Sole traders across the country rely on modern technology and a few tricks of the trade to pretend their business is bigger than it actually is.
After all, you don’t necessarily want your customers to know your business is a small operation that’s perhaps even based from home if you’re going to land the big clients you’re after.
But there are ways to make your business appear bigger than it really is.
Fleur Madden launched Red PR Group 10 years ago and has since grown to a national PR firm with multiple offices. Whether big or small, be realistic about what you do and doing it well, she says.
“If you’re small and starting out, my first piece of advice would be to invest in branding and design. Without a strong brand, you will never appear credible to your audience,” Madden says.
The biggest mistake she sees small businesses make is not investing in their website, she says.
“It will be most people’s first introduction to you. You don’t need to over-sell, you just need to have a well-designed, functional, easy-to-use site that represents what you do well.”
Also make sure you get your branding and messaging consistent across all platforms and touch-points to build trust, she says.
“Don’t go to market until this is perfect, or you will end up having to rebrand before you know it.”
But remember that credibility and size are two different things, she says.
“There are cowboys in every industry and over-promising and under-delivering will quickly ensure you are a small business that doesn’t survive. Be proud of being small, own it, do what you can do and outsource what you can’t to the experts,” she says.
If you are keen to make your small operation appear bigger than a one-man band, here are seven ways to do it:
1 Get a virtual office
If your start-up isn’t big enough yet or you can’t afford an office, consider getting a virtual one. They’re available in all cities, including most regional centres these days.
These increasingly trendy co-working spaces charge around $120 a week, and the perks can far outweigh a home office set-up. Landlords are dangling various incentives to lure bright young business minds, including access to a shared receptionist, yoga classes, IT support, social functions and even free kayaking.
The marketing manager of DesignCrowd, Jo Sabin, says a shared space means you can reduce costs while maintaining professionalism.
“Basically you pay a set monthly fee and use a space when you need it. You get a good location, there’s a receptionist that can take messages for you and you have access to meeting rooms when you need them,” Sabin says.
2 Hire a freelancer
If your needs are a little more extensive or in-depth, hiring a freelancer can be a great option. There are heaps of freelancer options in all industries, so either ask around for a referral, do a Google search or use one of the numerous websites that channel freelance services, such as oDesk or elance.
Sabin says this gives you expertise and talent and you only pay for them when you need them.
“You can freelance or outsource almost anything like content, designs, imagery, photography, customer service, admin, social media, marketing and more,” Sabin says.
3 Make technology work for you
You may not always be sitting at your desk waiting for an enquiry to come in. Getting tech savvy means you can always be available when you’re asked to quote, for more information about your business or you need to access details on your computer to send to a prospective client.
Maureen Shelley, chief operating officer of copywriting firm The Copy Collective, also subscribes to Debtor Daddy, which will chase accounts on your behalf which frees you from hours of paperwork and improves cash flow for $19 a month, she says.
“Also make sure you use all your apps on your mobile so you can quote, invoice and follow up customer queries on the fly,” she says.
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