After years of helping businesses and organizations with their communications, marketing and PR materials, Edna Wilson was ready to strike out on her own. As a marketing professional, she had plenty of industry experience. What she didn’t have, however, was a clear vision of how to position (and align) her professional skills at Wilson Marketing with her personal interests and passions. Thanks to the time she spent working with two different coaches, Edna found her marketing niche: helping businesses in the organic health, agriculture and equine space. Let’s find out how she pinpointed the markets that suit her best.
How did you get established as a freelance marketer?
Before I founded Wilson Marketing, I worked for a bunch of other companies in order to get experience. I worked Indian Summer Festival, which is one of the big festivals at SummerFest on the lakefront in Milwaukee. Then I worked for a bunch of other nonprofits doing marketing and PR newsletters.
One of the most wonderful things experiences was freelancing for a regional alternative health and food magazine. I did this for nine years! That helped me get established and get a lot of really good clips.
What was the tipping point that inspired you to turn sort of a side passion of freelancing into a full-time business?
I’ve held day jobs and freelanced on the side for many years. Finally, I said, “I need to give working for myself a real shot.”
To be honest, I was getting laid off too much, or getting fired, or whatever it was. I worked for nonprofits that just dissolved and couldn't pay me. I thought, “This is crazy.” I didn’t want to be so reliant on a particular company for a paycheck.
I thought I'd have more security and control if I ran my own business, which has proven true. I’m not making the same consistent money I once did, but I’ve been able to diversify my work.
How did you fine-tune your business plan for Wilson Marketing?
I have a coach and mentor who took all my experience and basically helped me position it into a viable business. He's very good at positioning and has helped me figure out how to market my skills so I can serve the people and organizations that need me most.
My coach helped me position the business based on my skill set, interests and passions, as well as what comes naturally for me. That’s how we came up with the tagline, “Making marketing simple.” The focus of Wilson Marketing is to make marketing simple and easy for whoever hires me. A lot of what I do is give people marketing ideas and then help them implement them.
What are the biggest challenges you’ve encountered so far?
I didn't realize how difficult it was to be self-employed. I have a writing background, not a sales background. I’ve realized along the way how significant the sales component is.
As a service-based entrepreneur, you have to sell yourself as well as your product or your service. I'd always hated sales. My coach has a direct-sales background of 30 years, so he's very, very good at this. He's also good at teaching people how to sell in a way that is easier for them. He’s helped me get a lot more comfortable with sales.
How did you get through slow periods with little or no business growth?
To be honest, that’s been hard. There isn’t much to do besides “suck it up” and keep persevering. I tend to be very, very persistent.
One thing that’s helped is having some very consistent clients and work. For example, I still hold a part-time job managing our local farmer’s market. That offers me consistent income and gives me a lot of momentum during slow periods with planning, connecting and networking.
When my business slows down during the summer, I have the farmer's market, which keeps me busy.
How important is it for you to connect with other small business owners in a community?
I focus quite a bit on community and connecting with other small business owners. I’m part of a few online communities because they allow me to connect with people like me. These are places I can go for support, a recommendation or to have a question answered. It’s nice to be able to meet face-to-face and connect with people locally, as well as online.
I’ve also gone on a number of small business retreats, where I’ve met other small business owners and spent time focusing on building my business.
What advice would you give to other small business owners who are just starting out or looking to grow their businesses?
Get a coach. If you have a coach you can trust, you can develop a relationship with someone who understands what you’re going through. Coaches often know how to get your business organized quicker, and they can tell you “don't waste your energy here” or “put your energy into creating systems,” which is one of the big things that I have learned to do.
I’ve worked with two different coaches who have varying specialties. They’ve both helped me build my business and prioritize my efforts. Hiring coaches has been the best thing I’ve done for Wilson Marketing.
Now it’s your turn!
QB Community members, have you hired a business coach to help you prioritize? How did you find them? Please share your story below!