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9 things I would like my best friend to know about starting her own business

Chris is Norway

“Its always worth the effort when you reach the summit!”

A few people I care about are on the brink of starting something huge at the moment. They are reaching the end of their tether with regular 70 hour weeks, weighing up the risks of going it alone or thinking about turning something they love to do into something they can earn a living from. Here are some of the things I’d love for them to know.

1. To get to that mountain peak first you have to get out of the car

There is never going to be the right time so just start now. Do something. The first steps are crucial to getting your momentum going even if they don’t seem very exciting. A climber who summits a glorious mountain peak by the end of the day will have started his journey by crossing the less glamorous car park.

2. Extra certificates don’t give you permission – clients do

Training to acquire a new skill is wonderful. But once you have the qualifications necessary to fulfil your role, having any more probably won’t make you feel any more ready. The mistake a lot of start-ups make is that they don’t focus enough on getting customers. Having people pay for your expertise is far better validation than another certificate on your wall.

3. Minding you own business

Whatever your job title, if you want to work for yourself you will be a business owner. This doesn’t have to be as daunting as it might sound. It just means you don’t have a boss, you pay yourself and don’t have to ask permission to take time off (or go to the toilet as in some firms!). What you do is your own business, and not anyone else’s. How you spend your time and how much you get paid every month is up to you. Your main responsibility isn’t turning up to work anymore; now it is about making your time work for you.

4. Shouting from the rooftops in advance

You need to let customers know you will be open for business nice and early. If you leave it until you are ready to open the doors your books will stay empty for a long time. It’s better to start letting people know early so that by the time you are ready to receive them some anticipation has been built. They will be looking forward to working with you and if you have created ways to start conversations with some of them you may have also had a chance to figure out exactly what they are looking for.

business puzzle

“The pieces WILL fit”


5. Shouting from the right rooftops

You will need to use lots of different ways to let new customers know you are open for business. Don’t just rely on word of mouth – this is a bit unpredictable. You need to have other methods which are more under your control. Imagine you are a shop on a quiet street. You can’t rely on passers-by to stop in and want what you are offering. There are people out there with a problem you can fix but they might never visit that part of town. Work out what groups they belong to or where they might hang out. Work out how to find them then think about interesting ways to let them know you are there.

6. Not every invitation is accepted

Just because you can help people, not everyone will want to come. You need to think carefully about your message so you can make sure it’s really inviting. Think about how you might feel when receiving an invitation through the post to attend a wedding of someone you haven’t seen for ages who lives a really long way away. A standard ‘please come to my wedding’ might leave you feeling like you should go, but don’t really want to. You’ll probably put the decision off before deciding you can’t make it. The same person, who knows it’s a long way for you to come but really wants to see you could instead do more to inspire you by including a note something like this; ‘you are invited to spend a day in the sun, eating delicious gourmet delights and drinking free champagne on the lawn with me and a bunch of the old gang who we haven’t seen for ages. A room in a lovely B&B is reserved for you and your guest; we would love to see you both dancing the night away to some of your favourite tunes with us at our wedding’. Make YOUR invitation compelling (price alone is not enough).

7. It’s not all about the new

Once you have some clients it’s important to have a strategy to maintain your relationships with them. It can be easy to focus on getting new ones but actually it is a lot easier to get someone to come back rather than visit for the first time. Most of us would always rather return to the same shop or website we have bought from before rather than go to the effort of finding a completely new one so make this work in your favour by keeping in touch. Keep up to date with their changing requirements. If you assume they will always want the same thing they may be forced to look elsewhere. Make really sure they will want to come back by providing an incredible customer experience, fantastic value and a fabulous incentive to return. The more thought you give to making them happy the greater their loyalty will be. You also need to make it really easy for them, smoothing the way to the next decision or by providing helpful reminders.

8. Keeping your eye on the ball

Just because you have enough clients for now you can’t afford to get complacent. You need to keep promoting to make sure your books are filled next month and next year as well. Marketing should be as important to your business as keeping your finances in order. Spend at least a third of your time on promoting what you can offer. Keep it fresh with new ideas and incentives. Find out what your customers are interested in this month and plan future campaigns to make sure their needs are met.

9. You don’t always have to work alone

Build a community not just of clients but other professionals too, both in your direct field or related ones. Being in business can be lonely so make time to network and find partners who you can collaborate with. You can network on and offline with people in your industry and also from other types of business. You can discuss plans, share experiences and get feedback on ideas. There may also be opportunities to work together i.e. doing joint promotions so you get to market your services to their clients and vice versa. This can be a great way for you to show you are thinking of your customers by finding them a great deal you think they will love, and also allow you to reach a whole new group of potential clients.


Networking doesn’t have to be over an early breakfast!


Now get out there and show the world what you have to offer – you are going to be wonderful!


Are you thinking about making any changes to the way you work? What are your main concerns? What advice would you give to someone else?


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9 Responses to “9 things I would like my best friend to know about starting her own business”

  1. Thanks for all of this great advice. I’m in the process of starting a new business with two colleagues, and we are trying very hard to implement #2, even though it feels counter-intuitive to get customers before certain other things have been achieved.

    Any advice for overcoming that mental hurdle that tells you you’re not ready to work with clients yet?
    Hannah recently posted..Travel Experiences That Stick with You

    • Woohoo! Starting your own business- really exciting/terrifying! Re that mental hurdle- you will probably never feel quite ready enough, skilled enough, confident enough, prepared enough…etc to start something new! So just accept that and do it anyway. Chances are you will know/ be able to provide things your clients need and can’t do themselves so it will be a good fit. Feel comfortable by promising what you know you can deliver, and don’t underestimate what you can do to help them just because it seems straightforward to you.
      keep us posted!

      • Hannah and Chris
      • Reply
  2. What a great post Hannah. I get such a buzz of excitement to know that anyone is getting out of the rat race and following their dreams. @ the other Hannah who posted above – don’t be afraid to work with what you’ve got, where you are now. There are lots of people out there who will happily pay for your expertise, even if you think it’s fairly obvious stuff, we can’t all know everything. I happily paid Hannah and Chris for their expertise as I knew it would save me making costly mistakes, and would make me feel more confident about travelling with my business.

    P.S – love the departure countdown on the website:)
    Kate Cave, The Karma Life Goddess recently posted..I’m Such a Failure for Not Reaching My Goal

    • Hi Kate- great minds eh, I replied to Hannah before reading your comment so hopefully she will feel comforted by being offered very similar advice! Thanks for your lovely words, it was such a pleasure working with you. I know what you mean about getting that buzz, I think maybe because it seems like its a door opening to so many more possibilities for that person, and for them to express their potential. Of course we would be a little biased given that its worked so well for us!
      ps don’t get me started on that bloody countdown clock, I have heart palpitations every time I see it!! x

      • Hannah and Chris
      • Reply
      • Hi Hannah, yes it’s the excitement you can feel from someone when they’re taking their first steps and their minds are so full of ideas and possibilities as well as doubts and fears, that’s why I love working with entrepreneruiral women so much, I just love the excitement and the determination.

        As for the countdown clock … just breathe, it will all fall into place x
        Kate Cave, The Karma Life Goddess recently posted..Signs of Stress That Block Your Success #3 of 10

  3. Such good advice!! xxx

    • Thanks Scartlett, love your site design BTW

      • Hannah and Chris
      • Reply

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