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what-i-learned-as-small-business-ownerThis time 3 years ago, Kristin Zaslavsky and I were already in the thick of creating our website, logo, and name, and planning for our new business.

Looking back at it now, I’m amazed at how far we’ve come and how our small business journey has unfolded thus far.

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Kristin and I both have business degrees and corporate career experience. We both had 2-3 years’ worth (at the time) of developing our own online presences. We had a lot of very specific ideas of who we could help and how we could help them. The one thing we lacked was that neither of us had ever actually been through the start-up phase before.

Back in late 2010, we both viewed our small business venture as us having nothing to lose and a whole lot to potentially gain. We did not have any expectations for Eli | Rose (which I realize is not typical), and we pretty much decided to employ the business and marketing strategies and techniques we knew were important, and take the rest as it came.

In working with other small business owners and entrepreneurs, I’ve been asked on more than one occasion about our business start, when and how business began to pick up, and what advice we had for others hoping to grow their businesses online and through social media.

Here are my top 5 personal takeaways from my last 3 years as a small business owner:

  • Be sure to get it right, but only mostly right If you wait for something – anything – to be absolutely perfect, you’ll never get your business off the ground. While you don’t want to introduce yourself to the world with a bunch of blank pages on your website and bare social media profiles, it’s best to have the mindset of “This is good enough to get started with. I can always revisit this later.” Your business, its offerings, and your goals will all develop over time, so plan on working towards perfection a little further down the road.
  • Make sure all your plates keep spinning One of the biggest challenges of being a small business owner or entrepreneur is that all the tasks related to running a successful business come down to YOU. This is even more challenging during the start-up phase since you are also working on establishing yourself, your practices, and your brand. Getting bogged down with the details or focusing solely one just 1 or 2 tasks (perhaps the easiest tasks, or tasks you most enjoy) means you aren’t monitoring the progress of the other parts of your new business. Having the ability to multi-task is a huge plus during the start-up phase.
  • Decide ahead of time where you’ll spend your time Developing a presence online can take many different forms depending on your goals and your customers. Your time might be best spent on 2 or 3 perfect-for-your-industry social media platforms, or regularly blogging for your business. Perhaps you want to put a lot of energy into cultivating a big email list. Whatever it is, just know you can’t do it all. Determining your best online marketing channels ahead of time will help you stay focused and be successful as your business grows.
  • Decide ahead of time what you’ll spend your money on You need a basic, solid website (it doesn’t need to be fancy). You need some sort of branded imagery. You need to be able to update your website yourself (so if you don’t write code, you need to go with a popular and smart choice like WordPress). Are paid ads or social media posts part of your plan? What about SEO? Do you need to hire someone to help with some or all of your online marketing tasks? Even with an “online-only” business, there will be some start-up costs. Identify what those are ahead of time, and which costs as “Musts” vs “Nice to Haves”.
  • Invest in SEO I can’t say this enough. And not just because we offer SEO training and SEO tagging as services. If you want your business to be found by people looking for the types of goods or services you offer – WITHOUT paying (endlessly) for Google Ads or social media ads – adding strong, well-researched title tags and meta descriptions to your home page, other website pages and (hopefully) company blog, is an ABSOLUTE necessity. Kristin and I don’t pay for advertising; we have invested our personal time into learning and honing our SEO craft. SEO is responsible for a substantial amount of our business leads and current clients. Plus, it is how we’ve landed some really awesome interview requests (CNN/Money.com, for one). SEO is the gift that keeps on giving. Do not overlook its value.

Three years is a formidable amount of time in the online business world, but a tiny drop in the bucket in the greater scheme of things. I’m so grateful for all the opportunities the internet, social media and websites provide, and genuinely enjoy helping others use the same tools to grow their big idea or dream.

For those of you who have your own businesses, what would you add to this list?

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