The desire to be their own boss and build something from the ground up top the list of reasons entrepreneurs start businesses, According to a Cox Business survey.¹ But business ownership isn’t for the faint of heart.
You’ll often find yourself taking on many different roles, from administrative assistant to chief marketing officer. And if you want to grow your business, you must continually adapt to your clients’ changing needs.
With the end of 2020 approaching and a new year just around the corner, now’s a good time to take stock of what you’ve accomplished so far and the direction you want to take your business in the future.
Here are a few small business tips for a successful 2021.
Expand your business offerings
No matter how long you’ve been in business, a crucial part of business planning is evaluating what’s working, what’s not, and what you could do differently to improve your bottom line.
Identify opportunities where you can enhance the services you currently provide, offer something new or work with different types of clients to increase your income.
For example, if you’re a personal trainer who works one-on-one with clients, consider offering group classes online or creating a passive stream of income with a series of workout videos you can deliver digitally.
If you own a construction company that caters to homeowners, you may want to find out how to get government contracts for your business. The government aims to award at least 23 percent of federal contracts to small businesses.² And there’s no shortage of projects, which could lead to repeat work.
If you want to increase your revenue, attracting high-paying clients is essential. There’s no shortage of small business marketing strategies you can employ to grow your business in the new year.
But before you get started, it’s important to understand that you can’t be all things to all people. Take some time to identify who your ideal client is, and be as specific as possible.
For example, let’s say you’re an IT consultant, and you worked on government contracts for a large consulting firm for a decade before you started your own business. Your ideal clients may be local, state and federal government agencies.
No matter what type of marketing you do, getting new clients takes more time than doing work for existing clients. Target your marketing toward prospects that have ongoing work rather than one-off projects.
For example, let’s say you own a catering business, and you typically work weddings. While weddings are large events that can be lucrative, you’re unlikely to be hired by the same person to cater multiple weddings. But if you work with businesses, they can provide repeat opportunities to cater meetings, conferences, retirement parties and more.
Now that you know the types of clients you want to attract, here are a few ideas you might want to try. The ones that are right for you depend on how long you’ve been in business, what industry you work in, how many clients you currently have — as well as how many employees you have.
You may need to do a little experimenting to find the tactics that are a good fit for your business.
- Reach out to your network. Whether you’re just getting started or you’ve been in business for years, make sure your friends, family, neighbors, former colleagues and anyone else you know understand what you do for a living. And ask them to give your name to anyone they know who may benefit from your services.
- Join a networking group. Networking groups can be a great source of leads for just about any type of business. Check your local chamber of commerce, SCORE office, or other local groups that gather regularly to network and share leads.
If possible, try to join a group that limits the number of people in the same profession, so you’re not competing with other members. Learn more about the best networking groups for small businesses.
- Social media marketing. Fifty percent of the world’s population uses social media.³ If you’re not using it to promote your business, you’re missing out on a huge opportunity. Create a profile and get active on the platforms where your ideal clients like to hang out.
- Referrals. Whenever you work with a new client, set the expectation that you’re going to ask them for a referral when they’re thrilled with your work at the end of a project. Be specific about the type of client you’re looking for and the type of work you provide.
- Website. Creating a website can be a great marketing tool for your business. It allows you to highlight your expertise and experience, a portfolio (if you have one) and testimonials from happy clients who are willing to tell the world how wonderful you are. There are lots of website builders available that make the process easy and inexpensive.
- Offline advertising. Because we live in a digital age, online marketing gets most of the attention these days. But don’t forget about opportunities to market your business offline as well. Posting fliers or banners, putting your company’s contact information on business vehicles, or placing ads in publications your prospects read may help generate leads.
If you’ve reached a point where you need to hire employees to keep your business running smoothly in 2021, now’s the time to plan for it. As a small business owner, you don’t have the resources a large corporation has to vet and hire candidates for job openings. Hiring employees is expensive, and it’ll cost you more than their salary.
You must take time to train them and buy the equipment they need to do their job, such as computers, phones, safety equipment, uniforms or other clothing. If you offer benefits like health and disability insurance, you’ll need to cover the cost of that as well.
Most states also require you to have workers’ compensation insurance as soon as you hire your first employee.
With so much at stake, it’s important to do everything you can to hire the right employee the first time around. Start by asking people you trust if they know of anyone who would be a good fit. If you can’t find anyone through your network, post a job ad. Remember, while it’s important to find someone qualified for the job, they also need to be a good fit for your company’s culture.
Filing your taxes
Unless you want the IRS on your back, filing your taxes — and doing it properly — is an essential component of running a business. Be sure to keep documentation of your business expenses and income for the entire year, so you have an accurate record when it’s tax time. Accounting software can help make this task easier.
It’s up to you whether you file your tax returns yourself or hire an accountant to do it. Because you already have so many other responsibilities, it may be worth it to outsource this task. Accountants are experts in tax laws, can help make your life easier and are relatively inexpensive.
Hiring one can free up time you can use to work on other aspects of your business.
Having the right insurance is a critical component to the success of any business. Business insurance can help protect you against allegations of injury, property damage, negligence and more. Without it, a single claim could lead to a significant financial loss that negatively affects your business long term.
The end of the year is a good time to review your current coverage to see if it still adequately meets your needs. If it doesn’t, it’s time to expand your policy options to get the coverage you need. Here are four types of insurance that can help protect you from some of the most common incidents that affect small businesses.
- General liability. Helps protect you if you’re responsible for injuring someone or damaging their property.
- Workers' compensation. Helps pay employee medical bills and lost wages if they get hurt or sick on the job.
- Professional liability. Helps cover legal costs and damages if you’re accused of making a mistake that results in financial harm to a client. This type of coverage is also known as errors and omissions (E&O) insurance.
- Commercial auto. Helps pay for injuries and property damage that occur when you or an employee is in an accident while driving a business vehicle.
Adapt your business plan
It would be nice if you could do some basic business planning at the end of each year, put the tasks in a handy checklist and work on them throughout the year without making any changes. But life rarely works that way. If 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that life has a way of throwing you a curveball when you least expect it. Undoubtedly, 2021 will have challenges and opportunities you can’t predict right now.
That may mean you have to adjust your marketing plan halfway through the year or unexpectedly hire an employee to help with a large project you were awarded. No matter the situation, it’s important to stay flexible and adapt to whatever comes your way.
How Next helps businesses stay successful
At Next, we specialize in providing customized insurance packages to more than 1,100 different types of small businesses, so you get the coverage you need at a price you can afford. Our online application streamlines the buying process, making it easy to get a quote, compare policies and select the right ones for your business.
The entire process typically takes 10 minutes or less, and you get immediate access to your certificate of insurance. Plus, if you have questions along the way, our licensed, U.S.-based insurance advisors are available to help.