When Redhead Writing needed to grow from a part-time, one-woman show into a full-on consulting firm, something became infinitely clear: I needed to stop running through hallways on fire.
I was on fire…running from one fire to the next, trying to be everything to everyone. Ultimately, I threw myself into the pool, dried off, cooled down and today, I’m watching a business grow.
Want to know how I did it? Today, I’m telling you. There are no $69.95 lunch seminars to attend. There aren’t any weekend workshops or eBooks that will share my secrets for a nominal fee. It’s a simple process – anyone can do it – and maybe you’ll find some value in doing it as well. If not, you can tell me to stick it and delete my blog from your reader. (By the way, have you subscribed?)
Pro Tip: Refuse to Be On Fire.
Earlier this year, I met Shelly Kramer at a conference where we were both speakers here in Denver. She said something I knew yet could never verbalize: collaborate – don’t compete. If you don’t know her, she’s the mastermind behind Kansas City’s V3 Interactive Media. I like her. She’s straight-talkin’, no bullshit havin’ and an absolutely brilliant collaborator.
There’s enough business to go around and (by all that’s holy) you don’t do everything. I’m not a web designer, code monkey, graphic designer, SEO firm, direct marketing agency or publicist. Knowing this but not knowing how to verbalize it, I finally had a label for how I’d intuitively built my business to where it is today:
I called the guy.
There’s a guy who does my taxes. Another who fixes shit in my house. There are a couple I call when my car makes weird “ka-thunk” noises. And there’s one guy in my life who I call more often than any other. While that one isn’t an employee, there are days he deserves to be on the payroll.
They all have roles. And they each carry a fire extinguisher.
When growing my business, I aligned myself with several web designers, SEO firms and graphic designers. These are people who had clients who needed what I do and my clients need what they each have to offer. Instead of bearing the burden of running around all day and putting out fires, I found people to do that for me so I could focus on the business of MY business: online strategy, copywriting and social media consulting.
In five simple tips, here’s how to stop running around like you’re on fire and build your own fire department:
- What You’re Doing vs. What You WANT to be Doing – A Jack of all Trades is a master of none. While I fully admit that baptism by fire is a powerful learning tool, if you keep yourself on fire, you’re just going to burn yourself out.
- Say THIS IS WHAT I DO. And do that. And only that.
- Understand that your working knowledge of the things you DON’T DO give you a competitive advantage. This knowledge allows you to do YOUR job in a way that it helps the team you build to do all of the OTHER jobs that make your client efforts a success.
- For example, while I am not a web designer, code monkey or SEO firm, my knowledge of search engine algorithms, pay-per-click practices, CSS, HTML and user interface design are all assets that these professionals appreciate. It makes their work easier, and thus, my job easier as well.
- Talk to Potential Competitors – And stop competing, you petty little school children. It isn’t prom and you’re all not trying to ask the same person to prom.
- Two heads are, indeed, better than one in many cases. Collaboration makes you smarter. Period.
- Would you rather work on 10 mediocre accounts or on five hugely promising accounts that excite you every morning and every night?
- It’d be pretty cool to have your clients say, “WOW!” If you can do it on your own, you can product twice as much WOW with more than one thinking cap.
- Be a Pimp – Build a stable. In my industry, I have four web designers, two SEO firms, multiple social media and marketing alliances, five freelance writers and perhaps five PR specialists. Your industry may be different. There’s a fit for every client and I don’t delude myself into thinking that one of the above will be a fit for all of the below. The following are three reasons you need a stable of alliances:
- Stop Giving Away the Cow – You’re the cow. People hire you because they want the milk. Your milk. While a bovine-kinky-cliche analogy, it’s very true. I recently got a smackdown on this from a colleague. I sounded something like:
- ME: “I thought I was helping – the clients appreciate that.”
- HER: “Yeah. They need to hire you for that caliber of advice.”
- ME: “Shit – you’re right. May I have another?”
- Bounce – You’re not an island. I am fortunate to have built a network of alliances where I can ping someone and say, “Can I bounce something off of you?” Sometimes that other perspective is invaluable. It keeps you from taking a client, prods you to take a client you wouldn’t have otherwise, confirms a suspicion, reaffirms your gut. And then – there’s the occasional bitch slap. And those, my friends…those are priceless and don’t come from keeping to yourself. They’re how we grow. Go out. Bounce. Get slapped. Awwwyeah.