Today, I'm going to tell you a little story about how my copywriting business grew faster after I had closed it than when it was open.
(Right? I know it sounds crazy, but for all of you "niche shifters" and "multi-passionates", this is a case study for staying the course, even when you really, really think you should shift your focus).
Back in 2013 when I opened my first business (a copywriting shop with the name...wait for it...Lauren Caselli Copywriting! My creativity knows no bounds when it comes to naming), I struggled SUPER hard with networking, putting myself out there, and pitching potential clients.
Two years later when I decided to close my copy shop in favor of planning events, I had more requests for copywriting AFTER I decided to stop copywriting than I did in my whole first year of freelancing. I didn't even have a website about my writing skills; I just had lots of word-of-mouth referrals.
Part of it has to do with the sheer time it takes to get your name out there, but part of it has to do with the fact that learning how to start and run a business takes time, let alone figure out how you work best with clients.
Here are some reasons that you need to focus, stay the course, and be very comfortable doing ONE thing as a business owner.
1 | It takes people a while to get comfortable with you.
I can tell you from first hand experience that it took me a really long time to develop my own client processes and figure out how I work best with clients. On top of that, I was learning who my ideal client was (which is constantly shifting), and I was also trying to figure out what sort of work I really liked doing.
It took me at least a year to really get focused on the kind of work I wanted to do, and how I wanted to do it. Full-disclosure, I worked with a lot of tough clients that first year, which was both really challenging AND extremely eye-opening.
After that first year, I booked some bigger recurring clients which meant I didn't have to go out and hustle as hard, but the only reason I booked those clients is because my reputation from other work I had done got me working with more people.
The lesson: It takes a while for your reputation to spread, so if you give up after 3 - 6 months, or even a year, you're not allowing the time it takes for people to get to know you as a graphic designer, book editor, photographer, or insert-name-of-dream-business-here.
2 | You can't expect overnight results.
Even those "overnight celebrities" that you've heard of have put the work in.
This is kind of like dating (fair warning, I compare dating to business a LOT). Everything goes super great and fast? It usually fizzles quickly since you haven't laid a foundation to be a sustainable, successful partnership (*ahem* business *ahem*).
Slow and steady? Leads to a nice, comfy, lasting relationship (*ahem* business *ahem*).
A lot of people get into their own business because they think it's a fast track to lots of money, but that's not always the case (in fact that's RARELY the case). Even if you have clients right out of the gate, it can take a while for people to really see the value of the work you're doing, and even longer for people find an opportunity to recommend you to all their friends.
If you're not getting results fast enough, work harder...don't switch tracks. If you're already working hard, then have patience. If you've been patient for 2-3 years and you haven't seen any growth, then go back to #1.
Entrepreneurship is a sloooooow, loooooong game. If you don't start with that, then you're going to shoot yourself in the foot by changing your business right away.
3 | Changing your business around confuses clients.
Which means if you want to be known for SOMETHING, you have to be known for that one thing. It makes it really challenging for anyone to recommend you as a graphic designer if you're also a marketing expert, life coach, wedding planner, and backup dancer for the Knicks.
I'm not saying that you can't EVENTUALLY become all of those things. Usually, what happens is that people niche down their focus for their first business (let's say online marketing and sales for creative entrepreneurs), and then they start getting asked to teach or provide services for an ancillary expertise (like creating great online courses or how to launch via social media).
When I closed my copywriting business, I still had people referring to me as a "copywriter" when they introduced me. It was hard for me to change their minds (I spent a lot of time at networking events correcting people for almost 6 months), which is why it can be really challenging to switch your business focus.