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  • Sarah Parisi Dowlin

How to start a business the RIGHT way (psst: it's not with a website)

On two occasions this past month I had wonderful conversations with soon-to-be business owners. I say soon-to-be because both were getting stuck.

“I’m trying to find the perfect name for my business.”

“I’m going back and forth between using Squarespace and WordPress.” “Do you know a graphic designer that can help with a logo?”

These are all great questions. And ones that will need your attention and answers at some point in the life of your business.

But, if you are truly just starting – as in: “I’m ready to move this idea in my head into the real world,” then these questions are bound to get you stuck, Austin Powers style.

Yes, I KNOW it is much more fun to think about what colors you want to use. Or what you want to wear for your brand photoshoot. It can also be a HUGE time suck and a distraction from actually building the business.

Instead, you need to start by serving.

It sounds simple enough, but the best way to start a business is not with a website. Or a logo. Or even the right name.

It’s by starting to do whatever it is you want to be doing for anyone interested in what you have to offer.

When working on these first “projects,” charge each test “client” a little – just enough to cover any out-of-pocket expenses plus a little bit for time. Set the expectation often and early that instead of charging the full value of your service, you would like them to be available for feedback, a testimonial, and referrals (when appropriate).

Capture feedback.

Once you’ve completed a handful of “test” projects, it’s time to make good on your word and actually solicit feedback from your early adopters. Capture – and record—every ounce of feedback you can from these clients. Ask them to be specific about what they enjoyed about your offer and, more importantly, where they saw room for improvement. As you ask for feedback, remind the clients of your intention to launch a business and that their constructive criticism will help you enter the marketplace with a service and at a price point that will be well received.

Reiterate (quickly) and serve (again).

Use the feedback from your first customers to revise your services and complete an additional round of projects. Charge these new clients a little bit more than you did the first time, but still not a lot. Continue to set the expectation that you would like feedback/testimonials/referrals once the project is complete.

Capture feedback (again).

Follow up with the appropriate questions and redefine your services, pricing, and process. Continue to serve clients as you are able, increasing your prices, capturing feedback quickly, adjusting, and then serving clients again. And again. And again.

If you commit to serving people, gathering feedback, and re-imagining your original idea for the business to meet actual customer demand, you will successfully launch a business.

All without the “perfect” name. Or defined color palette. Or a website.


Curious as to when you might be ready for a brand photoshoot? This article lets you know when brand photography is a good investment for your biz.

This post was originally shared as part of our Brand Photography 101 email series. Sign up to receive future emails here.

Parisi Images captures candid, stock-like brand photography for individual and team-based professional service firms, giving you the confidence to show up and stand out online, validate your expertise, and increase your impact.

Ready to plan your next photoshoot? Schedule a Discovery Call here!


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