Five things I wish I knew when I started my business

Hindsight is a wonderful thing '“ I'm sure we'd all do things a bit differently if we had a second chance.

Dr Caroline Phillips shares the lessons she learned from starting her business, Alba SEO Services. Picture: Contributed

But alas, none of us can control the passing of time. However, what we can do is pass on our knowledge – our own hindsight if you will – to other people who are just starting out on their business ventures. Here are five things I wish I knew before I started out.

Trust your instincts

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Always go with your gut instinct – when something or someone doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t. I have had a few experiences chasing business which I shouldn’t have. This is a particularly tricky lesson to take on board when you’ve just started out and you feel you need to snap up every bit of work that comes your way.

It may seem like a good idea at the time, but not being selective can have negative repercussions further down the line. For example, having to deal with a clash of personalities or working for a client in a sector which is out of your area of expertise. I truly go with how I feel about the client and step away when I think it’s not right. It’s so much better in the long run, and you’ll be no less better off for it.

Don’t undercharge to win new business

You begin to resent the work when you feel that you aren’t being appreciated both professionally and through lack of remuneration. The skill is knowing what your expertise is worth and the value you bring to the table and charging accordingly.

Knowing how much to charge is sometimes tricky – what are my services really worth? My advice is to always check you’re pricing alongside your nearest competition or speak to your industry trade body. It’s always good to know what the benchmark is.

Build a network of people who you can trust

In the early days, I always felt I was self-sufficient, but in actual fact I was not offering my clients what they needed because I didn’t nor couldn’t have all the required skills. Now I attend networking meetings and have built a group of people who I can trust to augment my services.

It’s a great value-added to have a network of trusted associates that you can refer to your clients – and never be afraid to refer business to other people. What comes around goes around and you may well find more business comes your way as a result.

Never stop learning

In an industry as fast moving as digital marketing, I’d be crazy to believe that I know it all. Things are constantly changing and SEO (search engine optimisation) consultants have to keep learning to keep their skills up to date.

Google is regularly tweaking its search algorithm and it is our job to be constantly aware of these changes. People who don’t keep learning get left behind.

Don’t be scared to employ people

Having employees isn’t as scary as I thought it would be. I had heard horror stories about being an employer and the stress and responsibility it brings.

But I wouldn’t say that in my case. I have found great people who are committed and this has enabled my business to grow and for me to achieve a better work-life balance.

• Dr Caroline Phillips is founder of Edinburgh-based digital marketing agency Alba SEO Services