Crystal-Marie Sealy wasn’t planning to start working for herself as soon as she graduated with an MBA from business school. But when a recession made it hard for her to find a job, Crystal-Marie decided to forge her own path. Recognizing that plenty of professionals struggle with time-management and making smooth business transitions, Crystal-Marie foundedSuccessiory to help entrepreneurs make the most of the time, experience and expertise. Today, her thriving business not only provides financial security and stability, it also lets Crystal-Marie enjoy a fulfilling, flexible way of life.
Crystal-Marie, tell us the story behind your business.
I've always wanted to run my own business, although I never thought I’d start as early as I did! My long-term goal was to have a virtual business so that when I become a mother, I wouldn’t have to worry about maternity leave or being made redundant. I'd be able to manage my own time and be in control of my money. Also, I was never a fan of always having to look busy at work or working ten times harder just to prove myself as a woman. I wanted to work in a way that I could see the direct results of my efforts.
Now, as a founder, speaker and strategy consultant, I help entrepreneurs and executives create realistic schedules, develop sustainable pricing strategies and build a presence on social media. I'm located in Toronto, but I offer services virtually. Running my own business lets me live and work on my terms.What does a typical day look like for you?
I generally work from 9:00 am to 3:00 pm. As I tell my clients, none of us is productive for eight hours a day. My philosophy is, it's better to work five really productive hours. The rest of the day is for living life!
On Mondays, I work on things like business development and lead generation. Tuesday through Thursday mornings, I focus on client work, including projects and research. I take client calls in the afternoons.
Fridays are for downtime. I reflect on the week and think about what to change if some aspect of my life is suffering outside of business. I used to be a workaholic, so it was important for me to consciously build in this downtime. Part of the discipline of working for myself is knowing when to stop. It’s still an area where I falter from time to time.
What's been your most effective way to get clients?
I think getting clients is every entrepreneur’s biggest challenge! l rely heavily on referrals, and I’ve had a few clients come my way from social media, especially LinkedIn. When I meet people in person, I ask them to connect on LinkedIn or I follow them on Twitter. But I'm more about quality than quantity, because even if I have a lot of followers, it means nothing unless they’re willing to buy from me.
Speaking at conferences and events also helps me bring in new clients. You can build trust with people in the audience and position yourself as the expert on a topic. I admit that following-up with potential clients is where I sometimes fall apart!
You help so many entrepreneurs with pricing. What tips can you share?
I have a lot to say about pricing!
I tell clients, don’t charge too low, even if you’re just starting out. Your pricing says a lot about you and your business. For example, if you charge $60 for a service that someone else charges $600 for, people will assume either you don't know what you're doing or that you're just playing with a side project. Even if you start off as a freelancer or a contractor, you need to charge reasonably high prices if you want to be taken seriously.
In terms of knowing what to charge, a lot of people will tell you to research the average in your industry and go from there. But how many people have gone out of business in your industry? How long do people stay in business in your industry? These are things you have to really get clear on. I advise people to decide what they want to charge before they do research about what people will pay.
Finally, your pricing has to do more than just cover the cost of running your business and living your life. In slow periods, smart pricing builds in a bit of a buffer. Just remember that clients pay for your expertise, experience and professionalism. They pay for the way you, and only you, hear, listen to and respond to them. What is that worth? Usually, a lot.
Thoughts on joining and participating in small business communities?
I'm an introvert and a loner. I love having my space, and I tend to do a lot of things alone without realizing that support would have made it a lot easier. But recently I’ve found that joining groups and communities with other small business owners is extremely important. These communities allow me to have conversations about my business out loud, not just in my head! Getting feedback from other business owners makes me realize I'm not crazy. It helps me remember other entrepreneurs are experiencing the same successes and struggles that I am.
Do you have a follow-up question for Crystal-Marie about Successiory? Start the conversation right here in the reply section below!
I’m an independent content producer and have been self-employed most of my adult life. I love helping others who dare to do the same. Managing our QB Community lets me spend time in a positive, supportive place where members come together to learn, share and do better in business. Thanks for joining me in our community!