Six Ways Running A Small Business Is Like Raising A Rescue Pit Bull

I started my freelance writing business in 2010. My family and I adopted an adolescent pit bull mix from a rescue organizationYoung black and white pit bull with family on adoption day in late 2015.

 

Although the two endeavors may seem unrelated, I’ve discovered many parallels exist between being a “mom” to our pittie, Lulu, and running my business. Both have brought their fair share of challenges and triumphs. And in many ways, they’ve required a similar mindset and methodology to move things in a positive, productive direction.

What running a small business and raising a rescue pit bull have in common:

You need patience.

Building a successful business doesn’t happen overnight, and there are often setbacks along the way. Similarly, gaining the trust and respect of a rescue pup may require an extended time frame. When I transitioned from a corporate job to starting my own business, it took a couple of years before I went from “feast or famine” mode to having a consistently full plate of work from clients. After adopting Lulu one year ago (she had two homes and was in residence at a rescue twice prior to coming to us), we’re still working on some trust and behavioral issues. Patience isn’t optional when raising a dog that has been through disruption and disappointment—nor is it optional when building a business.

 

You can’t get lazy.

Starting and running a business requires your energy and attention nearly all of the time. Likewise, pit bulls are of a breed that typically needs A LOT of exercise and mental stimulation. You need to stay motivated and put forth constant effort to make things work. Lulu needs miles of brisk walks each day, bouts of play when she can go “all out” to expend pent-up energy, and training exercises to stimulate her brain. Without those things, she becomes mischievous and less obedient, akin to a naughty toddler.

 

Similarly, your business will retaliate if you ignore its basic needs. Unless you tend to every aspect of running your company, you’ll eventually lose control.

 

Bad behavior, if not corrected, could come back to bite you.

I don’t mean that literally. Pit bulls get a bad rap even though they ranked 4th among 122 different canine breeds in temperament testing by the American Temperament Test Society, Inc. But I digress.

 

With Lulu, I’ve learned that consistently reinforcing good behavior and discouraging what isn’t desirable has helped her gain more self-control and confidence in stressful or overstimulating situations. Mixed messages don’t work when training rescue dogs—and they don’t work in business either. If you pick up bad habits and don’t make the effort to follow through on what you begin, you’ll either miss—or screw up—opportunities. Exercising self-discipline and setting ground rules are the keys to accomplishing your goals.

 

You might bite off more than you can chew if you don’t do some research first.

Although I’ve always had dogs as part of my family, Lulu is my first pit bull. Because her breed is so widely misunderstood, adopting her brought with it a higher level of responsibility than if we had rescued a different type of dog. Thankfully, we took some time to educate ourselves about pit bulls before jumping in and bringing her home. Oh, we still met some surprises and challenges, but having a foundation of knowledge and understanding has definitely helped us.

Similarly, if you don’t prepare yourself with some self-education before starting and running a business, you could find yourself overwhelmed. With legal, accounting, marketing, sales, and every other responsibility to manage, you need take stock of what you know, what you don’t know, and what resources you’ll need to cover all the bases.

 

There’s no one-size-fits-all system for success.

Some training techniques that have worked for other pit bull owners have not worked for us. Some popular approaches to thwarting undesirable behavior either excite Lulu, putting her into crazy overstimulation mode, or they have no effect at all. We’ve had to go through a long process of trial and error.

 

Running a business successfully also requires experimentation. What has worked for other business owners won’t necessarily be the right M.O. for you. While it’s to your advantage to be open to advice from others, consider that your situation isn’t the same as theirs.

 

I’ve also discovered that to some degree I need to adjust my working style to accommodate individual clients’ needs and preferences. Although I have some standard rules of engagement that I’m not willing to comprise, I’ve found it’s extremely beneficial to exercise some flexibility. For example, with some clients I collaborate and exchange information predominantly via email, attaching content via Word documents. With others, I share content via Google Drive. And then others prefer using Trello. The point is, you’ll likely find your clients will have their own way of doing things, and you’ll add value and gain loyalty by accommodating them. Before you agree, however, make sure their approach will work efficiently for you and won’t add unreasonable amounts of time or cost.

 

It’s well worth the hard work.

There’s satisfaction in seeing positive results after you’ve put mind, body, and soul into an endeavor. This is true when your business is thriving and when raising a rescue dog who becomes well adjusted in your care.

 

When I think about how I went from “zero” customers and feeling as though I had to grab whatever work I could find to now having loyal, quality clients who often max-out project schedule, I’m thankful and fulfilled.

 

As for Lulu, I feel pride and a sense of great accomplishment at how far she has come in so many ways since we brought her home a little over a year ago.

 

Your Responsibility as “Leader Of The Pack”

Whether you’re running a business or raising a pit bull, to make it work you must pledge your commitment to putting forth the effort and not shying away from the challenge. You’ll have good days when the world is all belly rubs and off-leash romps. You’ll have crappy days that feel like long, long walks on a short leash.

As the pack leader, it’s on you to make the most of opportunities and overcome obstacles.

 

Your turn: If you’re a entrepreneur and pit bull (or other breed) dog mom/dad, what parallels have you drawn between running your business and raising your rescue dog?

And for those of you just considering making a pet a part of your family, remember to “adopt don’t shop”!

Avoid This Fatal Small Business Mistake

Small Business Saturday (Nov. 28) is around the corner. It’s a time for celebrating the benefits of having small businesses in the Work for itlocal community and rallying to support them. American Express’s “Shop Local” mantra is the call to support local small businesses on Small Business Saturday.

Yes, small business owners, this day is for you!

But that doesn’t mean you don’t have to try.

Being a local small business doesn’t mean people are obligated to support you. You have to do your part, and you need to make customers feel appreciated.

Examples Of Doing Small Business The Wrong Way

I recently had two encounters with local small businesses that failed to recognize that. I won’t call them out by name, but I will share my experience with each.

 

  1. My husband and I were recently at a business event where a business owner of an entertainment venue complained about the community not coming out to attend performances. His tone and his attitude made me feel like he was pointing the finger at us, even though we regularly support his business. While he may not have meant it personally, that’s how I took it. In his frustration and discontent with the local community’s support, he lumped us—long-time customers—into the bunch. I left feeling like he doesn’t appreciate our business. And now I really don’t have much interest in going back any time soon.
  2. Second example is the interaction I recently had with the insurance agent and company that provided my family’s homeowners insurance. As we were working with a pitbull rescue to adopt a furry family member, I contacted our agent to see if our policy had any restrictions on the breeds of dogs we could have to maintain our policy. She responded by emailing a clause from the insurance company that indicates pit bulls couldn’t be covered. I asked her for additional information regarding our options…then radio silence. After several days of no response from her, we switched both our homeowners and auto insurance policies to State Farm—who, by the way, has stellar local customer service.

The Lesson For Small Business Owners

Being local doesn’t mean you can take your customers for granted. It doesn’t mean local people must shop at your store or select you to provide their services simply because you’re a local company.

You have to earn their business, and you have to appreciate them.

The Right Way To Earn Small Business Bragging Rights

Leadership expert Steve Gutzler wrote a post that made me pause to think about the qualities of being self-employed that I tend to Bragging guyemphasize when talking with other professionals.

 

Upon reflection, I realize I too often share about my packed project schedule or the fact that there never seem to be enough hours in the day to accomplish everything. It’s as if being overworked or overwhelmed are valid markers on the path to success.

 

They’re not. There’s no glory in excessive stress and leading a professional life that seems to control us rather than the other way around. What’s the point of being your own boss if your business is the boss of  you?

 

Sure, we need to work hard to build sustainable businesses, BUT that’s not what should earn us bragging rights as solopreneurs and small business owners.

 

What should give us something to gloat about?

  • We can choose the types of projects we want to work on.
  • We can choose the clients we want to work with.
  • We don’t have to ask anyone permission to leave work early on a beautiful summer afternoon.
  • We can plan our work schedule around our kids’ ball games and play rehearsals.
  • We can enroll in any professional development course we want without someone telling us it’s not relevant to our position.

 

Having lifestyle flexibility is nothing to feel guilty about. It’s OK to step away from work and enjoy other things.

 

And you shouldn’t feel like less of a business professional because you have the ability to do that when others don’t.

 

Isn’t it time we wore THAT as our small business badge of honor?

 

Of course, having the ability to do more than work all the time means finding the discipline and resources to plan better and work more efficiently.

 

Accomplish that and you’ve really got something to brag about!

 

Your turn! What do you find yourself quickest to communicate when talking with others about your experience in self-employment?

 

Image courtesy of bplanet at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Does [Client] Size Matter?

The bigger the client, the better?Ruler

 

That’s the mindset of some professional services solopreneurs and freelancers I’ve met.

 

And what’s not to love about landing that big-time corporate client with a limitless budget and an endless stream of exciting projects waiting for you?

 

When I first started my freelance writing business, I had my sights set on moving away from working with smaller businesses and marketing firms to getting signed on by larger companies. After all, they’re bigger so they have to be a better quality client, right?

 

Not necessarily.

 

After working full-time as a freelance writer these past five years, I’ve learned that the size of clients often has very little to do with how fulfilling—and lucrative—the working relationships will be.

 

What Really Matters

If your skills, expertise, and services are a match for a client’s needs, don’t discount them as a bad fit purely because their business is small.

 

Good clients come in all sizes. And so do the not-so-good clients.

 

Rather than using size as a way to qualify or disqualify prospective clients, consider other qualities and characteristics:

 

  • Can they/are they willing to pay you what you ask?

    You might be surprised to discover that the largest of businesses might claim to have the smallest of budgets when outsourcing work. I’ve already turned down work from a very large international company because they proposed to pay an amount so much lower than my billable rate that it was downright insulting. Conversely, I have solopreneur clients and business clients with two or three employees who give me no pushback on my pricing because they value what I do for them.

 

  • Do they pay on time?

    This might be difficult to assess until you’re actually working with a client, but you’ll want to know what to expect. I’ve heard and read horror stories from a few solopreneurs who have waited up to six months to get paid by large corporate clients. When you need that income to pay your bills—and pay yourself—waiting 180 days for a check can hurt. Smaller sized clients can be late payers, too, but there’s far less administrative red tape to get through to get paid. As you’re discussing an opportunity with a prospective client, ask them what their typical payment cycle is and identify what your payment terms are in your proposal. One of my large corporate clients shared that they pay in 45 days rather than in 30 days as my proposal requested. I was fine with that—and they have indeed paid all my invoices within 45 days.

    Tip: Some companies will shorten their accounts payable cycle if you accept payments electronically through PayPal or credit card.

 

  • Do they have their act together?

    Clients who are all over the place with their idea of what they need from you can suck up a lot of your time and energy. If they don’t have clear goals or vision of what they want to achieve, you could find yourself doing a lot of rework or completely scrapping what you’ve done to accommodate their whims. Note that good clients will often need your guidance and recommendations to fully shape their vision. As an expert in your field, you should expect that. But a client who is a “hot mess” will likely be high maintenance and give you more stress than the opportunity is worth.

 

  • How many layers of approval will your work need to go through?

    If you’re an impatient person, prepare for frustration if your work will need the seal of approval from multiple people within a company. Expect to wait longer for feedback and expect multiple change requests. This can happen with small clients, but it’s more typical of larger businesses with various departments and a corporate hierarchy in place.

 

What Really, Really Matters

Last, but not least, never underestimate your intuition. Are you feeling a connection with your prospect? Are you getting a good vibe from them?

 

This may sound superficial, but it can make or break how much you enjoy your work. AND it can affect your attitude and energy level overall. It’s tough enough to manage all aspects of your business. If you’re working with clients who are nasty to you, make unreasonable demands, or are otherwise difficult to deal with, you’ll find yourself mentally drained, unmotivated, and void of self-confidence.

 

You don’t have time for that and your business could suffer under those circumstances.

 

Size up your clients carefully. And remember, bigger may not be better.

 

Your turn! What qualities make clients a good fit for you?

 

Image courtesy of Felixco, Inc. at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

“Better Is The Enemy Of Good”—Fortune Cookie Friday Small Biz Wisdom

Complacency to remain “status quo” as a solopreneur or freelancer can mean a shorter shelf life for your small business.Fortune Cookie Friday

 

This week’s fortune cookie reading, “Better is the enemy of good,” reminds us of that.

 

Good is…well…good. But only by getting better can our businesses achieve respect and create greater demand for our services.

 

Good might get the contract, but better is the key to keeping a client for life.

 

Lots of other businesses are good. What are you going to do to be better—to give clients a reason to work with you rather than your competition?

 

Fortunately, striving for better doesn’t always require significant effort. Tweaking minor aspects of your M.O. can make a big difference in the perceived value of your services.

 

Doing business better and adding value can mean:

 

  • Reading one article a day that can strengthen your knowledge in your field or help you hone your skills.
  • Returning emails and phone calls more quickly.
  • Responding to inquiries from your website contact form within 8 business hours.
  • Never forgetting the personal touch when communicating with clients. Show you care by starting with sentiments like, “How was your weekend?” or “I hope all is well with you.” End on a note of, “Have a wonderful day,” and “Thanks again for the opportunity to work with you.”
  • Sending customers links to blog posts and articles relevant to a particular challenge they’re facing or a topic you’ve recently discussed with them.
  • Showing clients some love on social media by connecting with them on the channels you share and liking or sharing their content regularly.
  • Proactively suggesting projects that can either save them time, money, or make them more money.

 

Now the question: If better is the enemy of good, is best the enemy of better?

 

Endeavoring to be your best (not to be confused with the unattainable goal of perfection) will always take you farther on the road to success. But take care not to thwart your efforts to better yourself by comparing yourself too closely to your competition. Keep an eye on what your competitors are doing, but focus on developing your own unique value.

 

Good. Better. Best. Raising the bar is the enemy of ordinary.

 

Over to you! What do you do to continually better your business and raise its value to your clients?

Pay Attention. Did You Learn Something Lately?

As you’re keeping up with your social media presence and taking care of business, you really can’t help taking away some new knowledge, tips, and insightSolopreneur learning from the people and brands you follow and interact with.

It often comes in dribs and drabs rather than in big momentous sweeps. So if you’re like me, much of what you learn gets inadvertently lost in the shuffle. Useful, yet unacknowledged and unappreciated.

Sigh. Such a waste.

That’s why I’ve decided to start taking inventory of and sharing some of the bite-sized bits and pieces of wisdom I glean. Why not give those nuggets of practical know-how the cred they deserve?

My twofold purpose:

1. To give you a few useful takeaways. I figure there’s a chance what I share will be new to you, too.
2. To become more aware of what I learn in the course of doing business from day to day so I’m more apt to apply it.

Sounds like a good plan, right? Let’s give it a try.

Tidbits, Tips and Lessons Learned

There are G+ plugins for WordPress that add Google+ comments to your blog posts.

Thanks to Denise Wakeman for talking about these plugins in a recent post. As a big fan of Google+, I dig this. With such a plugin, when someone comments on your post, it posts to that person’s G+ profile and provides a link back to your blog post.

Denise shares that it has expanded her blog’s visibility and increased the comments and shares she gets. Sweet!

The term “Dark Social Media”

Brooke Ballard of B Squared Media sheds light on Dark Social Media in a recent article on her blog. Where have I been? I hadn’t heard that term before.

According to Buffer’s Kevan Lee in his article on the topic, “It’s a term that describes the sharing that happens outside the traditional bounds of social media. For instance, people may share via email or via IM, and these interactions are seldom included in traditional share numbers.”

Good news is more people than you think see your content. Bad news is you’ve got an invisible audience you don’t know anything about.

How do you tap into the untethered potential your invisible audience brings if you have no idea what makes them tick?

I sure don’t have the answer, but check out Brooke’s post for more insight.

Macbook Pro Keyboard Shortcuts to cut and add hyperlinks

I made the move from a P.C. laptop to a Macbook Pro in early August. I love my Mac, but that doesn’t mean it has been a seamless transition. Never much a fan of keyboard shortcuts with my P.C., I’ve found they’re a necessity with a Mac.

Here are two I couldn’t live without:

1. Command + x lets you cut (to paste, use Command + v).
2. Command + k opens the “insert hyperlink” box (first Command + c to copy the URL of the page you want linked, the highlight the text you want hyperlinked, then Command + k, then Command + v to paste the URL).

What Did You Learn Lately?

Here ends my short list, but I’ve got more waiting in the wings for another day.

How about you? What tips and tricks have you learned lately? Comment here to tell us all about them.

By Dawn Mentzer
Another Insatiable Solopreneur™ Post

 

 

Want to Make a Smart Business Move? Ask Stupid Questions.

None of us like to appear uninformed, uneducated, or ignorant. Where’s the glory in that? But none of us knows It's smart to ask stupid questions in businesseverything there is to know about business. Especially when we’re starting out and not even after years down the road. So, like it or not, there will be moments when we need to disclose our lack of knowledge about one thing or another: By asking proverbial “stupid” questions.

As they say, “There’s no such thing as a stupid question.” Of course, knowing that provides little reassurance when you’re fearing ridicule by your peers because you think you don’t know something that everyone else in the entire world already does.

We need to get over that!

The fact is, we don’t know what we don’t know until we realize we don’t know it. That doesn’t make us idiots. It just means some things haven’t been introduced into our frames of reference yet. When they finally are, we often need to ask basic (a.k.a. stupid) questions to understand them.

An embarrassing blast from my past when I wished I had asked a stupid question…

Back in college, I remember taking an essay exam in a P.R. course and one of the questions involved the concept of getting quotes (bids) from companies for providing their services. I was around 19 or 20 years old at the time (and an A student, I might add), and for whatever reason, I didn’t know that  “to quote” meant to propose a price. (Amazing, I know.) Because of that, the question didn’t make complete sense to me, and I was too embarrassed to get clarification from my professor. So I fumbled through answering it the best I could. When my professor returned my graded test, he wrote a comment telling me that it was clear I hadn’t understood the question, and he wished I would have asked him about it. I got a C on that exam, when I likely would have gotten an A, if only I had put on my big girl pants and asked what seemed to be a stupid question. Seems to me, asking and getting an A would have been the smart move. Live and learn.

Not knowing something is excusable. Not asking questions to gain the knowledge you need when you realize you don’t know something is not.

And not asking questions can be downright damaging.

If you don’t ask questions (even when you think they’re stupid and believe everyone else knows the answers), here are a few of the things that could go wrong in your business…

  • You could make serious errors in your bookkeeping and accounting.
  • You could pay more than you should be for products and services.
  • You could do something unintentionally illegal in how you manage your employees or independent contractors.
  • You could be missing the mark with a product or service.
  • You could be wasting time on the wrong social media networks.
  • You could take projects in a different direction than your client envisioned.
  • You could take on the wrong clients.
  • You could take on the wrong projects.
  • You could be taken advantage of.

Moral of the story: If you don’t know, ask!

Sure, it might be embarrassing for a minute or so. But after that initial hit to the ego is over, you’re left with an answer – and empowering information you didn’t have before.

 

By Dawn Mentzer
Another Insatiable Solopreneur™ post

 

 

 

 

15 Moments When Your Business Needs Your Unconditional Love

Starting a small business is exciting. Fraught with novelty and excitement. While it would sure be great if every day from day one onward would be an awe-inspiring adventure,  not all of them will be. Eventually, the fiery honeymoon period ends and your sensible, steady love for your business and what you do will need to sustain and motivate you.

Your business needs your unconditional love!

You need to love your business even when…

  1. You feel overworked.
  2. You don’t have as much work as you’d like.
  3. Not everything is going your way.
  4. You miss out on a great opportunity.
  5. You take an opportunity that isn’t as great as you thought it might be.
  6. A client misunderstands you.
  7. You misunderstand a client.
  8. Payments arrive late.
  9. Your checkbook or credit card statement doesn’t reconcile with Quickbooks.
  10. People doubt you.
  11. You doubt yourself.
  12. You lose a good client.
  13. You gain a not so good client.
  14. Computer issues set you behind schedule.
  15. ________________________. [Insert business challenge here]

Although it’s natural to become frustrated and stressed at times, you can refrain from losing your cool by remembering what you love most about being in business for yourself. As you go about your daily routine day after day and week after week, you might have lost sight of that.

So take a deep breath, and remind yourself about how liberating it is to have the opportunity to do work that means something to you. Focus on the flexibility self-employment has provided you. Think about how running your own business has helped you grow and develop professionally – and personally.

There’s A LOT to love!

By Dawn Mentzer
Another Insatiable Solopreneur™ post

 

 

 

 

Take Action Against Distraction in Your Small Business in 2014

“Bounce rate.” If you’ve got a website, you know less is best when talking about that particular metric. But the bounce Multi-tasking womanrate of your site isn’t the only bounce-related thing that can spell trouble for your business.

As soloprenrenurs and small biz owners, we take on every aspect of our businesses, so it’s easy to become unfocused and “bounce” from one uncompleted task to another, then back to the first one, and then move on to something else before bouncing back to the original task. That zaps productivity. And problems with productivity can quickly manifest themselves as an inability to fit in enough billable hours. And not enough billable hours means less revenue than you may have been banking on. Ouch! Bouncing can be painful!

But you already know that and saying it out loud doesn’t change the fact that you’re faced with needing to tend to not only the work you do for clients, but also to the day-to-day administrative responsibilities that come with the territory. So we multi-task, trying to get more done in less time. Unfortunately, while trying to take care of as many things as possible in a single bound sounds great in theory, in reality we’re only human and therefore incapable of doing it well.

Don’t believe me? Check out this article by Jonha Revesencio about multi-tasking and how digital stress affects the human brain.  According to the infographic within her post, some neuroscientists believe online multi-tasking (particularly email) can put our brains into overload and trigger a “fight or flight” reaction that causes us to lose focus and always aim for tackling what we perceive as immediate opportunities and threats.

And this post by Rachel Blom about interruptions from social media shares that parallel tasks (tasks done simultaneously) take us 30% more time to complete than if we’d do them independently (one after the other).

Multi-tasking might also do some damage to your gray matter, according to this article and infographic on Ragan’s Healthcare Communication News. A mere two percent of people can multi-task successfully, while the other 98 percent of us could lower our IQs by letting email, phone calls, and social media interrupt our work. Another astounding stat from that article: on average, people who use computers for work are interrupted every 10.5 minutes throughout the day.

Yikes!

So how can you get it together, get things done, and resist the urge to do everything at once. Take action to resist distractions!

Here are a few defense maneuvers to help you resist multi-tasking your days away…

  • Schedule time on your calendar daily for all tasks and responsibilities.

    By dedicating specific windows of time for email, social media, client work, accounting, etc., you won’t feel as impelled to bounce aimlessly from one to another.

  • Close your email and social media tabs on your computer when you’re supposed to be working on something else.

    Make them out of sight, out of mind. You’ll find they won’t lure you away nearly as easily from the task at hand if you don’t have them front and center.

  • Put your smart phone out of reach.

    Even a 1-minute phone call can throw you off course when it unexpectedly interrupts your work on a project. Plus, you might be tempted to check your incoming emails, texts, and social media interactions if you hear the notifications ding and your phone is within arm’s length. Better to put it across the room – or in another room – until you’re free to attend to it

  • Schedule some “wiggle room” into your day.

    While you might not always find it possible, try to block out a half hour once or twice each day for the unexpected. That way you won’t get completely behind on your work if you need to field an impromptu call from a prospect or discover a task is taking you a little more time than you anticipated. You can find more on my “wiggle room” suggestion in one of my earlier Insatiable Solopreneur posts this year.

When I stick to the plan above, I find I feel less stressed, feel more in control, and think more clearly. Most importantly, I get more done and have far less apprehension about what’s on my “to do” list, because I know I’ve got a plan in place to accomplish my outstanding projects and tasks. If you’ve found bouncing is sabotaging your productivity and not leaving you the time you need for focusing on billable work, it’s time to break the multi-tasking cycle. Take action against distraction and discover the difference it will make for your business in 2014.

 

Your turn! What tips and tricks do you use to avoid bouncing through your day?

 

By Dawn Mentzer

 

 

Image courtesy of Pong / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Big Influence Comes in Small Packages

As solopreneurs and small business owners, we all want to raise awareness of our businesses. We want to get noticed by the people who matter. That’s the same whether we’re networking in person or online via social media networks. Across social media, you’ll find no shortage of articles about “engaging with influencers.” We’re urged to seek them out to propel our brands to bigger and better things. Get the heavy hitters to take notice of you, and you’ll be golden, right? Maybe, but attempting to stand out in the crowd can be tough.

Caution: Don’t put all your eggs in the typical “influencer” basket.

It seems many small business owners think of influencers as the people who have tens of thousands of Twitter followers, a multitiude of Facebook fans, and gaggles of Google+ people following them. They hang on their every word, share their posts, and add their comments to the hundred or so that others left on the influencers’ status updates and blog posts. All in an attempt to get recognized by these ultimate authorities.

But how is that going to help your business? Sure, maybe you’ll get lucky and out of all the thousands of other people vying to get their attention, the A-listers will follow you and single out one of your blog posts down the road. But the chances aren’t really in your favor. I’m not being pessimistic. I’m being realistic. It’s not that they don’t care or that you’re not worthy; they’ve got so much interaction coming at them, they can’t possibly keep tabs and give time to everyone who engages with them.

Does that mean you shouldn’t read their blogs and share their content? I’m not implying that at all. Definitely do if you find them helpful and appropriate for your audience, but don’t put all your eggs in their baskets. There are people in your online network who have far fewer followers, but who stand to increase awareness of your brand far more than the heavy hitters.

Influence isn’t exclusively owned by the big guys.

Make it a priority to interact with professionals who have a lesser online following. Note that a lesser following doesn’t mean they aren’t influential, reputable, intelligent people. I follow a slew of less-widely-known people, marketing firms, and small brands who provide excellent content and insight. I believe it’s important – and ultimately more beneficial – for solopreneurs and small biz owners to put effort into cultivating those relationships online. Why? You won’t get lost in the shuffle.

When you interact with these people…

  • Your comments and input won’t get lost in the crowd.
  • You’ll find they’re more willing and able to reciprocate by sharing and commenting on your content.
  • You can become top of mind as an expert in your field to their followers if you’re consistent in providing value through your engagement with them.
  • You’ll have a better chance of gaining referrals because you’ve been able to escape the noise and build relationships.

Find the right mix.

So as you fine-tune your online M.O., aspire to find balance in your efforts. Follow not only the revered and famous, but also lesser know professionals who know their stuff and whom you find common ground with. By showing you’re in tune with what everyone is talking about AND demonstrating you’re capable of finding resources others may have overlooked, you’ll steadily build your own authority online.

 

By Dawn Mentzer