I remember when I first qualified as a coach, I desperately wanted to get proper paying clients. But every time I sat down at my desk I was paralysed by a wall of overwhelm. I had no idea where start. My head was full of thoughts like:
"Should I build a website? Oh hang on, I should probably learn how to do SEO and set up a blog first. Should I set up and grow my Instagram? What about Pinterest or YouTube? I should also create a lead magnet and set up a funnel? OK, then what tech platform should I use?! Oh wait, maybe I should start a podcast!!!"
If that sounds familiar then I totally feel you. Even though I had 15 years of marketing experience, I was still overwhelmed, thinking I needed to do all of the things. I went down rabbit holes researching how to create a funnel and spending hours on my website, only to 'launch' it and zero enquiries. It was really deflating.
So because I get first-hand how hard it is to know where to start, I've written this article to help you avoid wasting your time and money on 'sexy' marketing methods that just aren't necessary when starting your side hustle (based on all the mistakes I made at the start and my years of marketing experience!)
7 marketing methods you DON'T NEED if you're less than a year into your business
I get so many questions about when’s the best time to create a website, with some people even spending hours and money creating their website before they have any clients. This is a waste of time because:
Unless you have a solid AF strategy to direct people to your site (using all of the marketing methods below), no one's going to see it. The reality is that Google won’t find it until you've built up SEO and Google reviews
Your niche might change. During the first year of working with paying clients, its highly likely that you'll refine what you sell and who you sell to. If you create your website too early and your niche and services evolve, you'll end up having to re-write it all, like I did.
However, I totally get that you might want a website as something tangible to help your business feel legit and to direct people to if they enquire. If so, then by all means create a landing page using something like Lead Pages or Linktree or a super simple 2-3 page site on something easy like Wix or Squarespace. But please DON'T waste endless hours - or even worse - money on an all singing, all dancing website at this stage.
2. SEO and Blogging
Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is the process of improving your site to increase its visibility when people search for products or services related to your business. As well as your standard home page and about page, a really popular way of improving your SEO is blogging. And whilst it might seem like a really obvious thing to do when you're starting a business - beware, because it's not only a very long term strategy, but also a pretty dark art. What I mean by this is:
SEO is complex and you're never guaranteed specific results because you're at the mercy of Google's algorithm. There are of course tons of experts out there who you can pay to help you with it, but not only do you need the budget to pay said experts, but you also aren't guaranteed a return on your investment.
If you’re tech savvy, of course you could do it yourself, but the effort and time it takes doesn't reap the rewards straight away. My ex-colleague & copywriting expert Caroline Holmes says 'It will take a minimum of 6 months to get any kind of SEO traction unless you’re super niche and your keywords aren’t competitive'.
Also, you have to be 100% certain that your niche won't change, otherwise you'll spend hours (or money!) into researching keywords and creating content, only to have it change later down the line (speaking from experience here)!
So whilst, blogging is definitely a good way of A) promoting your business and B) improving your SEO, it's something that takes time, patience, effort, expertise and potentially, budget.
3. Social Media:
Like a website, there's no right or wrong time to set up your Instagram page. Just remember again that similarly to SEO, it takes a lot of time and effort to build and nurture an audience of people who want to buy from you and get to the stage where you’re actually getting clients from it. To give you an idea, I took nearly 3 years of having my Instagram account and a year of content coaching to get me to the point where I was getting enquiries from it.
It's also pretty overwhelming and time consuming to try and ‘learn Instagram’ at the start, when you’re also trying to learn with the nuts and bolts of actually working for yourself. You'll need to learn posts, stories, reels, Lives & engagement and that's just the start.
But if you really feel the need to be on there, start very small, don’t expect too much and use it alongside all the other organic methods I recommend.
Obviously your Instagram will be linked to your Facebook page, so whatever you post on there should pull through. That's about as much effort as I personally put into my Facebook business page!
However, I am a big fan of promoting your business in Facebook groups, but always post as yourself rather than your Facebook page because some groups view it as spammy. You can also search local or national Facebook groups for people asking about what you offer and reply to them with helpful tips, but don't be too salesy.
They’re also a really good place to look for market research participants.
LinkedIn and Pinterest
Similar to Instagram, it can take a long time to build up an engaged audience. But if you ARE going to 'do' social media, then make sure you pick one channel, get really good at it and only THEN move onto others. I concentrated on mastering Instagram for 2 years before moving on to LinkedIn and I haven't even touched Pinterest yet - and I'm 3 years in.
If and when you do branch out into these other channels, be sure to reuse and repurpose your content between channels and from your emails or blogs. It'll not only save you time and effort, but will also provide consistency and repeatability across your channels (remember, someone has to see something an average of 7 times before they buy).
4. Email marketing
This can be a hugely useful tool when you're running your own business, much better than social media because A) your email list is owned by you and not Mark Zuckerberg and B) It's an actual list of humans who’ve given you their email address to hear from you, rather than an audience of random people who will need time to get to know you.
But as with all these marketing methods, it takes time and effort to:
Build an email list. You need to firstly create a lead magnet, which if done properly takes a lot of time and effort. Then you need to link it up to your email list and website and if you aren't tech savvy like me, this can be very tricky and very time consuming. Then once you've done all of that, you need to promote the fuck out of it, which again takes time, expertise and effort. To give you an idea - at the time of writing - I started my email list 2 years ago and I’ve now got about 200 people on it. Out of that 200, I've probably only had 1 or maybe 2 clients from it.
Email them on a regular basis. You need to create regular content to send them which can be time consuming to think about, let alone create and send. But if and when you do branch into this, create the content as a blog on your website, then send the email to your list which drives traffic to the blog. This A) streamlines your effort and B) drives traffic back to your website.
5. Lead Generation Sites
Sites like Bark and Houzz can apparently be effective for lead generation, but beware as in my experience and in the experience of the majority of my clients, they can be costly and not have much return. I myself, have never had any clients from them and have only seen a one or two clients have any kind of success with them.
6. PR (Media publications, Events & Podcasts)
Again, these all can be excellent sources of work eventually, BUT to properly utlilise them, you need to have a super clear understanding of:
Your story that you want to share with the world
What you’re offering and to whom, to make sure you get to speak at the right publications, podcasts and events
Once you know this, you can pitch to speak at events. To give you an idea of the timeline for me personally, I am only just dipping my toe into this now (3 years after starting my side hustle and a year after going full time).
7. Paid Advertising
By this I mean channels like paid social media ads, Google Adwords or taking out adverts in publications or magazines. Whilst they can definitely be fruitful further down the line, because they are paid-for, you again need to be super clear and certain on your niche and offer to make sure you maximise your investment.
Digital advertising like Facebook, Instagram and Google Pay-per-click, can also be quite complex, so unless you’re tech savvy or have a marketing background, it could be worth investing in specialist help.
So there you have it, my - sometimes controversial - opinions on why these marketing channels just aren't necessary for you when you're starting your business.
But if you're ready to get your first paying clients without all those distractions, then you're gonna want to download '8 Steps to get your first paying clients without social media'. Your FREE 10-page workbook to help you create an irresistible introductory offer and get paying clients through your network alone.