Becoming an entrepreneur/freelancer should not be a big leap of faith where you blindly walk into it because you believe that you can make a lot of money. The truth is, that’s more than likely going to fail and cause you more heartache than anything. Now, let me explain why.....
Becoming an entrepreneur and business owner should be executed by developing a strategic plan that allows you to turn over every stone possible on your way to becoming an established business in your industry.
I think this series can help you develop a plan to get started with developing a strategic plan for your business. Will this answer every single question that you have? Absolutely not. Will it help put into perspective how to become a freelance writer and quit your job? Yes. If that's the goal, go ahead and check out this other post where I explain how I made over $32,000 in 9 months as a freelance writer.
Side note: The advice given below has come from my personal experience and the experience that I’ve developed as a social media manager, digital marketer, and as an entrepreneur. I'm sharing tips that have worked for my clients and myself as well, so take what you want from this and use it how you see fit.
My goal by the end of this guide is to answer your questions and to finally solve the “I have an idea, but I just don’t know how to get started” problem, that I’ve received a ton of inquiries regarding. So with that being said, let’s dive right on in. Also, please understand that there’s so much more to be done. However, these things helped me get started with the basics and establishing an interest in my business. If you want to, feel free to check out Touched By Ty via my website and on twitter for a reference to this blog post.
Here are three things that I did to make my first sale:
1. I built my following on Social Media
I began building my audience on social media before I started doing anything else. For two reasons:
I knew I wanted to become an influencer, so if I wanted to build a brand centered around my image, I needed to get started immediately. It wouldn’t have mattered what I offered or how good my website is – if I didn’t have clients or a way to drive traffic to the website. I learned through trial and error that the hardest part is driving traffic to the site, especially if you are not prepared with a plan to do so successfully.
Building my following on social media was a simple decision. Doing it and picking the right network were the most difficult steps. When I decided to start using Twitter, I did a ton of research before. I researched viral content, trending topics, hashtags, and current influencers. I studied what those influencers did, how they did it, when they did it, and why.
I chose twitter for two strategic reasons:
- It was so much easier to use a network I had experience with, versus trying to learn how to use the platform while also trying to market a business that doesn’t exist yet. In essence, you could say that I followed the KISS method. – I Kept It Simple Stupid. 😂
- Twitter is composed of users of all ages in a variety of economic classes. The number of opportunities and ease in connecting with others – made Twitter the perfect platform for my business model.
Why didn’t I use them all?
Managing one successful social media alone, along with every other administrative task – is more than enough work. Because in addition to that one social media, there’s also emails and website management; which are both individual channels. In the beginning, it won’t necessarily be hard to manage multiple channels, but if you’re trying to do this alone and each channel has blossomed, I will keep you in my prayers; because whew, it's a lot.
How did I grow my following to over 7,500 in 16 months?
Growing my following was a process. It wasn’t easy, but it wasn’t the hardest thing to do. Having loyal followers that supported my business was harder than anything. If the end goal is to create a community, it’s going to be hard. But if it were easy, wouldn't everyone do it?
Yes, yes they would.
I began my blog and Twitter, focusing on my college experience. This immediately meant that college and high school students of all ages would follow and interact with me. After this, I researched the content that they liked by using Twitter analytics (which you can only see on the desktop).
Twitter analytics is AMAZING. It breaks down your followers by income, likes and interest, best times to post and so much more. It’s like having a free playbook on the moves to make to win the game.
How did I get people to follow me and stay?
Given that my target audience is a compilation of various patrons around my age ( I am 22, so my target I people ages 16 - 36, which I broke down into 3 groups - 16 - 20, 21-28, & 29-36) and that we share a similar interest (all of which I learned with market research), I quickly understood the type of content they were seeking.
I began to analyze EVERYTHING and conduct A/B marketing experiments to compare content results and the return on my investment (ROI). (A/B marketing: comparing marketing strategies and their results to see which gains more engagement and revenue).
How do I stay consistent as my business grows?
I make it a priority to engage my followers because they’re my clients and potential clients. They give me such a powerful platform to communicate with them, make them laugh, teach them, and they give me so much more back. I love those times during the day when I can talk to them and truly learn about their experiences or even simple things like their name and what kind of dog they have. My followers DM me and tell me about their lives and the things they're going through. I've cried on FaceTime with them before and had a real heart to heart moments with dozens of them because I want them to know I am a real person, going through life just like they are. It's not about the money to me, and by making this clear everyone understands that I'm not a greedy corporation. I just want to help people and pay my bills by staying at home and working, and they support that.In addition to making it a priority, I also plan my content strategically. If I tweet it, it was done so because I intended to. There are certain times of the day that are better to post than others and specific times when ideal clients are more active than others. All of which you can learn by using Twitter analytics. For example, now that I am established I tweet late at night (11 pm - 2 am) and early in the morning (5 am - 8 am). By doing this, I have tweets go viral overnight while I am sleeping and I generally wake up to at least 5 Direct messages, three emails, ten text messages, and five missed calls ALL from clients. On a perfect day, I've made $2000 in sales and on my worst days, I've made $150. And while $150 isn't ideal, I'm not complaining, and this isn't my only source of income either, so it's not something is stress over because on average I make $400 - $600 at least four days a week.
I create a monthly content calendar, outlines for each post, and execute them precisely. Without doing this, creating content and running my business would both feel like burdens and that would solely be my fault. I say this because as a business owner, there is no one to blame when “sh*t hits the fan.” It’s your fault. Own it. AND FIX IT.
2. I decided if I wanted to offer a service or a product.
During the period for which I was growing my following, I made a list of things I was great at that didn’t require a certification or schooling. I then crossed off the things that didn’t align with one specific category. I then proceeded to research popular products and manufactures. This was such an expensive route – I couldn’t afford to do this if it didn’t involve drop shipping. Since I’d already failed at that, I decided to leave it alone for a while until I could research further about it.
The pros of offering a service in the very beginning:
There is no overhead. When you're providing a service, you can fulfill your orders until you can afford to hire a staff realistically.
You can get started because you don’t have to vet vendors, network with them, or establish a professional relationship.
You can control the quality of the final product because you’re involved throughout the researching, drafting, and editing of each product.
You never have to monitor or count inventory, which is a headache by the way.
Cons of offering a service once you’ve established clients:
Fulfilling orders that require you to sit down and do them yourself - is so time-consuming, which is why many people opt to hire employees at or before this point. You don't have to hire an entire team at once; instead, I suggest hiring one person at a time and genuinely taking your time during the hiring process. We'll discuss why in our next post.
Once you are receiving consistent orders, it becomes monotonous to do the same thing repeatedly, every day, for months at a time - regardless of what you may think about the tasks now. Those feelings will change if you're completing 5+ document orders a day by yourself for 6+ months.
Even if you develop a refinement process and policy, it can become a real hassle if you have a ton of clients requesting small refinements simultaneously.
Pros of offering products in the beginning:
- You will have so much free time from not having to make the products - if you dropship, outsource, or use a manufacturer.
- All you have to do is inspect the product, inspect the shipping label and packaging, and send it off. It's a pretty straightforward process to maintain.
Cons of offering products initially:
- You have to manage your inventory carefully.
- You need the initial money to invest in products. This is a problem if you're as broke as I was lol.- unless you drop-ship.
- You have to vet vendors, manufacturers, and suppliers.
How did I make the final decision?
- Ultimately, I was too broke to offer a product that didn't take three weeks to ship and arrive.
- Because I tried dropshipping three times and I failed twice, so I decided to leave this model alone until I could repeat my success. Sacrificing my time to fulfill an order made more sense financially than spending an additional six months, establishing a relationship with a vendor.
3. I built social proof
What is social proof?
In short, social proof is using the reviews and opinions of your target customers peers to prove the credibility of your business. They’re your clients giving you a shoutout and a review because they enjoyed your service or product. When their followers (who trust their opinion) see what you’ve done for them, they’ll wait in line for your products.
This one initiative has allowed me to generate continuous sales and revenue WITHOUT using paid advertising for 11 MONTHS - AMAZING, I know.
For this to work successfully; you need an easy way to organize the reviews.
An easy way to do this on Twitter is to create a hashtag for your business. This way, when people are terrified that you will rip them off, you can refer them to your personalized hashtag. I've done it for five months now, so when you search #TouchedbyTy on twitter, my reviews are at least the first 15 tweets that pop up.
Why is this important?
Because people trust people that they know, more than they will ever trust a stranger, it's tough to get people to trust you with their money - especially with all of these social media scams going on.
I wanted to generate revenue without spending money on advertising. For two reasons:
- I was broke. I started my company with 0 funding. Like I didn’t even have the money to pay for a monthly Shopify subscription. But, I wasn’t going to let that stop me. I just used a free Wordpress domain until I generated enough in profit, to invest in an E-commerce store.
- I’d already failed with Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter ads three times, with three different projects. I decided that maybe I don’t know what I’m doing with these ads (LOL). I tried hard to learn to, but I didn’t get it.
Long story short, from my past experiences, I know that ads run and set by myself without seeking further knowledge – were going to be a waste of my time, money, and efforts. So I changed my approach.
Social proof is the most powerful marketing tool that I have to date.
I’m not joking.
Social proof has done wonders for my business and brand. I have inquiries from DMs and emails that say “I’ve seen what you’ve done for others. Help me, please?” And it just makes my day.
I can't stress this enough: One of the hardest things to do – ESPECIALLY As a small business on the internet is getting people to trust you with their money.
An easy way to combat this is social proof and referrals.
Why did this work so well for me?
Because I was offering a service, I did some free work for one month by hosting service giveaways. During these three months, I gained website reviews, tweet reviews, and testimonials from clients stating what I’d done for the month
During this time, I also collected emails to build an email list BEFORE I officially launched my business and website. While working for free is not ideal for most, I had a full-time job and I knew that I didn’t want to struggle to find clients, so I focused my efforts on building a portfolio and networking to the point where I could abruptly start charging because clients were now trying to throw their money at me.
Side note: I understand that you may have more questions, and that's great because it means that you're ready to get started!! Feel free to reach out to me to schedule a consultation, comment your questions below, or contact me if you want a personalized answer!
Do I regret anything?
I've hired employees, so, for the most part, I focus on two services that I offer and the remaining are completed by my employees. I didn't reach this point until I garnered about 100 clients. I knew that once I had 150 orders to fill that I needed employees - there was no way around it.
The only thing I regret was not starting my business five years ago. If I would've started sooner, I'd be so much further, which is why you should start today. Don't be like me, and delay your destiny, change these five habits to change your life and become the best version of yourself today. If you have started or plan to, tell me something you're going to do to get your next or first sale.