It’s The Little Things

I’m always amazed by the small business owners who have made it eight or ten years without even the most basic of marketing. It always makes me wonder how much better they’d be doing if they’d invested the time or a minimal amount of effort in taking a few basic steps to make sure everyone knew what they were about.

For example, a friend’s father does home maintenance and construction–is motto is that when the professionals mess it up, he can fix it. He installs bathrooms and floors, works on roofs, does some masonry outside… he’s a jack-of-all-trades handyman. Until this year he didn’t have business cards. He isn’t listed in any phone books. I don’t think he has an email address, let alone a website. He has successfully worked purely on referrals probably for over a decade–which in my mind means he has to be damn good at what he does. Can you imagine how much more business he would have done had he taken the time to do those few extra things?

My roommate is a little bit less severe of an example, but she has a small fashion line that she sells on Etsy. The girl is damn good at what she does – she really took the time to learn her trade, and prides herself on getting the details right (the seams no one will ever see, the way patterns in the fabric line up). But she’s also going to school to be a teacher, and the majority of the people she knows (beyond her close friends) probably didn’t know her website address and probably couldn’t have picked her work out of a line-up.Unlike my friend’s father, she had business cards and is great at networking, so had a serious bunch of people who she could call on to do photo shoots – but she’s had some trouble finding a reliable website person and those photo shoots take quite a while before they go up online. And before we moved in together, she didn’t even include her website in her email signature. So no one had a way to see her latest and greatest work.

It’s important to let the people in your life know what you’re up to. In yesterday’s post I mentioned a friend had recommended me for work – that’s because she knew what I’ve been doing lately. One of the bloggers I follow recently recommended friends for an assignment (and makes a great case for why and how to make sure you keep people up-to-date on your life HERE)–which shows it really is bigger than a once-in-a-while thing. So how can you let people know what you’re doing?

Tailor your email signature. Include a relevant job title and a link to your blog/website/twitter feed … whereever you talk about your work. And if you aren’t talking about your work in any of these channels, you should be. The more enthusiastic you are about what you do, the more likely you are to come to mind when someone has an appropriate project for you. You can even update your signature each time you get a new piece published and say “See what I’ve done recently…” and link to it.

Have business cards on you at all times, hand them out frequently, and always hand them out in pairs. Give each person you give your card to, two cards–one for them and one so they can pass your name along.  Make sure your card (and your website, and your twitter bio..etc) share what kind of work you’re doing in a way that is clear, but without saying “I’m looking to do xyz.” There are a ton of great places to get cards printed for little to nothing, so you really don’t have an excuse (while this site is about pet siting, it includes a great list of cheap places online to get cards printed).

Talk about what you do. If I asked 5 of your closest friends to recommend someone who does what you do, would they all give me your name? If you don’t know, then we have a problem. When someone asks “How are you?” or “What have you been up to lately?” don’t just say “good” and “not much.” Instead, use it as an opportunity to mention a project you’ve been working on, or a new client that you’re excited to have taken on. While you shouldn’t blab on and on about it, you should at least mention your work. Say one or two sentences (“I’m really good actually–I just got this great new assignment and I’m going to be writing an article on animal-testing-free makeup for Cosmo. What about you?” or “I’ve been doing a lot lately–my freelancing has really taken off and just yesterday I gained a client–he writes graphic novels in the horror genre. What about you?”) Not only does this promote you, but it makes you a heck of a lot more interesting.

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