So, 2021 hasn’t exactly been a flying start… It’s been a real struggle for many of us, professionally and personally. We’ve had to be resilient, understanding, flexible and steadfast. It’s incredibly hard to plan when there’s so much uncertainty, but that means it’s even more important to put strategies in place to make sure we’ve got plenty of the work we want – when we are able to do it.
There will always be factors out of our control, and we have to accept that, but we do have a choice in how we respond to the situation. Developing clear strategies is always better in business than just flying by the seat of our pants. Here are some that have worked for me.
Make the most of your existing customers
The best source of new work will always be the people you’ve already worked for. List them all out and note down which ones you want to work for again. Get in touch with every single one of them.
Ask them how they’re doing. Tell them when you’re hoping to be available for work and ask whether there’s anything you can do for them. The relationships you have with people who already like working with you are always the most important – both for direct work and for recommendations to other potential customers. Take the opportunity to ask for a testimonial from them too.
Upgrade your online presence
Even if you’re home schooling and looking after a ‘mini-you’ a lot at the moment, make sure you’re planning your next business moves. Update your website. Go through the photos on your phone that you’ve taken of jobs, write some blogs, share them on social media, send them to The Decorator!
Service, clean and organise your kit so that the race car of your business is ready on the starting grid, not gathering cobwebs in the garage.
Do business networking
I really resisted this at first, but it really does work, both for getting more commercial and residential clients. Once you’re known in networking circles, you’ll be recommended a lot more. Some groups are quite expensive, some are free.
Try several and see what fits for you.
Improve the quality of your quotes
One thing that’s always worked for me is spending a bit more time doing really detailed quotes. I know it’s helped me to get work from people who appreciate attention to detail.
Make sure that your quotes look smart and show that you’ve really listened to your customer and answered their concerns. Include some links to relevant blogs you’ve written, and even one or two testimonials from former clients.
Weatherproof your business
I’ve talked about this before, but have a plan for if it rains, or if there’s yet another lockdown. I used to ask that anyone booking me for exterior decorating would have some interior work to do as well, so that I could carry on working if it rained too hard.
Get to know landlords who need rental properties turned around quickly once tenants move out – that’s especially useful in the current climate where working in occupied properties can be problematic.
Move towards bigger jobs
Whether you do domestic or commercial, the bigger the contracts you get, the fewer of them you need to fill your year – That can be both bigger properties and moving towards higher quality work.
Higher quality work takes longer because you’re spending much more time doing really good prep, as well as better finishing. There will always be customers who want the best and are willing to pay for it – even in a recession.
When I specialised in renovating older, larger properties, I’d sometimes spend several months in any given year on just one site.
A great way to get work automatically coming to you is to collaborate with other trades: builders, spreads, chippies, interior designers… Get in touch with existing contacts, and find new ones on Google, by asking around on social media, or have a flick through local advertising magazines.
It’s about working ON your business
Working IN your business is about doing the everyday stuff – decorating, buying tools and materials, invoicing. To become more successful you need to work ON your business, and all the strategies above are about that.
It can be difficult to get out of your comfort zone and do things you don’t usually do. I time-block a couple of hours once a week to work on the future success of my business. Investing that time will bring dividends later.