We have another thing to celebrate this holiday season at Bold & Pop! My 1 year anniversary of being 100% self-employed! Heck yesss! Mallory shared an awesome (and super sweet -- cue the happy tears from me 😭) post celebrating her anniversary and now it's my turn! 🎉 This last year has been such a year of growth, both personally and professionally, and I'm so excited to share some of my experiences with you.
If you read my Bold Boss Tribe Story, you know that before starting Bold & Pop I never thought of myself as an entrepreneur -- I know right?! The truth is, there were certain traits that I thought you needed to be successful in biz and I wasn't sure if I had them. Luckily for me though, I learned that sometimes the biggest obstacle in your way of success is actually yourself and sometimes you just need to put aside that self-doubt and the things you believe to be true and just get out there and give it a go! That being said, I thought today was the perfect time to bust up some of those myths in case some of you have had the same thoughts! Hang tight, it's a little bit of a long one, but I hope you'll find it valuable!
You Need to be Very Extroverted
Right off the bat, I can say this attribute was one of the things that made me the most nervous about starting a business. So many of the business owners I've looked up to have big personalities and seem fearless and that's just not something I identified in myself -- remember when I mentioned that self-doubt thing?! There are so many things in business that I felt like if you weren't an extrovert how would you succeed at... new business calls... networking events.. and business events. They all just seemed like things you needed to be very sure of yourself and while I'm certainly a go-getter in many ways some of that ish still scares the crap out of me.
The funny part is sometimes the traits that you are self-conscious about are viewed completely different by others. In fact, my friends and even family would probably argue with me that I'm definitely extroverted. I like to think I'm an introverted extrovert which is kind of contradiction in some ways. I speak my mind, am full of jokes and super outgoing around my friends and family, but it takes a bit for me to warm up to people. When I moved to NYC, I tried going to a bunch of industry events and while I loved the panels and always learned great new material, I dreadedddddd the half an hour or hour before a panel that was set aside for networking. Striking up conversations with people I don't know is not my strong point, in fact, sometimes I would show up 5 mins before just to avoid that part. So if meeting or talking to strangers was not something that came easily to me, how the heck was I going to connect with strangers and also sell them my services?!
Well, it still hasn't always come easily (more on that later).. and sometimes I still have minor freak-outs before talking to new people (insert a pounding heart here) but, if there is one thing I am confident in, it is the services I can provide. I know I'm pretty dang good at what I do and I try and let that give me courage when I need it the most! And guess what, the more times you put yourself in uncomfortable situations or do things that are hard for you.. the more you grow!
You Need to have a Business Background
Luckily for me, I partnered up with a biz partner who had already owned 2 businesses, because I didn't bring much to the table in terms of business education. Of course I've picked up a few tips along the way throughout my career, but in terms of formal education, I was lacking on that end. While I'm sure having taken more business courses in college would have been seriously helpful, something I've learned throughout the year that sometimes adaptability is your best business trait. Working in social media for years, it was a trait I had already established pretty well -- so much of social media strategy is trial and error where you zero in on what works best for a specific business. So I just took that trait and applied it to business.. if we tried something and it didn't pan out.. it was a lesson learned and something we could refine or even nix for next time.
So how did I learn about business, other than learning as we went? A LOT of research and following other business blogs, books, publications, and podcasts! I talked about it a little in this post and a little more here too. The perk of the Internet age is you can find a lotttt of valuable information online to at least get you in the right direction -- on things like registering your business, paying quarterly taxes, and all of that logistical stuff. Plus, there are some seriously amazing bosses sharing their business stories like I'm doing now so we can all learn from each other! What I'm saying is, while business school would have been super helpful (and even more so for some industries) it's not always required.
You Need to have a Salesman Personality
If there's one thing I've learned over the years, it's that sales are not my strong point. This point really goes hand-in-hand with my earlier point about being extroverted. You could trace this back to my Girl Scout days when I would dread cookie season (which is a shame because I love them -- gimme all the Tagalongs) because I hated going door-to-door and standing outside the grocery store asking people to buy my cookies. Asking my fam was easy because they loved me and wanted to support my little cookie sales adventures, but asking strangers to buy something from me.. Ah! I hated it.
Flash forward to college when I had grown up a bit more and was hired on as an Account Executive at the school newspaper. I was SO excited for the job, it was one of my first experiences in my desired career path and one I still look back on as really important in my career. The only downfall? It was a commission based job and I soon realized cold-calling people terrified the crap out of me. Apparently, I hadn't grown out of that little fear. But you know what? Even though I had to psych myself into making each one of those calls or going to each of those client sales meetings, I kept trucking forward because I knew it was a valuable experience and I was not going to give up. And it turns out, I wasn't that bad at it even if it wasn't my favorite.
So you can imagine why I'd be a little concerned about the sales portion of owning a business, because you're either selling a product or a service (in our case both!) So how did I overcome this? Well, sales transactions don't always have to come across so.. salesy! I realized that there are so many channels to attract your ideal clients and cold-calling is not the only way! I invested in what I knew I was good at.. connecting with others on social media and writing valuable blog content on our blog and also submitting guest posts to other publications. I realized in our business, we were selling our expertise and the best way to show your value to potential clients is to show them! And this strategy has worked! And guess what, having new businsess calls are a lot easier when you already know the person on the other end is interested in your services. Even when it comes to the actual "sales" portion of the calls, I stay true to myself and my approach -- there are no car salesman tactics here. I know that if our conversation is valuable and the potential client sees value in my expertise, that I can seal deals without coming across as pushy. At the end of the day I want to work with clients who are as excited to work with us as we are with them! So don't be afraid to step outside of the box of what other people are doing and focus on strategies that compliment your skills.
You Need to be very well connected
While being very connected could certainly benefit your business. It's not a pre-req! Over the years I had built a solid network through college, previous jobs, networking groups and social media but when it came to signing business, I didn't have a well-connected pool of people to actively pitch. I didn't come from a family of entrepreneurs -- my mom is a nurse and my dad is a truck driver which is just about as far away from being an entrepreneur as possible. I don't even have anyone in my extended family who as been a business owner.. not even my group of friends! 3 strikes you're out right?! Wrong! It just meant we were starting from a different starting point and spoiler... it turned out just fine!
In fact, I'd say 95% of our clients and client recommendations have come through people that we didn't even know a year ago! Yes, really. So how did we do it without being pushy with sales or being super extroverted? Well, we put our social media and PR backgrounds to work and worked on building our community through social media, press mentions, and by tapping into business networks. As the people who started following us increased, so did the number of people reaching out for help with services and those recommending their friends. Was it a lot of hard work? Absolutely, each and every day but it's been so worth it! Again, it's all about tapping into your strong points and building a strategy around it. There isn't one path to success and I think that has been the biggest lesson I've learned over the last year.
As I wrap this post up, I just wanted to give a HUGE thank you to everyone who has followed along and supported not only me but Bold & Pop throughout this journey -- to our fam and friends who have offered their love and support while we embarked on this awesome (and at first scary journey). To our amazing clients who have let us help them with their dreams while also making ours come true, to all of the biz bosses we've met over the last year at events, press features and through social networking, and to all of YOU who read our blog each week and subscribe to our newsletter! You all are truly the best and I can only imagine what we'll accomplish the next year together!