As discussed in my last blog post I launched as a Freelance Events Manager just over a year ago now. One of the first pieces of advice I was given from other entrepreneurs was to network network network…and boy has that paid off. Nearly all of my clients are from attending networking events or from word of mouth referrals.
However, this blog post isn't about how to build your business by attending networking events. Oh no, it's about the basics a new business should put in place before attending such events.
During my first year in business and in fact before I have been amazed, no that's not the right word, dumbfounded by the amount of people who haven't done the following for their own businesses.
What I'm talking about is setting up three of the most basic things a business can do before going out there looking for new clients.
At the moment everyone has the ability to create a website themselves and have it up and 'online' within hours
Yes…I did say hours.
Now if you have a big budget for marketing and web design then I would always recommend getting an expert to do this for you. However, not all of us have big budgets to invest in this. I had very little to start with. But just because you don't have the funds doesn't mean you don't have the ability to create a decent looking website. I am no web developer but I created this website myself. Thanks to templates from squarespace and a little time and patiance I had the basics of a site in a matter of hours and I have built on and developed it since then.
I'm not saying it's perfect but for when I started out it did the job it needed it to do. Somewhere for clients and potential customers to go to on the web that wasn't Linked In or a Facebook Page with all the distractions that come with those two platforms. Somewhere they can read about what I do, hear my thoughts on my blog and contact me with enquiries.
My domain name and hosting cost me less than £8 a month so for not a lot I created a home for myself online. Instantly making my new business more credible from the get go.
So in the past year I have met two schools of thoughts on this subject.
Anti business card people think it's a dated business tool that in the modern age of smart phones, instant communication and social media doesn't have a place. Plus they're not good for the environment. True for business professionals who give out business cards at networking events with a scatter gun approach. Handing them out to anyone who will take them and not taking the time to build the foundations of a good business relationship.
God I was only at a business networking event the other day when someone introduced himself to the group by telling us his name at the same time as handing over his card to us all. Not good.
Time the time to build rapport with the people you meet and then if you feel there is a strong connection or the potential for business or collaboration then offer your business card or ask for theirs.
But I digress.
I'm in the pro business cards group. I think they are a really helpful tool. Obviously they detail all the ways of communicating with me, leaving the person I've just met to choose their own preference for how they make contact. With clever design they can emphasise and match my brand identity and again they give credibility to my business. They can do the same for you.
Getting a decent set of cards doesn't cost the earth. There are lots of companies out there you can follow a template for the design and provide you with a good few hundred cards to get you started with that will cost less than £30.
Try moo.com for example, lots of styles to choose from so even with one of their interesting templates you can still stand out from the crowd.
Similar to website this is an absolute must.
I am shocked at the number of people I have met in the past year who after asking them for a business card either they've not given me one (see above) or then I've looked at it and noticed the email ends with @gmail.blah.blah.blah or something similar.
Why oh why have they done this to themselves? Instantly I loose faith in them almost like they aren't taking themselves or their business seriously.
You don't have to be a technical whizz to get professional and unique email address. Just a domain name, which if you have your own website should already be sorted, and then a couple of £s a month will provide you with a fully functioning and credible business email. Mine costs less than a decent glass of wine a month.
My Basics Covered
Starting out on your own can be a scary process. But take yourself seriously and give some gravitas to what you are offering and your business with the connections and people you meet at a networking event.
I am sure you can get all of the above for a year for less than £100.
So even if your marketing budget was minimal (like mine was) you really don't have to spend a lot. The return on your investment will be massive when someone contacts your following attending an event or visiting your website.
Over to you...
I am sure there are lots of other business basics that people should ensure they have in place before launching. I would love to hear what you think on the subect. Leave you thoughts in the comments below.