Updated: Nov 24, 2020
I started my business at 22 years old. At the time, I wasn’t expecting to start a business, but I found a way to provide value to others while also doing something I was passionate about. It can be hard to find your passion and even harder to turn it into a profitable business endeavor. Sometimes, I still struggle with the difference between passion and profit. More on that later though.
When you think about it, starting a business is actually pretty easy. You don’t need to be a genius. You don’t need a college or even a high school degree. All you need is a product to sell or a service to provide and bingo bango bongo you can start a business. So, whether you’re 18, 22, 30, or 50, you can start your business tomorrow. However, there’s a huge learning curve with what comes next. Running the business. This part makes you feel like you’re stuck in a trash compactor waiting for R2 to hurry up and shut them all down. *nerdy Star Wars reference
Now, by no means am I a business guru. In fact, I feel as though the more I learn, the less I actually know. So, take what I have to say with a grain of salt. However, over the past few years, here’s what I have learned:
1) You are the CEO, the Summer Intern, and Everything in Between
As the CEO you have to figure out what direction you want your company to go; decide what your mission, vision, and values area; develop a strategic business plan that will achieve your goals; and delegate management responsibilities such as marketing strategies, accounting methods, technology communications, and sales tactics to name a few. Oh wait… you’re responsible for all of that… How in the world am I supposed to do all of these things? What the heck are accounting methods? I have to sell to people? Doesn’t everyone just want my services and they are going to be knocking on my door all the time because I offer something that brings value? These are all things that you have to figure out on your own. Everyday something new smacks you in the face and you feel like an intern at your own company. It’s not easy. Most of the time, it’s terrifying and you feel so helpless that quitting starts to cross your mind. That’s probably why twenty-percent of business fail in the first year and fifty-percent fail in their fifth year. It's a scary thought, but when you do what you love it is all worth it. 2) Patience is a Virtue Be patient with yourself. Undoubtedly, you’ll expect your business to grow faster than it actually will. When chasing clients you’ll be tempted to overpromise on deadlines and deliverables just so you can land the contract. You’ll sell the amount of time and effort you put into a project short and devalue your skill-set. Plans will fall apart and clients with suddenly disappear off the face of the earth. Getting frustrated with yourself for not meeting personal deadlines is easy. Don’t do that; take a deep breath. Trust in yourself. It takes a few years of trial and error, but I promise, you’ll get the hang of things. Be patient with your clients. Working with clients is like dating. It can be awkward, uncomfortable, and leave you staring at your phone hoping that they will call for a second date. No relationship is the same. You have to treat each client uniquely. The client isn’t always going to understand the value you bring or how much work actually goes into what you do. Just as much as you’re trying to figure out your client, your client is trying to figure you out. You want people to understand your value right away and trust your abilities. That rarely happens. Approach each client with an empathetic perspective and a lot of patience. Be patient with life. As Rocky Balboa says, “Let me tell you something you already know, life ain’t all sunshine and rainbows. It’s a very mean and nasty place and I don’t care how tough you are, it will beat you to your knees and keep you their permanently if you let it. You, me, or nobody is going to hit as hard as life. But it ain’t about how hard you hit, but about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward; how much you can take and keep moving forward. That’s how winning is done! Now, if you know what you’ve worth, then go out and get what you’re worth. But you gotta be willing to take the hits. And not pointing fingers saying you ain’t where you wanna be because of him or her, or anybody. Cowards do that and that ain’t you. You’re better than that.” That is quite a long quote, but it's meaningful. There are going to be countless things that are out of your control. Whether it’s a rainstorm on an outdoor photoshoot, a computer crashing and losing all your files, a traffic jam making you late for a meeting, or even a world wide pandemic shutting down every aspect of your livelihood. Get used to life’s change of plans. Learn to adapt, find gratitude in the new paths, and most importantly, be patient.
3) Learn, Unlearn, and Relearn In any industry this is true, but specifically for the creative field that I’m in, I constantly need to improve my craft. Whether it’s attending a marketing webinar, seeking an online course, or practicing new techniques, I’m always looking to learn more. New trends are always emerging; algorithms are constantly changing; and technology is getting better and better. Every time I turn around a new tool appears that can increase the quality of my work, make my workflow more efficient, or escalate my competitive advantage. Sometimes, I’ll get so caught up in the gadgets and tools that my G.A.S (Gear Acquisition Syndrome) gets the better of me.
Maybe I don’t always need to learn something new, but maybe I need to revisit some of my current skillsets. I’m human. I develop bad habits and some of those bad habits I need to unlearn. Unlearning is often even harder than learning. You get so caught up in your ways that trying something different is just out of the question. I’ve found that getting past my own ego and relearning a skill without bad habits is just as good as learning a completely new skill. Always be working on your craft. Even if you feel like you have nothing left to learn, think again. Being self-employed has been the most challenging, stressful, and demanding experience of my life. Although, it has also been the most fulfilling. If you’re considering starting your own business, already run your own business, or just enjoy learning something new, stick around here with me because I plan on giving you every piece of knowledge I have. Talk to you soon. Cheers!