If you’re just starting your business (or have been in business for a while as a ‘solopreneur’), it’s easy to think you’re at a disadvantage compared to bigger brands with large followings on social media, or the mega-mogul leaning against their newest red Ferrari celebrating the success of their recent launch.
The truth is, you can play big — even when you are small. You have the freedom to be creative, to experiment, and to make your own rules. And, being a small business or solopreneur can actually be an advantage because you can focus on things that bigger brands aren’t able to.
In this post, we’ll explore how you can use your size as an advantage to build stronger relationships, connect with potential clients on a personal level, and stay hyper-focused on delivering high-quality content. Finally, we’ll share some tactical steps you can take today to up-level your business so you can “play big.”
The Advantages of Being Small
You can actually engage and get to know your community.
Have you ever received a personal reply from a creator with hundreds of thousands of followers on social media? Probably not.
Imagine how surprised your people will be when you jump into the comments and reply.
Think about opportunities on your own website, Facebook page, Instagram, LinkedIn groups, and more to start to engage with your people.
You can have one-on-one conversations with potential clients.
I know – in a world where everything could be automated, this is a crazy one! What would it look like if you emailed every single new subscriber on your email list and asked them what they were focused on right now?
Or, what would happen if you scheduled kick-off calls for every person who purchased your new course?
No one thinks about actually getting on the phone with a potential client these days. It’s an enormous missed opportunity because when everybody else is so focused on automating, you can stand out when you connect person to person.
Discovery calls are an easy way to grow your relationship with your followers and subscribers. If you do enough of them, you’ll be much clearer on exactly what your people need and how you can best help them achieve their goals.
The bottom line: when you take the time to connect with people on a personal level, they’re much more likely to do business with you and you get invaluable information you can use in your marketing to attract more of your ideal people.
You can stay hyper-focused on quality (instead of quantity).
With everyone focusing on scaling their businesses, there is an opportunity to stay focused instead on the quality of the content you release into the world. If you’ve been having one-on-one conversations with your community, you are well-poised to understand their exact questions and pain points.
Start with making a list of content you can create around the questions your people have.
How to Play Big: 5 Tactical Steps You Can Take Today
We’ve all been there – you’re scrolling through Instagram and start feeling a twinge of envy…that big influencer or content creator has consistent content being pulsed out by an in-house social team, a dedicated designer crafting the most beautiful custom imagery, the budget to spend big on advertising, and the list goes on. And the reality is, it feels totally out of reach compared to where you are in your business right now.
Fortunately, there are simple ways you can up-level your branding and online presence so you can move towards playing big and have the appearance of a professional brand with a much bigger following.
1. Use a Custom Domain Instead of a Free Email Address
This a big one. It’s hard to take someone seriously when they are cold-emailing us from their free personal email address like “bigboy1987.” For under $10, you can connect your domain to your email address and send emails from your business.
We recommend Google Workspace (which starts around $7 per month) because you will also have access to Google’s suite of tools (like Docs, Slides, and Sheets). Alternatively, NameCheap offers extremely affordable email services for under $1.50 per month.
2. Ditch the Selfies and Take a More Professional Headshot
Notice I didn’t say, “hire a photographer.” If you have a phone with a high-quality camera, you can take your own headshot (or have a friend or family member do it).
Tips to keep in mind when you are taking your own headshots with your phone:
- Great lighting is the MOST important aspect of your photo. Try going to a park or out in your neighborhood. Brick walls make for great backdrops! If you are taking your photo in your home, take a couple of ‘test’ shots to find the best area for lighting. In front of a window is a safe bet.
- Solid colors for clothing look best, with simple jewelry and accessories.
- If you have an iPhone, you can try using “Portrait Mode” to take the photo. This will blur your background and focus on your face. If you do use Portrait Mode, make sure you also take photos in regular mode to compare the two.
- Angle yourself to the camera instead of taking the shot straight on.
- Take a lot of photos (at least 30). Upload them all to your computer and ask friends and/or family to help you choose the top 5.
For the overachievers out there, Canva has an amazing new AI feature called Magic Edit that allows you to erase background items in your images, replace clothing with a more “professional” look, and easily adjust lighting and saturation.
3. Keep Your Design Simple and Consistent
If design isn’t your expertise, the best thing you can do is keep it simple. Templates are your friend here. We recommend starting by creating your own branding “template” for your business.
A starter ‘template” typically includes:
- Two fonts (headline and body font)
- A logo (this can be a basic type-set logo using your headline font if you’re just starting out)
- Two or three colors that complement each other
Some tips as you’re creating your new brand template:
- Resist the temptation to purchase expensive fonts (for now). The easiest way to get started is to use Google Fonts (there are thousands to choose from, and they’re free!). If you get stuck, Google “font combinations” for some inspiration.
- Make sure your headline font is clearly distinguishable from your body font (see below for an example).
- You’ll need a “call to action” color for buttons. An easy way to choose one is to look at a color wheel and choose the opposite color across from one of your main colors.
- For colors, stick to two or three colors max. Avoid using primary colors, as they can be difficult to read when using them in text formats. For example, if you want to use a bright blue, try adding a hint of black to it to ‘tone it down’ so it is easier on the eye.
Now that your “branding template” is almost complete, choose 3-5 social media templates that you can reuse over and over again for a consistent branded look. Canva is a great option for this because you can easily customize the templates to include your new colors and fonts.
It’s critical that once you have your branding in place, you are consistent in using it throughout your website, social media, sales pages, online course, etc. That consistency is what gives your brand a high-end, professional look.
4. Proofread Your Website, Emails, and Social Content
Here’s the thing…nothing says “unprofessional” more than a slew of typos or grammatical errors. It’s worth reading through what you’ve written several times to make sure you’ve used the right “their” or “there.”
Your potential customers are looking at your content as a reflection of the work you do. If you have multiple grammar mistakes and spelling errors it can give off the impression that you lack attention to detail. No matter what industry you are in, attention to detail is important, and it can set you apart from other businesses.
Proofreading and editing not your strong suit? There are talented editors just waiting to whip out their red pen and audit your website (and it doesn’t have to be expensive)! Try using Upwork to source freelance editors.
Important tip: Using the spell-checker in your Google or Word document isn’t enough. While they will catch overt spelling mistakes, they won’t be able to understand more complex errors like their/there/they’re. It’s always a good idea to have a human being complete a final proofread.
5. Use High-Quality Imagery and Icons
Photos and visual elements can tell a story about your brand and who you serve. You’ll want to ensure that the images and icons you choose are consistent with your branding and aesthetic.
Fortunately, we have entered peak “free stock photo” era, and free stock photography is ubiquitous. Unfortunately, that doesn’t make the search easier! It really pays off to be patient and search for photos that fit your brand – it can make all the difference in how your advertisement or sales page is perceived.
When you’re searching for stock photos, here are some tips to keep in mind so you can separate the ‘bad’ from the ‘good’:
- Look at the lighting in the photo – does it look realistic or overexposed?
- What are the people in the photo doing? Would they do that in real life? If they look posed, pass on that photo and look for one that is more candid.
- When do you think the photo was taken? Unfortunately, lots of photos on typical stock photography sites were taken in the early 2000’s. Try to avoid outdated photography and find photos that look more modern.
- Is the photo relatable? Does it connect to your ideal client?
- If you will add text to the photo, is there room without cluttering the image?
Here’s an example of ‘bad’ and ‘good’ stock photos:
In the example above, you can see the drastic difference between the two images. We found both of these images by searching for “meetings” on a stock photography site. On the left, we have an anonymous meeting happening in a strangely lit building with no “life” to it. It’s basically meaningless! On the right, we have a more realistic meeting, with sticky notes in the background, and a group of colleagues brainstorming.
The image on the right conveys collaboration, while the image on the left, well, it conveys nothing. 😬
Pro tip: Editing the stock photos you choose by cropping, resizing, or adding a color overlay can turn a “meh” stock photo into a branded masterpiece.
If you’ll be using icons on your website or sales page, here are some tips to keep in mind:
- First, find sets of icons that match your branding. For example, if one of your fonts is bold and blocky, you may want to look for a set of icons that has square, blocky elements. Or, if your brand is very minimalistic, you might look for icons that are thin and simple.
- Make sure the icon set you choose has a wide variety of different icons to use throughout your website and social media posts.
- Using icons in your designs is a great way to break up text and call attention to important areas of your content. When you’re creating your online course sales page, look for areas where you call out multiples of something (see the example below).
In the example above, we’re using icons to show the different components of one of our online courses. You can see that the icons are all a similar design and the treatment (green circle) is the same.
Your Action Steps
No matter how new or small your business is, you can ‘play big’ with a few simple steps like we’ve shared today. Paying attention to details, staying consistent in your branding, and connecting with your potential customers will help your business have a BIG impact – no matter your size.
What will you implement from this list? We would love to hear!