Starting your own business isn’t for the faint-hearted.
It’s bloody hard work, and at times you just want to throw in the towel, but if you persist it can be worth it. I mean, look at me now…a load more white hairs, slightly crazier, more creative, and definitely a whole lot happier.
Here’s some learning’s from my first 12 years, because you know what they say – sharing is caring, and boy do I wish I’d known some of these things earlier!
1. WORKING FROM HOME IS HARDER THAN YOU THINK IT WILL BE
Naively, I thought working from home would be a piece of piss. In hindsight, it’s bloody hard.
Don’t get me wrong – in the summer months, it’s glorious. You can literally work from anywhere with a good Wi-Fi connection, and life can be good. But when the cooler months set in one can tend to go slightly stir crazy, resorting to desperate measures to stay warm whilst attempting not to rack up a huge gas or electricity bill. Or – and this is where I’ll fess up – you may opt to just stay in your pyjamas or live in sweat pants and sweaters because they are warm…and really, really comfy.
And then there’s the tendency to overwork. It’s easy to forget to take your breaks when you don’t have far to go to work. If the furthest you have to travel is from bed to the desk to the kitchen and then onto the couch, it can become really easy to skip your breaks. With the mobility of laptops and other devices, you can certainly fall into the habit of carrying your work with you to the couch after you were meant to have shut down for the evening.
2. DON’T NEGLECT YOUR HEALTH
You are your business and self-care is critical to the success and longevity of your business, as is your ongoing mental and physical health. Stay well by eating well, keeping hydrated, getting enough sleep, and making time for regular movement / exercise and fun. Also, keep your stress levels in check and make sure you have a support network you can call on in times of need, be it for advice, a coffee break, a rant, a cry, or a laugh.
3. DON’T WORK WITHOUT A CONTRACT
Think of a contract as your security blanket. Even if it feels like the stars and the moon have aligned to bring you and your new client together hit pause and draw up a contract you are both comfortable with. Trust me, you won’t regret it. A little time spent in the beginning can save you a whole lot of misunderstanding and pain.
Think of a contract as your security blanket.
4. PROBATIONARY PERIODS ARE AWESOME!
Incorporate a probationary / trial period into every contract or working relationship, even if it appears to be the dream job. We all know things can go pear shaped for one reason or the other, and with a probationary (or trial) period, if things aren’t working out for one reason or another, there is an exit clause from both sides of the fence.
5. PAYMENT IN ADVANCE
It’s within your right to request payment or a % amount in advance, as long as all parties agree and it’s clearly stated in your Terms and Conditions, Contract or other documentation. This is a great way to safeguard you from clients who go missing half way through a job, who refuse to pay, or, in the case of a job taking months to complete for one reason or another, you have some money in the kitty to survive on (no, you can’t survive on air!).
This is something I clocked on to late in the piece and wish I’d given more thought to from the start. Being naive and new to my own business I was reluctant to ask for payment in advance, but quickly learned my lesson after a number of late payments and non-payments resulting in a large degree of financial stress.
6. SOMETIMES IT’S BETTER TO CUT YOUR LOSSES
After months of working with a client who expected the world, communicated horribly, and paid late (and in the end, not at all), I ended our working relationship AFTER sticking with it longer than I should have because of the opportunity the job had presented and because I wanted to build up my portfolio. I stopped work with them in November 2014, and after numerous ‘pay now’ letters I am still owed money. The financial and emotional stress this caused was unbelievable, and yes, I could have pursued debt collection measures, but in weighing up the money that lengthy exercise would have cost me I decided to cut my losses to live and learn.
7. DON’T DIS THE SMALL JOBS
As one does not judge a book by its cover, don’t dismiss the small jobs. Some of my smallest jobs have lead to referrals and my best clients.
8. IT’S NOT ALWAYS ABOUT THEM
You want to get out there and build your network. You want people to like you. You want to land that deal. You want to please your client. You want it all and you will traipse all over town and beyond 5 times before collapsing in a heap in the office or at home to start your actual work for the day.
What you need to acknowledge is that it’s not all about them. It’s about you too. There is nothing wrong with saying no, or in asking people to come to you, to meet you half way, or to hold virtual meetings. I also highly recommend having one meeting-free day a week. I go as far as to block my calendar out for one day a week to help me focus on what needs to be done.
9. SCHEDULE IN TIME WITH YOUR OTHER HALF
It’s a common situation when starting up a business for your other half to feel like a third wheel. I mean, you’re working so hard to make things work, to be a success…they should be happy for you right?
I highly recommend scheduling in some regular quality time with your other half, and even stopping work when either of you get home, even if it is just for a 30-minute cuppa and a ‘how was your day, what did you do’ chat. This will help both of you, as well as your relationship and business.
10. ITS OKAY TO TAKE A PART TIME JOB
Some will tell you that taking a part time job will distract you from your business and that in order to start a business you need to be ‘all in’. Yes, it’s a great thought, but none of us are superhuman and we all have to live. Some of us don’t have the luxury of quitting our day jobs to start our own business with a nest egg set aside to support us through our embryonic stage.
Ease up the pressure on yourself and family by taking a part-time job that provides you with some degree of security to help you through the startup phase, even if it’s stacking shelves at the local supermarket. I was oblivious to the fact that this is exactly what many a small business owner does! How stupid did I feel after months of working my ass off, stressing myself silly over money and chasing clients whilst needing to pay the mortgage and other bills and trying to prove to myself that I could do this all by myself.
Do not underestimate the stress and pressure associated with the financial stress of starting a business. Getting a part time job was the best thing I ever did (after quitting my career in project management) – for both my partner and I.
11. LISTEN TO YOUR GUT INSTINCT
Listen to what you body is telling you, especially when your gut is sending you some pretty strong signals against taking a job or committing to working with someone. You didn’t go into business for yourself to hate what you do!
Just remember; It’s your business and you don’t have to say yes to every job or client.
13. DON’T UNDERVALUE YOURSELF
Don’t undervalue yourself. I’ve heard this so many times, but most of us do. Hell, I’ve done it over and over again (to build up my portfolio…that’s my excuse!).
Review your rates every 3-6 months. Research what others in your niche are charging. Ask others the question. Identify your differentiating factor. You are probably worth more than you think!
“Don’t undervalue yourself. I’ve heard this so many times, but most of us do. #startuptips
14. DON’T UNDERESTIMATE WORD OF MOUTH
Word of mouth can be more successful than online marketing and attending networking events [Frame that…those words came from the fingers of a social media marketer and blogger!].
Business may start off slow but by putting in the hard yards, doing a good job every time, and by being authentic, it will pay dividends.
To be honest with you, most of my work and new clients come via word of mouth or referrals from clients I’ve previously worked with. I’m stoked to have reached this point at the 12-month mark, and that I’m now blessed to have the opportunity to work with like-minded people in the niche areas I am passionate about.
15. ITS OKAY TO CHANGE DIRECTION
My business and service offerings have morphed over the last 12 months. Starting out focussed on life coaching, I quickly gravitating towards freelance writing and blogging, before shifting my focus to social media management and virtual assistance.
I’ve also heavily honed my purpose – 12 months ago I was wrongly focussed on providing an array of services to ‘everyone everywhere’. I have now refined my purpose and audience following a lot of self-analysis about what my values were, whom I wanted to work with, and what felt right. This was after working in various industries or niche areas that didn’t sit right with me for one reason or another.
What are your startup lessons learned? I’d love to hear them.
Post originally published on Reflections from a Redhead.
Corporate world drop out come writer / blogger. I was depression & anxiety’s b***h. Spent my life searching for happiness. Found it when I stopped looking. Funny that.