Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Bad Business Advice

I've gotten plenty of bad business advice--advice that would up holding me back, going down roads that didn't ultimately lead where I wanted to go, and feeling required to do more work on my business than might be absolutely necessary. Here are a few pieces of advice I've gotten over the years that sounded like they made sense--but didn't make sense for me.

You have to have six months worth of savings before you can quit your job to freelance. The conventional wisdom is that, before you can leave a steady job, you have to have enough in savings to live on for six months. I saved a lot in my steady jobs, but couldn't make enough to meet this goal. One day I sat down and calculated out how long it would take me to get there based on my current savings rate--and it was over a year. And of course, this wouldn't account for emergencies--car problems and other costly, unexpected expenses--that would occasionally come along and wipe everything out. I took a leap without the requisite amount in my bank account--and I haven't regretted it for a minute.

For some, this advice may make sense. For me, it didn't. One of the most important lessons I've learned in my twenties is that there's never a right time for anything. Not for quitting a job you hate, having kids or pursuing a dream. You'll never feel like you have enough money. With every big move I've made, it's always been the wrong time and too expensive. I did it anyway and made it work. Maybe you can, too.

There’s only one way to build a business. There are loads of different ways to get your copywriting business off the ground. Don't despair if you have no ad agency experience, no industry contacts, and can't stand cold calling. Try a lot of different marketing methods, and pick the one you can stick with as well as the one that works.

To get by, you have to market yourself constantly. Marketing is important and it's key to building and maintaining a healthy business. But I do it only as much as I need to. You might have to spend a ton of time at first developing a system, but once you have it running smoothly, don't sweat it--unless you want to grow your business.

You always have to think about "growing" your business. Speaking of--you don't have to get really big. Most people marketing services to business owners assume I want to "grow." I don't--not in the way they mean. I don't want to hire a stable of other writers. I don't want to build a big corporation. I just want to keep doing what I'm doing--and financing a life I love. Don't come to me with offers for outsourcing and off-site offices. I love keeping it small and in-house.

What bad business advice have you received?


Unknown said...

I didn't have ONE month of savings when I started. I had some scary moments, but I never went broke.

Marketing yourself constantly isn't a requirement. It's something that should come naturally. I think people equate marketing with selling. To me, marketing is talking to people on Twitter, emailing clients, interacting here and there. It's not about "Hi, my name is...and you need to hire me." It's making connections that may or may not be useful later. Make a friend - that's marketing.

You know me - I market when I'm busy. Hell, I'm always chatting someone up, so I guess I market all the time. :)

Yea, growing your business is important only at the beginning. Maintaining is the goal for me.

Lillie Ammann said...

I feel the same way about growing my business. I owned a plant maintenance company with 18 employees and 300+ customers for nearly 20 years. I no longer want to have to deal with having to juggle schedules when someone is out sick, having to meet payroll every week even when customers don't pay on time, and all the other headaches involved in a business.