The circumstances of starting a business vary greatly, depending on the business model. In my own entrepreneurial journey, I started out as a solopreneur with just my skills and my laptop. No matter how you start, there are a number of challenges every entrepreneur must face at some point.
Here are some of the most difficult things I faced and learned how to overcome while starting my business:
Learning to sell
You may have started your business because you had an idea that would change people’s lives. Or, perhaps you have a skill and strongly believe you will deliver your service better than others. No matter what it is, being able to sell is skill that many entrepreneurs aren’t necessarily fully-trained for. The important thing to remember is that people don’t generally want to feel like they’re being sold to.
When it came to starting my business, selling was a skill I needed to acquire. What helped me was looking at the sales process from a few different perspectives. There are many additional elements to the sales process besides just making the sale itself, including:
- Following up: Keep in touch with current and prospective customers and follow up diligently. If you’ve sent a quote by email, remember to follow up. If you’ve met someone at an event, follow up by connecting on LinkedIn or by arranging a coffee meeting in person.
- Recognize buying signals and react confidently: Be clear on your pricing and how it works. This will make potential customers feel more confident that your brand is trustworthy.
It’s a money thing
As an entrepreneur, you’ll have lots of decisions to make. Should you buy that new software? Hire someone? Rent office space? Join that networking group?
All the money that’s going out of your business means less profit. I have seen many startups cut corners to their own detriment when they want to save money, by choosing cheap suppliers and missing out on networking events that cost a bit more upfront. While on the one hand you want to be in “revenue generation” mode, you also have to be aware of what will benefit you greatly overall.
Here are some suggestions:
- Push for extra benefits: If you are thinking of making an investment, how can you make it of greater value to you? Can you get more for your money? Get an additional service from your supplier? The start of a new supplier or employee relationship is the best time to ask for more.
- Overheads and fixed costs: Ideally, you want to keep your regular overheads as even as possible with your predicted income, and lower them wherever you can. It sounds obvious, but I didn’t really pay attention to this for ages. Then, if you get a chance to invest in something as a one-off purchase, you can better see if you will get the right return on your investment.
- Spread payments, if it suits you: Often when you make a purchase, whether it’s a service or a product, there is a chance to change the suggested payment terms to suit you and what you’re comfortable with spending, both now and on an ongoing basis.
This is one of the trickiest things to manage, and I see entrepreneurs getting it wrong, over and over. You may be confident when it comes to revenue generation, but in fact, you haven’t yet built up your brand, your reputation, or your perceived value enough. On the other hand, perhaps are undervaluing yourself and need to raise your prices.
If this resonates with you, here are my tips:
- Improve how you’re presenting yourself: Make sure your online profiles are up-to-date, well designed and clear in your niche and expertise. If you boast about your skills and proficiency here, your clients won’t be surprised when you boost your prices.
- Offer at least three packages: Of course this depends on your business type, but most service-based businesses offer three options for their services, at three different price points. Make sure each package has a good healthy list of deliverables. For example, I host a content marketing workshop, which is relatively inexpensive and is a great starting point for any business. Next is a website audit plus a set of improvements on a client’s website, along with SEO and social profiles. On the higher end, or third tier, we provide a full rebrand and website redesign. Most businesses we come across can work with us through one of these, and the lower priced options are often a way for them to get to know us and move up the scale to our more “premium” offerings.
- Take the time: Pricing your products and/or services is an art and a science in and of itself.
Here’s a list of questions to ask yourself to help you work your pricing out. And keep in mind, over time, this process will become easier:
- What do you feel is fair for what you’re offering?
- How can you add value without adding more cost/work for yourself?
- How much time do you need?
- What are the costs of your equipment/labor?
- What are your competitors in the market charging for the same or similar service/product?
- How are your competitors positioning themselves?
- Who is your target audience?
- How many clients, who know and trust you, do you already have?
- What are your favorite clients paying?
If I think back to my most difficult times and challenges, I realize that many of my sleepless nights were about something that was going wrong with one of my team members or clients. “People” issues are often the number one thing that entrepreneurs worry about as they grow their teams and gain more clients. I make it a point to be as fair and clear as possible in all my business dealings. So, remember, in terms of clarity in communication, sometimes you have to tell someone something seven times before they hear it the first time.
My conclusion? Despite all the hardships and lessons, entrepreneurship is interesting and fun, and well worth the challenges that come along with it.
What were some of the biggest challenges you faced when starting up? Leave your thoughts in the comments section below.
Originally published April 1, 2019.