Hi, I'm Ashlie. Owner and lead designer at Wolf & Willow Design! I'm a 12 year corporate accountant turned full-time designer helping other small-business entrepreneurs chase their dreams. I'm also a wife, #girlmom, and Air Force veteran.
Tips, tools & resources for your business.
Sign up here!
There’s a lot of lessons learned (some good, some bad 🥴) over years of running a business. But the best part about that is it leads to growth, and the ability to share with others to hopefully prevent them from going through the same growing pains you did.
You know what I reallllly struggled with in the very deep, dark beginnings of starting a business as a solopreneur?
What did I even NEED to start/run a business!?
Whew! Talk about information overload! It seemed like everyone had their own ideas about what it took to start and run a successful business. And wow, was it ever disheartening after that first year of not making any money wondering what the hell all those people were talking about with their:
“Do this and you can make 6-figures in 6 months just like I did” promises.
I found all kinds of blogs and podcasts and social media posts…I learned about CRMs, email marketing, copywriting, websites, website templates, VAs, Facebook groups…you name it, there was someone out there telling you THIS was the way to quit your job and become a successful entrepreneur (basically) overnight.
That led to a LOT of overwhelm and thinking to myself: “Ok, but what do I really need FIRST? Can we just start with the basics please!?”
It felt a lot like the chicken and the egg conundrum.
So today, I’m sharing with you what I would invest my time and money on first, early on in my business, if I could go back in time and do it all over again.
One of the things I found to be most confusing in the beginning (and also what I saw a lot of other entrepreneurs asking about frequently) was how to actually communicate and work with clients.
Those of us who had no idea what the hell a CRM was were left piecing things together.
“Ok, so how do you invoice your clients?”
“We need contracts?! Where do we get those?”
“What’s a payment processor and how do I get one?”
It was a rabbit hole of finding out you needed one thing, then that led to needing another thing to accomplish thing #1, etc. etc.
It wasn’t until later on when I finally learned about CRMs like Dubsado and Honeybook that I realized how all of the business owners were managing all of these seemingly unrelated tasks.
But this is also one of those things that a lot of people put off in the beginning (like I did) because no clients means no need for a CRM, right!?
Because once you start getting ready to take inquiries you’re scrambling to research them, choose one, and get it set up enough to run a new client (who by the way you’re trying to impress, right?) through it. Yup, this is exactly what happened to me.
So there I was, 9PM frantically signing up for HoneyBook so I could send a proposal to my very first potential client 🤦🏼♀️.
Yes, CRMs cost money. And yes, spending money before you’re earning money sucks. But it’s really one of those things you want set up and running before a potential client reaches out to you. One of the best ways to impress clients is with a killer client experience, and that starts with your proposal & onboarding process.
Trust me on this one, take some time in the very beginning to map out what you want your client experience to look like and implement it into the lowest tier of a good CRM. You’ll thank me later.
A lot of CRM companies have gotten smart to the fact that brand new entrepreneurs aren’t willing to dish out $30+/mo indefinitely while they wait for clients to roll in. And many of them have adjusted to be more affordable for when you’re just starting out.
For example, HoneyBook when I signed up was running a special for $9/mo indefinitely until you hit $10k in sales. That lasted me a good while! Definitely enough to get me started! And let’s face it, a lot of us are spending that amount or more in Starbucks runs every month…so just remind yourself of that when you cringe putting in your credit card number.
Building an email list is another one of those things that either gets forgotten or filed under the “I don’t need that yet” column when just starting a business. But I can say with confidence that I wish I had put more emphasis on list building strategies and good email marketing practices early on.
While it may seem more important to focus on things like your services, products and website, you’ll quickly find yourself behind the power curve when it comes to marketing if you neglect implementing at least one or two lead magnets to start capturing email addresses.
In case you haven’t heard already, building an email list should be at the top of your list of marketing goals. Yes, even more so than getting followers on any social media platform. Why? Well, there’s several reasons actually.
Imagine you spend years building a significant following on your social platform of choice (IG, FB, TT, etc.) and suddenly your account gets hacked or deactivated. Or the platform goes out of business entirely.
If you don’t have an email list, you’ve just lost access to your ENTIRE audience. Believe it or not this happens all too often.
Social media is great for discoverability and making connections, but for long-term engagement you should really be aiming to move those relationships into an email list where you can connect with them in a way that isn’t at risk of being taken away without recourse.
It may not seem like it, but your audience inviting you into their inbox is a pretty big deal. Your email is something you typically protect and reserve for only those things that are very important and that you expect to get a significant value from.
By giving you their email address, your audience is giving you the opportunity to communicate directly with them, in a space that is more personal than you showing up on their Explore feed.
This allows for better opportunities to nurture relationships consistently and over the long-term.
Your audience on social media will only see your content in one of two circumstances: 1) they visit your individual profile consistently or 2) one of your posts shows up randomly on their explore page…right alongside posts from everyone else they follow.
This means that even though someone may follow you, they’re likely not going to see every single thing you post.
If they’re on your email list, you can ensure that your messages are reaching the right people consistently.
Don’t be like me and wait to start not only building but nurturing your email list.
After a while I finally took the time to set up a lead magnet and it generated interest, but I never took the time to really set up a strong nurture sequence. It wasn’t until much later on when I realized I was really missing out on nurturing those connections that at that point were probably warm turned ice cold leads.
Think about how you can encourage people to join your email list early on and establish a strong welcome sequence. And don’t forget to continue to show up in their inbox even if it’s only 1-2 times per month to start. Think of it this way, if you forget to email them, they’re going to forget about you.
And turning a cold email list back into a warm one is a helluva lot harder than keeping them engaged from the beginning.
This is a polarizing topic, but we are firm believers that even aspiring or just starting out businesses should invest in a strong brand identity and website. I’ll start with the why, and then get into the how.
This is something I see so many aspiring solopreneurs struggle with. When I first started out one of the biggest questions was: what am I trying to sell and who am I trying to sell it to?
This is a critical part of starting and running any business, and it’s so often overlooked. It’s also sometimes referred to as niching down, but I find that many times people feel too constrained by this terminology. Instead of thinking of who you aren’t going to serve, focus on who you do want to serve.
A common misconception is that branding is just about the visual elements, like your logo, colors and fonts. And while these elements do serve a purpose, they aren’t the heart of your brand. The visual elements of your brand are simply a visual representation of your brand as a whole. And in order to develop that effectively, you must dig into the overall identity of what your brand represents, who it’s meant to speak to, and how it’s meant to serve them.
Put very simply, you are your brand identity, and your Jimmy Choos are just the clothes your brand wears.
So you see, having a solid brand identity is about so much more than just having a logo to slap on a website.
Yes! Call us biased if you want, but stand by this whole-heartedly.
Once you’ve established your brand identity, a website is where you’re able to communicate your brand messaging to potential clients and customers. It gives your audience a place to learn all about who you serve, what you offer and how it benefits them.
Having an online presence is more important now than ever, especially with the pandemic-driven boom in online services and entrepreneurship. Clients are more likely to buy from people who can confidently communicate not only their services, but their value. And having a professional website goes a long way in building that credibility.
Having a website is also crucial for getting found organically through search engines. Long gone are the days of using Google solely for local businesses. If you offer your services worldwide, getting found through SEO can significantly expand your reach and increase your chances of being found.
A website also allows you to track the analytics of your visitors. And while the word ‘analytics’ alone is enough to make even the most experience business owners feel a bit like 👇🏻
it’s an invaluable tool when it comes to improving your processes and potential client experience.
Analyzing the traffic patterns on your website allows you to see how many people you’re reaching and where you’re losing them. This really gives you a good idea of what’s working and what’s not so you can adjust as needed to connect with your audience better and increase conversion rates.
I hear ya! And believe me, I am definitely not encouraging you to promise your first-born or take out a second mortgage to invest in a brand + website for your business. That’s what templates are for!
We’ve got some beautiful and strategic Showit website templates in the shop that can give you a great basis to start from.
There’s even some amazing designers out there offering semi-custom brands, which allow you to get a professional brand without the custom price tag. Some we love and recommend include:
And, exciting news! We’re working on something special over here at W&W that fuses semi-custom brands with a Showit website.
Imagine being able to grab not only a semi-custom brand, but a website template to match all in one smooth, satisfying experience, all still at the fraction of the cost of a custom brand + website.
Hop on the waitlist to get updates, early-bird offers and the opportunity to help us develop this one-of-a kind experience.
These are the top three things I wish I would have invested more time and money in much earlier on in my business.
Did any of them surprise you? Got questions? My DMs are open as always!
Till next time,
Take a beautifully designed, expertly crafted, easy to customize Wolf & Willow template for a test drive absolutely free.
Book a complimentary consultation call now to discover how we can help you kick the overwhelm, build a brand and website to delight your ideal clients and book more sales, and finally get back to doing what you love in your business - all while making more money.
let's do this!