I have to admit - I was a little scared walking into my first SCORE mentoring session in the imposing Jacob K. Javits federal building. But it wasn’t just the airport-style security making me nervous. I was worried about my new business. Two months earlier, I’d quit my job to launch my own company, a social media and web content consulting agency. My goal was to help my clients tell their stories online with creative writing, photography, videography, and design. So far, my clients had been happy with my work, but this was my first time starting a business. I didn’t know if I was doing okay or about to make a huge mistake.
I sat down with my mentor Maurice Bretzfield and his assistant Khandker “Khan” Ahamed. Maurice is an SEO and digital marketing expert, and Khan is a business student at CCNY, but he’s already an experienced entrepreneur. I unloaded my dreams and fears. Maurice reassured me and gave me three pieces of advice that helped me realize my biggest fears weren’t so scary after all.
1. Accounting can be fun! (Or at least, not painful)
I’ve never been a numbers guy. I managed to squeak through the required statistics 101 course in college and never looked back. Even when I worked at a large corporation, I didn’t take advantage of Health and Transportation Flex Spending accounts because I couldn’t trust myself to keep track of all the receipts. But opting out of accounting 101 just isn’t an option for a small business owner.
My mentor recommended I use one of the most popular small business accounting tools (hint: it rhymes with “Thick Books”), so I signed up for the software with all the enthusiasm of a trip to the DMV. But hey - I once found $10 on the ground outside the Manhattan DMV, and I found out that I liked accounting!
I gave the app the login information for my online bank accounts, and it automatically imported my transaction history. It was easy to track business vs. personal spending and the app even started recommending deductions to me. That’s way better than finding $10!
2. Search Engines Want You to Be Good at SEO
I’d always thought that Google’s algorithm was like a capricious Greek deity, and only an oracle could read the portents that foretold doom or good fortune for your web page. But Google is much more new-age than that. It wants to help you be good by optimizing your page for search. Go to Google Search Console and you can see exactly how your page appears in Google’s search results. You can even help Google index the page. At Google Analytics, you can track traffic to and through your page.
There are still plenty of 3rd-party tools to check and improve your site’s SEO. Maurice made a few recommendations (eliminate my splash page, standardize sub-page titles and headers) and had me install WooRank, an SEO optimizer. If your site is built on WordPress, there are also plenty of PlugIns and if you use Squarespace, just click the “SEO” tab on your settings page.
3. The Clients Will Come
I knew accounting would just be a matter of doing the work and I was excited to learn that I could improve my search engine results, but it wasn’t until the end of my mentoring session that I got to my real fear. I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to land new clients.
In my first month as an entrepreneur, I’d met with half-a-dozen potential new clients. I’d run around the city, meeting them at their offices, in coffee shops, and at networking events. I’d stay up late working on proposals, making sure the formatting, grammar and content were all perfect. Often, they would send the proposals back with detailed edits, which I would incorporate and send back the same day. In meetings, I’d help them draft their site maps and social media campaigns.
But one-by-one, the potential new clients vanished. Some decided not to launch their businesses, others didn’t have the money. A few took my advice and implemented it on their own. By the time I came to see Maurice, I was feeling a bit discouraged.
“Do your work,” he told me. “The clients will come.”
I listened. I stopped spending my energy running around town. Instead, I focused on improving my website and making sure my existing clients were as happy as could be. Since then, one of my clients has recommended me to a colleague, another has asked me to increase my hours, and a new one called out of the blue to ask for help with his website.
Maurice’s advice was great, but I’d add just one more thing -
"Do your work.
The clients will come.
Don’t be scared."
Sam Dolgin-Gardner is the founder and CEO of Dolgin Digital Media, a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer and proud papa to two dogs. He helps businesses and non-profits tell their stories online. He invites you to visit his webpage or connect on LinkedIn.