ohksocialmedia turned one this month! That’s right! It’s been a full year since I started my own business and it’s been interesting, to say the least. Luckily, it’s been lucrative too! It’s also been exhausting, frustrating, joyful, confusing, busy as all get out and a real challenge. Am I glad I’ve done it? Heck yeah! Was I prepared for everything it had to offer? Nope! But that’s not a failure, it’s simply an opportunity to learn.
Yep. I learned a lot this year. And continue to do so. In an effort to help you with your business or brand, I thought I’d share the top 11 things you should know if you (want to) own a business.
1. The importance of a mission statement. Whether your brand is a personal blog, a multi-nationally recognized company or something in between, creating a mission statement will help keep you focused as well as tell your clients and audience what you’re all about. Write it down, put it somewhere visible and review it daily to remind yourself – especially on those difficult days – why you got yourself into this venture in the first place. Of course, don’t be afraid to revise if your interests or objectives change.
2. Set goals. A lot was said this past new years about setting goals, not resolutions. Resolutions clarify intent without action whereas goals are attainable and actionable executions that will get you from point A to point B. They also fall in line with your mission statement. Start with the most grandiose ideas you have about your business and work backwards to build a plan. Outline the exact steps that need to be taken to get from where you are now, to where you want to be. It might be useful to break your goals up into years, months, weeks, days and for some things, even moments. This guy explains this beautifully when he puts ice cream on his head. Set goals. Make plans. Then execute to make them happen.
3. Saying “No” is okay. Saying “No thank you” is better. You have a finite amount of resources and time so don’t feel like you have to snap up every opportunity that comes your way. Knowing “the power of yes” is important, knowing the “value of no” is too. Be polite, firm and know when to walk away.
4. Coffee. I mentioned this a month into starting my business, and I stand firm on it.
5. Your time is valuable. There’s a lot of people out there trying to get shit for free either because they’re cheap or they don’t understand the true value of your skills and services. The myth of “exposure” is one of the greatest cons of our time. It’s true – when you’re starting out you may need to undersell a few things for cheap to build a basic portfolio. But once you do, stop it. You aren’t doing yourself, your industry or your clients any favors by charging less than you’re worth. That being said, don’t negate the value of getting paid in alternate fashions. For example, I write free book reviews for cookbook authors in exchange for a copy of the book (sometimes two – one for a giveaway, one for me). It’s worth it to me. Establish your own worth. Besides, clients who “get it” are not only more lucrative in the long term, they’re also much more enjoyable to work with. Don’t sell yourself short (or out of home).
6. Ask for what you want. Whether that’s support, connections, opportunities, financial compensation or simply a better table at a restaurant – ask! No one will ever have your best interests at heart but you. Again, be polite. Be gracious. And show gratitude. Worst case scenario: they say no. BFD. Say thank you and move on.
7. Organization. From appointments to financial records to actual workflow – keep that shit organized. Use whatever tools will work for you – and this may take some experimentation. I utilize a combination of spreadsheets, online folders, my iCal, color coding and a weekly written checklist to make sure things get done. Your brain, clients and tax lawyer will thank you.
8. Communication. Is. Key. Seriously. I can’t stress this enough. Be honest, open and transparent and you’ll be amazed at the doors that open, things that get done and quality relationships that develop. In this day and age, quality communication is an imperative. Unanswered – or worse yet, deleted – emails, reactionary replies and not asking for what you want – both as a business owner and a client is non-negotiable. Don’t let it happen. Period.
9. Give back. If you’re new to owning your own business, this may be as simple as saying thank you to those who have offered you advice in getting everything up off the ground or sharing their blog post on your social channels. If you’re more experienced, it may mean mentoring someone else in your industry or donating some hard earned bucks to a related charity. Do it without asking for anything in return – this is about them, not you. But if you really need it to “do something for you”, remember that you never know what kind of impact gratitude may have down the road. Invest in your business by investing in someone else.
10. Love what you do. Trust me – owning your own business means you’ll be working way more than you did when you were employed by someone else. You better enjoy it. There’s too much work to do and you’re going to invest way too much time not to love it. So make sure you do.
11. Shit gets lonely. I was shocked at how isolated I felt working from home every day. And it sneaks up on you. Stay healthy in your brain-sphere by going to network events in your industry, joining alliances or support groups both in life and online, meeting a similarly minded friend for coffee each week and make a point to get out of the house and around people. Stay social.
12. Create work/life boundaries. Working from home blurs the work/life boundaries which can result in the truly awful situation of not being able to separate the two. Not being able to separate the two means you can’t turn off the work-mode and that very quickly, turns into burnout. Fail. Don’t do that to yourself. Set working hours, do NOT check your email after them and make sure you take at least ONE day per week to do something for you. Some people insist on working at the coffee shop so their workload never infringes on their personal lives, while others designate a specific space at home for work only. I’ve done both. Point being – turn it off. Your business will be much more successful if you take that very necessary break.
Do you own your own business? Have any goals you’d like to share? Your mission statement? How do you create work/life boundaries? Do you have any questions about starting your own business? Leave a comment below and I’ll be sure to respond personally!