LESSONS FROM 3 YEARS IN BUSINESS
Last month marked three years of running my business full time. And my blog last month, I shared 13 things I wish I’d known before starting my business.
This month, I want to share some of the lessons I’ve learnt over the past three years.
Whether you’re still thinking about starting a business or are in the early stages, I hope you’ll find this post useful. Of course, our businesses are as unique as we are, so while the basics of business are the same, how we grow is as unique as we are.
1. Don’t compare your baby business to someone else’s adult business
Starting out is hard because everyone else looks like they have it all together. But you don’t know how long they have been running their business.
Actually, don’t compare yourself or your business to anyone, full stop. It’s true what they say – ‘comparison is the thief of joy’.
And besides, what we see on social media might not be the full story. You don’t know what their life really looks like. Maybe they’re in heaps of debt or have lost friends because they are too busy.
Run your own race and enjoy running your own business.
2. Seize opportunities and take chances
I realised pretty early on that I would quite often take a leap before I was ready. This doesn’t mean taking on jobs that are completely beyond my skill set, but instead of knowing exactly how I would do something, I needed to say yes and hone my skills on the job.
It also meant saying yes to opportunities to work with other copywriters. For me this has been one of the most valuable learning experiences and been key to building my business.
3. Business isn’t about an end point, it’s a journey
The more I’ve followed the journeys of other business people, the more I have realised how true this is.
I don’t think there is ever a point where you can stop and say, that’s it and just coast. I now know that the longer I’m in business, the more my business will evolve and grow.
Now that I know that, I’m looking forward to the challenges and opportunities ahead, instead of feeling I should already know everything.
4. Be yourself
You know the cliché – be you, everyone else is taken. Well, it’s true.
And the thing I’ve realised – is being myself is so much easier.
Sure not everyone will like me, and that’s OK. I don’t need everyone to like me. What I do need is to attract the right sort of people to work with me.
People buy from people. If people feel they know you and like you, they’re going to want to work with you.
5. There is enough work to go around
OK, so won’t always be the case in every industry. But if you’re clear on your USP and ideal customer, you’ve hopefully done your research on the opportunities in your industry.
As a copywriter, I know there is enough work for all of us. The Clever Copywriting School Community is truly one of the best examples of community over competition that I have ever seen. We share our highs and lows, pricing, challenges and most importantly work. I’ve realised the value of outsourcing, sub-contracting and referring work on that isn’t the right fit.
6. Nurture old connections and build new connections
LinkedIn might not be the sexiest social media platform, but don’t ignore it. Stay connected with former colleagues and old clients. You just never know who will see your posts. Maybe they don’t need your services right now, but if you’re consistently showing up, they’ll remember you when they do.
And because there is enough work to go around, you need to focus on connection over competition.
Make connections in your industry, with other businesses in your local area and with your customers.
7. You won’t always love your business
One thing that has become clear while building my business is that you don’t always wake up bursting to get to your desk. And that is OK.
Some days you need to push through one task at a time. You might even get a win that helps you out of your funk.
But then there are days, you just have to call it and crawl back under the doona to regroup.
8. Done is better than perfect
I’m not suggesting you send crappy work to your clients. But sometimes you need to get the first draft out there, get some feedback and refine. There is no point agonising over something and trying to make it perfect, only to find it’s not quite what the client wanted.
I explain to my clients that most projects start with a skeleton draft where I outline what we’re doing and the information I’ll include. It’s also a good way to make sure I have the tone right. I also make it clear from the start that I include 2 rounds of changes.
This also applies to anything you are creating within your business. Not every social media post or blog will be perfect, but being out there is more important than being 100% perfect every time.
9. Working for free isn’t always bad
When you’re starting out, it’s OK to take on a couple of jobs for free to gain some experience, build your confidence and get some testimonials. Even once you’re established, you might decide to offer some pro bono work for an organisation you support. And it doesn’t hurt asking for your logo to be shared or a testimonial.
10. Friends don’t expect friends to work for free
And while there is nothing wrong with working for free for the right reason, friends shouldn’t expect you to work for free.
If a friend asks you to do work for them, respond as you would to any client.
11. You don’t have to do it all at once
Remember that comment about not comparing your new business to someone else’s established business? Well, this is related. If you’re out there networking and creating opportunities, you’ll see others in your niche or industry doing things you might feel you need to do.
Podcasts, memberships, courses and more. Sure, they can be super valuable, and they might be an element in your business down the track. But when you’re building your business, just focus on doing a few things well and growing gradually.
12. Find your team and your people
Solo business does not mean you have to work on your own.
Find the best people to support your business operations and surround yourself with family and friends that will support you through the good times and the bad.
13. Define your own success
This was some advice another copywriter shared, and it has become my mantra. You are the only person who can decide what success looks like for you at any point in time. It will not be the same as another person, even if they’re in your industry.
And you will change what success looks like as your business evolves and you go through different life situations.
Set the goals that work for you and measure your success against those.
The next chapter
I don’t know exactly what the next chapter holds. What I do know is that I will keep learning and building my business, staying open to new opportunities.
Wherever you are in your business adventure, I hope you’ve found these lessons useful.
Are there other lessons you’ve learned on your business journey? I’d love for you to share them.
And if you think this blog would be useful for someone you know, I’d love you to share it.