Starting a business is a daunting task that comes under imminent scrutiny. Mitigating the risks and taking challenges in your stride is something you learn as you go. But how to get on the right track to success?

Think about how you can make money doing what you're truly passionate about.

Pissed Consumer interviewed Ian Loew, Creative Director & Owner of Lform Design, about entrepreneurship. In this video interview, Ian shares his insights on how to build a reputation, resolve disputes with clients, and avoid scams. 

7 Tips for a Successful Business

So, what can help you seek business success? Below are the key quotes and useful tips shared by Ian Loew in our video interview.

Tip #1: Find Your True Passion

Ian Loew: Find your true passion, really dive deep, understand what you like doing, and then think about how you can commoditize it. Think about how you can make money doing what you're truly passionate about.

My interest in web design and graphic design as a whole started at a very young age… Literally I used to play around with Adobe illustrator 88, making shapes, combining shapes. It really sparked my interest, so I was hooked. One thing led to another…

I went and I learned about industrial design, better known as product design. . I learned how to create, not just in two dimensions, but utilizing 3D Modeling and how to attack a problem from multiple angles. How to develop multiple solutions. Because ultimately as creatives, we have to oftentimes think outside of the box and, or reference stuff that's out there and then see how we can ascertain the necessary goals, the necessary facts, and then apply those, understand their pin points, and then come up with solutions that hit all their problems. I really got my hands dirty working on some large projects.

Tip #2: Spread Your Wings 

Ian Loew: I was tired of having multiple bosses dictate the projects I was going to be working on. I definitely wanted to spread my wings in terms of the type of work I was doing, the type of clients I was pursuing, and also the results. Because if I was producing it, I could possibly veer the client in a direction that I thought was more apropos.

So that spurred ultimately my decision. Honestly, I only had $2,000 in my pocket and I had a mortgage to pay and I just said, "To hell with this, I'm going to go off on my own." Luckily, knock on wood, I did have an arsenal of freelance projects on the side or freelance clients.

I always tell people, you might not have the money, but at least have a Rolodex of clients, potential clients that you can turn to say, "Hey, I went off on my own. I started my own agency. Do you need a business card?" That's what I did. I said, "Did you need a business card design? Did you need a simple website? How can I help you?"

You'd be surprised when you go off on your own, how many people will actually come to your aid to start that process.

Beyond that six month period, then you really need to get your act together in terms of marketing and going beyond your base of core freelance.

Tip #3: Write Down Your Goals 

Ian Loew: When I got my first household name clients, which was Mitsubishi. I knew I had made it. It was one of my goals that I had set years prior. I wanted one household, one well-known brand name and through hard work, I had achieved that.

It wasn't a dollar amount in my mind, it was a concrete goal. That's one believer... I'm a big believer in writing down your goals and visualizing your goals and you will achieve them. It's not Hocus-pocus. Someone introduced this to me and at first I didn't believe it. But if you literally…

...if you just write down your goals on a piece of paper and review those goals, every week, maybe every month, it's crazy how the universe listens.

Tip #4: Create a Niche 

Ian Loew: That's something I had to learn the hard way. When I first started out, I was doing a lot of nonprofits or very small businesses. We're talking about, one to two employees, max. But as I evolved, I discovered that you have to create a niche to survive, especially in the world of web design.

We're commodity now, at least we're viewed as a commodity. So the only way to differentiate yourself is creating a niche. Our niche, you have to be a business to business manufacturer or tech service provider, specifically the manufacturers and I gravitated towards manufacturing because my father does that.

He was a laminator or a textile manufacturer. So it made sense to me. I had some insight already into some of the problems my father faced on a daily basis. That being said, I often hear this from creatives, "Oh, I don't want to be pigeonholed then." You're not pigeonholed again.

You become an expert, a pro in that area. We get to be creative on a daily basis just because you're in a vertical or a specific industry doesn't mean you can't be creative. The other component of this is they have to gross a minimum of $5 million a year. If they don't, they really can't afford our services.

My run rate in my company is very high. I have a lot of overhead, a lot of expenses. So I have to have a project meet a minimum budget in order for them just to break even monthly here, forget my salary. The other component is the number of employees. Generally speaking, they have to have a minimum of 10 employees.

By looking at your previous clients, making notes about which clients did you like working with? What attributes did they have in order to be more selective when you are working with potential future clients, definitely leads to more success.

Tip #5: Avoid Scams

Ian Loew: The most common scam that I have clients reaching out to me on a monthly basis, is the main registrar read registration. For instance, you bought a domain. You bought a domain maybe through GoDaddy or Google domains or Network solutions. A lot of times those lists are published, meaning you can access that information on the web.

So there's companies that prey on those individuals who bought a domain, and then they'll send you a notice saying, "Hey, you need to renew your domain." And people forget where they purchased their domain. So all of a sudden they'll send out, sometimes over $100 to renew their domain with a no-name company that they didn't purchase their domain with. It's criminal. It's awful. It needs to be stopped, but it's such a... I'm assuming it's a low priority for the DOJ or the FBI.

From day one, I've been getting those inquiries from clients, "Hey, is this legit? Do I need to renew my domain?" And I go, "Well, did you make a note of where you purchased it?" "Oh yeah. GoDaddy" "Well is the notice from GoDaddy?" "No" "Okay. Then don't worry about it. Ignore it."

The other one that I see often is search engine optimization for $100, we can get you to the top page of Google. They never specify which keyword phrase they're going to get you to the top of Google for. People love to hear that they can get to the top of Google, but getting to the top of Google's a lot of hard work and effort, and you're not going to do it for $100 a month. Unfortunately.

Tip #6: Outline Key Tasks

Ian Loew: If we are doing a monthly, it does outline some key tasks that we have to achieve on a monthly basis. Always. So sometimes we're monthly, sometimes we're per project, but again, when I have not outlined key tasks, it's he said, she said. And I lose a ton of money or the client leaves infuriated. They fire us.

So spend the time, spend the effort. And if you're not willing to do that, then I tell you don't become an entrepreneur. Definitely don't go into the agency realm. If everything's going to be like pulling teeth for you, don't become an entrepreneur, just work for somebody else. There's no harm in working for somebody else.

Tip #7: Respond to Negative Reviews

Ian Loew: The majority of the time, whenever we have received a negative review, it is due to, I believe, a direct competitor leaving a review, a negative review. How do you combat that? 

You can respond to the comment and literally right then right there on the internet state that I am sorry that you had a negative experience with us, but I don't recollect us working together, happy to discuss potential next steps. That's it.

That's the only way you can address it. But you definitely need to address it. If it is a client, reach out to them. I think people in this day and age realize that many reviews are fictitious or paid for.

So most consumers again, are smart enough to read  through a few other reviews in order to see, if it's multiple negative reviews then yeah, that's going to be... That's going to look poorly on your company.

But if you have a majority of positive reviews, but one or two, they'll usually skip or realize that it's not the norm. If you ever have a dispute with a client, ultimately it boils down to spending the necessary time pre, meaning during the sales process to really understand what they need, and then outline that in a contract.

...I put a lot of value on reviews, a tremendous amount of value... People nowadays are doing all their research online before they even contact you or make that purchase. So it's quintessential that you have positive reviews talking about your company in regards to service, in regards to the quality of the product...

To sum up

While no formula for business success has been found yet, there’s an experience to learn from. We thank Ian Loew for these helpful tips and for sharing his business experience.

If you’d like to share your thoughts, feel free to leave a comment below. To stay tuned for expert video interviews, please subscribe to our YouTube channel. 

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