Did I do anything drastically different this year? Not really. I worked more, that's for sure. I leveraged my existing client base better by moving to monthly services/payments. I believe getting the physical location legitimized my business to the community. But day-to-day my business was basically the same as previous years: I worked when I had work, picked up 2-3 new projects a month through referrals and some networking and did my best to provide the best service possible to every client. The effectiveness of my service alone has lead to the biggest increase in my business this year; clients are paying me more (and monthly) because I'm able to get them more leads.
I want to double my business in 2016 (I'll just say it'll be more than 100k) but I need some help. Hopefully the bright minds on this forum can offer me some guidance. Some of the challenges I face are:
Project management. I am outsourcing the more time-consuming parts of a project (citations, content, etc...) currently. But I always feel like I have projects 95% complete and there's always something left to do, so projects tend to linger longer than they need to. Part of this is I take the outcomes of my work very personally, and I always want to be getting my client more. What I need is some type of visual representation of the stages of a project and a way to put a big COMPLETE stamp on the thing when I've finished all those stages. What do you guys use?
Marketing. I need a consistent 10-15 leads a month to reach my goal.
I'm not going to cold call. Done it before, it worked, but I'm not doing it again. I have no problem calling warm leads.
My business website sends me an odd sale or two. But I don't live in a very densely populated area so I don't expect it to send me much. Or should I? Should I really be blogging about this stuff in the hopes of reaching a national audience? In my experience the businesses I work with don't care about the how-it-works, they just want it done. Am I being short-sighted? If so, how do I take this local brand I'm trying to cultivate and bring it to a national audience?
Advertising. I'm doing very little currently. But at this point I have a little bit of capital and I'm comfortable spending some money on something targeted. But where to start? Local publications already have strong ties to my competition (bigger companies). Adwords is going to be super competitive. I've advertised through a local builders association but it hasn't been effective so far. Ideally I'd want to start advertising on the local level first, but I'm not even sure where to start.
Referrals. I need some type of system. I get some now, but the referrals are almost never pre-sold. It's more of a... "call this guy, he might need something done" kind of thing. Sometimes I talk to the referrals and they're excited but then they go cold and I can't get a hold of them. I suppose I just need a better system in place to gather and contact referrals from my existing clients.
Mindset. You know it's funny. I've been in business for almost 4 years, but it's never felt like a "real" business to me. I'm in my early twenties and have been making my own way doing this since after high school, so you would think it would feel legitimate. Maybe it's because I've always just done whatever the hell I wanted to do. Don't get me wrong, I work when I have to work and I've put in some long days. But I don't have that typical 8-hour work day most people do. My friends or anyone close don't really see me as a legitimate business person - they see me waking up at noon and only having to work a couple hours a day etc etc etc... Then again they don't know how much money I make. I guess that doesn't really matter, I don't know. I just know I want my business to be respectable.
Providing a better service. I'm good at what I do. I can get a local business leads and I can prove it. But I want to get them more, because I know the better I am at my job, the better clients I'm going to get and the longer they're going to stay with me. I've been experimenting with paid Adwords and Facebook campaigns for a couple clients - it's been going pretty okay, on the verge of what I would call good. They're definitely profitable, but not as profitable as I would like them to be. I could definitely use some more education on paid lead-generation campaigns.
I don't post on here often, and perhaps I just needed to get all this written down, but I would love to hear your opinions on the topics above and how I can take my business to the next level. There are some really bright minds on here and even though I don't post it regularly, I'm very thankful for their participation on this forum and the value they bring to the table.
PS. To any newbies reading this, you ABSOLUTELY can make money with this offline stuff. You just have to get started.