As I reflect on being a successful small business owner, I can pinpoint one important thing that sets me apart from others: my personal definition of success. I have never been motivated by money. I never set out to “get rich”. I simply wanted to help. As my value and skill level increased, I adjusted my rates as the market dictated and still continue to do so. (And trust me, I ain’t rich by any means.)
Besides attending the occasional author conference, I don’t market my business in the traditional way. 99% of my business is word of mouth. And I like it that way. That usually ensures that my clients and I are a good fit.
In the years that I have been doing this, I have given away thousands of dollars in work (underbidding, soft heart, learning curves that cost me valuable time, not setting clear expectations with the client). And labor isn’t a tax-deduction. Even though I was self-educated, I promise you that my education wasn’t free nor was it without sacrifice.
In 2016, I had an amazing thing happen: 2 clients paid me double my quote of their own free will. One is a large health organization who told me they wouldn’t even consider my bid unless I doubled my price (from $750 to $1500). One was another work-at-home/homeschooling mom who was raised Amish and understood that a workman is worthy of his hire. That was quite an eye-opening experience.
In my mind, I don’t have competition. I’m not focusing on other people that do what I do. Their vision is different, and it only slows me down when I focus on them. I have to keep all my focus on my own business.
On average, it takes at least 3 years to grow your business to the self-sustaining point. The first year, you feed your business. The second year, your business feeds itself. The third year, your business feeds you. If you do it right. I didn’t always do it right.
I love to watch business shows and documentaries. A favorite saying I’ve heard is, “I had to work a lot of years to become an overnight success.”
And above all, there is this: if you’re a business owner, then your primary business is people. Everything else is secondary.
Take care of your people, and they will take are of you.