How to Work on Your Business and Not Just in It


On a scale of 1-10, how guilty are you of always working in your business rather than making time to work on it?

Before you rate yourself, here’s a rundown of what it means to work in your business vs on it:

  • Working in your business: completing the tasks to make your business run functionally, i.e. finishing client projects, creating products, etc.
  • Working on your business: doing the work that will improve your business and lead it to growth, i.e. sales, lead generation, business development, etc.

Now that we’ve covered that, are you a solid 10? Because I sure am.

For the past four years of owning Dash of Social, I can probably only count a handful of times where I’ve actually done internal business work rather than only client work. This is because I have been so busy developing other people’s marketing strategies that I’ve completely neglected my own… yikes. It’s a good problem to have to be busy, because it means that your business is growing, but imagine how much more it could grow if you actually dedicated the time to focus on initiatives that will make it grow?

It’s a powerful thought to have, and it’s the same exact one that I had.

If we know that we need to put the same amount of effort into our business as we put into our clients and customers, why don’t we?

It all comes down to two things: time and resources, which go hand-in-hand.

To explain from my own experience: I wasn’t completing business development tasks because I quite simply had no time to do them. For quite a long time, it was just my assistant and me, and even though there were two of us tackling work, there was still so much to get done that it took up more than 40 hours of my week, which meant every moment I had was spent working on client projects rather than working on my own. This struggle leads into a lack of resources. Because it was only myself and my assistant, I didn’t have more team members to delegate work to, which meant I was doing almost everything.

Not good.

Now, two things have happened: I’ve hired two more team members (resources) so that I can delegate more tasks and therefore free up more of my time so that I can do some of this internal stuff that I’ve really been wanting to do. If you’re in the position to do the same, I highly recommend it.

But once you finally have that time for yourself, you may be thinking, what types of tasks do I actually need to do to work on my business?

Let’s dive in.

Develop a Marketing Strategy That WOWS Your Audience

Maybe it’s the nerdy marketer in me who chose to put this first, but developing a marketing strategy is crucial for growth. Not all parts of marketing are responsible for driving sales, but they are responsible for increasing website traffic, cultivating a community, building your credibility and awareness, and more. You might not get clients from social media, but you’ll get them because of social media–because these leads found you elsewhere, went to your social profiles, saw the valuable content you were consistently sharing, and then decided to hire you.

I remember at the beginning of my senior year of college, I was stressed because my client base had “plateaued” for a few months. I wasn’t losing clients, but I wasn’t gaining any. I started to have internal doubts: if I can’t continue to get clients now, how can I continue to get clients after I graduate? Because I was hoping and planning to take my business full-time after graduating, I had a lot on the line and needed to drum up more business to truly make it happen.

I expressed my concern to my mentor and friend, Liz, and what she asked me was something that made me have a total “AHA!” moment and has stuck with me ever since: “How often are you marketing yourself?”

A lightbulb immediately went off in my head… because I hadn’t been marketing myself. I wasn’t posting on social media, I wasn’t sending newsletters, I wasn’t publishing blog posts, I wasn’t seeking PR opportunities… yikes. I felt like a hypocrite because I was constantly telling my clients how important it was to invest in their marketing to grow their businesses when I wasn’t even doing it for myself!

At that point, I knew that needed to change, and although I was busy with a million other things on my plate, I forced myself to carve out the time to do this. If you haven’t been marketing yourself, you should be doing the same.

Your marketing strategy should consist of at least the following:

  1. Posting consistently across all of your social media channels
  2. Sending newsletters to your email list and growing your list through lead magnets
  3. Publishing blog posts
  4. Pitching yourself for PR opportunities

Marketing is what draws your ideal clients or customers to you, holds their attention because of what you share, and convinces them to say, “I really need that (product or service) in my life” … and then they give you their money.

Who wouldn’t want that? If your marketing is nonexistent, consider this your push to get the ball rolling.

RELATED RESOURCES: Social Media Content Calendar + Increase Your Visibility Through PR

Network Like Your Life Depends On It

And, in certain circumstances, your business might actually depend on it… I know mine does! I’ve shared before that 76% of my clients come from Facebook groups. Although Facebook groups fall under the social media umbrella, they’re really a part of a bigger initiative: networking.

I say that networking is amazing for one main reason: it allows you to tap into and leverage the networks of other people that they have spent years building.

Let me explain: when you network with someone, both of you are finding a way to mutually support one another, whether it’s sending a referral, collaborating on a project, providing advice, or something else. However, when you network with someone, your name, experience, and business is stored within their brain, which means that when they speak to someone in their network who is looking to work with someone like you, you are the individual that person recommends.

And now you’re getting connected to new people and broadening your horizons, which may have never happened before. Incredible, right?

There have been many times where I’ve been referred by people I don’t even know, but they received my name from someone I know. That’s truly one of the best compliments I could ever receive because this person, who has never even spoken to me or met me, has heard such great things about me that they’re trusting that they can promote my services to others. It gives me actual goosebumps.

How can you network in a way that feels good to you?

I personally love to scour through social media and make a list of who I want to get to know better, followed by reaching out to those people to introduce myself, tell them I’m inspired by their business, and would love to connect to see how I can support them. This works the majority of the time, and it feels natural to both me and the other person because we’re simply just getting to know each other–not pitching our services.

Generate Leads and Sell Your Heart Out

You can do everything under the sun to build what you think is a stellar business, but if you’re not generating leads and selling your heart out, something needs to change. Sales, or lack thereof, are what make or break a business!

You can easily make more people throw you their money by implementing the following tactics.

Hosting Webinars

Again, maybe it’s the nerdy marketer in me, but I freaking love webinars. A webinar is a free online workshop where you teach your attendees something really valuable and then pitch your product or service at the end. The whole point of a webinar is to show your attendees that you understand a problem they’re facing, share a few tips that bring them closer to putting out the fire to that problem, and then offer them your solution to that problem. If you run the webinar correctly, the ultimate goal is to demonstrate your expertise and then convince people why they should pay you for your expertise… and then they do.

A webinar generates leads because it requires people to sign up for the event through email, which then adds them to your email list. These people are considered to be leads because they’re picking up what you’re putting down, AKA, expressing interest in what you have to offer! And it becomes much easier to sell to someone who has already shown that they need to work with someone like you (a warm lead) than it is to sell to someone who never made it obvious that they need your product or service (a cold lead).

Offering a New Product or Service

Do you pay attention to what your clients and customers tell you they need? Listening to what your audience has to say can present you with so many opportunities to make more money because they’re expressing additional problems that they have, which gives you the chance to create something that will solve those problems.

Let me give you an example.

When I first started my marketing firm, I only offered social media services. However, potential clients and current clients kept coming to me and asking if I offered search engine optimization (SEO). I didn’t (at the time!), so I would refer them out to another company that did offer it. That is, until I had a “DUH, WHAT ARE YOU DOING?” moment when I realized that sending business elsewhere was causing me to leave money on the table.


If I was able to offer SEO, not only would I provide additional value to the clients that I was currently working with but I would also be able to attract new clients who were interested in this service and potentially draw them in to investing in other services as well. I made the decision right then that I would hire an SEO expert to execute this service, and my SEO Specialist was my first hire, just short of one year after I started my business. Since then, we have worked with quite a few SEO clients, which has brought in revenue that I never would have had before. A win-win situation all around!

If you’re not dedicating time to working on your business, you won’t be able to research the new opportunities that you can pursue, which means you’re immediately preventing yourself from making more money. If there are any products or services that you can launch, go for it, as long as they align with your overall mission and goals.

Research Dream Clients and Pitch Yourself

I’ll be fully transparent and share that I’ve personally never pitched someone that I don’t know out of the blue, however, I see the value in it and plan on working it into my current lead generation strategy. Many of us shy away from doing this, myself included, because we fear coming off as “Sal the sleazy salesperson” who just wants to get someone’s money.

It’s important to shift your mindset around selling and remember this instead: selling is serving. People need what you have to offer, and you need to tell them about it!

When you pitch someone, you don’t want to insult them, i.e. tell them that they have a crappy website in hopes of them hiring you to redo their website, but rather support them. Introduce yourself, show them that you understand the struggles they’re facing, explain how you can support them, and tell them what you have to offer. It might not work every time, but you’ll get better at it over time. And if you send 50 emails but get one person who says yes and gives you their money, I would consider that a good return.

Setting aside even one hour every day to try to bring in more business can bring in better results.

Although there are many ways that you can work on your business rather than it, these three buckets–marketing, networking, and selling–should be more than enough to light a fire under your butt and kick things into motion. It might feel really hard at first to shift from devoting all of your time to working to dedicating some of your time to growing, but remember that this strategy brings you more work in the long run… and that’s all we could ever ask for! Get in the habit of dedicating a full day–or even half a day, like your Friday afternoon–to completing these tasks and watch your business expand right in front of you.

Buckle up… you’re only just getting started!

Ashley Mason is a marketing consultant, speaker, and founder of both Dash of Social and Student to CEO.

Starting her business at the age of 19, Ashley successfully grew it to reach six figures by the time she was 21 and now works for it full-time. Since then, she has been featured in prominent publications such as TEDx, The Huffington Post, Thrive Global, SWAAY Magazine, and more.

Passionate about pursuing entrepreneurship at a young age, Ashley hopes to inspires others to take that leap, just like she did.

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