls. This may take an hour or two of your morning, but you’ll feel like you’ve accomplished so much. This encouragement will fuel you to carry on with other, bigger tasks.

3. Prioritize Your Big Tasks

Speaking of the “big” tasks that are on your to-do list, it’s so important to be realistic about what you can accomplish in one day, especially on Monday. You simply can’t do it all, nor should you have to. Instead focus on the most urgent and important tasks, particularly ones that help move other tasks forward for you. Even if this is just one thing, or one section of a larger project, a clearly defined to-do list for the day will help you to manage your own expectations. Additionally, it keeps you accountable to at least accomplishing at least one task. You can no longer fall back on the excuse of “I had so much to do I didn’t know where to start.” Give yourself a starting point, and an ending point for the day and aim for those bench marks.

4. Do Something for You

Finally and most importantly, be sure that you do at least one thing just for yourself on Monday. For me, this is getting to the gym for an exercise class I really enjoy. When my task list piles up for the day, I don’t allow myself to make an excuse for not going. The result isn’t that I necessarily get any more work done. Rather, I just feel cranky the whole day and like I’m working, working, working with no reward. That class is my reward and I try to never deprive myself of it! I can move other tasks, meetings and phone calls around this one piece of my day – and I’m always grateful I do! It’s my motivation to work hard and get my tasks done the rest of the day so I can accommodate this hour for myself.

Do you dread – or dominate Mondays? Do you plan to use these 4 tips for taking control of your day today? Or share some other tips that you’ve found helpful for time management, especially on Mondays!

 

 
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Posted by on August 27, 2018 in Business & Success, Life

 

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Bennis Public Relations Turns 7 Years Old – The Best Gifts Its Given to Me

Bennis Public Relations Turns 7 Years Old – The Best Gifts Its Given to Me

Last month was the seventh anniversary of a pivotal moment in my career. However, July 15 came and went without celebration or even reflection – but for good reason. July 15, 2011 is the day I officially became the fulltime owner of my firm, Bennis Public Relations. This was the day I took a major leap, without so much as looking back, and have since forged ahead with a drive and dedication unlike anything I had applied to my life leading up to this moment.

Now seven years as my own boss, I realized there are still a lot of people in my life, new acquaintances as well as close connections, that don’t know much about what I do or how I’ve grown to this point. For so long I’ve fully embraced the mindset I learned in college which was “There’s no ego in Public Relations. If you want a byline study journalism.” And while I still believe that to be true, I do think it’s important to stop and reflect on some of the joys this journey has brought me.

Ironically, over the last seven “birthdays” my business has had, it’s been me who has really received the gifts. In sharing what they are, I hope I can inspire a few others to take the path less traveled and to also understand what it means to be a true business owner.

Gift 1: I answer to me.

My schedule is my own. It’s on me to manage my time to get everything done on my task list in a given day. I’m responsible for organizing the matrix that is my Google calendar and making sure nothing slips through the cracks – or it’s on me.

While I thoroughly enjoy having no set work hours, no restrictions on where I have to be at any particular time, and not having to report to a set office with higher-ups to answer to, this also comes with certain tradeoffs. I have to balance project delivery for all current clients with finding time for new business development to keep things growing. I have to determine how I want to price and package my services so that they are competitive but also profitable. It requires a beautiful dance to make it all work – and I’m fortunate that after seven years, it’s a dance I’ve learned to do well.

Best of all, and what really defines being a true entrepreneur and business owner, is having complete control over the services I offer, how they’re priced and packaged and the direction I want to take my business. There is no corporate office that determines this for me – no one pushing out new services or products and telling me what to sell, no one changing prices without me having a say, and no one messing with my profit margins – except me.

Gift 2: I can pivot and grow how and when I desire.

Throughout the last seven years, I’ve extensively grown the scope of services I can offer clients. I’m not limited to one niche, or even one industry really! I can help businesses with anything that falls under the broad umbrella of “external communications,” which is fancy speak for “How we communicate with our audiences.”

Additionally, I’ve identified the services that best answer specific problems within a business and can make educated recommendations to clients based upon what they need, and help them eliminate what they do not. I’m not limited to selling a specific set of services to a niche demographic. If I want to branch into something entirely new, I can – and I have.

Gift 3: I’ve learned – and conquered – the real headaches of business ownership.

I commend anyone who takes an entrepreneurial leap and lands in the role of blazing their own trail. However, I want to be clear there there’s a significant difference between building your own business from the ground up and being a part of a franchise or MLM. At age 23 I used what little savings I had to incorporate my business and structure myself for future success – and protection from over-taxation! I spent hours educating myself on the type of business insurances I need to buy and the potential repercussion of copyright laws and other similar issues that could at any point impact my business – even if by an innocent misstep. I had to put policies and procedures in place to protect myself from people walking off with my intellectual property, making late payments – or no payments at all, and breaking contracts without cause.

I’m grateful to say that by planning for the worst, I have avoided many of the headaches and hardships other business owners often experience along their entrepreneurial journey. In a day and age where everyone wants to call themselves a business owner, CEO or #bossbabe, I wonder how many have had to navigate the real challenges of being a true entrepreneur, versus how many just stepped into the role of a sales rep for another company that really calls the shots in that relationship. There’s a difference, and one I’ll admit I’m a bit sensitive toward because of how much sweat equity and risk goes into the former compared to the latter.

Gift 4: I can forge partnerships at my discretion.

Another gift my business has given to me is the ability to structure partnerships with others businesses that has allowed me to really take things to the next level – and without having to compromise my independence or give up any of my profits.

My current partnerships expand into the industries of Government Relations, Web Design, Advertising, Media and more. It’s quite a beautiful business model. My partner businesses feed me all their clients who need strategic communication services, I complete the work and charge my fees, and they bundle this into their clients’ total packages. We all get what we want out of the deal, and at really fair rates compared to what big agencies have to charge to cover the overhead of in-house staff.

Gift 5: I don’t have to solicit family or friends to “join” my business.

If you’re a true business owner, not just a sales rep for a larger corporation, your business model should not heavily rely on soliciting family and friends to purchase your services/products or join your business.

When you’re just getting started it may be appropriate or helpful to ask personal contacts to keep you in mind or help spread the word about your business, but that’s not a real business owner’s long-term method for marketing. The growth and development of my business is a lot more strategic than shooting out a bunch of social media posts about “how lucky I am to be my own boss – and it’s a huge missed opportunity if you don’t jump aboard my ship.” Rather, I become a member of networking groups, align myself with industry associations and join boards as a way to gain influence and to get my name out there.

I’m happy to mentor people who come to me for entrepreneurial advice, but I never feel the need to force someone on this journey with me. And because I don’t get a “kickback” for someone starting their own business, my encouragement to a fellow entrepreneur comes with no personal agenda.

Gift 6: I’ve enjoyed 7 years of passive growth.

More to the point of not liking having to hard sell my services, I’m grateful to have not spent a dime on direct marketing or advertising. I simply treat clients well, deliver quality service and most importantly am responsive. Consistency is the best marketing tool you will ever have!

All of my clients have come from word of mouth recommendations and referrals. What I’ve found is this produces highly vetted, highly motivated clients who are ready to get started. This also produces loyal clients. I’m proud to say that my very first client still has me on a monthly retainer.

Passive growth has by no means made me complacent. It’s made me smart. I know that I gain the highest quality leads when I invest in relationships, so that’s where I focus my efforts.

Gift 7: There is no one else that can provide exactly what I do.

Forging friendships with other businesses that could be seen as my “competition” has been one of the smartest things I’ve ever done. These relationships have turned into some of my most lucrative partnerships and source of residual leads. Why would “competition” send me business, you might ask? Because when I put the time into getting to know some of these fellow communication professionals, I quickly learned that we serve very different markets and possess very different strengths.

Furthermore, there’s more than enough business to go around! So much so that I’m grateful to know some other people who can fill in the gaps in a pinch when I have a client who needs something that I don’t have the bandwidth to take on. In my experience, this goodwill has always come back full circle.

And one to grow on…

There’s a quote I stumbled upon early in my entrepreneurial journey, attributed to Frank Ocean that says, “Work hard in silence, let success make the noise.” This puts into words how I’ve always felt about promoting my professional accomplishments. I don’t need to bang my own gong. In fact, I’ve found that many of those who do – such as what likely inundates your newsfeed on social media – are those who are trying to compensate for insecurities about the true success of their business – or whose business model demands it out of necessity.

To that end, I’ve also discovered many people, even those closest to me, don’t fully grasp how far I’ve driven my business in seven years, because I work hard in silence. So to my first baby, the one that made me an entrepreneur, I wanted to give you a little moment to shine and say thank you for the highs and the lows, the risk and reward, and the challenges that turned in triumph. I’m grateful for this journey and to have the experience to truly own my own business!

 

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