So you’ve got your business up and running, whether that means freelance consulting, promoting affiliate products, or running a monetized online community, things are on the up and up. However, you know there’s lots of other, more established competitors in your space… so how do you stand out and convince customers that switching to you is a no-brainer? Well, here are a few proven ways to overdeliver in the digital age.
1. Collect feedback. With the amount of survey tools out there, or the ability to, you know, send an email message, it’s incredibly important that you start listening to what your customers are saying. Early on, this can be as simple as asking them in a post-sale or ideally post-service email what they thought of your service, and if they have anything they would improve.
This serves two purposes: First, it’s going to help you identify people who are really keen on your brand or product, and who might be good candidates to become your affiliates, etc. Starting out, you might just let them know that if they enjoyed working with you, you’d love to send some kind of reward their way if they find a few people to refer to you. These gifts don’t have to be anything expensive, but the gesture is often appreciated and the potential to help you grow is huge.
2. Have a personality. Seriously, for the same reason people vote for political candidates based on how they look, or how they generally “feel” about them, interactions and perception go a long way in purchase decisions. Plus, this is actually something you have a huge advantage at over your larger rivals: When a company has 37 different support agents to help with their massive customerbase, they can’t offer the same kind of repeat interactions or treatment that you can as an individual. Smart companies on the rise use the technique of overdelivering in the personalization and customer support department to win clients from their competitors. It’s not a bad strategy for entrepreneurs and online marketers, etiher.
3. Connect with them via social media as a person, not a brand. This is an interesting one. Now more than ever, people like to know who they’re doing business with, because they can. Social media has greatly raised expectations of interaction and transparency, to the point that even massive brands make sure they have a presence actively chat with those who mention them.
As an individual entrepreneur, you have the unique opportunity to let people know the person who wants to do business with them. This goes hand in hand with point number two about having a personality. Let people Snapchat with you in your off-hours, post Instagram pictures of your work days as they progress. The Facebook page for your freelancing or brand can be a place that people not only get to know you better through written posts, but when you can foster community through asking discussion questions and special offers.
Remember that your biggest weakness, being small and up against long-standing competition, is also your biggest asset, because it makes you more agile than anyone else (and your clients will remember that).
More often than not, the only strategy ever discussed when it comes to working and running a business from home is the outward facing work. You can find countless guides on advertising,. Marketing, SEO, blogging, and more, but your own personal productivity ritual is still a bit fringe.
Let me explain: It’s not that you can’t find people out there writing about morning affirmations and habits you can develop that will make you more productive, the emphasis put on them is completely different from the more ‘businessy’ topics.
Well, guess what: Your frame of mind, and by extension how you work, is much more important than you might think, even when compared with what you’re working on. In fact, nothing exemplifies this more than the runaway success of relatively recent startup Brain.fm
If you haven’t seen it yet, Brain.fm is a website that uses scientifically backed engineering to create audio tracks to help people become more productive. Going a step further, the service also allows you to tailor the music to individual tasks and intensity levels of working. One track might help you with coding, another with writing and editing tasks, etc. Don’t believe it? They have a free trial, so at the very least you can try it out for yourself and see if you feel anything… you might just be surprised.
Of course, trying to alter your brainwaves with sound isn’t the only way to go, and a number of factors often contribute to our productivity and how we engage with our work. For starters, healthy sleep, exercise, and regular snacking habits can all boost your alertness and your ability to focus in on complex tasks. So often, we get caught up in how much work we need to get done that we actually place ourselves in a state of mind that is counterproductive.
One of the best things any budding self-employed individual can get into is setting time limits on activities, and breaks, in order to start to build a schedule. This is especially useful for those of us who are prone to skipping from task to task, rather than staying on any one thing for an extended period of time. A good starting point is the 25/5 setup. Under this scheme, you set a timer for 25 minutes and focus on one single task for that time. When the timer goes off, set it for 5 minutes and take a break; do anything but work during this time!
When the timer goes off again, it’s back to work for 25 minutes. A couple of things generally happen when people adopt this strategy. First of all, their productivity on a single task goes up. Second, because 25 minutes doesn’t feel like a long time, and break time is built in, many people simultaneously feel like they are working less, while they’re in fact getting more done.
Pretty neat, right? Ultimately, what works for everybody is different, but this might be a good jumping off point if you aren’t quite synced up with the productivity you want from an entrepreneurial lifestyle just yet.
It’s the age old entrepreneur’s dilemma: “I have a job, but I also want to be my own boss/found a company/pursue my passion. Of course, I also don’t know that I can give up the security of a full time job in order to pursue my dreams, what do I do?”
This question is posted in the subreddit for startups probably every single week, and many more times across forums and blogs dedicated to internet marketing and entrepreneurship. Everyone wants a magic answer, or the nudge they need to tell their boss where he or she can stick it, as they strike out on their own, destined for great things. The truth, however, is something that no one really wants to hear: you should do both.
At least in the beginning, the best balance is to sacrifice other areas of your life to pursue your self-employment goals while at the same remaining secure in your employment. Believe it or not, the reasoning for this extends beyond the financial. Often, one of the things people realize when they start pursuing both options at once, is that there is amazing potential for the cross pollination of skills between both pursuits. Skillsets you develop when working on your own and with more freedom and choice of tasks may teach your new skills that boost your on the job results. Likewise, your current role will likely offer you skills and expertise that you can carry over to your freelance and entrepreneurial pursuits.
Additionally, many people can use this lifestyle as a stress test to figure out how bad they want to live the life of an entrepreneur. The truth is, those that are successful in this lifestyle often work far more hours per day than those who work a 40 or 50 hour per week job. When you continue regular employment and have to come home, tired, and still pour in several hours to your own business, you’ll start to get an idea of how badly you want it. If you find yourself unable to rally from 6pm to 11pm every night, you might be getting an indicator that quitting your job to pursue what you thought was your goal could have been a huge mistake in the first place.
Now, there are exceptions to this rule, just as there will always be people who are exceptions to any mantra or rule, written or unwritten, that will ever exist. That said, many people seem to not be able self-audit and realize that it is the exception, not the norm, that someone can jump straight into their entrepreneurial pursuit, throw caution to the wind, and come out on top. Ninety percent or more of startups fail, and your own personal brand, be it for freelance, affiliate marketing, or otherwise, falls into this category.
Of course, you may just be the exception that proves this entire sentiment to be invalid in your life, so don’t take anyone else’s word for it, right?