10 Ways To Expand Your Small Business

10 Ways To Expand Your Small Business

For those of you who don’t know how I made the jump, I’ll give you a little background. I got a job right out of college at a great advertising agency and gained a lot of experience in my four years there. However, a time came when I was no longer growing or enjoying the type of work I was doing so I decided it was time to move on. Rather than looking for a position at another agency, I decided to go freelance and pursue the type of work I was interested in. I started getting connections by doing pro bono work while I still had my agency job and it transitioned into full-time freelancing in 2010.

Over the years, I have been slowly branching out and really trying to perfect my dream business. First of all, I don’t want to have all of my eggs in one basket. If I happen to have a slow month with custom design clients, I want something else ready to supplement my income. I’m also not just going to sit around and wait for people to come to me with work. Each year I continue to branch out and expand my business. Here are ten things that can help you to expand your small business:

1. Grow your offerings, products and services

Think of new and different ways can you serve your customers. Maybe you can add entry and advanced levels to your current options. Think of logical extensions of what you currently offer. You want to keep your clients coming back for more, so what else can you offer them?

2. Take a class

I am continuously learning about design and striving to be better. Taking local classes also doubles as networking but if you don’t have access to any, there are some amazing resources online! My favorites are Skillshare and Lynda.

3. Create a passive income stream

It’s really great to have some income, with little effort required to maintain it. You could sell products on Etsy, use affiliate marketing, sell digital files, downloads or ebooks.

4. Start a blog or new blog post series

Blogging not only helps with SEO but is also an amazing way to get your business out there and position yourself as an expert in your field. Guest blogging is also a great way to get your name out to an expanded market. Not convinced? Read Why You Should Have a Blog For Your Business.

5. Network and collaborate

While online networking is great, you should also really get yourself out there and network in person! Attend a conference or find a local meet-up. Networking is also a good way to find people to collaborate with. If your city doesn’t have a local meet-up, see how to start your own here!

6. Do Pro Bono Work 

As I mentioned, I started my business by doing pro bono work. This made me realize that I love helping my community, small businesses, creatives and entrepreneurs. So I continue to work with clients that I stand behind and that have a positive impact on the community. Not only has this given me a great deal of personal satisfaction, but also so many new connections!

7. Step out of your comfort zone

If your client work doesn’t allow you to do this, start a personal project to spark your creativity. I use my blog freebies to explore design techniques and new ideas. Take on a project that may be out of your comfort zone if it’s something you’ve been wanting to learn about. Remember that you don’t have to add everything to your portfolio just because you did it.

8. Ask for help

You can’t do it all, hire people to do certain things for you and learn to say no to the things you are not interested in. This gives you the time and energy to do the things you love!

9. Teach

This could be as simple as writing a blog post or a more extensive option like writing an e-book, teaching a Skillshare class or even speaking at a conference.

10. Expand client base

Your small business may have great brand awareness in your community, but what’s involved in expanding that awareness to a much larger market? Getting new customers is essential to growing your business. One of the easiest ways to do this is to ask your current customers for referrals. Testimonials from clients are important because without them, potential clients don’t always know your credibility or what you’re like to work with. It’s someone’s outside perspective that gives them the confidence to buy from you instead of moving on to the next website. Here are a few ways to get really great testimonials.

Tell me in the comments below how you are thinking about branching out your business.

Let’s Do This

Let's Do This Hand Lettered Art Print

I’m back from my blog break and I want to start the new year with total honestly. A few months ago I realized that I was in a rut. I was feeling like I didn’t get enough accomplished during the year. I had too many ideas and didn’t know what direction I wanted to go in or where I should put my time and energy. I have always felt confident in my design work but I was feeling a little lost managing everything. 

I didn’t feel like I was reaching my ideal clients and I was getting worried that my site wasn’t portraying my services the best way possible. I was posting quality content to my blog but it somehow felt random and focused on the short-term. I decided that I needed help, I didn’t want to feel lost in my own business anymore.

That is where Ashley of Your Super Awesome Life came in! I told Ashley my concerns and she had me fill out a business assessment. Once I answered some questions on paper, we had a Skype session where we talked through what was working and what was not and what I really wanted for my blog and business.

I was actually a little surprised at how well she communicated and understood what I was going after even though she isn’t an insider to my business or blog. I felt totally comfortable talking to her and suddenly everything that was spinning in my head made sense again.

At the end of our first session Ashley helped me to come up with an action plan that covered the main points we discussed and mapped out all of the steps to begin making my goals a reality. We wanted to get really clear on what I wanted my business to look like moving forward. All of my goals suddenly seemed so attainable.

  • After our first session, I updated my services page, I still have some work to do here, but I think it’s a much more clear representation of the design services I offer. I’m currently taking on clients so feel free to reach out!
  • I created an end of the year reader survey to find out what y’all want to see more of here on the blog in 2014! If you haven’t taken it yet, the survey is still open. Until I take some time to review all of the responses, I’m going to take it slow and post content here very intentionally.
  • I’m also starting to reach out to blogs to guest post on, so let me now if you are looking for some guest contributors in 2014!

A few weeks later we had a follow-up call to make sure I was on track. I still have a lot of work to do to accomplish the actions we came up with but I feel like I’m back on the right path! It wasn’t easy for me to reach out for help but this year I really want to take my business to the next level and after Ashley’s sessions I’m ready and confident to take on 2014, so let’s do this!

2014 Let’s Do This art print available for sale on Etsy.

Sprucing Up Your Branding

With 2013 coming to a close, you may want a fresh start for the new year, one with new ideas, new goals and new looks – including a spruced up look for your brand. An updated look for your business can give you the new beginning you are looking for in 2014, but rebranding (even when you don’t have a huge following) can be a lot of work.

Sprucing Up Your Branding Worksheet

Before you invest on a new logo, website, web copy, professional photos and business cards and set up meetings with designers and copywriters and photographers, take a moment to ask yourself these few questions and write your answers on this worksheet I created for you.

1. Why do I want to rebrand?

A fun new logo is always exciting, but ask yourself why you want to rebrand. Are you adding new offerings? Are you trying to reach a different target market that your brand doesn’t appeal to right now? Or do you just need a freshened up look?

Knowing why you want to rebrand is one of the most important things about the rebranding process. Knowing the goals you have set up for your new look will help your designers and developers with their job, and you’ll have a better idea of what you’re looking for in your redesign.

2. Is my customer changing?

If you’re doing a rebrand because your customer is changing, you’ll want to do a profile on who your new customer is going to be. Get to know everything you can about your new customer so you can direct your rebranding efforts specifically to them.

For example, if you’re a photographer who has mainly worked with babies and seniors in the past and you want to rebrand to target brides specifically, you’ll want to find out everything you can about your new ideal customer – what types of photos she likes best, what blogs she reads, where she finds most of her wedding inspiration. When you know all of the specific details about your ideal customer, you’ll know exactly how to talk to her, how to form packages around her wants and where to market your rebranded business.

3. What do I want my new look to say about my brand?

Having a clear idea of what you want your look to say about your brand will always help your designer when you’re getting the branding process started. Having a few examples of brands you admire can help your designer and developers envision the direction you want your look to go.

One way to paint a clearer image of what you want your brand to portray is to start a pinterest board full of brand inspiration. Include pins of colors, patterns and styles that inspire you in your brand, along with images of your ideal customer. This will give you a reference point for all of the design and branding decisions you make in the rebrand process and also comes in handy when making branding decisions down the road.

THE WORKSHEET

Download the Questions For Rebranding Worksheet to write your answers out!

Asking these questions about your new brand image are important in creating a brand that lasts – the more you know about where you want to go in the future will help you with your rebrand right now.  And if you’re all ready to start the rebranding process, make sure you check out Ciera’s great packages – check them out here.

Are you thinking about a new look for 2013? Share how you want to update your brand in the new year!

How to Get Great Testimonials

How-to-Get-Great-Testimonials

You know how when you’re on someone’s website trying to decide if you want to work with them or buy from them and you see a group of really great testimonials that convince you that you must have their product? You can have that too.

Testimonials from clients are important for your website because without them, potential clients don’t always know your credibility or what you’re like to work with. It’s someone’s outside perspective that gives them the confidence to buy from you instead of moving on to the next website.

 

There are a few ways to get really great testimonials:

Reach out to past partners, customers and coworkers

While it’s not always easy to reach out and ask for testimonials, it’s the first step in getting great feedback, especially from clients and coworkers who love you and your work.

To do this, write them a short note on why you’re reaching out to them and what you’re hoping to accomplish from getting this testimonial. Tell them how much you’ve enjoyed working with them and would love to share your experience with future customers.

Then, provide a list of questions for them to answer – questions that will bring out the types of phrases you’d love to include on your site about how the two of you worked together and what was accomplished.

I’ve compiled a list of questions for you to choose from – download the testimonials worksheet here

It’s best to reach out to clients while your work is still fresh in their mind, so as soon as you’ve wrapped up your work with them, send them a testimonial request – if they’re happy with your work they’ll most likely fill it out right away!

 

Pull from Social Media

Another really great way to get testimonials for your website is to pull quotes about your work off of Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

Lots of times when someone is excited about a new product or service they’ve purchased, they splash it all over the web. If one of your past customers has done this about your offering, ask them if you can use their quote for your site. Since they shared it with everyone they know, there’s a good chance they’ll let you post it on your site too.

 

Once you Get the Testimonial

When you get your testimonials, there are a few effective ways to display them on your website.

First of all, make sure they fit with the product you are selling or are general enough to be displayed on your site. I work with lots of different types of clients – from brides to small businesses to antique dealers, so not all testimonials from everyone will work on my wedding site. Choose the ones that you think will be most beneficial to future clients.

Then, decide where you want to place your testimonials. Good practice is to have a page devoted to praise, display them on your sales page or have them scrolling in the footer or sidebar.

Also, consider including a picture and a location of the person you received the testimonial from. People make connections with images and locations, so the testimonial will be more credible and believable if there is a face and location to associate with it.

And that’s it! Follow these steps and be on your way to getting great testimonials from past customers that grab the attention of new customers!

 

The Worksheet

download the testimonials worksheet here to help you get some great feedback from your customers!

 

Have you received a great testimonial in the past? Share a link to it in the comments!

Who’s Influencing Your Customers and Why it Matters

Who’s Influencing Your Customers and Why it Matters

Let’s face it – we’re all influenced by others in our lives, and your customers are influenced too. Those influencers help them make decisions on a daily basis – from what they buy to the music they listen to. In business, we call this your customer’s key influencers, and they’re more important than you think.

Types Of Key Influencers & Why it Matters

There are two types of key influencers – the first type are the people who are in your customer’s personal lives, like friends, family and co-workers.

These people are giving their opinion about different products and recommendations on their favorite things. They’re also the people who your customer will potentially consult with if they want to make a purchase from you. When your customer wants to do a total rebrand, go to a conference or purchase a big online program, they’re going to consult their spouse and friends for advice or approval, and usually the opinion of these people are very important to the buying decision. That’s why these types of key influencers are so important.

The second type of key influencers are the people your customer follows online, the blogs they read and the conferences they attend. It can also include the celebrities they watch and the music they listen to. Your customer is highly influenced by these media types, and it’s often where they find ideas about what to buy, wear and listen to. It’s not the group of people they have to talk to about buying, it’s the people who seriously influence what they buy.

As you can see, the people influencing your customers are pretty important, and as a business you need to get in front of both types of key influencers in order to get someone to buy from you.

 

How to Use Key Influencers to Sell Your Stuff

There are a few ways you can help your customer convince the first group of key influencers. One way is to provide them resources for talking to their family and friends about buying your products.

For example, if your customer really wants to buy your big-ticket product, they will probably talk to their close family about why they want to buy it and whether the cost and time is going to be worth the reward of purchasing. This group of influencers is most likely going to need a little bit of convincing, and your customer may need a little bit of help explaining what the benefits of buying are.

To help them, create a downloadable pdf of questions and comments that family members would normally ask about your product with an answer for each one. That way your customer will be prepared for the questions and can respond with a smart and confident answer, which will help them convince these key influencers to buy your product. You can see an example of this here.

As for the key influencers your customer follows online, you can use them to get in front of your customer as well.

If you know where your customer is hanging out online, you can pitch guest posts to those blogs or websites. If you have a physical product, you could send a sample to the editor of their favorite blog and pay for a feature, or you could donate your product for the swag bags at the conferences your customer might attend. If they see their key influencers using or featuring your product, they’ll be more interested in trying it out!

Figure out who your customer’s key influencers are and figure out a way to get in front of them! It will help bring you devoted customers and more sales.

Who are your customer’s key influencers? Share your ideas in the comments below!

How to Give Your Blog Readers Exactly What They Need

How to Give Your Readers Exactly What They Need Worksheet

We’re all looking for better ways to connect with our readers in hopes that they come back and read your blog on a regular basis or buy something from you at some point, right? Lucky for us, there’s a trick to giving them exactly what they’re looking for. Here’s the two-step process:

1. What Problems Do Your Readers Have?

Knowing what your readers are struggling with is the key in figuring out exactly what they want. You have to figure out the types of problems they are having in your field of expertise so you can help solve those problems.

If you’re a web designer and blog about your work and inspiration, it’s possible that your readers are other designers or business owners who are starting their own website or are inspired by your work. They may be dealing with a variety of problems – from where their email sign-up forms should be on their website to what fonts are easiest to read on the web. Some may not know the questions to ask web designers when they start working with one, and others may not know all of the important information they’ll need to give their designer to get started. These are all things you can help them with (and problems you can solve) on your blog.

On the worksheet provided, make a list of all the different problems your readers might have that you could solve with your knowledge in your field. Think back to the basics – maybe some of the topics in classes you learned back in school or some lessons you’ve learned in the past. Remember – no problem is too big or small to write down.

 

2. How Can You Solve Their Problems?

Now comes the getting more followers/better customers part! Once you know the problems your readers have, you can instantly turn those problems around into solutions.

Starting on page 2 of the worksheet, write down each problem, and underneath it list out all the different ways you could solve this problem for your reader. You may be able to think of multiple ways to fix each problem – write every idea you have down.

Some of the problems you’ve written down may be perfect for new blog posts or series, and some of them would be great new offerings you can add to your list of services. Next to each solution, check mark which you think it’d be better for and start brainstorming ways to put each into action!

When you’re able to solve a problem for someone, they feel like you’ve given them insider tips & tricks and in turn form a stronger bond with you and your brand which makes them more likely to come back for more and buy from you.

 

The Worksheet

Download the What Readers Want Worksheet to help you organize your lists and goals!

 

How-to-Give-Your-Readers-Exactly-What-They-Need-Question

What are some ways you solve problems for your readers? Share in the comments!