When you’re starting to run a business there is so much to learn. You’re no longer just designing or building, you’re a business owner that needs to manage projects and onboard clients and figure out a marketing plan.

You’ve probably also got a few product ideas around that could generate recurring income for you and a myriad of other opportunities that will come your way.

One of the hardest things to do is to figure out where to focus your time.

Is getting the ‘right’ project management system the thing you should be doing now? What about finding a billing system that works better than what you’re currently using?

Focus on these 3 things

After talking with lots of business owners here are the 3 main things that I see them doing wrong that will have the most impact to improve their business.

1: Figure out Value

Pricing is hard, I spent a whole series describing my thoughts on pricing.

My friend Chris Lema wrote one of the best books on pricing around.

My other friend Kirk Bowman was a guest on the Freelancer’s Show for one of the best episodes ever. He also just launched a podcast called Art of Value.

Despite all those awesome resources most business owners (that’s you to freelancer’s) under value their work. Typically because they view pricing as an hourly rate X the time it takes.

Time is irrelevant.

One of the first things you should focus on is learning how to have value based conversations with your potential customers. You should always be concentrating on the value you bring to the table, not how much you cost.

I recently talked to a friend and helped him turn the conversation from cost to value which earned him an extra $1000/month on a single contract. What was ‘expensive’ as a cost was a deal framed as a value conversation.

2: Client Vetting/Onboarding

Yup you’ve got sucky clients. You read Clients from Hell and almost every post sounds like the emails you get from your clients.

That’s totally your fault so stop blaming your clients.

Most business owners I talk to have very little in the way of a proper client vetting/on boarding process. I understand that I didn’t either for a long time and I read Clients from Hell with a mix of laughter and tears.

Have you defined what your ideal client is? Do you have a set of questions you answer after each client call?

Do you waste time on the phone with people before qualifying them as clients you want?

Now every client that sends me an initial contact gets an email with 90% the same content as everyone else. If they respond by calling me I ask for a response to the email first and politely extract myself from the call.

It’s likely that you haven’t dealt with defining your ideal client or your niche market. So go read (and really people do the work) Book Yourself Solid.

3: Marketing Plan

Now that you’ve figured out your ideal client it’s time to start a proper marketing plan and I’m not just talking about relying on referrals. I’m talking about making your website not suck.

Start to write some content for your target market by answering questions you know they are asking. How do you generate those ideas?

Write the questions your clients ask during a phone call down and then write out the answers you just gave them on the phone.

Simply writing once a week will put you in the top 10% of businesses. Even for web professionals on WordPress (like me and lots of you) most of them don’t take the time to blog at all.

Many who do write technical articles that are for other developers mostly, which is typically not your target market.

Get and read Get Clients Now.


Yup that sounds like a lot of work doesn’t it. I felt totally overwhelmed when I started. So many resources everywhere to try and find then who on earth do you bounce all your hard work off of?

Today I’m announcing a course I’ll be starting in November which will finish just before Christmas so that you can kick off your 2015 on the right foot.

We’ll meet weekly for 6 weeks (and you’ll get homework) and talk about positioning your pricing, vetting clients and putting together a solid marketing plan and site.

Want to know when it goes on sale? October 15th but if you sign up for my email list you’ll be notified the day before to get the first chance to purchase the course. Some packages will be limited because they’ll include coaching time with me.

photo credit: incandopolis cc

2 responses to “Where do you start when you run a business”

  1. Jimmy Smutek Avatar

    As usual, thanks Curtis. All of your stuff has been so on point for me lately. After reading one of your recent posts, I’m working now on a new, completely business focused, website. I’ve known for a while that this is a necessity, but your post on “why your website sucks” really resonated with me man, I mean, I’ve got skateboarding photographs and DJ mixes on my site… heh.

    So, anyway, after reading that post I went out and grabbed a new theme. I’ve been moving all of my personal stuff to a personal blog on wordpress.com, and I’m hoping to have everything finished on my professional site and launched by next Saturday, in time for WordCamp Baltimore. Yay.

    But, yeah man, there’s no doubting that self employment is a completely different game and quite overwhelming at times.

    Thanks again man, I really dig your site and your writing style. There’s a handful of good business sites out there that I read, all of which offer good advice, but I find yours to be, by far, the most genuine of all of them. I’m definitely interested in learning more about your course, no idea what the price point will be, but if I’m able to make it happen I definitely will.

    ps. – also digging the new look here. All the best. 🙂

    1. Curtis McHale Avatar
      Curtis McHale

      Hey Jimmy, thanks for the encouragement. I try to be authentic, so I’m glad it shows through.

      Stick to it, start building up some processes and get some awesome people to ask for advice and remember even when times are tough, the tough keep going.