You wouldn’t fix your own roof if you’re not a roofer. Why would you do your own marketing if you’re not a marketing expert?
It is common for entrepreneurs to be nervous to spend money, especially in the beginning. You’ve had it ingrained in your mind that it takes money to make money, so you keep holding off on your marketing needs - or you a) try your own hand at it or b) get it cheaply done by so-and-so’s novice friend to try and save some cash. You might assume that all design is about the same or maybe not that crucial, but it’s just not so.
The problem with subpar marketing and branding is that it will only allow your business to squeak by. The old adage that you get what you pay for is right on the - ahem - money in this case. If you put up a website that looks homemade, too plain, or doesn’t have appropriate calls-to-action that make potential customers want to act, it can potentially be worse than having no website at all. The look and feel of your site sends a very powerful message to your clients. If you show that you care enough to invest in a well-designed and developed logo, site, flyers, business cards, even pricetags, clients will subconsciously believe that you also care enough to invest in their satisfaction. It shows them that you take your business extremely seriously and, therefore, them. If you make a quick flyer in Word or use a premade Vistaprint business card, you will probably attract clients who are satisfied with average and who aren’t willing to pay more for awesome...because that’s the message you’re sending about yourself. You want clients and customers you don’t have to beg to spend money with you! You will attract that type of client with awesome. Even free site templates need stratetgy to be their best.
We recently had to pay for some roof repairs. We could’ve tried to save money by doing the work ourselves or paying a neighbor who is an amateur at best. But since we would not really know what we were doing, we would end up with shoddy repairs that didn’t do as much good as if we’d hired a professional. We’d have ended up paying extra money down the road due to more extensive damage than we would’ve if we’d hired a pro from the beginning to do it right the first time. Doing your own marketing is like that. You’re an expert in your field, and I’m an expert in mine. Just as you wouldn’t hire a novice to fix your roof, don’t hire yourself or El Cheapo Designer to handle something as precious as your business’ image. People who don’t charge much for marketing, design, or writing usually will not put the same amount of effort and heart into it that someone will who charges what it’s really worth, nor will they have the same skills and proven strategies to work from.
"But, Jen," you say, "I think I’m pretty good at design, and I know my business better than anyone! Why shouldn’t I just take care of it?"
Even if you consider yourself to be fairly good at branding or design, people are often too close to their own businesses to be objective about the message people are receiving from their marketing, and it costs you too much in the long run to get it wrong. Your business is like your baby. You are emotionally invested in it. It is easy to become so emotionally attached to a particular facet of your marketing that you don’t want to let go of it. But letting go of that idea or look might be just the thing that takes your business from so-so to super successful. When you hire an expert, they will guide you where you need to be. But you also have to be ready to hear the truth. I am a huge fan of hiring a coach (see my post "How to Be a Confident Entrepreneur"), and someone who does what I do is like a coach in many ways. When you are paying someone to coach you, you must trust them as the expert when they tell you to change something you’ve been doing that has been holding you back. It doesn’t mean you let go of your instincts altogether or don’t have any input - far from it; it just means you’re willing to trust in something that will take your business to the next level.
I will be honest enough to tell you when you aren’t sending the most effective message and what you need to do so that you do send the right message. I’m not in this business to cater to your emotional attachments or enable you to stay stuck where you are; I’m in this business to grow your success. Sometimes you have to let go of things that haven’t been serving you well, or you run the risk of staying small.
Okay, so now you see the value in hiring someone to do your marketing. How do you know the person you hire will make you happy?
When hiring a designer, writer, or marketing expert, make sure you are well-informed and ask questions so you know if they are a good fit for you and you’re a good fit for them. If you like their style and something about them resonates with you or just “feels right,” they’re probably going to be someone you can trust with your business’ image. So when they give you ideas, even if it feels a little scary, go within and ask yourself if you really KNOW it’s not right or if you’re just afraid; it’s easy to confuse the two. Sometimes when an expert instructs you to do something that feels scary, it doesn’t mean it’s the wrong direction for you to take...it often means you’re just in the process of being stretched a little out of your comfort zone. But that’s often when things open up to let the magic happen.
Is there ever any guarantee that it’s going to work or that you’re going to fall in love with what they create? No. But running your own business is full of risks. It’s your job to be as well-informed as possible about the person you hire and to be honest enough with them about what you really want and what your business is about. I say in all my client contracts that I’m not an employee, babysitter, or mindreader. Our adventure is a partnership in which I need input from you to be able to hit the right mark. If a designer or marketing person doesn’t have some type of initial discovery interview with you with in-depth questions about your business and personality, they are probably not going to hit the mark. The more questions they ask you and the more information you give them, the better chance you have of being a happy customer. I’ve had one unhappy client in all my years of doing this, and it was because they weren’t open with me about what they really wanted because they were afraid of what I’d think of them. By the time they were open about it, they weren’t willing to pay more to get it right, and they didn't trust in my expertise. Remember "trust falls" from when we were kids? When you hire someone who feels right, let your guard down and then do a trust fall. And remember that hiring someone in this field doesn’t mean they will do an indefinite amount of free changes until you’re happy.
What is your relationship with money, and is it holding you back?
When I was starting out, I quoted people based on what I thought they could afford rather than what it was really worth - or offered them services that were too basic to really do them much good because they told me they couldn’t afford anything too fancy. I felt it was so much my mission to help people that I would sacrifice myself more than I should have. I thought I was doing my clients favors...but I was actually enabling them to stay small. And enabling doesn’t do anyone any favors. Not their success or my own. I don’t do chintzy work. I do work with intentional strategy behind it to be as effective as possible so your business can reach its true potential.
When you are afraid to fork over much money for your marketing, you’re basically projecting the energy that you’re not truly serious about being successful in your business. I completely understand the living-on-a-budget mentality. Not to say that bargain-hunting in some areas is bad by any stretch; Craiglist is great for furniture, and I adore thrift stores for clothes. But if you operate your business with a bargain-hunter approach, you will attract customers who don’t want to let go of their money either...which holds both of you back. I lived in a warped relationship with money for years. But until you change your relationship with money, it will stunt your success. When you decide that you want something bad enough because you KNOW it is going to further your business (and you in your life), it doesn't hurt to let go of the money even if you feel slightly nervous. Just as your customers or clients will be SO READY for a change, a product, or a service you offer that they are willing to pay what you are worth, you should be willing when it comes to your marketing. If you really just don't have the money, let it serve as your motivation to get a new client or raise your rates to cover the cost...you have to determine how ready you really are and do what it takes to make it happen. People find a way to get things they really want. And whatever you put into your marketing is going to come back to you in clients.
There are only so many hours in the day - use yours as effectively as possible! You have to sleep at some point.
I'm throwing out plenty of cliches and adages here, so what's one more? TIME IS MONEY. Even if you are just as good at marketing or design as you are at selling your product or service, what is doing it yourself costing you in time and money? All that time you're spending researching methods or the hours you're poring over Adobe software could be spent getting out there and meeting new clients and just plain making money running your business. If you're allowing yourself to be pulled in too many directions all at once, all those directions will probably suffer some. It might feel hard to give up control when it comes to letting someone else handle your stuff. But remember that you only have to give up as much control as you feel like. You can always have the final say about something. Stop spinning your wheels or staying up too late at night trying to get everything done. Hire an accountant to do your taxes for you, hire an office manager to handle certain tasks, and hire a marketing expert to spread your message.
The moral of the story: remember Geocities? Don’t end up with a site that looks like that. “Amateur” and “entrepreneur” might end with the same Frenchy sound...but the two decidedly do not work well together when your success and name are on the line.
Do you choose to stay small...or do you choose to thrive?