This article was originally published in Change Creator Magazine, Issue 18.
No matter how many entrepreneurial platitudes out there tell us differently, when you are in the weeds, struggling to get your idea off the ground, it can be tough to see the positive side of big mistakes.
Yet, why do so many really successful people talk about their toughest lessons or their biggest mistakes? Or do they? Well, they do now.
Whether you are in the middle of a big failure story of your own, just starting out, or even on the verge of a big breakthrough, you are going to find value in these key business growth lessons.
Let’s meet Austin Iuliano.
He shares his toughest lessons on the front line of a growing marketing company.
Today Austin is a bonafide public speaker with over 50 events under his belt this year alone. He and his partners have established a few dozen solid clients and are well into a 6-figure business this year, poised to continue to grow as they prove out their business model.
Social media marketing can be extremely competitive and proving out your ideas and talents can be an uphill battle, but as Austin shows when you find that ‘sweet spot’ in the market and establish your personal brand, the sky’s the limit.
Here is Austin’s story in his own words
When I first started my business (around 8 years ago) I was young and dumb. I was trying to sell social media marketing to a small town in upstate New York area. I knew social media was going to be big but I had no connections, no experience in sales, and the market didn’t care.
The beginning of my journey as an entrepreneur started 8 years ago in a little town in Upstate New York. This little city operated in an old-school analog mentality where Newspapers ads, radio, and good old boys networking clubs reigned. I started selling social media marketing with no experience in the industry, no sales experience, in a market that didn’t really care. Their thought process was “what I have done in the past works, why would I change it?”
When to pivot. When to stick to your guns.
I also didn’t pivot fast enough to a product that the market would want.
At the time, the market only understood vanity metrics (follower growth) at the time, and I wasn’t comfortable selling just follower growth and would shoot for bigger all-encompassing projects. Instead of getting smaller projects and generating cash flow. This lead me to not making enough revenue to keep my apartment and I ended up homeless. It was a real wake up call to set my ego aside and give the market exactly what they want even if it’s not what’s best in the long term for them and build them up later.
From my failure, I learned 3 vital lessons as an entrepreneur.
3 Vital Lessons as an Online Entrepreneur:
1. Keep cash flow coming in from the get-go.
I learned that it’s better to have multiple small client projects that give a rolling cash-flow then to shoot for big projects. Having 10 clients at $500/month is safer than having one client at $5,000/mo. You are beholden to that single client and have no leverage in negotiations. Whereas if one out of the 10 client’s isn’t working, you can drop them and replace them.
2. Clients don’t know what they need, that’s why they hire you.
Client’s don’t always know what they actually need and that is okay. Start by solving their first pain point, for me, this was vanity metrics and follower growth. Once that first pain point is solved a new one will crop up. Be ready to solve that, as they will turn to you if you are doing a great job with the first one.
3. Values and impact matter more than money.
Cash flow is important but my values are more important. I have gone from homeless to a live streaming influencer with an audience of over 1 mil. There were times when I could have “sold out” but my values were and are too important to me. You don’t have to sell your soul to make money but you do have to work your butt off.
Do Things Differently to See Different Results
To overcome my massive failures I did a number of things differently. These changes helped me go from broke, homeless with .43 cents to my name, to who I am today. The mentality shift helped me also figure out how to change my business model. Instead of focusing on those big 5 figure sales, I focused on many smaller sales that are easier to manage. Then grow those clients as their needs expanded.
For Instance, clients are now looking at their Instagram as a massive marketing tool. Rightfully so as Instagram is one of the top social media tools we use and is owned by Facebook. Most clients come in looking for follower growth when in reality they want to generate revenue. After they start growing 2-3k followers a month they inevitably say they are looking to generating leads and sales. Each time they have a new need, I have the ability to address it and they have faith in the service I provide.
Struggling to get your idea off the ground? Here’s some advice:
I recommend taking a page from Product Hunt creator Ryan Hoover. In his post talking about how he created Product Hunt, he shares how he created an MVP of his idea off an email list. This allowed him to rapidly test the idea and get initial feedback.
I would also recommend that everyone finds a storytelling platform that works for them. Each brand is different, some use Instagram stories, other work on Facebook really well. For myself, I learned that public speaking and live streaming is where I dominate. Once you have your platform, obsess over becoming great at it and enjoy the ride. What you think might work and what actually works sometimes are drastically different.
How Austin Turned Things Around:
I moved down to NYC and slept out of my car while I got back on my feet. Being in a bigger more competitive market allowed for more opportunities and I later became well known in the live streaming space. I now live stream to over 1,000,000 followers weekly. I strive every day to grow my business in a much larger market, with a much larger following.
You might also enjoy:
- From Epic Shark Tank ‘No’ to Big Funding: How Failure Propelled This Entrepreneur
- Turning an Idea into a Movement for Social Change: Sonya Renee Taylor
- How This Teacher Started a Social Enterprise on the Side
- Building a Company Culture for Your Startup Where People Thrive: Moe Carrick
- Qualities and Skills that You’ll Need as a Social Impact Leader