Every time I see an announcement from someone I follow on Twitter or LinkedIn that they are quitting their day jobs to go out on their own in SEO, PPC, social, or content, I get a little jolt of joy for them.
Quitting my job to start my own business was one of the best things I did for myself and my career.
Sure, it’s scary to go from something that’s a given to such a risky place – but as one of my entrepreneur friends once told me – there’s more than enough work out there if you know where to find it.
I’ve spent my whole career working for entrepreneurs, startups, and owner-operated businesses.
I was raised in a family-owned business and chipped in on the weekends and after school to answer phones, stuff envelopes, and show my grandparents how to use Word.
Because I’ve spent most of my life seeing the inner workings of business and freelance life, I’ve collected a few of my best tips to help you avoid big mistakes in becoming your own boss.
1. Stop Undercharging for Your Services
When I first opened my business, I thought that I was starting back at square one.
Sure, I had 10+ years of experience in content, SEO, and marketing, but I had zero years of experience running my own business.
I thought I had to charge zero-years-experience prices as opposed to 10-years-experience prices. People I worked with were getting a steal of a deal for comprehensive services at beginner rates.
Finally, a business coach I was working with told me, “You didn’t quit your job to work more hours for less money. Charge what you’re worth!”
Not only that but by charging too-low prices, you’re making sure everyone in the industry is getting undercut and all their services become commoditized.
When our services as marketers become a commodity, clients end up price-shopping around instead of finding the true value in what we do.
The saying goes that “A rising tide raises all boats.”
Charge a rate you’re worth.
2. You Don’t Need Fancy Stuff to Do Your Job
When I first started my SEO company, I spoke to an accountant who told me that I should buy all new office equipment because it’d be covered on my taxes in startup costs.
As someone who worked from my couch and kitchen table often, I thought, sure a new standing desk, office chair, etc. would be great. Along with what the bookkeeper told me, I thought I needed certain things to be “official.”
I bought courses online to help me be a better entrepreneur. I got a business coach. I bought a bunch of books about entrepreneurship and success. I contacted a small business lawyer. I reached out to an accountant.
When I go all in, I really go all in.
And while some of these things were necessary, some definitely weren’t.
I wanted so badly to “do it the right way” that I got a little too overzealous and definitely wasted money where I didn’t need to. I still work from my kitchen table far more often than my standing desk.
If someone tells you that you need something make sure to check and double-check. Get second and third opinions and ask your entrepreneur friends, Slack groups, and Twitter chats what they’ve found they “needed.”
You can save a lot of money and run a leaner machine than I did at first by asking yourself what you really need or what you can wait to invest in for your business.
3. It’s OK to Say No to Work
I talk to so many marketing entrepreneurs looking to go out on their own for freelance or open their own search-focused businesses who tell me they will take any work they can get.
I get that 100%, and I was totally the same way at the beginning. Beggars can’t be choosers, after all, and we’ve got bills to pay, right?
But as your marketing business grows, it’s important that you ensure you’re growing it with intention.
This means thinking about what:
- You actually enjoy doing.
- You’re good at.
- You have time to do.
Find ways to build your business around your life instead of vice versa.
When you get to a point where it feels manageable, you may have a client come to you or someone may refer work to you that just doesn’t strike your fancy.
Maybe the client is in an industry that you don’t feel comfortable working in.
Maybe the time zone difference will make your life a lot more hectic.
Maybe you’re booked up right now and saying yes to one more thing will put your schedule over the top.
Maybe some discovery calls are showing you red flags that the client will not be a good fit with your working style or company mission.
Whatever the reason, it is OK to say no to work.
Every time I say no to someone, I make sure to refer that client to another SEO that I know can help them better than I could (whether that SEO is an expert in their industry, works specifically on their type of project, etc.).
In fact, saying no to work you don’t want to do will help you make room in your life and your business for the clients you do want to work with, the work you do want to do, and the industries you feel you’re an expert in.
4. Delegate Things Before You Think You Need To
Whether you want to be a solo-preneur or eventually build your marketing business to hire employees, at the very beginning you may feel like you have to do everything on your own.
However, one of the best pieces of advice I got when starting my own business was to delegate the things I was not good at or hated to do ASAP.
You don’t have to hire a full-time employee to do this. You can work with other marketing contractors to help you on a one-time or ongoing basis.
Another option is to hire a virtual assistant (VA) for a set of hours to take care of any miscellaneous tasks you have each month.
A VA is often more affordable than you think and 100% worth it.
I have a VA I work with for 8 to 12 hours a month, and she helps me with things like checking my email while I’m out of the country, setting up processes and software, automating contracts, and more.
Most VAs can learn to do anything (and often they like to, which is why they choose that job!).
Make a list of everything you think is a waste of your time as a marketing entrepreneur and interview some VAs who could potentially do some of those tasks for you.
Build Your Business Intentionally
Whether you just went out on your own or are thinking about quitting your 9 to 5, find ways to build your marketing business intentionally.
Think things through and do everything on purpose.
Find ways to build your business around your life and not your life around your business.
You’ll end up happier and more successful.