Are you thinking about finally quitting your 9-5? Have you had enough of working for other people? Or are you simply ready to create something beautiful that you can take ownership of and love? Then, you may be ready to start your own business!
It's been one year and three months since I started my own business as a freelance social media manager and writer. And man, has it been a bumpy ride! I'm by no means a “seasoned entrepreneur,” but I've gone much further than I ever imagined. Despite how others project it, starting and running your own business requires lots of time and work. Having the flexibility of working my own hours doesn't mean I get to sip mimosas in my backyard on a Tuesday at noon. It means I'm working 18 hour days to make sure my clients are happy.
Being a business owner is not for everyone: it is challenging, there is a lack of certainty, it can be very hard financially, and it will take a lot of work. It's definitely NOT a walk in the park. If you're considering starting your own business, here are a few pointers that could help you in those beginning stages.
Own Your Brand Identity
Your brand identity can make or break your business so be sure you own it. What do I mean by own it? Clearly define who you are as a company — with an emphasis on “clearly.” Lucky for me, my identity was my name and face. I chose the website name and social media handles “OnlineDrea” because it was a unique way to identify myself and my brand whereas my actual name, Andréa Jones, is quite generic.
Take a note from other brands in your industry and see how clear their brand identity is. Essentially, you want individuals to be able to look at your website/social media platform and know what you do fairly instantly. Do your research on laws and copyright requirements if necessary. Just make sure you are presenting an authentic version of you that isn't easily confused with other brands. It's challenging, I know, but 100% possible and necessary.
Have a Plan
Honesty moment: I usually only like planning fun things like vacations and date night. Important tasks like taxes, doctors visits, and laundry typically get saved for the very last minute. Thankfully, I had a bit of guidance when I started freelancing full-time and created a plan (albeit a terrible one) in order to get me started.
[bctt tweet=”If you don't have any way to measure your success, how will you know if you were successful?”]
Don't overestimate the importance of a business plan. You can always re-evaluate it and adjust accordingly in the future; but if you don't have any way to measure your success, how will you know if you were successful? Business plans will help you formulate virtually everything from how to get your customers to understanding your budget. Speaking of….
Understand Your Budget
I don't think I have to say this but money is very important to starting a business, even a virtual one. No matter what size business you have, understanding what you have ( or don't have ) to spend is crucial. A great rule of thumb is to overestimate your costs and underestimate your profits.
Your budget will also dictate how much you need to charge for your services or products. Start with how much you need to make in order to keep the lights on and work out how much money you will need to bring in from there. Avoid falling into the “discount” trap. While it's okay to discount services as a reward for loyalty, don't apply discounts out of eagerness to sell. You'll end up attracting the wrong customer instead of bringing value to the right customer.
Always Be Learning & Listening
Being an entrepreneur is a bumpy road. As you start your own business, don't be afraid to learn from those around you. Find a mentor to help guide you in your first steps. Hire a business coach who understands your niche and can interpret the industry with you. Join a forum and learn from others who know just a bit more than you do. Whatever it is, learn from those around you. You know what they say: knowledge is power.
Also, keep an open mind to learn from your mistakes as well. And trust me, you'll make some.
Lastly, listen to what your customers are saying. A great example of this idea for me is my web design service. I'm not a designer by any means but a few of my clients asked me to set up and customize their WordPress websites for them. Because of those experiences, I now offer that as a service to potential clients as well.
Be Prepared to Wear Many Different Hats
New business owners end up doing many of the tasks that they later can delegate. In the beginning, you may have to be the Etsy shop owner, graphic designer, customer service rep, social media manager, lawyer, and accountant. The sooner you realize that you are going to need to become good at a LOT of different things, the sooner you can start improving at them all.
Of course you can't master everything. But you must know enough to reach your audience and make some sales. Once business picks up, then you can outsource! As the CEO of your own business, it's your job to be the most knowledgeable person about your business. Simply knowing more than you did yesterday is the best place to start.
There are a multitude of other things you need to begin your business but don't let that hold you back from starting today. Take everything in baby steps. If you're not afraid of a hard, honest day's work, I strongly believe you are well on you way to being a successful business owner. In the beginning, you may not see the results you're looking for or business may be slow, but start now anyways! Don't let the fear of failure hold you back.
Many successful entrepreneurs and business owners (including myself) started working on their own businesses while they held a full-time job. They didn't let excuses hold them back. Jump in with two feet and learn as you go.
While starting your own business is a long and stressful experience, the reward of being your own boss is like none other. If you do it right, you’ll enjoy all the freedom and flexibility while doing what you really love.
So tell me, what have you learned as a new (or seasoned) business owner? Share your thoughts in the comments below and I look forward to connecting with you there.
EPIC info for the new kids on the block! There’s so many things I wish I knew when I first started…but don’t we all, right?! 😉
BIG ass high five for the link love in the article, Andrea – you freaking ROCK!
Thanks, Dre! I’m learning new things every day (aren’t we all?) and wanted to share a few tips for my new business owners out there. Also, I LOVE sharing awesome content like yours that will help people out too. So thank YOU for being awesome. Much love!
I’ve been self employed since 1980 and you’re bang on 🙂 I’d add to the finance part that if you’re leaving your regularly paid job and plan to work full time in your biz, you should look at your personal costs too and plan to have enough money to last you 2 years.
Great advice, Trudy! It’s always a great idea to avoid creating unnecessary strain on your new venture by saving a significant amount before launching. Many (brick and mortar) businesses don’t even turn a profit in the first few years anyways. Preparation is the key to success!
Oh yes, self-employment is wonderful, but also hard work! I love coaching and entrepreneurship gives me an opportunity to follow my passion and help others to do the same.
Yay! Glad you are following your passion, Reelika. Sometimes the things that take the most work are the most rewarding 🙂
You’ve got some great points in here.
The point about learning and listening really spoke to me.
a) People who wait to know everything before starting never start.
b) People who refuse to continue learning and adapting fail.
I think most successful businesses are run by people who embrace the process of listening, learning and adapting as they go…
So very true, Brent! As I build my business, I hope to always remember those two points. That’s great advice to live by.
I love the honesty in your post. After just over a year, it sounds like you are doing well. Thanks for sharing these important steps for new businesses!
Thank you very much! I’m hoping that others can either learn from what I’ve done. I appreciate the comment and thanks for stopping by!
I did the big jump into the deep end head first when I started a business 4 years ago and boy did I get hit with a big dose of “you have no idea what you are doing”. After treading water for a few months I managed to get to the shallow end, touch my feet on the bottom and take a lot of deep breaths before attempting to swim out above my head again. It’s so hard when you are drowning obviously to get out of the water and dry off but if you feel like that’s happening, you have to swallow a little pride and maybe consider some floatees for a little while 🙂
Yes, the floatees are there to help save people from drowning! So while I hate using them because of pride, they’re definitely life saving. One day soon, you wont’ have to use a floatee!
[ Smiles ] Splendid advice, Andréa.
It would an unwise move to venture into business without having a plan and I consider the budget to be one of the most important aspects, since it is needed to conduct business.
Thanks for the thoughtful comment, Renard! I always appreciate your insights. 🙂
This is a great post! Owning a business is a definite challenge — and it’s always nice to have some insight into what you’re getting into before actually taking the leap!
I totally agree! I wish I had a bit more insight when I started but… you live and you learn.
P.S. I absolutely love your website 🙂