It was over 15 years ago that I started my first business publishing an offline review journal for medical professionals practicing in rehabilitation. It was fun, exciting and then it crashed. Technology changed and I didn’t keep up.
The next venture involved publishing information products and an online newsletter. And the following project was also about writing and publishing. Come to think of it, everything I’ve done for the last 15 years outside of practicing medicine, has been about writing or publishing.
At 14 years old I told my sister that I wanted to be an author and writer. Over the years, with a few pit-stops along the way, that’s exactly what I’ve accomplished. Working for myself has presented challenges and required that I make several changes to the journey I’ve been on. And, in those changes, challenges and altered courses, there have been lessons learned.
Here are my seven favorite lessons that I wish I had learned earlier in the process rather than later. Although you might not have your own business, your family, home and children are a business and you must grow them intentionally.
- Give Yourself Time to Learn, Do and Be Patient
Nothing happens overnight. You won’t learn the intricacies of your business, marketing, networking, payroll, outsourcing or taxes and legal issues in the first couple of months. You didn’t learn to be a parent in the first month either! Being in business for yourself is a marathon and definitely NOT a sprint. Give yourself the time to learn the individual tasks involved before diving headfirst into your intended future.
BUT, this is fine line you’ll be walking. Do not wait until everything is perfect before moving forward or you’ve waited too long. On the other hand, don’t move ahead if you don’t have processes in place to handle the business. You wouldn’t open a convenience store without having a building – and you shouldn’t open any other business without having the necessary parts and pieces in place.
You have options. You can learn, outsource, hire a virtual assistant or get help from a friend or family member who has the knowledge. Ask for help from people at your church, from small business owners you know, from friends and anyone else you can think of. NEVER outsource the financial part of your business, but you don’t have to do everything in order to start getting clients.
- Keep Overhead Low
While you’ll want to outsource what you can, you’ll also want to keep your overhead low. By keeping costs down you’ll increase the return on your investment – also known as your business. You are investing time, energy and money into finding, acquiring and keeping clients. The less you spend on overhead, the more ends up in your pocket.
I have a friend who cannot resist buying something new for her business almost every month. She’s been paying monthly bills on memberships that she hasn’t used, ever. She’s convinced that she’ll need the content, software or virtual assistants next month, so she keeps paying. It’s drained her accounts and put her in a position of being desperate . . . not a good place to be.
On the other hand, I have another friend who has done everything himself – from learning web design to writing content and buying traffic. This has also been a poor use of his time. While he hasn’t had much of an overhead problem, he also hasn’t enjoyed much income. Doing everything himself means moving slowly.
There is a happy medium and only you can find it for your business and your ability to invest in your business. Keep your eye on how much you’re spending and how much you’re making.
- Persistence and Consistence
No business starts quickly and you probably won’t hit a homerun on the first try. It’s simple . . . you should persistently and consistently go after your goals. Remember, the question isn’t IF you will fail, but WHEN you fail, what will you DO.
Everyone fails. The truly successful people will get up and move forward using the knowledge they gain from their past failures. The trick is to fall fast, fall forward, get up and keep moving. Everyday take one step forward and you will get there.
- Be Intentional About What You’re Doing
Working in an office gave me a dependable income. I had a paycheck every 2 weeks, no matter what I did or how much work I produced. Of course, if I didn’t produce enough over time I would have been fired. But, my income wasn’t related to whether or not I brought business to the company.
When you’re working for yourself, everything you do must be intentional. On purpose you do not check email every 30 minutes, you do not spend hours on Facebook or any other social media site, you do not spend hours reading the news, other people’s blogs or anything else that is NOT making you money.
Instead, you outline the functions that do, or will, make you money – and you do those things. Everyday, every hour, you do something that brings you more clients or keeps your current clients happy. You ask for referrals, you learn more marketing strategies, you do those marketing strategies or you do the work you’ve been paid to do.
Intentionally – you do what makes you money. If you don’t, there isn’t a paycheck waiting for you at the end of the week.
- Learning to Turn it Off . . . Vacation?
The one lesson that I’m still learning and hope to conquer at some point, is how to turn it all off. My office is in my home. There is no door on my office. My computer is right there and if I sit for just 10 minutes I can finish one more thing.
The trouble is that one more thing turns into 10 more things and before I know it, I don’t have time to do anything else but sleep.
Do NOT do this! Shut the computer off. Take time with your children. Go on vacation. Take a drive. Go for a bike ride, walk the dog or go for coffee with a friend. Your mind needs the downtime.
- Don’t Underestimate Your Worth
Anytime you work for yourself you MAY have a tendency to underestimate your worth. I have this problem. Several months ago I was approached to do some writing for a new client. I didn’t really want the project so I quoted a price I thought was outrageous. They didn’t bat an eye and agreed to pay my price.
I could have been getting this price all along!
Turns out this is one of the easiest clients I’ve worked with. Look around and see what others are charging for their services or products. You aren’t the lowest price (unless you’re offering the least for the money) and you probably aren’t worth the most. Determine where you think you land in the range and then check it out with you upcoming clients.
Test your price and settle on the one where you make the most while providing the best to your clients.
- No Meetings . . . All Business
When I worked at the hospital it felt like I was always in meetings. And, unfortunately, those meetings were useless. Usually we could have gotten through the information in about 25 percent of the time it actually took. People loved to chat, get off topic or run meetings without an agenda.
When you work for yourself there are no meetings like that because if you are having meetings you’re probably paying someone to meet with you. Suddenly, getting through meetings as quickly and efficiently as possible is better for your business.
I have also learned that it’s important to spend time having a meeting with myself once a week. I go over the plans for the week, the month and look at my progress toward the goals for the year. If I’m not on track I can correct course and keep going. Without these meetings I may have ended up in an entirely different place this week, and definitely would not have been as productive.
Take a bit of time to think about these lessons and how you can incorporate them into your own life without having to learn them yourself. And remember, your home and your children are also a business that you must grow intentionally!