15 tips for new business owners

15 tips for new business owners

I started my business Zebroid Marketing 15 years ago on 1 March 2006. So, I wanted to share 15 tips for new business owners in this article.

Starting my own business was something I had always wanted to do, but I never thought the time was right until I found myself looking for a job.

At that point someone said to me “I need someone with your level of experience but cannot afford you full-time – would you consider working on a self-employed basis to get us started?”

I took the plunge – the best decision I ever made. Although a little bit scary, I have not looked back.

I found my niche in helping businesses start their marketing journey, providing expertise when they need it most and putting their marketing function in place.

After 15 years of diverse clients, discovering new ways of working, having many ups and downs I have gained 15 years of valuable experience.

Therefore, I thought I would share some of the things I have learned alongside some knowledge I have gleaned over this time. You never know, it might help someone decide to take the plunge too, and provide some useful lessons on their own journey.

1. Which client?

Not every client will be a good fit, so take the time to work out the characteristics of your ideal client and search them out.

Take the time to work out the attributes and personas of your ideal client by creating buyer personas. These are fictitious profiles of your ideal customer. Characteristics such as:

🦓 What size business they are

🦓 The industry they operate in

🦓 Do they have any particular pain points?

🦓 Where will you find them?

When you try to serve everyone, you end up serving no one. Do not let this happen to you.

There is a distinctive group of people out there who need what you have to offer. Make sure you know where they are, what they need, and what you can do to attract and help them.

2. Ignore Imposter Syndrome

Running and starting your own business can give you the feeling of not measuring up, or that you don’t really deserve much credit! You do!

When I started working with my first client, I listened to what they were telling me about their business and reported back.  I then gave my view on what I thought they should do next and how we could plan their strategy to meet their objectives.

Initially, I was amazed that they listened. They took on board my comments and acted on them. And more importantly, it worked.

I am not “blowing my own trumpet”, but at first it seemed odd that they paid me as a consultant, and immediately acted on my advice.

In the corporate world, things seemed to take longer, but my advice as a consultant seemed to be acted on immediately. Even though I was saying the same things as when I was employed.

It made me think that I was an imposter in the “consultancy” sphere, but actually it was more about the corporate world forgetting that employees are assets just as much as a consultant is.

3. Take care of your finances

All businesses have one vital thing in common. That is the requirement to keep detailed records, manage finances, plan for the unexpected and anticipate the dreaded tax bill.

I am a bit of a freak with spreadsheets, as those who know me will testify, but I cannot emphasise enough the importance of planning, forecasting, cashflow management, and credit control.

The latter part is out of most of our comfort zones, and mostly I have been extremely fortunate in having fabulous clients who have paid on time.

However, I recommend setting aside some time each week or month (whatever suits your business) to ensure you keep on top of your finances.

An order is worthless until you are paid.

Most of all:

❇️ Get a good accountant

❇️ Have a good billing strategy

❇️ Look after your receipts

❇️ Spend wisely

❇️ Monitor your margins

❇️ Don’t extend lengthy terms.

4. Shout about your business!

It is a busy world, so consider as many ways as possible to promote what you do. Shout loud and often!

This might seem obvious, but I often tell my clients that marketing a business is a constant process and you cannot simply follow one methodology.

There is a “marketing mix” for a reason.

We are all different, just as much as businesses are, so undertaking a variety of activities to get your brand established and to emphasise what it stands for is vital.

You are an exceedingly small cog in a big wheel – so you have to learn to market your business well; and not sit on the side lines.

This is not just about having a website, email campaigns and social media channels – there is so much more:

🔷 Build relationships – volunteer, sponsor, ask for referrals, become a mentor

🔷 Join industry and professional groups

🔷 Partner organisations and groups that dovetail with your business and ethics

🔷 For B2C – run competitions, create a rewards program, give away samples, offer structured discounts

🔷 Speak at conferences and events.

5. Planning is everything

Write a business plan (which should include a marketing plan). Without goals, and plans to reach them, you are like a ship that has set sail with no destination.

When you start a new business, the temptation is to spend time on the idea and then react to events as they come up, rather than focusing on what is important.

The very creation of a business plan ensures that you cover all the various aspects of running a business.  It also ensures you set targets and milestones to help you achieve your goals.


🟪 plan your business

🟪 plan your goals

🟪 plan your activity with a client

🟪 plan your day.

Especially when juggling a few clients and running your own business, planning is everything.

I am a list queen, and what does not go on the list does not get done.

This is a great quote from Warren Buffett 👉

“Someone is sitting in the shade today, because someone planted a tree a long time ago.”

6. Network

The more people who know what you do, the more recommendations you will receive. Successful businesses are built on referrals.

In 15 years of running my business Zebroid Marketing, most of my business has originated from referrals. For new business owners this is key!

Referrals emanate from people you know; and who know what you do.

However, networking is not just about gaining referrals, it also provides you with

🟣 an opportunity to exchange ideas

🟣 gain support from others

🟣 ways to learn about the current business world

🟣 develop long-lasting business relationships

🟣 makes you noticeable

🟣 a source to find suppliers

🟣 provide others with support, help and an opportunity to share your experience.

You become like the people you associate with, so connect with people who are like minded.

Join appropriate industry associations. These will also give you the lowdown on relevant industry threats, opportunities legislation and the like.

I attend a local small women’s networking group Jigsaw Business Women who have been an invaluable lifeline throughout the pandemic.

Thank you, ladies, you have kept me afloat with your support and encouragement.  Even more so as I have been hosting our Zoom meetings during the pandemic, which is way out of my comfort zone!

7. Do not be afraid to disagree with your client

They are paying you for your expert opinion. Just because they are paying your invoice, does not mean you should not stick to what you know.

I call myself a marketing consultant, it could be another name, but the word consultant means “a person who provides expert advice professionally.”

You are being paid as an expert, so if your professional opinion says something different to what your client thinks, then tell them.

In my experience this has always resulted in the client considering the advice, and in the majority of cases acting upon it.

A consultant who is not brave enough to stand their ground occasionally, is of no value to the client in the long run.

A wise person once said: 

“Advice is just that, it is up to the recipient to determine whether they act on it.”

8. Be professional

Professionalism promotes a strong sense of ethics, respect, and experience.  Your business will benefit from a strong professional reputation.

Everything you do and say reflects on how professional you are.  That in turn paints a graphic picture of your business and how you are likely to perform for any client.

Everything matters, and by everything I mean that you need to take note of every small detail.

From what you wear, the notebook you use, the structure of your business card, the way you are represented in the multiple media channels.  Right down to selecting the appropriate dress code for your personal photography.

In short, people notice.

Professionalism is also about reacting in a timely manner. Responding quickly to any form of contact from a client (or anyone you deal with in the activities you undertake) shows that you care.

Similarly, proactive effort carried out in a professional and ethical manner demonstrates the right behaviour to everyone you come into contact with.

In this, ethics are particularly important and should never be compromised.

Your good name relies on this kind of behaviour.

9. Give back

Having happy clients is amazing but helping someone out when they are really in need, is equally as satisfying.

I love my job and I love sharing any help I can with anyone who needs assistance with their marketing.

As I have currently been running my business Zebroid Marketing for 15 years, I now have lots of experience and I would like to share it.  Especially with new business owners starting out on their journey.

So, I volunteer with organisations who need mentors, and I offer help whenever I can to those people I might come across during my working life.

I also offer to help those who are starting out on their business journey after having undertaken the Enterprise course with The Prince’s Trust by mentoring young people who have just launched their business.

I have also offered to critique websites, business cards, brochures, content etc.

Why? Because I believe we should all give back, as others who have helped me over the years, have helped me.

And you know what?

I also get something back in receiving a real buzz when people come back to me and thank me for my help.

10. Enjoy what you do

If you don’t – change it. Why spend time doing something you do not like every day?

Be passionate about what you do.

You do not have to love every aspect of your business (and you probably won’t), but you do have to be fired up about it.

You are going to devote a lot of time and energy whilst building it into a successful enterprise, so it’s really important that you truly deeply enjoy what you do, whether it be running an accountancy practice, creating websites, or providing financial advice.

Make sure you are on the right track by asking yourself whether you feel excitement when you think of the business, and if it is worth the sacrifice of your time and money.

If your answer is “no” to any of those questions, then it probably isn’t right for you.

As we approach a year since the start of our first lockdown due to the pandemic, if this year has shown us anything, then it is realising what is important and doing something to ensure we enjoy our job.

11. Outsource

You cannot be an expert at everything. Running a business means you must wear many hats.

Since I market myself as an outsourced marketing consultant, this statement may seem odd, but I am not an expert at everything.

The Marketing discipline itself is a huge field and I am not an expert at designing websites, creating a logo, so I outsource that activity.

Yes, I could do my tax return, but I employ an accountant.

I could do my own website, but I don’t.

I can design my own graphics and sometimes I do.

What is key is not whether you can do it, it is whether you can spend your time more productively doing something else.

For me servicing my clients’ needs, which is how I earn my income, is much more productive than trying to submit my tax return to HMRC or design my own website.

Then by increasing your business turnover you are also helping the economy by outsourcing and helping someone else with their business.

12. Find mentors and supporters

You cannot do this alone; you need advocates and the support of your family.

You need a support system while you’re starting and running a business.

A family member or friend that you can bounce ideas off, and who will listen sympathetically to the latest business crisis is invaluable.

When you are starting a business, experienced guidance is the best support system of all, so finding a mentor in your industry will also give you the opportunity to learn from someone who has already been through the start-up process.

A mentor will also give you constructive criticism, unbiased opinions, words of encouragement, signposts to sources of information, a new perspective, help with goal setting and can be a trusted ally.

You also need the support from your family when work gets in the way of life at home. That last minute urgent request from a client when you have to take your child to swimming lessons is a curve ball, unless you have a supportive family member or friends to jump in and help, without you having to beg and plead.

Running a business is not a 9-5 job, so a supportive network is key.

13. Keep learning

The world around us is always evolving. We must too!

Remember that you are never an expert, just someone with increasing knowledge and experience.

We learn from the moment we are born – from our parents, from experience, activities, school, uni, reading, watching, hearing etc.

When running a business, we are seen as an “expert” in our chosen field; and we can become complacent.

Things change, and we have to adapt and enjoy the progress of technology as well as opportunities to enhance our knowledge base. A great year to do that!

The old way would be reading books, attending seminars, meeting people. Now there are 101 new ways to educate ourselves further.

A great example of this for me goes back to when I studied #marketing at college. There was no such thing as #digitalmarketing. I have had to learn in various ways, and recently completed the Mediaworks Online Marketing and York St. John University Digital Marketing Course.

This gave me the theoretical background to digital marketing, alongside my hands-on (but self-taught) learning in this increasingly important area of today’s marketing world.

14. All good things must come to an end

………however great the relationship with your client is.

However great the relationship with your client, there comes a time when they must move on – and so must you.

It is far better to recognise that your relationship with any client is unlikely to be a lifetime commitment.

Both you and the client should look at, consider and plan for the day when you inevitably separate and make it part of the brief at the outset.

From experience, most clients are relieved to hear that you will not be around forever; and they appreciate your help and honesty in planning for the longer term.

This may sound strange, but the reality is that a natural parting of the ways is brought about by you as a consultant doing exactly what you were engaged to do. That is of course helping your client to develop to a level where the function needs to be brought in-house.

Planning for this, discussing it openly with your client and helping them to implement the necessary transition processes is something I have found to be key to maintaining strong relationships, alongside a truly ethical bond with the clients I have worked with.

The important thing is never to outstay your welcome.

15. Get the balance right!

For the final point, I wanted to reflect on why we run a business alongside my personal “why.”

I loved my life in the corporate world, but it was hectic and I worked long hours.

Running my own business I choose my hours and have a great balance between doing what I enjoy, which is helping others on their marketing journey; but I also enjoy my downtime with my family and friends.

So my last tip is – get the balance right!

I plan my work around spending time with my family and friends at the weekend and I rarely work late in the evening. We live in a 24hr world, but I believe it is important to relax, unwind, and enjoy what running a business can give you in terms of security and freedom!! Like so many, I am waiting for the time I can travel again!


I hope these 15 tips have been interesting, helpful, and thought provoking.

We are all on our own journey, but sharing knowledge and experience can be time saved and mistakes diverted for those of you who are just starting out.

If you need any help or would like to mull over your marketing needs with me, then just give me a call and have a chat on 07966 129597 or send me an email.

Image by Hanna Pedroza from Unsplash

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