How to run a small business: For starters, stop whining!

Advice on how to run a small business

Perhaps the first step in learning to run a small business is this: don’t whine. It helps no-one.

And yet, if you put four freelancers or small business owners in a room, three of the four will moan about micro-enterprises not being supported in South Africa, times being tough, work being hard to find. The fourth will keep quiet, because she has enough work and doesn’t want to jinx her luck.

But it’s not about luck. It’s about being clever. About pushing hard. About not whining.

Here’s a little story

A while ago I approached a neighbourhood home industry to quote on some custom biscuits. I stipulated required size, colour, shape, and decoration — and left my card. However, I got *crickets* for a week. I left a message, and a day later I heard from the owner. Her freelance bakers weren’t keen to take on (or even quote on) my job because it’s “too fiddly” and “the special shapes cost R200 a pack”.

Sorry – what?!?

What I would’ve done

The way I’d have handled this, as a small business owner myself, is with one or a mix of these responses:

  1. Hi client. I can do it, but because it’s detailed, it’ll cost more. Here’s a quote.
  2. The painting seems tricky. How about this design or this idea instead?
  3. I have an idea. Let’s do this shape rather. It’s in theme, but easier to do.
  4. Can you perhaps pay for the custom cutters, which you can then keep after?
  5. I’m going to invest in the custom cutters, and add Rx to your quote, okay?

In addition, whichever of the above I’d have offered, I wouldn’t have presented the two rubbish excuses offered. (And as the business owner, I’d have sorted it behind the scenes.)

Whining in the industry

This got me to thinking about my own industry … a lot of the freelance / SME whingers out there are whinging because, yes, they don’t have enough work. But, why not?

  • Are they doing everything they can to meet customers’ needs?
  • Is there creativity in how they propose solutions to problems?
  • Are they self-promoting at every opportunity?
  • Or are they waiting for the world to send them a decent living?

I believe it’s a lot of the latter. In my own industry (freelance copywriting), I hear:

  1. I need help finding work opportunities.
  2. I’d like someone to promote my services for me.
  3. I want a solution that offers me better exposure.
  4. There isn’t enough work out there.
  5. I’m a writer, not a marketer or a business-person.

Yikes. It’s no wonder that so many one-person-shows in SA aren’t making bank.

Tip: I’ve found, in my own attempts to run a small business that can feed, clothe and educate a family of three, plus 2-3 dependents, that you need to have an abundance mindset. The more you whinge, whine and blame-shift, the less money comes flooding into your life. The more you think and speak about how good things are, the opportunities before you, and work being ‘great, thanks’, the better it gets.

My advice? Wise up, okes.

Stop moaning. Start brain-storming. Read this article. And get your service act together.

You need a website or blog, nice business cards, consideration of alternative niches, creative approaches to client challenges and — above all — accepting the fact that if you don’t become a business-person, you’re buggered.

Best of luck.