Do you feel lost in the crowd? Swimming, treading, sinking, or floating with every day of your small business endeavors? You are not alone. By the end of 2019 nearly 42 million people in the U.S. identified with being a freelancer, solopreneur, or consultant as a full or part-time position. Do you think that number has grown or shrunk with 2020 being what it was (and continues to be in 2021), a macro pandemic sucktitude? I have not seen any updated figures, but my guess is that the number is growing. You know, we live in the land of the free, so start your own business because working for mega corporations is the only other option right now. Fun fact - Since the pandemic started women have left the workforce with 4x the incidence of men. Women are home handling the domestics while strategizing and creating new business plans and alliances. Go get 'em, my fe-nom friends!
Let's assume 42 million and growing in the micro-solo business arena. How will you stand out? How will you find the right number of clients to keep you afloat? According to historical data, 20% of small businesses will fail in the first year, and 50% in the first 5 years. Why? I can't speak to all reasons, but for one, the financials are daunting. So let's dive into how to make a splash or even a ripple.
The Starting Place: Social Media. Let's face it, social media is less social than it is just a breeding ground of independent marketers. At least the major platforms are free to join, create profiles, and post things you want noticed. The problem: very few things get noticed. Social media is an escape, a distraction, and a zone of bleary eyed speed scrolling. Social media is a vast ocean, but unfortunately we must don our snorkels and fins and jump in. It's a good way to let your friends, acquaintances, and strangers know what you are doing and selling. The atmosphere is noisy and cavernous. The longer you spend on social media, the more you are being marketed to by everyone. It's simple. It's free space to do promotions. At times it feels productive. At times it feels futile. In the world of small business promotion, free is good, but don't let it be a time suck. The not free option is to hire a social media manager or a virtual assistant who will schedule business posts for you so that you can feel more in control of your time. Prices we've seen on this could be $300-500 per month. Depending on your budget, you can always do paid advertising on social media platforms.
Define yourself! You know yourself best and what qualities you bring to the table. Let people into your world. A great place for this is through a website and blog. Gotta admit, when I am shopping at other places besides Amazon, I am looking for a story. I am looking for a reason to purchase a particular product from you. So tell your story somewhere! Remember, there are at least 42 million other people selling products & services independently. Tell your story. Tell your story. Tell your story.
Use pretty pictures! I throw this in semi-jokingly. People don't like to read. Use pictures or video wherever you can. Social media concurs with this rule. Pictures or Video. Ahem........thank you for reading this far!
Expand your Reach!!! Find your allies and prospects!
Free option: Social media. You can join innumerable groups on Facebook. Entrepreneur groups, networking groups, mastermind groups, & community groups. Most groups, however, do not let you do self-promotion or have strict rules around doing so. Once you are approved to join aforementioned groups you may see threads like "Follow me on IG, I will follow back." Or let's start a 'Follow Train'! In general, this type of posting helps the poster gain followers, but does not necessarily help the people in the comments section. If you are diligent, you may be able to build numbers of FB page likes and IG follows. Time suck? Yes. Profitable time spent? Who knows. Better connections can be made by slowing your scroll and focusing on a few people who grab your attention. Investigate what they do (by FB page, website, etc), compliment, and connect. You can make some new connections who may act as allies and support your goals. You can also search Meet-Up Groups (Meetup.com) for specific specialties like technology, biz growth, & networking and drop into scheduled meetings.
Paid option: If you build it, they will come. Nope. Most of us have found that our friends and family are not much assistance in promoting our businesses. We must meet new business people and establish relationships. Traditionally, this can be done by joining a local chamber of commerce, finding small business meet-ups, and joining networking/referral groups. People you meet here can be seen as prospects and/or referral sources. We recommend watching your budget (always) and your time restrictions while finding networking opportunities. As a solopreneur, a local chamber of commerce will generally cost around a $400 basic joining fee allowing you to list your business in the directory and go to some social activities like ribbon cutting events and networking after hours events. Some networking/referral companies charge $500-1200 to join and have strict attendance and referral rules. Joining a networking group is a great step forward in getting your business name out there. It is a place where you can tell your story to willing audience. It creates brand/product/service awareness within a group of people who are also trying to build business connections. These people should be your allies in business. The ones who will speak to others about your business. I have seen so many true and profitable business relationships spawned and grown. Plant the seeds, be patient and nurture relationships, growth should happen.
Don't give up without a fight. If your business is truly where you feel your calling or just where you want or need to be, don't give up. Don't think any one thing will be the answer to marketing and visibility. Watch your time, watch your pennies, feed your soul, and take care of you. Do as many free things you can to promote your brand each day. You will feel like you are reaching nobody. If free social media isn't helping you, turn it off, take a break, and re-strategize. Maybe that just means going back to it after lunch. Most everyone I know is working on a second or third career. Nothing is easy. The one's I see succeeding are communicating rather than speed scrolling on social media.
Let's make this actionable! Turn off the social media for an hour and meet us at an event! Seriously. You will not be disappointed and you might make some new connections. Our February schedule looks amazing. Here is a sampling:
Feb 2, 2pm MST: Feeling stuck, feeling overwhelmed, unsure where to start? Join author and coach, Tisha Lin for this FREE event. Tisha helps others THRIVE through intuition, communication, empathy, and compassion. This is a special virtual event not to be missed. Join Now!
Feb 3, 7pm MST: Virtual Money 101 hosted by Five Rings Financial. Learn how to GROW AND PROTECT your money for college funding, retirement planning, or simply wealth accumulation - with money you never knew you had. FREE event. Join Now!
Feb 4, 8am MST: Denver - Boulder Virtual Networking Group. This is PinPoint Networking's flagship networking group. A professional category exclusive group. They are a welcoming bunch and invite you in for a FREE visit. Space is limited for guests. This is an ongoing group with a weekly schedule. These men and women are the cream of the crop when it comes to networking and building people up. Let us know if you would like to set up a meeting like this in your region. Join Now!
Feb 8, 12pm MST: Coast To Coast Virtual Networking Meeting. Open to anyone who wants to do some small business networking! FREE early bird tix available. Looking forward to seeing you there! Join Now!
Feb 9, 12pm MST: Women In Business Virtual Networking Meeting. Small business networking for women. We will take a closer look at your business, website, etc. and see where we can help. A conversation between women is usually the most productive hour you can spend in your day. Join Now!
Feb 15 - 21: M.A.P. A 7-Day Virtual Health Retreat hosted by Perfect Pair 4 Balance. M.A.P. is Meridian Activation Protocol. Find out more about the daily agenda and how to sign up HERE.
Let's recap (summary) 5 Actions To Expand Your Reach:
Social Media, FREE!
Tell Your Story!
Use Pretty Pictures!
Find Your Allies and Prospects - Connect with People!
Don't Give Up!
De-stress and do your best. Once you have started a small business you will realize that everything costs money and marketing efforts take time. Don't jump into schemes promising you gold. Always keep your budget in the forefront. Remember, with every second you spend on social media, or browsing on the computer in general, companies are marketing to you. Everyone will take your money if you let them. Spend time communicating and connecting, define yourself and tell your story, use pictures (or video), slow down and find your allies (cheerleaders), don't be swayed by shiny objects, use caution & protect yourself.
Bonus Time. Still with me? Time for a picture. Time to plug some of the people and small business owners who have made my pandemic time more satisfying and full of light. Networking is good.
Challenge your brain and reduce screen time! This is the puzzle I did recently. Local Colorado artist, Tif Choate's work can be found at Snail Candy. Check out her stuff. Even if you don't order something, you will love just looking at her artwork. Very talented!
Cook Something! I have known Pam with Nutri-Physique for a few years and have listened to her words about being healthy through food and exercise. Today, I stopped to see what she really does. She has amazingly healthy cookbooks on her website and she has done some videos on Youtube. Check out this one Spicy Coconut Pumpkin Black Bean Soup. She makes it look easy.
Do Your Nails! I never thought I would say this. I am not a manicure person. My new friend Anna is a stylist with Color Street Nails. These are adhesive nail polish strips that you put on at home. No salon visits. They are fun, festive, glittery, colorful. There is a shade for all. If you haven't tried them and you want an easy way to maintain nice nails contact Bedazzled Nails by Anna website.
About the author: Julie Schumann is the owner of the PinPoint Networking and PinPoint Wellness brands. Julie began PinPoint Networking when she became disheartened at the unreasonably priced and non-effective ways of promoting small business. Julie is a physical therapist by training and closed her brick and mortar wellness center during the pandemic. She hopes her new company PinPoint Networking will help small business owners connect on a more meaningful level and provide improved means of visibility for small business owners. It truly is an ocean out there.