Can you believe it?
16 months ago I packed in my desk job and decided to go it my own way and set up my own biz – that’ll be easy right?!
Little did I know that there would be many, trials, tribulations, jubilations and lessons learnt from my first year in business.
I can tell you now, I’ve worked harder during my first 16 months as an entrepreneur than I ever have before, BUT it’s been the most rewarding time of my life. I have had some of the best times during the last 16 months, running my business is fun, enjoyable, a laugh and at the same time super exciting! Every day is different and every day brings a new challenge.
I wanted to share some of the best business lessons I’ve learnt over the last few months. Some stuff you might have encountered yourself already and you’ll sit nodding your head as you read this! Other stuff you may not even have thought of. So, without further ado, here are…
50 lessons learnt from my first year in business!
Lesson 1 – You’ll probably hire a business coach or life coach – or both
I have had three so far, a life coach and a business coach – all have propelled me and my business in different ways.
Lesson 2 – A good Virtual Assistant is worth their weight in gold
My VA, Allison from Tick the List is my wing woman. She sorts all my admin out, from invoices to social media, email integration and invoice chasing. She’s my SOS girl. When I was admitted to hospital, I just mentioned hospital and she moved appointments, answered my emails, monitored my social media – she’s my everything and she’s totally got my back. I love her!
Lesson 3 – Continual self-development is essential
My own business has grown leaps and bounds and I truly believe it’s from the amount of reading and inner work I’ve done. Which leads me neatly to…
Lesson 4 – You become really ‘woo woo’
From the self-development I’ve gone on to become a ‘manifesting goddess’, a meditator, a law of attraction girl, crystal collector, card reader… you name it I do it! I’m also part of a wonderful Manifesting group with the Head Manifesting Goddess… Emily Hill.
Lesson 5 – You will attract people who do the exact same thing as you
I wasn’t sure how I felt about this at first, but after a good think about it I’ve come to realise I’m ok with that. I’m continually being asked by other graphic designers how I have leveraged my own graphic design experience to create a successful, profitable business within a short timeframe, how to charge, what to charge and all sorts associated with my business – I must get at least 3-4 messages a week from other designers asking the ‘how tos’. I am cool with this as I know if I can help then I will do so. I know what it was like starting out myself.
Lesson 6 – You will get a copy cat
I got one of those not long after I started. I had another designer lift entire sections of my copy and blogs and they were ripping off my social media content too. I was flattered and annoyed – flannoyed?! A brief but to the point message was sent and I dealt with that swiftly before it got out of hand. The whole point of my business is about being me and unique I just couldn’t have someone else copying me.
Lesson 7 – You will invest in things you don’t need
I’m a magpie for all things pretty – planners are a like shiny diamonds to me. You might buy software you never use or buy a microphone for a future podcast you never do. Be careful with your business spend – it’s still spend even if it is for the business. And always keep your receipts!
Lesson 8 – You need a good accountant
I am on my second accountant. My first accountant charged me for meetings and advice. My new accountant doesn’t do that! Make sure you choose someone who has YOUR best interests at heart not theirs. My new accountant is just lovely, she’s honest and gets my business.
Lesson 9 – You worry in the beginning about HOW you will get clients
When I started I can remember thinking, what will I make next month? Where are my clients coming from for the month after? And then…
Lesson 10 – You’ll get so busy you won’t even think about how you will get clients!
You really will. I can’t remember the last time I stressed about getting clients. I know how many I need a month and then I set up an action plan to make that happen and then put that into play. Over time your client sheet will start filling up with ease and your focus will change completely and you’ll be working in your flow before you know it.
Lesson 11 – You’ll sign up for courses and not complete them
I committed to eight courses this year. I completed six of them but stalled with two. I guess they just didn’t float my boat. You’ll also find that as you get busier anyway your time is quite precious, so I often find myself listening to courses and content whilst I work – if you’re struggling then try that!
Lesson 12 – You must surround yourself with great people
This is probably one of the most important lessons learnt from my first year in business. Like-minded people are the key to your sanity! I believe whole heartedly that the business groups and courses I have signed up for are all meant for a reason. The people in these groups are some of the loveliest people I’ve ‘met’. Even if it is an online platform I still think of them like they’re my friends and like my business family – some I’ve met offline too. I actually met one of my customers who just lives 10 minutes away from me within an Australian based business Facebook Group! It really is a small world.
We all come from a massively different range of backgrounds and have such different skills and these people are my go-to people – these are the people I’ve asked for advice and help and support when a variety of different issues have cropped up and they’ve always been there for me.
I also found that I gravitated towards one person in particular, Emma Holmes – Coaching Rockstars, she was my lifeline when my husband lost his job last year. She was my power of strength, my guide and my reassurance that everything would be ok. And it was! And she provides me with continual love and support too.
Lesson 13 – You never feel lonely
It’s easy to isolate yourself when you work for yourself… But even as an online business and working in solitude, I never feel alone. Ever. I’m in several paid for business groups. I conduct Skype calls twice a week with several other female entrepreneurs and clients. I have a mentor who I speak to most days. So I never feel lonely.
Lesson 14 – Your intuition is your best guide
I’ve discovered that when I have an idea about something and it feels ‘not quite right’ my intuition is usually right. I’ve gone with my gut on a few different ideas and they have been the best decisions. So listen to your intuition.
Lesson 15 – You don’t have to say “Yes” to everything
I have said no to a few ‘opportunities’ that have been offered to me. Some of them haven’t fitted with my business model and plans, some have been a one side benefit (not my side!) and some have been just way off for me in terms of delivery, quality and time-scales. On the other hand….
Lesson 16 – Say “YES” to stuff that pushes you a little
I said yes to a few things last year that really pushed me. Delivering a branding class to someone else’s tribe – these people had never heard of me before – that was scary. I took part in Emma Holmes’ Rockstar Summit and it took me hours to record! I had to learn some new tech to be able to deliver the class, record my screen, talk and still produce a final 40 minute class – I was stressing – but I did it and it was well received! I also did another similar class which I did after the Rockstar Summit and I recorded it in less time and less faffing! WIN!
Lesson 17 – You’ll sign up for everything
I can remember when I was introduced to the whole online world by my first coach, Sophia Lennox, she opened my eyes to a world I did not know existed – the online female entrepreneur market. I’d been living under a corporate rock – one that had no money to invest in the online market – but THIS was different, opt-ins, list building, webinars, podcasts, free classes, ebooks – Oh Em Gee – my veins were pumping with excitement and I promptly signed up for about 5 million webinars and 4 million ebooks (OK, that’s maybe a slight exaggeration) and learnt everything I could about the online market! Since then I’ve had the biggest unsubscribe declutter I’ve ever had to do in my life!
Lesson 18 – You won’t charge your worth in the beginning
I didn’t. What I did learn quickly though was when I charged too little I got too busy. As I got busier I need more tools, systems and people on my team to help and in turn costs went up. My packages were packed full of great design elements but I wasn’t charging my true value, my expertise or covering costs. All that changed within 6 months of my business.
Lesson 19 – You will encounter jealousy along the way
From friends and family. Some make it more obvious than others. In the words of Kate Spencer, “send them love and light and all that shizzle.” It’s their issues if they can’t celebrate your successes. It’s their issues NOT yours. Jealously, envy, mood hoover, whatever you want to call it – they are what they are and you cannot change that. Remove yourself from their path, unfollow, defriend if you have to and disengage from their negativity.
Lesson 20 – Your family will be your big overarching WHY
My hubby and son are my everything. As well as my big business why – which is “supporting and helping female entrepreneurs radiate their passion to make them feel unstoppable.” My big overarching why is my boys – to have a safe and secure life, to be able to pick up my son from school every day, on time in a relaxed way and spend every holiday with them both. No commuting, no 3-hour meetings, no missing the nativity play, no missing open days at the school, no juggling school holidays and no dress code!
Lesson 21 – Your mum and dad will be your biggest cheerleaders
They may not have a clue what the hell you do, but they will always boost your confidence when they tell you who they bumped into that day in the town and how they told them you have your own business now – makes me smile every time!
Lesson 22 – Finding the right opt-in is like magic
I know how important it is to start building your email list. My first email newsletter opt-in attracted around 500 people and the next one attracted 1,500; 900 of those were in the first 4 weeks. Now you may think these are not big numbers – but they are big to me and I am super proud of those.
Lesson 23 – You’ll get obsessed by tech
Tech that will help make your life easier to share, store, schedule and save time – because eventually you WILL get so busy that you need systems to help you on your growth journey. I started gathering a list of those and turned my obsession into an opt-in! Download 150 tools for women business owners.
Lesson 24 – You’ll learn you can’t do everything
My website for instance. I outsource all design, programming and SEO to my two web and content ninjas – Jen Thomson of INUI Design and Kerry Brind from Write to Win Business. And my end of year accounting of course! SO NOT MY THING AT ALL!
Lesson 25 – You don’t need a website to get started
I didn’t. So if you’re using “I need a website first” as an excuse then you can stop now and just get going. I started with a Facebook page, a Facebook Group and an Instagram account plus my freebie opt-in. And I got business from all 4 places before I had a website.
Lesson 26 – You’ll join lots of Facebook Groups and then leave most of them
Especially when they are all clambering over one another and telling you “how to make $5K in two days with no list and no ads” yeah right! That got boring really quickly!
Lesson 27 – You’ll over plan before you start
When in reality you should just get started and hit the ground running. I spent waaaaaaayyyyy too much time faffing about at the beginning of my business – I should have just started. FEAR. That’s what held me back. “What will people think of me starting up my own business? Who does she think she is? She’s not an expert… blah blah blah.”
Lesson 28 – It’s all trial and error
Some things have worked for me and some haven’t. For instance Allison (My VA) and I have tried several different social media scheduling tools to find the PERFECT one. Needless to say we are still on the lookout for it – one that does post when you have it scheduled and one that doesn’t decide to have a holiday in the middle of a campaign! That also goes with how you work and what systems will work for you too – backing up files, software upgrades – the whole lot – it’s all trial and error and what works best for your business.
Lesson 29 – You’ll not win every client or sale
Sometimes you get a good vibe and then they turn around and say no. Don’t worry. There is always someone else on their way into your business and just waiting to jump onto your booking sheet – remember you’re not for everyone and that’s OK. Plus there are millions of people in the world, you only need to get hired by a tiny fraction of them!
Lesson 30 – Time off is essential
MASSIVE lesson for me these last few months. As a creative I need time off. I didn’t take enough time off last year and then got sick over the Christmas holidays. Time off is essential for unlocking your creativity, to clear your mind, to relax and most important to do the things that need done like the washing, the shopping, appointments and pottering about – all stuff I enjoy doing. Plus I love a massage – I made a promise to myself – at least one massage a month in 2017.
Lesson 31 – You’ll discover you don’t actually move enough
So I found myself with really, really cold feet one day. No wonder! I had sat for four hours straight and not moved from my desk. I mean really!? So new promise to myself this year – move more – I even have that written on my vision board. I have put on weight too and it’s because I don’t move enough. So Yoga and move more – my 2017 goals!
Lesson 32 – Ah, you’ll make a vision board – but not just one
You’ll upgrade, update and get excited every time you do it. It’s like a burst of renewed energy every time. I have mine taped to my desk and I look at it and read it every day – I reinforces my WHY. Or if you’re like one of my close friends, you may think that they are pointless and “a bit silly”. Let’s just say, I’ve updated mine four times in the last year and all but three things have happened. #justsaying
Lesson 33 – You will get stuck when it comes to marketing yourself
I did in the beginning but I had to pull my socks up and remind myself I was a marketing girl, had been for decades, it was time to market ME – scary! Promoting yourself, boasting, bragging, being a wee bit big-headed – it felt odd at first until I realised it wasn’t any of those things, I was an expert, I knew my stuff, I had talent and I wanted to help and share – as I got further into my first year in business I found that my marketing got so much easier. It became natural.
Lesson 34 – You’ll become a stationery addict
And every shop you go into you’ll buy notebooks, post-its, pens, markers, page markers… and they’ll all either be uber pretty or match your brand! Fact! And you’ll not want to use any of the said pretty notebooks because you don’t want to spoil them! That’s also fact!
Lesson 35 – You’ll find developing content difficult in the beginning
I did. I was stuck. But I just started writing posts and then answering people’s questions or stuckness. Solving their problems, helping and advising and then everything became much easier. Take a notebook (you will have to use the pretty notebook one day you know) and just take note of everything you get asked. What are your customer problems? Then break them down into smaller chunks. It makes pulling your content together so much easier and you’ll then become a content cow and there will be no stopping you.
Lesson 36 – You’ll get people wanting to jump on your success train
I’m not gonna say too much here. The title says it all!
Lesson 37 – You’ll attract similar customers
Even though you may not be trying. So over the space of two months I attracted around 20 new therapist clients. All different types of therapist including NLP practitioners, hypnosis, massage, skin, therapist coaches – all at the same time. It’s like the laws of attraction are working in your favour.
Lesson 38 – You’ll buy lots of domain names
As you get ideas for new services or products you’ll become obsessed with rushing off to secure your domain for it. You know… just in case! Or you’ll get there and discover someone already has it- crap!
Lesson 39 – Confidence and self-belief play a huge part in your success
Without these things it’s really difficult to make a success of your business. No one will believe in you if you don’t believe in yourself first. It goes back to Lesson 3 – Continual self-development is essential.
Lesson 40 – Writing your goals becomes the norm
I write daily, monthly and yearly goals. Ticking them off is soooooo satisfying. Goals are magic. They work.
Lesson 41 – Your business will grow both organically and planned
‘Out of the blue’ opportunities will come your way that you don’t expect that feel good and at the same time you will plan your own growth too. Your business will grow both ways.
Lesson 42 – You’ll inspire others
Even if you don’t think you do, you will. I get messages out of the blue all the time on my FB messages, when I’m on a call, emails – randomly all saying the same thing – “I love everything about your business – you are so inspiring.”
It’s unexpected, it’s flattering and at the same time it moves me to tears every time someone tells me.
Lesson 43 – You could work 100 hours a week and you still have a to do list
I could literally sit all night and day creating, designing, organising, planning and writing for my business and never be done because I love what I do. The to do list is never done – ask Allison my VA!
Lesson 44 – You’ll develop your own style
From your own style of writing, to your visual content, your marketing, your images, your personality, your products, your services – everything will be your style. A style that you love and a style that others will love too.
Lesson 45 – You’ll record all your favourite TV programmes…
…Then watch them all back-to-back in one sitting or delete them cause you know that for the next 12 months there is no way that you’ll have time to sit and watch them… “did you not know I have an ebook to write, an ecourse to record and a ton of stuff on my to do list you know.” This was me in the beginning!
Lesson 46 – You’ll have bad days
I remember the day I realised I wasn’t charging enough to cover costs. That has been my worst day in business. I was stood in my kitchen crying. My husband, Paul, and I sat down, went over everything. Paul is soooo good at this business stuff and the figures. He helped me. We had a plan. 12 months later – it’s okay – all is good – in fact it’s flipping great.
Lesson 47 – You’ll have exciting days
Days when you sign up five clients in quick succession, or 50 people join your Facebook group. And THOSE are the BEST days. Those are the days to mark on your calendar. Those are the days you should do a happy dance and celebrate. Those are the days that make it all worthwhile and reinforce that you are the expert and you are good enough.
Lesson 48 – If you take action you will grow
It won’t happen by itself. You can’t just ask the universe for her help and pray for the best. Action is what will grow your business. Marketing, blogging, guest blogging, networking, promoting, FB ads – all of it – action.
Lesson 49 – “What got you here won’t get you there”
One of my favourite quotes which Claire Mitchell reminded me of one day. Always remember that. You have to try new things to grow as a business person. Some of it might feel uncomfortable and some of it will be so exciting it will literally propel you into action. But whatever got you to this point, you need to try new things to take you to the next level – whether that be a coach, or learning new software or launching an ecourse – it will drive you closer to your goal.
Lesson 50 – The first year in business is the hardest
It’s like an emotional rollercoaster of ups and downs. It’s scary and exciting. It’s easy and it’s hard. It’s rough and it’s smooth. It’s happy and it’s sad. It’s crazy and it’s calm. It’s right and it’s wrong. But all in all it’s wonderful – it really is just wonderful and rewarding but it’s defiantly not for the faint hearted!
These are my 50 lessons learnt from my first year in business.
Whilst writing this post I asked the same question in my Facebook Group, “What have you learnt in the last year?” Here’s what some of my fab ladies had to say:
“Don’t feel like you have to do everything that comes across the desk – if it’s not quite right, say no!!” Joanna Dawson
“That being negative gets me nowhere, I have to believe in myself before anyone else, and that things will work out for the good, if I focus on the right things.” Claire Bourke
“There are amazing people who want to help.” Kerry Chumbley
“That success is never an accident – it’s a conscious decision followed up with action. In other words I learned that if I want to succeed I have to get off my proverbial and work for it”. Carol Matthews
“I have learned from a podcast by Emma Holmes that “Imperfect action is better than no action!” That has been a really powerful statement for me.” Tracey Baxter
“Not every bit of advice is relevant for YOUR business…Do what YOU think will help it not what someone else tells you!” Lucy Gray
“If I’m quiet…that means I’m up to something and I will come back with another idea….yep I’m pretty resilient!” Janet O’Connell
“Firstly, that taking time off is essential. For you, for your family and for your business. Secondly, that you’ll very rarely give yourself time off unless you plan it!” Kerry Brind
Overall what the last 16 months have taught me is that being flexible and responsive are two of the keys things to run a successful online business.
Over to you – what have you learnt in the setting up of your business? Leave your comments below – I can’t wait to hear.