We went to a Columbian friend’s dinner party last night. The food was delicious, music energetic, and company amicable. After a few glasses of some delicious Merlot from Southeastern Australia I found a guest I did not recognize from previous parties, and started “talking shop” surrounding his new business. He recently-retired from an eighteen year career in the medical software industry, and just started a new business creating glass art. I introduced myself and informed him that I build websites and provide resources for local small businesses getting off-the-ground.
We chatted about the difference between a CMS and hard-coded website. I told him that all of my client websites are CMS-based, if for no other reason than I don’t like having to maintain content, and most clients hate having to email or call to get simple changes made.
After the discussion of website basics, I offered two key tips that I have found bog down lots of small businesses to stagnation and often failure.
If you are a craftsperson, artist, or otherwise creative individual selling your work, 80% of your time should be spent networking, fostering business relationships, selling, and otherwise pleasing your customer-base. If you are a great-enough artist to be professional, then you can do awesome work in the remaining 20% of your time.
Say “no” frequently, and offer referrals.
Don’t say no just for the sake of saying no. Rather, if you are spending a majority of your time networking, advertising, or otherwise fostering a market, you should be getting way more requests than you can handle.
Many professional videographers, web designers, and photographers that I have met over the years find themselves spending an inordinate amount of time working on work that they would prefer to not be working on, and is clearly not their best work. By defining your niche market and niche product, and passing on all the other work, you can be the best glass dragon-egg salesman in the world, while giving the stained glass window jobs to the friend of yours in the stained glass industry.
Foster these business-to-business relationships as an element of your networking. It elevates you as a fellow business person, whilst providing connections and new jobs to your friends. This type of reciprocal behavior will often get you referrals in the reverse direction; don’t expect it, but it is more likely for them to be passing on your work when you are passing on theirs.