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Autumn is here; the weather is changing and the summer holidays are long forgotten. Many solo business owners are frantically busy working towards some strong end-of-year results.

Most business owners would prefer to wait for a quieter time at the end of the year before thinking about the next phase in their business.

The perils of being busy working ‘in’ the business

The main problem with being busy is that it can give you tunnel vision.  You just look at what you need to do and what’s most urgent, essentially losing your peripheral vision.

When you’re busy like this you often can’t be sure that what you’re just working on will lead to the best possible results. That’s because busy-ness can skim over any small inefficiencies or gaps in your thinking that can lead to a big waste of money over time.

IMG_5891Let’s imagine a major lucrative project was offered to you unexpectedly. It’s your dream project and means working with your ideal client.

If you’re already busy, would you have capacity and the necessary time to manage it? And be able to keep your other customers happy at the same time?

Most solopreneurs I meet don’t like to think ahead that way, telling theselves they’ll cross that bridge when it actually happens.

However, I would argue that unless you are prepared and ready to receive it, growth may never happen. Opportunities may pass you by because you are too busy to ‘see’ them or be able to gauge their future potential.

And if growth happens when you’re not prepared, having to think on your feet may just lead to overwhelm and not knowing what to focus on first.

So being frantically busy may actually be an important warning sign!

Change your focus to encourage new growth

So let’s why not try to create some space and time for a little bit of thinking. Here are a few questions for you to reflect on:

  • What marketing or business building activity has proven to be ineffective this year? Think about ways to phase it out or let it go altogether. There is no need to wait until the end of the year to do so.
  • What project or joint venture hasn’t worked out the way you hoped it would? It may be time to rethink or drop it. Otherwise you could simply be wasting lots of unnecessary time and money.
  • Where or when are you not making the most of your time (or money)? Are you losing motivation or interest in an aspect of your business, a niche you’re working in? Are you being distracted by too many tempting services that over-promise and under-deliver? Again, why not end the inefficiencies?
  • What do you dislike doing altogether? Can you ditch or delegate it and replace it with more of what you like and are really good at?

This is a great time to rethink your strategy and take the appropriate action. The very action that makes space for growth is often the one that lays strong foundations for the future.

What are you waiting for?

PS. If you’re serious about wanting to make changes that will drive your business forward and lead to better results, please ask me about my once-a-year VIP 30-day Mentoring Programme.

Ute2013-150x150About the author: Ute Wieczorek-King helps female midlife entrepreneurs to be visible, effective and profitable in business. Sign up to her monthly newsletter on the Success Network Website to receive a free ebook that shows you how to make a living from your passion.

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Three years ago I compiled a blog called “How not to fail in business”, with useful tips from some of my Inner Circle members how to survive the recession as a solopreneur.

During those tough years most of us with established businesses had to adjust our approach to getting and keeping clients. You just couldn’t take anything for granted.

And it seems you still can’t three years on! That’s despite the fact that the economy appears to be improving.

But spending is not yet back to pre-recession times and many business owners are still feeling a little cautious. Even consumers must be wary as the seasonal sales show – here in the UK they seem to be starting earlier every year!

So whether you run an established solo-business or a new start-up, you probably want to know the best ways to win and keep new customers … and naturally keep your existing ones too.

Here are five useful strategies

  • Avoid undercutting your competitition

Firstly, it’s worth remembering that whatever you offer, your customers are bound to be able to find cheaper suppliers.

Please don’t ever let that put you under pressure to reduce your fees! Be confident, stick to your pricing and focus on making sure you really know and understand your customers and their needs.

That way you can be sure to deliver something that’s 100% relevant to them and they will value that!

  • Research what else clients might need

Do this at least once every year and set some time aside to think about all the options. The summer period (or the end of a year) can be a perfect time to do your research.

20130405-124223.jpgWhen your service is always fresh, innovative and up to date, you make your offering potentially more desirable than your competitors’ and it will be highly relevant too – whatever the state of the economy. (Being innovative has worked well for me for over 20 years!)

  • Try different ways to grow your business

Two great ways to get more work and grow your business are to either identify new offerings for current clients or to sell more of your current offerings to a new target audience.

This can be especially worthwhile when potential customers in your new market are willing to pay appropriate or higher fees than customers you currently sell to.

  • Care about your customers … and care some more

Every week I hear stories of business owners who have lost business. Sadly they often realise too late that they should have communicated better and more regularly with their customers.

The solopreneur businesses I see flourishing are the ones who do that really well. They talk to their customers and listen attentively too.

So try to fully understand what your existing customers really want, then go the extra mile in order to provide added benefits and greater value.

Whether the value is in how you deliver or how you maintain the customer relationship after delivery, it can help to differentiate you from the competition. And it may then also lead to new referrals and new business. (There are several added bonuses here!)

  • Make the payment process really easy

This is such an easy but often over-looked way to add value. For example, you could break big projects into manageable and affordable chunks (where applicable), and work with stage payments – a method often used by web designers.

Several of my solopreneur clients have adopted this approach, much to their customers’ delight!

Offering different payment options can be useful too – for example, don’t refuse cheques, credit card or PayPal payments because they are costly or inconvenient for you.

By understanding YOUR customers’ preferred choice of payment you will make getting paid much easier which may also help with your cash flow.

So, I’ve shared with you five important strategies to help your solo-business win and keep customers and … ultimately… thrive!

What are yours? Why not share your ideas in the comments below?

Ute2013-150x150About the author: Ute Wieczorek-King is an experienced mentor and blogger who helps passionate midlife women to stay focused, work smarter and stand out from the crowd. If you’d like to take your small venture from good to great, why not download Ute’s free “Passion to Profit” ebook.

PS. The above is an updated version of a post first published here in 2013.

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In recent years we have seen an explosive rise in social media use by freelancers and micro-businesses in the service industry. It seems that many small business owners are now casting their net wider and further afield in an attempt to make new connections and, thus, attract new business opportunities.

It probably goes without saying that to win new business you need to be known and trusted, and be ‘seen’ regularly in different places.

However with the lure of so many online opportunities, I think many people don’t realise that looking closer to home can actually be much easier, quicker and potentially more rewarding too!

People often forget about their existing network, both virtual and real, especially when it hasn’t yet delivered new business.

The thing is, the people you know may already trust you — a real bonus when you would dearly love to receive more leads, referrals and new business. But sometimes we expect contacts to provide us with leads, when they are not quite ready to do so.

Perhaps our relationships aren’t quite as strong as we think they are. Or they are too busy and you are not the first person they think of when a business opportunity presents itself.

Here is what you can do. Start by asking yourself some important questions:

  • How can I help my existing contacts to get to know me better as a person as well as the ‘expert’ in my field?
  • Do I share my knowledge and expertise fairly regularly and am I generous enough?
  • Do I really understand their needs and desires so I can help them accordingly? How can I get to know them better?

Enhancing existing relationships can be quite simple:

  • IMG_0971Arrange regular informal 1-to-1 meetings over a coffee or lunch.  You’ll find out about your contacts’ latest developments and how you can add value to their business
  • Always follow up after each meeting — it will help them to remember you!
  • Stay in touch by forwarding articles or blog posts (not just your own!) that they will find useful
  • Invite them to events that you think they’ll be interested in
  • Refer them when you know that they would benefit from meeting one of your other contacts

Keeping in touch with people you already know on a regular basis (without selling to them) really does pay off!

If, reading this, you think that all this may be too time-consuming for you, then my guess is you haven’t yet enlisted the help of online social networks for networking purposes.

If you treat social networking as your personal assistant and use it to stay in touch with your existing network, you simply can’t go wrong!

  • Status updates help you to give people bite-sized updates on what you’re up to
  • Wall posts or brief private messages on sites such as Facebook Messenger, Twitter or Linked-In allow you to communicate much quicker and more efficiently than via email (and there is no danger of your message disappearing in someone’s junk mail folder either!)
  • A blog or newsletter may be less personal but they will remind your contacts of your expertise and your ability to help them

Building strong relationships, both offline and online, always takes time but ultimately, it is generally much harder and more time-consuming to start relationships from scratch than to re-connect with people who already know you.

P.S. Why not add to the above tips or share your own experiences by commenting below?

Ute2013-150x150

About the author: Ute Wieczorek-King is an experienced business coach, mentor and blogger who helps passionate midlife women to stay focused, work smarter and stand out from the crowd.

If you’d like to take your small venture from good to great, why not download Ute’s free “Passion to Profit” ebook.

Please note, the above article is based on an older version first published here in October 2010. 

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Image by Ute Wieczorek-King

We are all exposed to so much information these days that it is tempting to skim read emails, blogs or newsletters in the same way as a fast-moving Twitter stream – a vain attempt to take in as much information as quickly as possible.

Reading and writing information online can be fraught, particularly for non-native English speakers like me. But even native speakers are at risk of causing misunderstandings, by inadvertently misreading the written word in front of their eyes.

Online communication is confusing

We may see two messages – the message that is conveyed by the words you read, and the unwritten message, or meaning of what’s potentially being said between the lines.

English is a very subtle language where a simple sentence such as “They will never agree to that“ can mean lots of different things depending on whether you stress the word ‘they’, ‘never’ ‘agree’ or ‘that’!

So, when writing you may mean one thing but your reader may read another into it.

For example as a German speaker and otherwise confident writer (and reader) of English, I don’t find it easy to understand emotions in written communications, such as when someone is subtly trying to hint they are angry or sad without explicitly using the words to say so.

My personal preference would be to actually say that I am angry or sad but unless you come from a culture or work in an environment, where direct communication like this is the norm, it is better to be a little less direct and explicit.

I therefore rely on emoticons such as 🙂 to show that what I am saying is to be seen as a light-hearted rather than serious remark. But some people ignore these – perhaps they don’t understand them, find them irritating, or have a preference for a more formal writing style such as in letters.

One way to avoid misunderstandings in business communication is to reserve emails and social media updates mostly for facts and leave anything else to be discussed in person where both parties can clarify and ask questions to avoid misunderstandings, wrong assumptions or judgments.

If ever you have received an irate blog comment or email because something you said has been misunderstood, and you are finding yourself having to clarify, you know how confusing and frustrating this can be for both parties.

Worse still, what if the receiver goes quiet and doesn’t reply because for them – perhaps for cultural or personal reasons – it is not the right thing to do?

So what can you do?

Next time you are skim reading a blog, email or an online update and think the information is crystal clear, think again… or read again.

And if you are not sure about something (and it is important for you to get the meaning right) simply ask the question….’Can I clarify that I have understood XYZ please’ before replying with potential accusations or assumptions.

And when you know somebody it’s probably best anyway to pick up the phone to ask a question.

If you are the writer, don’t just assume that your message is clear and will be easily understood. Or, if you don’t receive any comment or replies, that your reader is purposely ignoring you.

Let’s face it … your blog, update or email may not have been read yet because the reader is simply too busy. What is a priority for you may not be a priority for them!

And if that’s not the case and for whatever reason you’ve upset someone, you can count yourself lucky if they tell you. Then, perhaps, the only way to move on from this is by apologising or contacting them directly and keeping the communication as open as possible.

I’d love to read your tips or hear more about your experiences with online communication. Why not share them below. 

 

Ute2013-150x150About the author: Ute Wieczorek-King is a UK-based German mentor and blogger who helps passionate midlife women to stay focused, work smarter and stand out from the crowd. If you’d like to take your small venture from good to great, why not download Ute’s free “Passion to Profit” ebook.

PS. The above is an updated post – the original was first published in 2011.  

 

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Earlier this month I showed some start-ups how to test their business idea, identify their market and get their first customer.

It always strikes me how fired up new business owners can be — their passion can be so infectious!

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Workshop – by Ute Wieczorek-King on Instagram

The author Simon Sinek once said that people don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.

I find that so true.

For me the ‘why I do it’ becomes the passion that my clients can feel when I work with them.

It’s the passion that helps me to promote myself and get new clients.

This kind of passion often comes from the vision you have for your business and the mission that gives it meaning — it’s your purpose which drives you to do great things for your clients!

I take it you have a passion for what you do otherwise you wouldn’t be doing it, right?

Have you ever lost that passion? I have.

It can actually be quite easy to lose when your business stops being new and you’ve got into a routine. Or, when you’re really busy and are juggling a million things.

Usually the first sign is that you seem to be losing some of your motivation. You don’t seem to jump out of bed in the morning. Know that feeling?

If it happens when you’re not busy, many business owners think that the answer is simply to go out and get more clients.

But whether you’re busy or not, 23 years in business have taught me that at the point where my passion starts to wane, something isn’t quite right.

To figure out what’s missing, think about these three things:

  1. Remind yourself why you do what you do and write it down.
  2. Revisit where your business is going. Where do you want to be in one year, two years or five years time?
  3. Incorporate some of the ‘why’ into your marketing messages.

Doing this will help you to rekindle your passion, and it will be much easier to get new business as a result. I also find that my work starts to fulfil me again and that my customers are really happy!

So how do you keep the passion in your business alive?

Ute2013-150x150About the author: Ute Wieczorek-King is a UK-based German mentor and blogger who helps passionate midlife women to stay focused, work smarter and stand out from the crowd.  

If you’d like to take your small venture from good to great, why not download Ute’s free “Passion to Profit” ebook.

 

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Everybody who has a business strives to be bigger, better and more successful. Of course you do, or why would you be in business in the first place!

But I think it’s wise to try and achieve lots of small successes first before you branch further afield. I read somewhere that entrepreneurs always see the bigger picture, and many are so impatient, they want to run before they can walk.

If you are a sure-fire entrepreneur, go ahead. But if you are of more mortal stock, stand back, gather your resources, increase your expertise to dizzying heights and gain the necessary reputation within your chosen niche before you take the next step.

And if you are successful in accomplishing all you can within your locality, or your chosen social platform, watch how your reputation spreads through natural marketing methods:

Word of mouth, referrals, retweeting, subscriptions to your RSS feeds, comments on your social media profiles and blogs, requests to speak at events, being talked about when you’re not in the room, bombarded with questions because you’re the first person they thought of, LinkedIn profile groaning with recommendations, meetings diary booked up months in advance – I could go on…

Where are you within this picture?

What are your strategies for getting your business seen online (and offline)? What are your successes so far? What more do you need to know…?

–o0o–

Alice ElliottAbout the author: Alice Elliott is a Digital Marketer whose award winning Fairy Blog Mother blog provides jargon-free and highly visual WordPress training to solopreneurs. She is well known for her ability to “explain things really simply” to inexperienced bloggers and enables them to increase their visibility and reputation through successful blogging.

 

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Ute YouTube1Let’s assume for a moment that you meet a potential customer who is choosing between you and another supplier.

Would they decide to choose you?

Would they consider you as the go-to person for what they need?

Let’s also assume that they don’t know you very well but like both of you — we do enjoy doing business with people we like, don’t we? But here’s the thing: will they trust you to deliver exactly what they need?

If you don’t yet have an established reputation and doubt that potential customers might choose you, you’re definitely not the only woman who is worrying about missing out on potential opportunities.

In my experience, positioning yourself confidently as an expert isn’t something that comes naturally to women.

Firstly, you may not feel comfortable calling yourself an expert and would prefer to wait for someone else to think of you that way.

But what you may not appreciate — especially if you’re a quiet, introverted and perhaps more mature businesswoman who likes to take things slowly – is that any hesitance on your part may leave your potential customer feeling unsure.

Unsure that you will have the right experience to help them, they may choose the expert they believe will solve their problem more satisfactorily.

That kind of rejection has happened to me too in the past and it really doesn’t feel very nice!

If that resonates with you, there is a simple (and far less scary) way to communicate the things about you that will encourage them to choose you.

So my task for you is to review communications like your elevator speech and the ‘About’ page on your website and check that you are not hiding your light under the bushel.

Ask yourself:

–        What can you do outstandingly well?

–        What can you do that nobody else can? And how do you do that?

–        What experience can you bring to your work and business that is invaluable to your customer?

Once you know the answers, try to let those important snippets of information flow gently into your conversations.

Sharing them as little stories will feel and sound more natural.

Include some detail about how you helped a specific customer and be sure to mention the outcome.

By not holding back, you will not only come across more convincingly, but also feel a lot more confident in your abilities.

And when you do it well, you’ll attract better clients, receive more recommendations and may find it easier to increase your fees too.

That’s not a bad reward, isn’t it?!

Ute2013-150x150About the author: Ute Wieczorek-King is a UK-based German mentor who inspires passionate midlife women to achieve business success by simplifying and staying focused on what really matters. If you’d like to take your small venture from good to great, why not  download Ute’s free “Passion to Profit ebook or read her motivational business tips on Facebook.

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