Launching a business – whether as a freelancer or an entrepreneur – isn’t easy. At first, you’ll have to find your own clients, manage your own books and do all the actual work that you’re being paid for. There are advantages too, of course, like being able to set your own hours, work from home and at your own pace.
But as Entrepreneur’s Gene Marks pointed out in a recent article, “you won’t be able to make a lot of money if you’re running a one-person business. Maybe, just maybe, you might make a living. But that’s all.”
Instead, he says, successful entrepreneurs know that people matter:
What you will need is a partner, or two or three. You can’t do everything. So you have to find others that do things that complement your craft. You’re an independent software trainer so you partner with a few independent IT professionals… Everyone has their specialty. Maybe you refer work back and forth. Or maybe you do the work together as a team. Maybe you decide someday to actually go into business together. You pool your resources and your talent, and together you can offer more.
In some cases, this might not be practical advice: say, for example, that you’re freelancing until you can land more stable employment. But if your grand vision is to build a large and successful business, you’ll eventually need team members because ultimately growth depends on your ability to find new customers and keep the existing ones happy. If you reach critical mass without the structure to support it, things will fall apart very quickly.
So, you may not like this new approach at first, but in the long run it could be what helps you turn your job into a career. Marks offers three tips for making it work and we’ve adapted them for startups.
1. Master the art of the sale
Doing the actual work is the relatively easy part, but you eventually won’t have time for that because, as most smart entrepreneurs will tell you, clients come and go all the time. The one thing that’s consistent is you, which means you are the one with the most credibility when it comes to talking with prospective clients.
For startups, the CEO has to initiate and close the initial deals. Getting out in the field among prospects helps startup CEOs fine tune product market fit.
You may struggle with this at first, but as more customers come on board it will become inevitable. Delegation takes practice and you’ll get better with time. Weekly or bi-weekly team meetings become crucially important to keep everyone on the same page and the engine humming.
3. Hire the right people
This is easier said than done. Hiring people smarter than you is not necessarily the difficult task. More difficult is finding candidates with the right mindset and functional skills and then allowing them to perform the role for which they were hired.
Most startups start with just two or three founding members. When the time comes to hire the first group of employees, it is important to hire for cultural AND functional fit. Then let them do their jobs.
Photo Credit: Eliot Phillips via Flickr