Common small business problems that can be solved by SEO
I have been self employed for many years, have started and closed a number of busineses. My first attempt was a handyman service in Cape Town in 1987. I had been let go, the company I was working for had failed. I like beer, had skills so placed an advert and started fixing things for people. As a single bloke, I made enough for rent, for food and to cover the costs and beer. I was happy.
My family were all in Joburg, so I closed up shop and moved back home. I got work selling for a home improvement company, and didn't get paid. I started freelancing, before finding another job. To shorten this tale, In essence over the next few years I had a few jobs and realised I had ambition.
By 1991 I had tried twice more and failed. I got offered a contract on a game farm, went ahead and moved my all to Colenso and 3 months later was selling equipment to pay wages. This was the fourth time I had been in a so called stable job and ended up losing out.
I returned to Joburg and was determined to start my own business and not rely on others to get paid. I started with nothing. I took a bus and a taxi and walked 3km's to my first quote. Got the deposit, bought materials, a jig saw and a drilling machine and installed the Built in Cupboard.
The final payment saw me buying a really beat up old Honda Black Bomber, which was used to see my next client. I built that business into a less profitable business with 13 staff members and big overheads. I shut up shop in 1998 and went to live in England.
I tell you this not to blow my own trumpet but to prove I have the experience. This was not the last time I started over, and was not the last time I was successful, nor was it the last time I failed. I have started twelve businesses and have failed for reasons from, not enough clients in the area to growing too fast, health issues and not charging enough.
I made my first million when a million meant something and lost it in less than two years, because "winners never quit". I think my credentials are clear. If anyone can tell you how not to do it, it's me.
Know your worth
The problems and solutions we want to deal with are best discussed using my last three businesses as examples. The first bit of advice I have for you is know your worth. I started webTech in Nelspruit, but had no idea what to charge for my services, like many others I worked out what a viable hourly rate would be and did my best not to do too much work for free.
webTECH was very successful at what it did, what I was not successful at was making money. I created websites and drove traffic to some of the biggest companies in Nelspruit, but not once did I consider my value to these businesses. I undercharged because instead of knowing my worth, I charged for actual time spent doing work.
At the time I had one of the most succesful websites in Nelspruit and the Lowveld, Lowveldnet was always on the top of the SERPs. Instead of selling companies on paying a monthly fee to be part of that success, I charged a one off set up fee and an annual fee that was much too cheap. It got to the point where I was working all the time but not earning enough to cover my expenses.
Your service has a value, Your knowledge has more. Know your worth and stop trying to be cheaper than everyone else.
Know when to walk away
In hindsight I should have approached my clients and told them I was changing my pricing structure. It was going to cost them more for my services. My value was more than just a graphic designer, it was more than just a hoster of web sites, it was more than just a redesign every few years. My value was in the results achieved for those businesses.
I had a friend, Dorinda, she told me a long time ago, that she doesn't do business but she bakes. When a recipe doesn't work you change it. If it's terrible you chuck it out. I failed to understand this advice with webTECH. I didn't change the recipe, I ended up throwing out, the baby, the bath water and the bath. webTECH was earning me a monthly income but not enough, so I kept going and kept using the recipe that wasn't working.
My car broke down and I couldn't fix it. I couldn't pay the rent because I wasn't doing enough work. I know now that I could have gotten a retainer from at least three of the clients that would have covered my costs, because my value to them was higher, but as I got broker and broker, I became more and more depressed.
One day I just shut it down and started something else. I shoud have walked away before I did, or changed the recipe. Winners never quit, Quitters never win, Success is just over the horizon. When your business is not covering overheads and not paying you a salary, it's time to walk away. The recipe is failing, it's time to get a new one.
I mentioned earlier about losing the million, same story, just a different business. In hindsight a recipe change could have fixed webTECH, a change of location could have saved the "Rockit Signtist" Not walking away from a recipe killed them both.
Get back on the horse
I started Wood Guy with a motorbike, a laptop and a printer. I printed up some flyers, handed them out and got my first job. I got screwed over by the client but I carried on. I had no choice, it was either get more work or starve.
I built a website, put some pics on it and started my SEO process. I handed out flyers every few weeks to get more work because I wasn't getting the desired results from the web site yet. I didn't do any advertising at all for the last three years I ran Wood Guy,
I was telling people things like, I can't do anything for 6 weeks, I am too busy. My SEO was getting me more leads than I could cope with, this despite being in a small town like Nelspruit.
Cutting costs is the sign of a business in survival mode. I got a huge contract and spent two months manufacturing goods. I hired two extra people to help me.
The work was ready to deliver, the client was to come and inspect and make the next part payment. Her response to my phone call was, "Come install the stuff and then you get paid. Who do you think I am, Mother Christmas?
I had been here before, but with a lot less money at play. I stopped and took stock, I told her that there was no way I was installing if she did not meet her obligations under the contract.
She took the builder for 250k, so my decision not to proceed was the correct one. I sold machines to pay the staff and laid them off. I was nervous about taking deposits because the social media hyenas had attacked me, not knowing the facts, they had called me a crook.
I battened down the hatches and weathered the storm. I sold all the goods she didn't pay for and still took a loss, some of my tools and tried making stuff for the markets. Taking her to court was out of the question, I had no money. I turned away actual paying clients for the next few weeks, because I did not want to be in the same situation again.
The market thing didn't work. I had a room full of furniture that stood in my reception area for months without selling. I got a call and decided not to turn them away and got back to work.
Sales, not cutting costs, will save your business. When you need more money, sell more stuff, don't stop buying stuff to sell. When shit happens, it's not the shit you must focus on but your response. It's not the falling down, it's the getting back up and kicking butt.
Wood Guy ran for another 18 months. My Mom passed away and I had no reason to be in Nelspruit anymore, My kids were far away and I decided to follow them to Pretoria.
Look after yourself, your health is really important
I started over in Pretoria by building a website and SEO'ing it. I used all my Wood Guy experiences and photos to get the info out there. I printed 5000 full colour flyers and started handing them out.
Within 6 months I started getting great leads from the web site, and handed out fewer flyers, By the end of the year I was turning away clients because I was booked for six weeks and more.
A month later I woke up, I had felt a lump where you don't want to feel it. I went off to the doc worried about the worst. It turns out it was a hernia. I had the op and a few days later the wound burst and I was back in hospital. The wound had gone septic. I spent the next three months cleaning a wound with salt water. It healed and I went back to work.
The docs had told me that lifting heavy stuff was a no no, but when needs must, right? I am going for surgery again next month to fix my hernia that has reoccurred.
I have not spent one cent on advertising since the middle of 2017 and have been turning away clients for the last 2 months. I finally took down the website about three weeks ago, I am not going to be lugging kitchen tops around again. My wife doesn't think it's worth the risk. I agree.
How can SEO solve all these problems?
SEO is all about making your web site work for you, It's about driving prospective clients right to your front door. It's about being the first person in your industry that is called when someone does an Internet search.
When you are getting enough leads so that you can turn customers away, you can definitely know your worth. The average small kitchen is being sold for between 30 and 40 000. My last three jobs were all in excess of 70 000 with margins of around 60% gross.
When you are getting more leads than you can cope with, you can walk away from any client that you don't feel happy to work with. When not being desperate for leads you pick and choose your projects or decide if you want to expand. Choices can be made from a position of strength.
Getting back on the horse is easier, when you have a choice of saddles. Having too many leads is a problem that made me happy.
The health thing though cannot be solved with SEO, although the choices I had were to keep the business going and employ others to do the work, but I don't like being responsible for others financial well being.
I am a not a great manager, I can't fire people that I have grown to like. I have been there and prefer not to be there again.
Starting over again
Rather than destroy my health, rather than being responsible for others I have chosen to use my skills to benefit other entrepreneurs, you hire the people I can't, grow your business and have too many leads to cope with. I will do this for you in exchange for you knowing my worth.
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