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6 Lessons Learned in My First 6 Months of Business

Looking back at 2017 is a trip! So many things have changed, the greatest being my jump to self-employment. It's been a serious learning curve that I highly recommend. I decided to round up a few of my most valuable lessons learned in the last 6+ months. Hopefully these are encouraging/inspiring/helpful to you entrepreneurs out there, or those of you who want to do something different in 2018.

And don't forget you can download the image below for free to print out. Post it on your mirror, in your office, wherever you need a little inspiration.

Hand lettering image "Lessons Learned and Battle Scars Earned"

1. Fear of Failing is What Drives You

It’s scary to jump from wherever you are, because your bills are paid, it’s familiar and, whether you want to admit it or not, we are all creatures of habit. Turning your life on it’s head is definitely not the easy way out. Some other self-employed contacts told me before I left my “9-5” that I would be fine, but that’s easy to say. What if I wasn’t?? Well, let me tell you how clear it is on the other side 6+ months out, YOU WILL MAKE IT WORK! Everyone has their own fail-safes built into life, but honestly, it’s going to go better than you ever imagined because you were already driven enough to jump from your familiar life before.

2. Value Your Own Time

It’s just that simple. You have a skill and when you work for yourself no one gets to undermine your skill set. Set a rate for yourself and stick to it! You should never work for free. Even if it’s a friend, trade something of value. If you don’t set the bar for how valuable your time is, no one will do it for you and you will get walked all over.

That being said, don’t force yourself to do the things you’re not good at. How is your time well spent? Don’t charge someone for something you aren’t good at. If numbers aren’t your thing, hire someone to do them for you. Don’t waste your precious time spinning your wheels. Often, people will trade their skill for yours and there you have it - a transaction of value!

3. Working for Yourself is Gratifying.

Whether you actually work for “the man” or not, it can feel that way when you work for someone else. I started to lose interest in the work I was doing for someone else because it didn’t feel tangible and I couldn't see the return on my investment of time. When you work for yourself you get to call the shots (thank you captain obvious). You ask for a premium and you get that entire amount. You get to put your name on the work and own it completely. That’s amazingly gratifying. There’s always a double-edged sword to that, though: if you put out work you’re not proud of, you have no one to blame but yourself. I think most of us like those odds, though. You are more likely to double and triple check your work if you know that no one else is doing it for you. And when you get your first payout from a really tough project, I promise you will value it 100x more.

4. Structure.

If you plan to work from home, structure your time and space. It’s crucial. You have to have a place where you won’t get distracted and you can keep all your tools accessible. You also have to set aside blocks of time where you haven’t planned anything else. I think the biggest change in my last 6+ months is that I keep a meticulous calendar and on days when I have “nothing” to do I schedule a chunk of time to be sitting at my desk undistracted. I also plan into my week some hours for content creation, accounting, email and basic business maintenance. If you’re anything like me, other projects around the house will get in the way of your work quickly, so make sure you can find some solitary work where you won’t be distracted.

5. CRM

Large companies have entire departments allocated for retaining customers and fostering great relationships with those customers, so you don’t get off easy on that one. You have to stay in touch with your clients! And you have to foster the networks that bring you clients. Sometimes it’s one influential contact, sometimes it’s a database of email subscribers. However you can get in touch with them, remind them you’re out there and that you want to stay in touch with them. The Pareto Principle of 80/20 applies here: about 20% of all your contacts are probably going to bring you 80% of your business. Foster those relationships! Make sure you scratch their backs so they continue to scratch yours - get it?

6. Forward, Forward

When you are solely responsible for your successes, make sure you never let up. “Weekends” have taken a slightly different role in my life as an entrepreneur because I rarely walk away from my business two days in a row without thinking about it. Your busiest times are also the times when you should be marketing yourself so there’s no lull between project work. It can be extremely hard to remember this and even harder to act on it, but social media can play a huge part in this. When you’re cranking out work - share it. That shows your audience that you are neck deep in work and crushing it. Pretty soon people will be lining up to have their project on your plate, even if it’s months down the road.

Good luck out there you entrepreneurs, hard workers and driven humans! Stay humble, hustle hard!

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