These days you hear a lot of complaining about online costs. People think “online” means “free.” It doesn’t; nor should it. So what is the cost of doing business online? In this post I’ll detail my software as a service expenses to give you an idea.
Software as a Service (Saas)
Software as a Service basically means you can get a service through a webpage. Wikipedia has a better definition. The point is, that digital space has a cost. Software over the cloud has a cost. Clouds are not free.
Traditional services like accounting and law typically charge retainers and charge by 15 minute increments. We never question this. So why not value our own time?
This also includes monthly, recurring costs like cable (internet provider), electricity (to power and charge the devices you use to get to the cloud), cell phones to work remotely and call clients, as well as a percentage of your mortgage/rent or co-working fees.
This isn’t the place for it, but please. Understand your costs as an agency. Understanding your costs allows you to charge for your value.
My Monthly SaaS Costs
I spend quite a bit of money for cloud-based tools that I deem necessary to run my Marketing Consultancy.
Here are my monthly costs rounded to the nearest dollar:
Website Hosting at Pressable $25
Postmatic (for content delivery and commenting) $20
Small business owners wear a lot of hats: founder, CEO, sometimes office manager and janitor. So why do I advocate reading self-help books? There’s a few reasons but they all boil down to leadership — soft skills.
Firstly, I “self-help” has a negative connotation. I call it nonfiction, research, and personal development. Whatever way you look at it, if you have a small business, you have challenges that often lie on the outside of your primary skillset: the reason you built the business.
As a small business owner, you are a leader. Leaders create company culture that works for everyone. Leaders model psychological safety. Leaders understand their own limitations.
How can you possibly be a successful business without first understanding yourself and secondly understanding your team? We haven’t even stared talking about understanding your audience, customers, and potential market.
Leaders Model Company Culture
Company culture is created whether you intend to or not. Intentional company culture provides a path to success. Your small business depends upon you to create culture. It’s almost impossible to create it bottom-up. It comes from the top.
One of the aspects of a small business company culture that is important is vulnerability. Small businesses are a small team. Your team has to look up to you. As a culture, we view vulnerability as weakness. It’s not weak; it’s the opposite. True vulnerability is strength. That strength not only encourages your team to trust you, but it inspires them to try (and fail) as well.
The more vulnerable I have been, the more encouraged I have been to continue to do so — through business connections, mentorship opportunities, and the growth of my own empathy.
“The most transformative and resilient leaders that I’ve worked with over the course of my career have three things in common.
First, they recognize the central role that relationships and story play in culture and strategy, and they stay curious about their own emotions, thoughts, and behaviors.
Second, they understand and stay curious about how emotions, thoughts, and behaviors are connected in the people they lead, and how those factors affect relationships and perception.
The vulnerability that you express creates a safe space. Small business owner, I ask you these questions:
Do you feel safe to fail?
Does your team?
What are the implied or strict consequences of failure?
How is that treated in your company culture?
What kind of atmosphere exists in your stand up meetings or staff meetings?
Do your employees come to you with ideas or concerns?
I can’t answer those questions for you. These are questions that require self-reflection and thought. It may require observation over time and meetings with your management. Successful teams need to feel safe. If your team isn’t bonding, how can that be fixed?
“In Edmondson’s hospital studies, the teams with the highest levels of psychological safety were also the ones with leaders most likely to model listening and social sensitivity. They invited people to speak up. They talked about their own emotions. They didn’t interrupt other people. When someone was concerned or upset, they showed the group that it was okay to intervene. They tried to anticipate how people would react and then worked to accommodate those reactions. This is how teams encourage people to disagree while still being honest with one another and occasionally clashing. This is how psychological safety emerges: by giving everyone an equal voice and encouraging social sensitivity among teammates.” Charles Duhigg, Smarter Faster Better
There is nothing worse than a person who can’t see their own limitations. This is the moral to the story in the Emperor’s New Clothes. We delude ourselves with our own pride and often forget to look at the whole context.
This is another reason why leaders and small business owners should meet and mastermind with people outside of their own industry. Thought diversity is an important component of innovation. What can a manufacturer of tile learn from a computer programmer? How can a battery business learn from solar? The connections we make foster ideas. Confirmation bias is a danger and the first step to protecting yourself is to recognize its existence.
“A modern name for Smith’s insights about self-deception is confirmation bias. Confirmation bias happens when we filter reality through our biases, ignoring evidence that challenges or refutes what we believe and eagerly accepting evidence that confirms what we believe.” Russ Roberts, How Adam Smith Can Change Your Life
If leaders who understand their own limitations, create an intentional company culture with psychological safety, then understanding yourself, your team, and your customers will follow. And with that internal success, external (financial) success is bound to follow.
Dear website developers, implementors, + SEO consultants: Did you know you don't have to be a superhero at all things? Do what you love + what you're good at, then refer out the rest. You'll be happier, clients will respect you, + you'll have greater success.
I think it's time again, to talk about the "good-fast-cheap triangle." You only get two. And really, I don't even think cheap + good is a thing. You can't have that. Maybe "passable" + cheap… pic.twitter.com/uq1fVQr90L
Thinking we can do everything is not only delusional, but distracts us from the things that really make us money. We’re in business for a reason, right?
If you’re a roofer, be a roofer. Go horizontal if you want, and do HVAC, but don’t start installing windows.
If you build websites, build sites. Go horizontal and make apps, but don’t start making videos.
Do what you know. Do what you can do well, efficiently, and make a profit.
How do you refer?
Knowing that we should refer and knowing how to refer are two different things. If you refer the right way, you’re still providing a valuable service to the client. It’s not losing business, it’s about being that go-to person, the expert, and the well-connected person.
If someone asks me if I do Facebook Advertising, I say,
“Sorry, John, I don’t do Facebook Ads, but my friend Jason at Thought House does.”
You can either give your client their contact information or write an email to them both. “John meet Jason. Jason meet John. John wants Facebook ads, I told him, you’re the best.”
This way, you’re making an introduction, and keeping your brand top of mind to all parties involved.
How do referrals grow my network?
Referrals work on the human emotions of trust and reciprocity. Firstly, by referring, I am extending my brand to another. I am saying, I trust this person, you can, too. So be careful about referring to people you don’t trust.
Secondly, if you send enough business someone’s way, they will also begin to refer you. That’s reciprocity. Heck, if you are just a nice person, your network will send people your way. I cannot even tell you how many dozens of people have sent others my way in the last four months.
Sometimes, they come in the form of public tweets. I have amazing and generous friends.
I have been a marketer for nearly forty years and a social-media dilettante for ten.
Bridget regularly drops insight bombs that amaze me with their insight and direct relevance to the marketing challenges we all face. https://t.co/AwumLJvnDB
What does it mean to say “yes” to yourself? Saying “yes” to yourself is about taking a risk — regardless of your fear — and going forward. If you fail, it won’t be because you didn’t try. This is why I started my business.
I’m sure I heard it somewhere but I’ve found myself advising my friends this year,
“If you don’t apply to speak, you say ‘no’ to yourself.”
The inverse is “say ‘yes’ to yourself.” This is my 2018 statement.
When my services at my dream job were no longer needed, I found myself at a crossroads. Do I look for another job? Do I take on clients? It wasn’t an easy choice, yet I knew I had to make a decision.
My late husband wanted me to start my business in 2009. All of my social media friends for the last ten or so years have always encouraged me to go into business.
I had the support of my friends and family:
My sister-in-law believes in me. My grandma believes in me. My mom believes in me. My long-term friends believe in me. Julie Brigham tells me to say “I am awesome. I love me.”
Still, I was afraid. I knew social media. It was running a business which scared me.
Then I realized I have all of the skills I need to run a business. Accounting, job costing, customer service, teaching, marketing, reporting, counseling, sales, and proposal writing have all been learned on my awkward career path. My broken road wasn’t broken — it was training.
I had the knowledge, the skills, and the support I needed. I was still worried only now, I knew I could and should make the leap. I knew I would succeed.
New Logo: A Dragon
With a new direction comes a new logo. My previous tagline was “Giving Unsolicited Advice Since 2011” which is true. Sometimes I’d joke and say that “I do things the hard way so you don’t have to.” But when I decided to start this business I thought more about my clients and how I can help them.
I was chatting with my friend Jason Lemieux of Postmatic about how I approach social media marketing. He said, “Oh. You’re the Jane Goodall of Twitter.” Yes. I study them and I work hard to be them.
So when I was in Seattle with Justine Pretorious, I bounced off my new tagline and she said, “Yeah. That’s you.”
So, what’s up with your new logo? It came from my tattoo.
Fear has always been my nemesis. It’s had too much of a hold on my life for too long — in every single area. I cannot allow it.
In November, I did it. I decided upon a dragon because they are fierce and powerful. I wanted it on my right hip to remind myself that I have my own power. The flowers speak of my femininity. I can be a strong woman who is fierce and powerful and soft and pretty. These are not flaws or mutually-exclusive attributes. It’s me — I’m a whole person who is powerful.
My power is my voice. Your power is your voice. Let’s amplify them together.
How does a pragmatist survive in a world full of dreamers? In the era of startups, ideas are often valued more than their execution. Yet, we know from reality shows on television and interviews in startup magazines that execution is the only thing that truly matters.
This world needs dreamers. We need optimism. We need hope.
But we also need reality. We need pragmatism. We need boundaries to break.
“What doesn’t matter is basically everything in between the overall vision and strategy and the real knowledge of it.” Gary Vaynerchuk
A World of Dreamers
Yes, I believe in dreams. Well, that’s not entirely true. I try to believe in dreams. Disappointment and I have been too acquainted for way too long. I’m am distancing myself from cynicism.
More accurate is that I want to believe in dreams. This means that my desire is to not kill a dream; rather, to help make it possible.
We need Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak – the dreamer and the implementer. The ideal and the practical.
You need the imagination and the infrastructure.
“Google has built an infrastructure that makes a lot of dreams closer to reality.” John Battelle
“The dreams we have [for the digital future] can only be realized if we not only build secure approaches that make those easy to administer.” Bill Gates
Is Pragmatism Negativity?
I’ve had some interesting conversations lately — in the world of WordPress especially — where realism is equated with negative energy.
I’d like to address this concern.
I don’t believe that just by speaking, you create reality. That is to say, that if you speak something aloud, it happens. That by looking down the road, diverged in the yellow wood, and having to make a choice, by weighing the options, you’re a dream killer.
“Hey, you! Get off of my cloud.” Mick Jagger and Keith Richards
We need dreamers. And we need the people who see how to build the dream. We need the realists. We need the pessimists. They even fuel the dreamers to overcome. We need those pragmatic people who say, “Yes, I love that dream. Here’s out we are going to build it.”
I love the concept of fairness — of intellectual honesty. I’ve always made a mental exercise to view and consider all perspectives of an issue. And I’ve learned over the years that not everyone can be objective — especially about their own business.
Many of my peers own businesses. I was the wife of an entrepreneur. I worked in the inside of businesses for years — in accounting and office management. Though those positions are rarely regarded, secretaries know everything and accountants know more. In that position, they are the proverbial fly on the wall. Because of all of this experience, I understand the questions that need to be asked to achieve those dreams.
So my friends will call me up,
“Hey Bridget,” they say, “I was talking to so-and-so the other day and was thinking of [details the dream]. What do you think?”
I’ll just ask them questions.
What about x? What about y? Who will do z?
Recently, six months after a series of conversations and a business decision, my friend turned to me and said, “Whoa. Bridget, you just saved me $13,000.”
It’s important for freelancers to bounce ideas off of people who will give them real things to think about — not yes men.
“There is no dream without the work.” Me.
Yes. I’m quoting myself.
In my presentation about how I changed careers, I talked about how it seems like I was an overnight success. I wasn’t. I’d been doing content marketing since 2009. It’s 2015 when people noticed it. It’s 2016 where I started to travel. 2017 people seemed to know me. It was not overnight.