So here we are, two years after taking that leap of faith to start our own business! We have been busy but we have enjoyed ourselves (most of the time!) Things haven’t always panned out as we thought they would, but we are now in a position where we have a lovely set of clients and more work rolling in than ever! So, what have we learnt so far?
1. Recommendations are gold dust
A large amount of our work comes from referrals. A word of mouth recommendation can mean more than anything. That is why we pride ourselves on always doing the best job we can and keeping up a good relationship with everyone we have worked with.
2. It’s OK to say ‘no’
When running your own business it is tempting to chase every piece of work but when you are a small team you have to decide which jobs work best for you. Sometimes the thought of a very big project looks enticing but you have to know that you can meet all the requirements. Proposal stages for some prospects can be lengthy so you have decide whether you have the time and resources to do this, with the chance that you may not secure the work at the end of it.
3. Be part of a community
Working by yourself means you have no colleagues to bounce ideas off or get advice from. We love our Bristol WordPress group. They are a brilliant bunch of people and the talks at our monthly meet ups makes us better at our jobs. It’s always good to catch up with other people and find out the issues they are struggling with and hopefully help them as much as they help us.
4. Build up a network of trusted partners
We can’t do everything! We took the decision that we didn’t want to host websites so work with an IT company in Yate called Refresh IT who deal with hosting for most of our clients. We also call on our graphic designer Emma, when needed, and have the support of other developers we use if we need extra resources.
5. Work with your local community
We are proud to be part of the community in Thornbury and the wider area. We have supported charities such as the Family Centre for Deaf Children, a charity close to our hearts and have shared our experiences with Jigsaw and Gympanzees to help them move forward.
6. You won’t win everything (but that doesn’t matter)
We are always honest about who we are and how we operate, never overselling how big we are. Some people want a big agency or they want to work with a certain type of person. You can’t change this no matter how good you know you are! We have realised that if we win the work this means we have clients who often have the same mind set as us and we develop a really productive working relationship. This makes working on a project together a lot more fun.
7. Two heads are better than one
Working in a partnership is great for us. We both come at a project from different angles and can give each other advice on our work. Not only that, we are there to give each other confidence and pick each other up if we are having a bad day! Sometimes you just need someone to say it will all be fine!
8. Look after yourself (and each other)
Running your own business means it is sometimes hard to switch off. Emails on your phone don’t help! But it is important to have time off. We wouldn’t expect a reply to an email at 9pm so we should relax a bit and be clear about the hours you are available.
9. Forget about ‘imposter syndrome’
It is easy to look at others and think they are better than you but we have proven that we are good at what we do and we can make a real difference to someone’s business.
10. Don’t get worried about people copying you. Get worried when they stop!
It can be disheartening when you work hard to create a blog post, organise your Facebook page or offer a service and a competitor copies it! But we guess that is proof that what we are doing it worth copying! Quality will always win!
11. Use tools to help with the day job
We utilise tools such as Trello, Dropbox and Buffer to help us with the admin. It’s not always the most interesting part of the job but being efficient is essential to a good client relationship.
12. It’s important to know who you are
If you are honest about who you are you never have to worry. Clients respect the way we work and have a similar schedule themselves. Being honest means you never work to unrealistic deadlines and then fail to deliver.
13. Having a niche market doesn’t always work
We had a clear idea of who we thought our clients would be and that hasn’t always been the case! However we have worked with so many interesting people since we started.
14. Formal networking isn’t for us
Often formal networking can feel forced. We have linked up with people more organically and found this to be a good way to build lasting relationships.
15. It’s not all about making money
Being able to be proud of what you do and not dreading work each day is something many people can’t say about their jobs! You have to have a good work/life balance to keep you sane!
16. We want to educate
The inner workings of websites and hosting is unknown to many people. This can lead to businesses being taken advantage of. We write 60 second guides about various website and online marketing topics. These guides are there to get you started on areas such as email marketing and SEO. Our website blog page has loads of good advice. Check it out!
17. People fear a ‘blank page’
We have realised that website content is a big issue for lots of clients. They are the experts at what they do but don’t know how to express this clearly. Our big selling point is that we can write the content for clients so they are not faced with the blank page. We work with them to communicate their business effectively.
18. Transparency is vital
We are always very clear on our costs and never add hidden extras. If the spec of a website changes we say so. We also make sure our clients have full control of their website on completion. Their hosting and domain name are all in their name. We feel it is important that the client is in the driving seat.
19. We can’t be everything to everyone
After a few months we made the decision to focus on website design and copywriting. Hosting websites requires being on call and we decided that this something we are moving away from.
20. Being there with clients through their journey promotes loyalty
Businesses go through ups and downs. We have been there with clients when things have gone wrong and been a sounding board for ideas. This is not about getting work out of people all the time. We have become invested in the journey our clients go on and our support means they turn to us when they need to.
21. Give yourself praise
With no boss to give you a pat on the back and with lots to do, it is important to take time to say well done to yourself for all your hard work. Instead of getting straight on with the next project it is important to take stock of your successes.
22. We are very lucky!
We feel very lucky to do something that we enjoy and having the freedom to work the way we want. Having control of your own business has it’s stresses but for us the positives outweigh the negatives. At our Christmas party we looked around and felt so lucky to have such lovely clients and have lots of new exciting projects to start in the new year. Roll on 2018!