Welcome to another Small Business Update – this time with Suzi Zobair of The Smart Bear Digital Consultancy, who joined us back in June 2014 for her first interview. At that point, she’d been going for just a year, being another person, like me, who started a business in her 30s. She was already doing well, with her website design and web optimisation services proving popular enough for her to start needing some admin support – and she was looking at getting that in place by now, saying at the time, “The way things are going, in 12 months’ time I’ll probably need someone to help me – whether that’s subcontracting my admin/sales/PR or hire someone to be in-house. I’m reluctant to hire someone for the actual website-building as this is the part I love most, but if there’s more work than I can handle, I might have to source someone who has a similar style and ethos to my own!” It is very hard to know how to cope with the workload and work out whether to expand when you’re a one-person business – I went through the same process and decided to concentrate on the areas I enjoyed working in and stay small, as, like Suzi, my business is based around my own services. But it is a decision you have to make at some point, and Suzi had to make it earlier than many of my interviewees! So, how’s it going …?
Hi again, Suzi! Are you where you thought you’d be when you looked forward a year ago?
Yes, I am where I thought I’d be – I do need help with things like admin! I’m currently looking into either an apprentice or a freelance junior. I’ve also started working with a fabulous project manager from Assist Marketing.
What has changed and what has stayed the same?
The type of clients I’m getting has changed – it used to be small jobs (which I actually liked, as each day was different) but now, I get bigger/longer projects in. This might have had something to do with my mind-set changing. I no longer look eagerly for the next job and I’m not willing to take just anything. I prefer not to take jobs where they try to bargain over price, as I don’t feel they value my services.
I’ve also changed the services I offer – for example, due to changes in Google’s Algorithm, all of my websites are now responsive at no extra cost.
My website has changed, as well – I changed the URL to www.thesmartbear.co.uk (although the old URL redirects to this one, of course!) I’ve been trying to drop the ‘creative’ from Smart Bear Creative and be The Smart Bear Digital Consultancy but it’s stuck, I think!
What have you learned? What do you wish you’d known a year ago?
I wish I’d learnt to say no more but when bills need to be paid, it’s very hard to turn down work.
Any more hints and tips for people?
Learn to value your services – if you don’t value it, no one else will and you’ll be working for nought. Charge what you’re worth and you’ll attract the type of clients you want to work with.
And … where do you see yourself and your business in a(nother) year’s time?
In a year’s time, I definitely want to be in a position where I’m not as busy – either because I’m working less for the same money (i.e. working smarter) or I have some help.
It IS hard to say no (and I’ve written about that here), but it is important to get used to saying it. The way I’ve dealt with that is by having good, recommended people who I can pass prospects on to if I think they’ll be a good fit, helping the prospect, helping my colleague and making myself look good in the process. I do recommend this approach as it works very well. It’s also hard, as I said, to know how to grow your business – I do have some advice and case studies here if anyone reading is interested in that area at the moment. Best of luck to Suzi as she moves forward and I’m sure she’ll be where she plans to be this time next year!
If you’ve enjoyed this interview, please see more small business chat, the index to all the interviewees, and information on how you can have your business featured (I have a full roster of interviewees now so am only taking on a very few new ones). If you’re considering setting up a new business or have recently done so, why not take a look at my books, all available now, in print and e-book formats, from a variety of sources.