10 Things I’ve Learned from My First Year in Business
April 1 was the one year anniversary of Reina + Co. I had my laptop set up on a rickety makeshift desk, a $100 payment to create an LLC on my credit card, and a big fat dream to make this business something much more than just about me.
I’ve learned a ton about what it means to be a creative, what it means to be a boss lady, what it means to be a collaborator, an accountability buddy, a mentor, a mentee, and the biggest lesson of not being able to have it “all” but having enough. At the end of this blog post be sure to get your free Boss Lady Questions to Ask Worksheet by signing up for Sunshine Mail.
Starting is SCARY.
Not knowing anybody is scary. Even for an extrovert, connecting with people and asking them to be my practice client was tough. I didn’t really know what value I offered, I wasn’t sure how to feel more confident. Do it anyway. Tell friends, former colleagues, family members specifically how they can help you. Don’t be vague.
Take yourself seriously.
If you’re a business, act like a business owner. If you act like your business is just play, why would anybody take you seriously? Put on your boss pants and act like the boss that you know you can be. Not to assume you think this way but at the beginning, I kept thinking to myself, “I’m just little ole me,” and that didn’t serve me or the people I hoped to work with. I put my boss pants on and it started to pay off with being able to sign a few clients!
Treat your clients WELL.
All those people who take the leap of faith with you at the beginning, be gracious and give them MORE MORE MORE than your price would indicate. You want to create raving fans who will tell two or five or TEN people about why they need to work with you. It’s the BEST way to market yourself, by loving your clients and making sure they get more than what they think they paid for.
I built my business on the interwebs. Specifically, in Facebook Groups. There are plenty of tricks I can share with you, I want to encourage you to get OFF of your computer and actually talk to people in person (and if it’s NOT local, then get on Google Hangout or Skype!). Over the course of 2015, I had 75 calls (not coaching calls) where I just connected with people. I got to know them, their businesses, their families, what they hoped to achieve. I had a goal to have at least 3 of these calls each week (45 minutes each) and I can say that this is one of the best things I did for my business.
Define your success.
I wrote a Huffington Post article about Redefining Success about two months after I started my business. Man, was that ballsy. What did I know about success? But you know what? Looking back, what I said then is still really true now. I knew that I didn’t want what the “corporate life” people want (including my husband). I wanted to make mistakes freely, succeed in ways I chose, and I wanted to be able to build something I could be PROUD of. So, what does success look like for you? Is it a dollar amount? Is it freedom? Is it being able to do work you absolutely adore?
Learn but don’t overwhelm.
In the beginning, I was signing up for every freebie, trying to save every blog post, every video I could get my hands on to learn more about business. The more I read, the more I realized, that I knew this stuff. I kept opting in, kept getting overwhelmed with a full inbox and realized, I wasn’t taking the time to digest the information I learned or already knew. Information Hoarding really kills productivity, inspiration and cultivates a culture of fear and overwhelm. (I talked more in depth about Information Hoarding and how it’s killing your business here.) I encourage you to step away from passive learning and make room for things that are really meaningful.
Find your team.
I encourage you to find people who will be in your corner, who GET your life, your business and want to cheer you on. Here are some people I’ve got in my corner:
- Accountability Buddy
- The Reina + Co Team (Brand Coordinator; Visual & Graphic Designer; Creative Director; Attorney; Bookkeeper)
- A Mastermind
- Biz Friends who I can call to chat with if I’m stuck
- A friend in real life who doesn’t always “get” my business but tries to!
It’s more about Sustainability.
At the beginning, I was frantic to be able to prove myself, prove the viability of my business, to make the most money I could. But there was another side of me that kept pushing pushing pushing for growing a business that felt GOOD. I’ve learned that chasing money as a motivator is a good way to burn out. YES, making is money in business IS important, but if your heart isn’t in it, it won’t matter, because you’ll be out of business and all that effort would have been for naught. So rather than thinking about how much more money you could be making, focus on the long game plan. Think about healthy growth. Think about what you’d like to achieve and what financial goals that could also be met by those goals.
I often see people burning out after doing LONG DAYS, LONG NIGHTS, LONG WEEKS of hustle hustle hustle. Their marriages are suffering, their sleep is suffering, they’re not even enjoying it… It really pains me to see that. Yes, in the beginning, it took hard work to get set up. But once I was in the flow of work, I learned that I was in charge of setting my work cadence. I was in charge of taking control of my time. I choose to #hustlewithease and I hope you will too. I think this point also helps with #8 (so, bonus points for that!).
Two sides of your work: CEO vs. Craft.
You went into business because you’re good at something. Maybe you’re a photographer. You take pictures. Maybe you’re a marketer. You’re good at figuring out how to help people to position their products. There’s another side of running a business. It’s the CEO hat. You set the trajectory of your business, make big decisions, and figure out what it means to not only be a creative but also be a business owner. I’ve learned that I’m a talented coach but I have to WORK on being a good business owner, a good boss, a strategic business woman.
I’ve learned that business is about more than just making money. It’s fulfilling, purposeful, it’s enriching. I do what I do to make an impact on the world and I know you do too. You want to do things that matter. You want to make money doing things you’re gifted at. While that might be enough, it’s not. We need people, we need support and we also need the knowledge to get us there.