This Whole Entrepreneurship Thing Is Crazy, But Worth It...
I started a business six months ago. I still have a full time job. I still take naps and still go to bed on time most nights. My dream is still very much a reality. This conversation is about the reality side of things.
As I transition into the next phase of development for Creative Juices, I think it’s important I document what key “things” I learn along the way. This will certainly help me… I hope it can for you too. A backstory at this point would be most appropriate, I guess. For some reason back in college people used to take the guidance and advice I handed out – rather right or wrong. I got better over time in this practice and eventually started applying those skills to projects and IT disciplines. I got a 9-5 job that paid well and gave me the backing to start my business for $16. Since kicking things off last November, I now have a waiting list of clients and most important, I’ve been able to invest money directly back into my community through my non-profit. I’m really happy about that last part.
For that last part to happen I had to discover a few key things for myself:
1. You have to grow up. There’s so many people who claim they want to run their own business, but aren’t even good at the basic job they currently have. The largest reality check I made for myself was realizing how much of an adult I needed to carry myself as if I was going to get the respect of others. Showing up to places on time. Having a decent understanding of current events. Paying bills on time. All these basic “adult” things I had to master before making a true attempt at entrepreneurship.
2. You have to get trained. This is probably more of the photographer in me talking more than anything. For whatever it is that you want to call yourself a professional at, as to have people pay you, you have to establish an authentic and robust understanding of what it is you’re trying to do. The greatest gain I’ve made since starting my business, is the knowledge I've acquired to better serve my customers. My space has so many variables and so many shifts, I have to remain on top of my mental game. There's so many free resources out there like Coursera and Skillshare that can help you out.
3. You have to stop relying on friends and family for everything. I cringe when I see entrepreneurs post the Facebook status where they condemn everyone who hasn’t paid them for a service/product they don’t even really know exists…. While I know where my core marketing base is, the goal day one was to look beyond for business. Your family and friends aren’t failing you, they just have other things to do.
4. You have to get comfortable with the idea of failure. This is my third time starting a true business and I’ve actually pushed back starting this one for two years because I wanted to be sure, this time, I had my plan in place. Having the patience required to build the infrastructure this time around has given me both the confidence and the foundation needed to be successful.
5. You have to accept the fact that what you are offering is some trash. People probably aren’t buying your product or service because it’s the same as everyone else… or worse. It’s that simple.
6. Get you a Desmond. I have a lot of friends who are doing some pretty cool things: the bankers, lawyers, artists, TV personalities… but of them all, there is only one Desmond. He’s the friend that just never slows down or takes a break in pursuing his dreams. He did it on the corporate side and now does it, relentlessly, with his entrepreneurial efforts. He be in his bag (I just learned what that means). I sit down with him for an hour or crash at his place and I leave ready to make Diddy-esque moves. Get that friend that “gets it” in your corner.
7. You have to say no. Everyone wants you to do something at a discount (or free). They’ll say it can be to help build your portfolio or they’ll post about (with their 300 followers) to help drive traffic to your site. Hit them with a nah. That’s disrespectful. There’s people out there who will pay you and inevitably market you when you do a great job. Focus on attracting those customers and creating reward programs for their repeat business.
8. Sometimes you have to run before you walk. This will have to be a full blog post later – I’ll have to provide examples to demonstrate how to do this responsibly. But there’s moments when opportunities will present themselves to you and you have to make a gut decision to pursue it even though you know it will be a challenge. Don’t be afraid. Just do it.
9. You have to do all the work yourself. You have to do all the work yourself. You have to do all the work yourself… and then you delegate once you know front and back what that work looks like and how you want it to be done.
10. Accept the fact that you don’t have all the answers and you never will. The most amazing thing I’ve learned about starting my own business is the reality that I simply don’t have this thing figured out. It’s humbling. It’s exhausting. The late nights for me are never spent grinding, they’re burned thinking. Literally, sitting and thinking. I use that time to consider what answers I need to discover next for my journey and then putting together a plan on how I will learn what’s needed.
A Final Note: You have to be more focused on what you do, more than being focused on what you want to be. I’ve watched so many people miss the mark because they burned their energy on creating an appearance of success, rather than being patient and taking the tough, sometimes boring steps needed to get to the next point. I deal with it with my clients all the time. Overly ambitious, without being methodical in their moves. It burns time and money.
That’s all the notes I have, I locked in my largest client this past weekend… so my price just went up. Now I have to make sure the service matches up.
Let’s catch back up after the summer is over, deal?