6 lessons learned in 6 months of business

This week marks six months since I officially launched Sparkr Marketing, and like a kid in my toddler years, I’m seriously excited about this half birthday.

I launched this business after nearly a decade of freelance work that became too big a side hustle to manage on the side. Armed with 18 years of marketing experience, I had big plans to help others with the knowledge I gained in a rapidly changing industry. I wasn’t sure exactly where this journey would take me, and I’m still working that out, but I’ve learned a few lessons in the last six months.

Here are a 6 marketing lessons I’d like to share:

Set up a routine:

It’s no joke that we entrepreneurs are the hardest bosses some of us ever have. Everyone says setting up a routine is essential, and this has been true for me as well. Mine starts with getting up early. The earlier I get up, the more productive the day. It’s a struggle, but I’m trying.

From there, I focus on my journal. The only reason I know the exact date I started this business is because I started a journal the same day. That journal’s been key to setting up the vision for my life as well as for each day. I talk more about my daily journaling here, but the basic idea is that I focus on gratitude, mindfulness and where I’m headed.

I then set the schedule for the rest of my day, including a solid hour before my kids get up where I work on the hardest task on my list. Key to staying focused has been turning off notifications and silencing my phone most of my day. I check in, of course, but when I’m “on the clock” for a client, I don’t want pings.

There’s a nagging temptation to never stop when it comes to my business–a sentiment I’ve heard from a lot of entrepreneurs. And while hard work is necessary to get something off the ground, setting boundaries is as well. I’m still working on switching gears when my family is home. I’m also committed to pursuing other interests, like running and guitar, no matter how packed my day.

The riches are in the niches

Cliche, I know.

But, I knew from the start that I needed to narrow down the services I offer and who I offer them to. I’ve had jobs where I had to do everything, from print to digital, by myself. And while it seems really helpful to offer a prospective client the whole kit and caboodle, instead it’s confusing. I lost one big opportunity because I put so much into the proposal that the client couldn’t wrap his head around it. He kept asking me to explain more about what I do. In hindsight I realized what he was really asking was for me to do less. He needed me to keep it simple.

I started to develop my niche by talking only about content marketing on emails, websites and social media.

Next, I narrowed down the industry I serve. The day I started focusing on healthcare marketing was the day I started getting even more prospects. Healthcare is what I’ve done the longest and like the most, so it made sense to hang my hat there. Eventually, I’ll likely narrow that down even more.

The more specific we all are about what we offer, the better we can be at doing the work, reaching more people and establishing ourselves as experts.

Commit to building my own business

So often I hear small business owners say they don’t have time to focus on marketing or building the structure of their businesses. I get it. It’s tempting to work all day on what pays today’s bills, but if you don’t schedule time to focus on building your own business, you won’t continue to have a business.

The work I do today to build Sparkr is what will ensure my business grows in the future. I schedule at least three hours into my week when I focus only on Sparkr. It helps that I’ve scheduled a Facebook Live every Thursday at 10:30AM CT (join me there!). Having to show up for the community I’m building keeps me focused on creating new content.

Start with a great virtual assistant

I heeded the advice of other entrepreneurs and hired an awesome VA early on in my business. This felt a little premature at first, but by having a VA, I was able to think of how I needed help. Now, thanks to Eryn Kushner, I’ve gotten more done each month. I recommend starting small, and then each month come up with new ways to work together.

Now before I start a task, I think first about whether I need to be the one doing it. If the answer is yes, I think about how I can make that task part of a system that someone else can eventually implement.

Also, having Eryn’s support means that I don’t panic when I consider the number of proposals I have outstanding at any given time. I can serve more prospective clients because I have my own support.

You never lose by giving away free information

A lot of what I teach in my marketing coaching, I give away for free on this blog and in my weekly Facebook Live sessions. I’ve yet to question giving away free advice. I feel grateful for what I’ve learned, and I’m so happy to help others. I have a tendency to give away so much advice during a prospect call, that the recipient ends up implementing some of it even before we work together. And if they don’t end up working with me? That’s okay too.

I’m pretty confident that the more support you offer for free, the more that will come back to you. Call it karma or kindness, but at the end of the day, you want people to realize that if you give away this much information for free, how much more value is in your paid services?!

Focus on serving others

No matter what you offer, being an entrepreneur makes it hard to separate your service or product from its source. Everywhere you go, you represent your company. I’m far from mastering being the best version of me all the time, but seeing this in practice is keeping me on my toes. I’ve had acquaintances from 30 years ago ask about my services (thanks, Facebook!), and new friends I’ve made recently have helped spread the word. It pays to be nice, back then and now.

Knowing how much of my business depends on word of mouth means I’ve gained a heightened awareness of needing to focus on serving others. Most of us launch a business in order to help people with a product or service we believe in. But it doesn’t mean it’s easy to smile and be friendly when busy, frustrated or overwhelmed. Do it anyway. The more you are exceedingly kind and focused on relationships and service of others, the better you are at doing the work.

There have been other lessons, of course, and I hope to continue learning. It’s part of what keeps me so energized. I offer my total gratitude to the clients who have bet on me, to the friends and family who have cheered me on and spread the word, and to the Facebook community of Sparks of Marketing I’m building–some of you I don’t even know. You keep me focused on my goal of helping as many people as I can.

If you’ve been watching this journey from the sidelines, join our Facebook community or email list.

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    How to get started creating content on digital marketing

    content creation

    Do you ever look at businesses similar to yours online and wonder how they have the so much time to promote themselves on social media and still run their business? Do they even do any work?! Or are they just on their phones all day creating content?

    The challenge for you is that you know that even with the best intentions of creating content to get the word out about your services, you are too busy to get started. When there is so much to do to keep up in today’s fast paced digital space, business owners can feel incredibly overwhelmed about how to start. But if you don’t get started, business owners with less experience in your field will fill that online void instead.

    “How do I get started?” is a question I get on repeat from my clients and in my Sparks of Digital Marketing Facebook group. What everyone is really asking is how do I get motivated to start?

    I get it. I was in the same position when I transitioned from my freelance business to launch Sparkr Marketing last August. All of the sudden, it wasn’t enough to put my head down and just do the work for my clients. I had a business to build and needed excellent marketing to do it.

    I came up with three tools that set me up for success to create consistent content for my own business, and I know it will work for you as well.

    3 tools to get started creating content for digital marketing

    1. Set a time. Set a weekly time in your calendar when you are going to focus on content creation. This sounds obvious and simple, but until you set up the time in your calendar, you won’t get started. Or at best, you’ll post sporadically. Set a time aside when you are at your best and be sure to turn off any distractions. It’s a little like getting in the habit of working out by simply committing to get dressed in your gear in the morning.
    2. Create Canva templates. Templates in Canva are a great way to make your social media posts look outstanding even without the help of a graphic designer. It also makes it easier to develop content because you can build off the images. Canva is free, but I recommend the Canva Pro version so you can access more stock photos and features. My Social Media Starter Kit can get you all set up for Canva. 👉Download it here
    3. Create content themes. Create content themes from the start that ensure you’re ready to be productive and thoughtful about your strategy during that hour you commit to creating content each week.

    Social media content creation themes

    Just to get you started, following are a few post themes that work well on social media. Keep in mind that social media is meant to be SOCIAL, which means that in the same way you wouldn’t go to a party and yell out to everyone about your business, you can’t shout to everyone in your social posts either. Focus on your clients and how you serve them by improving their lives. Remember that you are a person, engaging with another person.

    1. Testimonials: share what others have to say about your business
    2. Share your expertise to help your audience by providing free advice and content
    3. Ask your audience a question or get their opinion related to your business
    4. Share a relatable story about how you got where you are or what you do in your business that can inspire others
    5. Share stories about your clients or community
    6. Contests or giveaways for holidays or related to your business
    7. Let an employee takeover your channel for a day
    8. Share behind the scenes posts about how you run your business or make your products

    Ready to get started? Download my Social Media Starter Kit and get you all set up for rocking your digital content. 👉Download it here and be sure to tag me in your posts so I can celebrate you!