10 Things I've Learned in My First Year of Entrepreneurship
Updated: Jun 6, 2020
December 1 was my 1 year business anniversary, and we all know the best thing to do on a birthday is to reflect. I kind of stumbled into this, and had no idea if it would succeed or go down in blaze of glory, but after 1 year I honestly can’t imagine doing anything else.
So here is my top 10 list of things I know now that I didn’t a year ago:
1. The entrepreneurial community is completely kick ass and generous beyond belief. I was blown away by how much willingness there is to collaborate even within the same field. Having come up in corporate American where the competition is the enemy, this was quite the revelation, and a very welcome one. I’ve met so many amazing people who have been incredibly supportive (emotionally and by giving me work). It’s so fantastic to have a group you can turn to when you need support, and to celebrate the wins.
2. Having a scarcity mentality is death to any new business. There is no way around it, some blind faith is needed to believe if you put in the work things will work out, and you will get the business you need. Spending time around people who have a scarcity mentality (aka chronic worriers) is also not a good idea. With my super linear, evidence based thought patterns, this one was a hard one for me to wrap my head around, but experience showed me when I slip into a scarcity mindset desperation vibes emanate from me and I do not attract new business.
3. You really do need to charge a lot more than you think. EVERYONE who has ever owned a small business told me I needed to charge more, and like a true novice I scoffed. I said things like, “They just don’t know my field” or “I don’t think people will hire me at that rate”. I’m what I like to generously call an experiential learner (aka crazy stubborn until I learn the hard way) and this was no exception. The truth was I didn’t think my skills at the time justified charging more (which is a whole other lesson in self-worth). After 1 year in business I can say with complete certainty that 1) they were right and 2) the value I bring is absolutely worth charging more (and people will definitely pay it). I liken it to buying a house- you just can’t know all of the things that go into it. There are so many unanticipated expenses, and a lot of tasks that take time but you can’t charge for them.
4. You will have to make big sacrifices Newsflash- your typical entrepreneur doesn’t make a ton of money in year 1. Anyone who knows me knows I’m absolutely nuts about travel, but I have not taken any vacations in my whole first year of businesses. I’ve worked super hard to stick to a strict budget (for the most part) and that has meant saying no a lot. This has definitely gotten me down and makes me wonder if all of this sacrifice is worth it, but by finding fun things to do that are within my budget like trips to the cabin or get togethers at friends’ homes has really helped.
5. It can be really lonely As a solo entrepreneur I’m on my own a lot and it can feel super isolating. The entrepreneur community is fantastic but they all have business to get done too. To help combat this I try to meet with one of my main clients at least 1 day a week and work with others who work from home when I can.
6. The flexibility is a blessing and a curse It’s wonderful to have the freedom to work wherever and whenever you want, but there is also no one forcing you to keep regular hours, and that can be dangerous. With a business model like mine where I charge by the hour if I’m not doing work I can charge for I don’t get paid. As a lifelong procrastinator I’ve really had to work hard to set time and deadline boundaries and stick to them.
7. Selling is an art form Obviously learning how to be good at sales is necessary and its also difficult. Sometimes I’m in a great mood, very personable, and just having organic conversations leads to a consult meeting that leads to a new client. Other times I’m not having an “a-game” sort of day and either sell WAY too hard or can’t for the life of me find a concise way to explain what I do.
8. It takes time to find your niche For me it took about 8 months to figure out my ideal client and I’m constantly evaluating the types of work I most enjoy doing and that have a need in the marketplace. Also for me part of my appeal is that I’m purposely a generalist. I do a lot of different things pretty well but don’t specialize in any of them. This is hard for some people to wrap their heads around, but others LOVE it because they can come to me with any problem or project remotely realated to marketing and I find a solution. At the beginning I was panicking because so many people kept pressing about what I wanted to specialize in, but it was one of those areas I just needed to refine my sales pitch to help them understand the benefits of working with someone who didn’t specialize. For now I’ve found a happy medium. I’ve decided focusing on photography and videography is a great way to introduce people to me and my business and then I can help with marketing work (if needed) to leverage these new amazing assets.
9. DON’T undersell your skills You may be saying, “Well obviously. Why would you undersell your skills if you’re trying to build a business?” But as a generalist (and perfectionist) I tend to manage expectations a little too well sometimes. My goal in doing this is to ensure they know my level of expertise before incurring the expense so they aren’t disappointed, but I sometimes end up talking myself out of jobs. So I’ve been working to bite my tongue and just make sure I’ve done the work ahead of time to be completely prepared.
10. Just have fun We’re here on this earth to enjoy life and work should be no different. I got into this business because I wasn’t feeling fulfilled with past jobs or by other things I was seeing out there. Sometimes I have to pull my self up from the small picture day to day chaos to remind myself of that and how truly lucky I am.
It has been simultaneously an amazing, crazy, wonderful, scary, and educational year. I’m grateful for the new great community I’ve found which now makes the Twin Cities feel like a small community overflowing with support. I’m very happy I get to do something I absolutely LOVE and help small business owners grow their businesses.