When a business owner takes the leap of faith to leave their steady job to invest in their own business future, it is called “living the American dream.” This scary step can be a very rewarding experience, provided that the entrepreneur follows certain precautions. As marketers specializing in increasing brand awareness of other companies, we are often asked to share rules for succeeding in business without giving away the farm.

The first rule our team follows is, "Do Not Be Afraid to Communicate." This can be a double-edged sword, as you don’t want to give away too much information about your plans for the business. However, as the marketer, this is your chance to let your potential client talk about their business and their needs. So sit back, ask a lot of questions, and soak up the business owner’s comments like a sponge.

Our second rule is, "Know What Time It Is." Think about how much time you spend driving in traffic, waiting on others to join a meeting, and on administrative tasks. The clock is always ticking. As a small business owner, you need to organize your time so that each client feels you have pushed them to the top of your priority list. Even if it means staying up late or setting that alarm clock to go off before dawn. The more important you make the client feel, the greater the chance is they are going to want to work with you over another small business that is slower to respond.

Our third rule is, "Determine Whether Your Potential Client Values Your Service." Fees vary tremendously, but all business owners have expenses and need to make money. If clients do not perceive a value in your service being offered, they will always expect to pay the least amount possible. This adds stress for all small business owners, both the client and the service provider. However, as business owners, we decided to follow the American dream. If one client doesn’t see the value in your services, many others will and will gladly add you to their vendor roster.

Our fourth rule (which some say should be our first) is, “Put Your Agreement in Writing." We all get excited about the potential of working with a new client. However, you must be clear on what their objectives are and strategize together to achieve and surpass their goals. I’ll admit, I learned this the hard way. I met with a new client and we verbally agreed on how I would help collect sponsorship dollars. I recall the conversation being that I would receive 20% of each $1 received. I worked around the clock, and in the first month I exceeded the expectation by 35%. I was happy to submit my invoice, thinking that since I had done so well the client would pay right away. However, instead of payment I received a phone call asking how I could even think he would pay that much. He continued, saying, “I said I would pay you $20 per hour that you worked not 20% of the amount earned.” I was devastated, but since he was a client and could provide me with many referrals, I decided to cave and charge him by the hour. It was so painful each month that I generated that invoice. Never again will my fee structure be agreed upon verbally. So, take it from me, have all agreements and payment structures spelled out in the contract, and only negotiate prior to your client signing and you executing the contract.

By following these rules, and learning from my mistakes, your small business will be on the road to achieving the American Dream.

Lenor Ryan has spent more than a decade marketing and promoting a variety of brands. As one of the founders of Branding Alliance, it has been her goal to create experiential events to share products and services with thousands of people. This face-to-face event promotion style has made many opportunities for brands to be more open and connected to the consumer. Lenor invites you to follow her on Facebook at The Branding Alliance or via twitter @LenorRyan. Read more from her on the blog at Contact Lenor at

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