What Nobody Told Me About Launching My Business

Considering ditching the 9-to-5 to go out on your own? A friend of mine is right there with you. Right where I was a little more than a year ago. So...she wondered if I had any advice.

Turns out I've learned a thing or two in the past year. Stuff I would never have known to ask, even if anyone would've been happy to tell me.

{Truth be told, some of this stuff you probably do just need to learn on your own. Or at least experience it to totally get it. But if I can shave a few sleepless nights off your first year of entrepreneurial bliss, I'm happy to try!} 
 

1} The most important thing is to just start.

So many people think they need to have everything figured out before they start -- your products and services, your perfect clients, your whole brand strategy, your perfect website, etc. -- and anyone in marketing {like me} puts twice as much pressure on themselves to have all that stuff perfect. 

It's true, if you're marketing yourself as someone who can help other people do this stuff, you should be able to do it.

But...your standard as a marketing pro is probably way higher than it has to be, especially when you're just starting, Meaning, it's way higher than your intended clients' standard is likely to be for this stuff. {There's a lot of terrible marketing out there. Which is why people need you.}

This applies to any line of work, whether you’re a designer or a painter or an accountant. You know your space better than the people who aren’t in your space. That’s why they need you.

So start where you are, and keep getting better. You'll attract the clients who fit you now, and they'll keep getting better as you do.
 

2} Know your numbers.

I did the math before making the decision to make the leap. I calculated a runway based on the liquid assets the hubby and I had available to us, what my income requirements would be, and what I'd need to do to meet them. {I was afraid to set big goals back then.}

I've always been half our household income, so I knew what I needed to earn and how long I had to get there. Well, I thought I knew. Taxes on self-employed income were an unwelcome surprise. I was glad to have a CPA to help me understand that stuff, though I still cringe when cutting her a check or mailing off those quarterly tax payments. Yes. Maybe I'm cheap. Investing in myself -- and my business -- is something else I'm learning along the way.

Bottom line here...my earnings goals have changed as my taxes and cost of doing business have changed. And how I meet those goals is always changing, as my products and clientele evolve.
 

3} It's ok to start as a freelancer.

@@There is a difference between freelancing and owning your own business.@@ And it's totally ok to start as a freelancer. In fact, I think that's a great place to start. Having a bonafide, organized business can evolve out of the controlled chaos of freelancing.

Freelance work helped me figure out what I like to do, what I'm better at than other people, and what kinds of clients I do {and don't} want to work with. 

I started out by finding projects on Upwork. I tried a bunch of different freelance hubs, before deciding Upwork was the best for me...though still a very imperfect resource. It took time to figure out how to weed out the 90%+ of jobs that are just not a fit, to learn how to do proposals that get responses from the right people, and to stay firm on my pricing.

Bear in mind that freelance hubs are very much a double-edged sword. They've led a lot of people to think they can get highly-skilled work for little-to-no money. {A lot of my clients found me after having been burned by marketing help that didn't help at all.} But there are still plenty of great clients out there who understand that great work is worth the investment.


4} I highly recommend this amazing book.

I just read Badass Your Brand, am now in a bootcamp with the author, and have been recommending it almost daily. It totally changed how I think about what I do, how I do it, and how I had been limiting my earning potential. With Pia's method, I've learned how to narrow my focus, package my offerings as flat-rate projects, say no to the clients I'm not right for or who are not right for me, streamline how I do what I do, and be confident in my pricing. {Fancy website relaunch with all the new info on how I work is live!}

If this approach isn't for you, then find one that is. There's so much out there. The lesson here might really be to always be learning. Read books. Listen to podcasts. Write every day to get your thoughts out of your head and onto the page. Talk to real live people.


5} Tell people. Even if you're afraid to or you don't think they'll care.

I sort of did this when I first took the leap, but I could've done more. I reached out to a few people I'd connected with in my corporate role, to let them know what I was doing and see if they knew anyone I could connect with. In fact, I landed two clients that way.

But, there are ways to take that to a whole new level. Reach out to everyone you know. Tell them via email. On facebook. On instagram. When you see them at the grocery store. Go to networking events.

@@Is your lizard brain shrinking back in fear? It's ok if it is. That's normal.@@ But. Honestly, what's the worst that can happen here? You give an elevator pitch that needs work? You meet people who ask you interesting questions about what you do? You learn what kind of help people are looking for? Yeah, that all sounds like a fate worse than death. ;-)

@@One of the best ways to get clear on what you do and what makes you different is to talk to lots of people about it.@@ And it's not painful. Really.
 

6} A community of other solo entrepreneurs is super important. 

When I launched into this entrepreneurship thing, not one of my friends in real life did this. And most of them thought I was nuts to try. In fact, when I hit the one-year mark, a few of them said variations on, "Don't take this the wrong way but I thought you were nuts to try this. But I guess you're really doing it, huh?"

So...a community of people like you doing what you do is really helpful to counterbalance the people who are too afraid to take the leap. And you learn so much from them. 

Reach out to people you know in real life who are doing their own thing. Join online communities. There are a bazillion facebook groups for every type of entrepreneur you can think of. Invest in a bootcamp or other education experience that also connects you with other people who are building their own things.

All of it will make you better at what you're doing and give you more fuel to keep going when it's hard. And there will be days when you think you're insane for doing this and you need your people to get you back on track. 

 

Launching your own business is an adventure. And, in some ways, it's different for everyone. But, for everyone, there's a lot to learn in your first year. {There's a lot to learn in every year, but that first year is a doozie.} Here's hoping that these six tips will help you skip ahead a few steps with these secrets of starting your own business.