Last year was a really amazing year for my business. I tripled my income, worked with some AMAZING clients on their brands and businesses, made new business buddies and felt pretty darn proud of myself.
There was only one point in my life when I felt disappointed in myself and my business and that was around July 2015.
Because I was busy working a 9-5 I didn’t put any time or effort into promoting my design services and booking my next few clients. I just hoped clients would find me.
Boy oh boy was that a mistake.
When I got home, looked at my schedule and realized I had zero clients booked for the next month. Nada. Not even a small project like a logo design.
I immediately felt discouraged. I thought maybe my portfolio is outdated? Maybe my prices are too high? My website sucks?
The sudden reality of my situation made me feel like all the wonderful, amazing milestones I’d reached the weeks prior were suddenly pointless because I had no more money coming in.
I started to worry about how I was going to pay my bills if I couldn’t get myself out of that slow stage.
I started to worry about what people would think if they heard that I was going through a slow stage. (Yep, that’s a little vain but I’m being brutally honest.)
All businesses go through a slow stage. Some business owners kick their butt into marketing mode and quickly get out of it, and some stay in the slow zone and end up focusing on their day job.
I didn’t want to be the latter, so I did three things.
1. I analyzed where my clients came from in the past.
Throughout 2015, I realized my clients were either finding me through a referral or finding me through social media. Tons of people found me through Instagram, Facebook or Twitter.
When I realized these were my highest sources of clients and income, I knew I had to put more effort into both of them to pull my business out of The Slow Stage and back to the pace it had been before.
(Side note: If you want to find out where your clients are coming from, add a form field to your contact form that asks!)
2. I made a plan.
Now I knew where most of my clients were coming from, so I made a plan of how I could utilize those methods.
When most people analyze their marketing and find something that really works, they usually leave that thing as it is, trusting it will continue working it’s magic, and they try other marketing methods.
But that’s a little crazy, right?
If I see something is working insanely well for my business, I put more effort and more energy into, because I know it’s a guaranteed success and it’s a good use of my time.
Since my two biggest client-getters were social media and referrals, here’s what I did:
I wrote down everyone who had ever referred work to me.
How could I thank these people for sending work my way? How could I nourish our friendship? How could I remind them I was still there?
I wrote down the top three social media websites that had brought me the most clients in the past. This was Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
I wrote down all the social media strategies I’d tried that had given me great results, and the strategies I’d tried that hadn’t resulted in very much.
When I first started my business, I created a special offer for my design package and tweeted it five times a day which resulted in about five new clients, so I knew I wanted to try this strategy again.
I had also tried direct messaging people on Twitter (yeah, I was one of those annoying people for about a day at the very start of my business) and didn’t get any results, so I knew I didn’t want to try that again (or I’d do it differently).
It’s important to keep a record of the marketing strategies that have and haven’t worked for you.
In years to come, you’ll be able to build a solid and super-converting marketing strategy from it.
3. I broke the plan into actionable little pieces.
When I looked at all the marketing I’d have to do to implement my plan, my heart seriously sank. I’m a designer, not a marketing pro (at that time.) I couldn’t help but feel like I wouldn’t be able to pull it off.
Then I broke it down into small, doable sections.
I made an Evernote notebook and broke up my plan into sections like ‘Twitter’, ‘Facebook’, ‘Instagram’ and ‘Referrals’.
In each notebook, I listed the strategies I’d come up with.
Then I took it a step further and made a weekly plan from the strategies I’d written in each notebook. I wrote my weekly plan in my Google calendar so I’d see it every day and be reminded that I had to perform these marketing tasks every single day.
It helps to give yourself a time slot every day for certain marketing tasks.
For example, I gave myself 20 minutes every day to reach out to someone I admired in my industry and build a relationship with them by telling them why I admired them and sharing something I thought they’d find useful.
This wasn’t a sly and sleazy marketing tactic where I was reaching out to people because I wanted them to refer work to me.
This was a way of building an online community of people who do the same thing I do and understand it. Occasional referrals are just a bonus of that community. The real benefit was having a network of likeminded creatives I could turn to for encouragement if and when I felt disappointed in my business again.
Give yourself 20-30 minutes each day for three marketing tasks. You’ll start seeing results after a couple of weeks!
In two weeks, I was booked out for three months.
By December 2015 I was fully booked until March 2016 and had to put a ‘Sorry, I’m fully booked’ notice in place of my contact form.
Seeing the result my marketing plan (social media marketing in particular) had for my design business flattened any doubts and criticisms I felt when I had no clients.
I realized I didn’t go through a slow stage because my website sucked, my prices were too high or my portfolio was outdated.
I went through a slow stage because I was waiting for clients to come to me, I wasn’t going to them.
When I switched that around I booked out.
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