We have a joke that we can’t sit still for more than 5 minutes without deciding to start a new business. We have started and run multiple businesses over our 8 years together and we’ve definitely learned some things along the way. But, as we’ve started new businesses, we’ve found that there are 3 strategies that get our businesses off the ground every time.
1. Do Free Work that Leads to Ideal Clients
When you’re starting the business one of the first things on your mind is obviously how to make money. So, it may shock you when we say, start with free work. But this is by far one of the main things that has grown our businesses.
When Mark was building a recording studio in Nashville, he wanted a reclaimed lumber accent wall, but we didn’t have the money or the contacts to make that happen. So Mark reached out to small business in the area and offered trade work. This did a few things, he got his lumber wall, he had a killer video as a portfolio piece to show potential clients, and gave him a network of someone who engrained in the community and could refer him to other businesses.
Nicole did this in her photography business too, when she was getting started, she didn’t have a portfolio to speak of and she didn’t have potential clients. So, she just started reaching out to family and friends and offering them free sessions. It gave her the experience she needed to practice her skills, and it gave her work to build her portfolio. Then she was able to post on her social media accounts to build momentum and growth in this brand new business.
2. Present your Business like a Million Dollar Business
Once you start building your portfolio and your brand, it’s time to start thinking about how your business is presented to other people. When you’re just getting started you’re likely not doing your ideal work or working with your dream clients. But one of the best pieces of advice we got early on from a mentor was, “Present your business like you are where you want to be in two years.”
When Nicole started her photography business she was doing some cooperate event photography, but that wasn’t her end goal. She wanted to be shooting weddings. So she didn’t showcase work on her website or social media that wasn’t aligned with her long term vision.
When Mark started his video business he was mainly working with small business, but he wanted to be working with large cooperations. So when he designed his website he focused on showcasing only his cooperate client work.
Don’t be afraid to get creative in curating your portfolio. Do styled shoots, offer free work, style items around your house to emulate work you want to do!
3. Create an Unforgettable Customer Experience
Now that you have clients, maybe they’re not even your ideal clients YET, but you’re getting clients throw the doors, so to speak, it’s time to exceed their expectations with an unforgettable customer experience. It’s time to blow their mind and make them forget that there is anyone else on the market that does what you do.
Giving your clients an unforgettable experience is going to creating raving fans, gives you reviews and credibility, and it creates a strong referral network.
One of the first things Nicole did in her photography business was create customer welcome gifts. Any time a new couple signed on she would send a little gift basket to thank them for their business and get them excited to work with us! Or when Nicole is on a shoot, she’s constantly affirming her clients that they’re doing great and looking great so they can walk away from the shoot feeling confident!
Mark likes to do it in only the way Mark can, by sending his clients MAGNUM bottles of wine to their office. They inevitably open it up in front of the whole office, and now everyone in the office is talking about that “video guy” Mark Pasternack, and thinking about other video projects they wanted to start!
So, if you have a great business idea, don’t be afraid to start!! It can seem overwhelming in the beginning, but these simple steps will get you well on your way to a successful business!