Running my own business has undoubtedly been one of the best and most fun experiences of my life. But along with the successes, paychecks, and celebratory high fives have also come tears, doubts, and lessons learned. I want to look back on and share a few lessons I’ve learned as a business owner and entrepreneur.
Your Clients Will Only Respect You As Much As You Respect Yourself.
In the beginning, I was a little timid about running my business. I was scared to hold my clients accountable if they violated our written contract, and to essentially respect myself as a business owner. For that reason, I “let things slide” at times and spent a lot of my time doing extra requests for clients (for free), even if it wasn’t part of our original project. Like many entrepreneurs, I didn’t know how to start a “money” conversation effectively.
Now, I realize that I was doing disservice to myself and to my clients. By not creating a clear process and set-in-stone policies, it garnered confusion from customers and turned me into a freebie workhorse. If you want to succeed as a business owner, you must first respect yourself as a business owner. This means respecting your time, value, and expertise. Don’t waiver on the things that are important to you.
The Negative Mindset Can Be Damaging And Limiting To A Creative Business.
Creative inspiration doesn’t typically come during specific time each day. To succeed, you sometimes need to allow yourself to work when you feel most inspired. Yes, this can lead to irregular working hours, but I also think it leads to better, less “forced” work. Generally, I aim to stick to the same working hours each day, but if I’m just not feeling inspired or motivated, I know that I need to take a break and come back to it later.
I also know that I need to eliminate the “guilt” that surrounds unmotivated feelings. Since I am steering the whole ship, I can begin to feel guilty if I’m not inspired to work. I know I produce the best work when I let myself work when I’m ready.
Money Isn’t As Hard To Make As You Might Think. Motivation, Though? That One Can Get Tough.
To my surprise making money wasn’t all that difficult. The hard part was finding motivation to work 14+ hours, at home, on my own time. I’ve noticed that my motivation tends to dip in and out. Some days, I’ll feel motivated to work 17 hours, and others I can barely concentrate on my morning emails.
When in doubt, make a list of your top three priorities for the day. Then, just dive into one. The hardest part is sometimes just getting started.
You Need To Celebrate Your Success.
When you don’t celebrate your successes, then they tend to just pass you by. You create new goals to replace the old ones and the cycle continues. I’ve found that it’s important to stop every once in awhile and reflect on the moments and achievements that have been important to you. Write down your goals and reward yourself when you reach them. Make it memorable. If you don’t celebrate your successes, then you have a higher chance of burning out or being left with the question of “why am I doing all of this?”
Things Can Get Lonely.
This isn’t something I predicted, but it’s one of the most difficult aspects of running my own business for me. I’ve been lucky to connect with lots of other business owners, but have still found it hard to find people who are in the same place as I am.
Basically, even though I might know lots of people who run their own businesses, I don’t know many who have a similar level of experience as me, which I think is somewhere in the middle. The middle, I’ve found can be a very grey area. In the early stages of starting my business, it was easier to connect with other business owners because our questions, problems, and ideas were pretty similar. Now, however, many adolescent businesses like mine have a wide variety of questions and options, so it’s harder for me to find people who really “get it.”
Either way, connecting with other bloggers and business owners reminds me that I’m not alone, and it’s that connection that is so important to me.
The Customer Is Not Always Right, But Is Always Deserving Of Respect.
This is one of the most valuable things I learned, both as a business owner and as a person. You may have heard the adage that, “the customer is always right.” While this may not necessarily be true, it is true that each person is deserving of your respect and professionalism.
When a client (or anyone, ever) is rude or unkind, I think the best thing to do is to treat them with respect and professionalism. There is absolutely nothing positive that can come from trying to “prove that you’re right” to any angry client. Instead, I try to understand their perspective, let them know that I hear them, and then decide on a plan of action to either solve the problem or let them down gently and professionally. Fight the urge to want to be “right”. Instead, aim to be helpful and respectful.
Investing In Your Business Is Crucial.
As an entrepreneur, it has always been a priority for me to invest back into my business. Investing in your business allows you to continue growing. I think a lot of people carry the idea that if your business (or blog) isn’t making much financially, then it’s not worth it to put money into it until it is. This is absolutely backwards to me. If you want your blog or business to grow, then it’s important to spend a little money on things that will help you elevate your brand. You don’t need to break the bank, but investing a little more each month, or starting a savings account for big business purchases is a great idea.
Think You Know Everything? Read A Book.
Whether it be designing a new look for my website or writing a blog post, I get the process and feel very comfortable with what I do. Sometimes that can lead to the outrageous idea that there’s not much left to learn. Wrong! You could spend a lifetime learning new things about your industry. Now, when I start to feel like my routine is giving me that anti-growth mindset, I do something simple: I read a book. Books have an incredible depth of information and I’ve learned so much from reading business books.
Be Genuine. Be Valuable.
Last but not least – and perhaps the most important lesson of all, is to be utterly genuine and totally valuable. I’ve learned that in business (and life, really), it’s so much more meaningful to admit when you’re wrong, be kind and genuine, and try to offer a ridiculous amount of value to the people you serve.