Tips for Starting your Own Business
I started my first business when I was in high school. I sold hand-knitted scarves during the holidays to my parents friends, their friends and anyone who walked into my dad’s shop where I was parked at a counter, knitting away!
No, I never wanted to knit for a living, but that first taste of making money on my own was all I needed. When I worked for other people, I’d spend my downtime dreaming up ways I could make money on the side, or how I could run their business better. Needless to say, I was never that content working for someone else, and after graduating that continued to be the trend. I worked for my family business for a few years, but ultimately knew it was just a stop along the way.
After working for myself for the past six years, I’ll never go back. I love the freedom it allows me! Sure, it does have it’s downsides. No guaranteed income, no paid vacation or sick days and no benefits. However, being able to wake up each day and work towards something I’m passionate about is worth it in my opinion!
Benefits of Owning your Own Business
I feel like we’re in the age of entrepreneurship and solopreneurship right now. Whenever I go to a coffee shop to get some work done, I’m blown away by how many other people are there working away on their computers, running their businesses from afar and doing what they’re passionate about.
Starting your own business can be scary, there’s no doubt about that! Often times you’re leaving a cushy office job with a guaranteed paycheck, benefits and stability. But, more and more of us are sick of that. Going to the same lame cubicle every morning to grind away at work you don’t care about. For a a paycheck that’s less than you’d like, and two measly weeks of vacation time. It’s no surprise that more and more people are trading in the traditional “work” route for something they have more control over.
For me, owning my own business and working for myself has been the greatest gift. It’s allowed me financial freedom, the chance to make money doing something that I’m passionate about, to move to a new city, work from anywhere and travel wherever and for however long as I choose!
Now that we have Owen, working for myself has allowed me to continue working and contributing income to our family while also being a mom. I get tons of time with Owen, but I’m able to maintain my independence and feed my creative side, which is really important to me.
My schedule is flexible, I work on projects that excite me and when I want to try something new, I can totally do it!
When is the Right Time to Start?
You’ve got the idea and you’re dying to quit your day job—so, what are you waiting for?
I hear it so often from friends who want to leave to start their own thing—”the time just isn’t right.”
Well, I’m here to tell you that the timing is almost never “right”. Timing seems to be a huge reason why people never actually start their business. If you really want to do it, you’ve got to just do it! Take that leap! I’m not saying that you have to quit your job to start, but start working on it on the side, on nights and weekends. No one said that starting your own business was easy. It takes hard work, dedication and often, sacrifice. If you want to make it happen, you will!
So, the right time to start? In my opinion, right now! You don’t have to launch it tomorrow or even next month, but starting laying the groundwork, or at least get a plan going so you can eventually exit that office job, if that’s your dream.
Tips for Starting your Own Business
Starting your own business is a huge learning process and you’ll make plenty of mistakes along the way, but there’s plenty you can avoid too! Here are my top tips for starting your own business. These are things I wish I’d known earlier—they would have saved me lots of time and headache!
Don’t Offer Too Many Services
This was one mistake I made when I first opened my design business years ago. Instead of focusing on one service and being amazing at it, I offered everything from web design, branding, email campaigns to social media services. I figured, the more I could offer, the better—right? I could be a one stop shop for my clients!
But here’s the thing. I hated doing branding suites, email campaigns and wasn’t really that good at managing other people’s social media platforms. All I really wanted to do was web design work, and I’d added on the extras because I thought those bonuses would be enticing when someone came to me for their website design.
Instead, I started getting projects that didn’t include web design at all. A random branding suite here, an email campaign project there. Before I knew it, I was doing more of the work I hated and less of the work I wanted to be doing. Eventually, I ditched the other services to focus on web design, and I finally started getting the work I really wanted to be doing!
The point being, it’s better to be really good at one thing than to be sort of good at a lot of things. When you have a laundry list of services, it’s hard to be really good at them all. But, when you have one, people will want what you have to offer, whether it’s a product or service, because they know you’re an expert in your field!
This one took some time for me, but I wish someone would have told me earlier that it was okay to be picky about who you want to work with. Of course, you don’t want to come off as arrogant, but working with the right clients can make the process smoother and more enjoyable for both parties.
When I first started, I offered my web design services to anyone who would pay. I was doing everything from girly blog designs to web sites for small oil and gas companies in West Texas. When you looked through my portfolio, it was hard to tell what I was actually good at! I took my focus a step further and updated my website and branding to attract the clients I wanted and added the tagline, “WordPress Design for the Stylish Blogger”. Almost immediately, I started getting the clients I wanted to work with. No more random oil and gas companies, just bloggers who appreciated my style and wanted the same for their sites.
Before I knew it, I was one of the top sought-after blog designers. I owe it all to getting niche and tailoring my site and offerings to bloggers within that niche. When you attract the right clients, you spend less time weeding through people who aren’t a good fit for your company and can easily say no to projects that you don’t feel are a good fit for your skills.
Of course, every once, you get a client who you think is great and turns out to be a nightmare, but more on that in a bit.
Invest in a Nice Looking Site
If you think this isn’t important, you’re wrong. How often have you decided to pop into a new coffee shop or store simply because the sign looks cool, or they have those pretty Moroccan tiles on the floor (guilty). Your branding is your first impression and if you make a bad one, people might never walk in the metaphorical (or physical).
A few years ago, investing in a site was just that, an investment. Now there are so many affordable options for beautiful websites and blog designs that you really have no excuse to have a crappy looking site! Squarespace is great, though I’m partial to WordPress for both websites and blogs (like our BFK themes!). There are countless themes out there that can serve as a standalone site to highlight your services and have a built-in blog, which can be great for getting your name out there.
If branding and logo design isn’t your cup of tea, hire someone to create that for you and use it on everything—business cards, flyers, your website, and social media platforms to create a strong brand across the board. Etsy is a great place to start if you don’t know of any designers!
Finances & Accounting
As a business owner, you’ll find yourself wear ing a lot of hats! You’re service might be interior design, but you’re also in charge of invoicing, billing, ordering and accounting. One of my biggest suggestions is to get a system in place early on for managing all this. I use a spreadsheet that Rob (who works in finance) made for me, but Freshbooks or something similar is a great option as well!
Make sure you’re paying your quarterly taxes too! My first year of business I didn’t do this and I owed SO much at the end, it was depressing! Technically it wasn’t anymore than I would have owed, but having to pay it all at in one chunk hurt!
Don’t Stretch Yourself Thin
It’s easy to get overwhelmed as an entrepreneur, especially if you’re a solopreneur! Honestly, this is one thing I still struggle with! I have so many ideas and I want to do them all at once, but there’s just one of me and I have to be realistic.
When you start to feel overwhelmed and it makes sense financially, I highly highly recommend outsourcing tasks that you don’t want to handle! Hiring an accountant, social media manager or assistant to just help keep your calendar in order can actually take your business to the next level. When you’re not bogged down in all the details, you can focus on what you do best and create more!
It can sound counterintuitive to add more people to your team when you’re trying to bring profits up, but when you’re able to focus on growing your business and know that the other stuff is being handled, your business will grow and make up for that before you know it!
Over the past two years, I’ve grown my little team and hired someone to manage my social media platforms, a girl who handles SEO, another girl to help me manage my inbox and collaborations, and I have an accountant who makes sure I actually pay my taxes on time!
It’s Okay to Say No
I used to be really bad at saying no. I worried that if I turned down an opportunity, nothing else would come my way. But, it’s the opposite. Saying no to the projects or clients you don’t want to work with is saying yes to yourself. The universe has a funny way of working out, and every time I’ve said no to something that I didn’t think was a good fit, a new project or opportunity that I was super excited about would pop up! If I’d said yes to the other one I didn’t really care about, I might not have had the time or energy to do an awesome job on the project I was pumped about!
Another note on saying no. Occasionally things will go sour with a client. It’s frustrating and stressful—believe me, I had a couple of them in my day! Sometimes it’s best for both parties to just go their separate ways. It sucks, especially if you’ve already put a lot of work into the project, but in my experience, my mental health and well-being is so much more important than the money I would have made from that single project.
The best way to end a project before it’s done is to be kind, but firm and honest. To avoid any legal issues or hateful emails, offering to refund their deposit usually diffuses a situation!
Keep Expenses Low
Depending on what your business is, your expenses will vary a lot. If you’re based online and offer consulting, well, you might not have much overhead. But, if you’re baking cookies and shipping them across the country, you’ll need ingredients, cookware, boxes to ship, shipping costs and of course, a place to bake those cookies!
When starting out, make a list of every possible expense you could have. Also, do your research on how to keep them low. You might find that shipping in a different shaped box can cut your packing costs in half! You don’t want your cookies arriving dried out and cracked.So I’m not suggesting you cut every corner. However, there’s often ways to shave off a few cents or dollars on different things. That can make a big difference when you tally it all up at the end of the month!
Don’t Be Afraid to Promote Yourself
If you’re like me, you’re not good at promoting yourself. I’m shy and would rather people just figure out what I do on their own. However, that’s not really a great way of growing your business is it? Tell friends and family what you do. Share your website and a few business cards and have them help you out! Try Facebook ads. Promoted pins or sponsored Instagrams.
I got so many of my early clients this way. I’d tell my friends what I was doing and before I knew it, they’d have a friend who needed a website and because they knew that I did that. They’d share my information and instant new client for me!
It’s Okay to Shift
No one ever told me this, and I think it’s why I had such a hard time closing my design business so that I could run my blog full-time. We’re human, we evolve and our interests and passions do as well. I thought that I would love designing forever, but after five years or so, I’d lost my steam and passion. I wanted to do something different.
A big part of me felt like I’d failed. But knowing that what I was doing was opening up new opportunities that I was excited about made me feel better about it. If I’m being honest, I’m finding myself in another shift. Don’t worry, this blog isn’t going anywhere, but you’ve probably noticed that it’s changed over the years. Health, wellness and motherhood are three things I’m super passionate about. So expect to see more of that content in the future!
At some point, your business will likely shift, change, evolve, grow, expand, shrink—whatever it is, it’s okay! If it feels right, it’s probably the right thing!
Do you have dreams of starting your own business? What’s holding you back? If you have your own business, what tips would you add to this list?!