5 Valuable Tips for New Entrepreneurs

Oh hey there! Hi! Wassup?!

For those of you that have been following my business, you’re well aware that it has been a minute (give or take 2-3 months) since the last time I created a blog post. Honestly, this creative hiatus coupled with a mini-entrepreneurial breakdown has been intense, insightful, and ultimately so restorative. If you’re a small business owner or solopreneur- you already know!- but for those of you interested in starting a business or that are purely fascinated with the entrepreneurial process, owning a business isn’t all sleeping in late, handling business in sweats, and working from the beach (though that’s what many people would like you to think). Making your passion and skills available to the world, then backing it with your reputation, is a vulnerable and draining process. Business ownership is deeply personal, with every component of your business serving as a reflection of you- from your message and your aesthetic to your clientele and ultimately your work. It gets exhausting!!

I’m not sharing this to scare you! In fact, if you feel a fire in your soul to start a business and share your light with the world- you should! In September 2017 when I quit my job to run my creative company, West Oak Creative, I was invigorated, impassioned, and ready to work, work, work, work, work, work for myself. (pardon the GIF, I can’t help myself)

I had struggled with the guilt of working outside of the home for so long, that I quickly pulled my son out of childcare so he could stay home with me, full-time, and experience his mother in all her work-from-home glory. The first few months were incredible- even the rough days where I was on my laptop seemingly all day and the house had fallen to the toddler. I was living my dream. But soon all of the little tiny things piled up- posting to social media, promoting my business, networking, creating ads, and keeping up with my life all fell to the wayside. There were so many invisible tasks that went into running a profitable business and I hadn’t accounted for ANY of them. I had hit a figurative wall in my business, comprised of things that made me scream I can’t even. I let it shut me down- quite literally spending the past 3 months trying to reclaim balance in my business, evaluating my strategies, and ultimately creating an entirely new business model conducive to raising a kid alongside running my business.  But you don’t have to go through this.

In honor of my triumphant return to civilization, I’m bringing a list of helpful tips to aspiring and new entrepreneurs to help you navigate and sustain your business once the novelty wears off:

  1. Don’t try to grow too quickly. There’s an old saying, “If you aren’t growing, you’re dying”. It can be hard not to subscribe to this way of thinking, as the thought of being stagnant when you’re a new business owner is frightening and you are bound to have some brilliant ideas for creative new services or products that your clientele will love. But don’t let these ideas push you into adding a new layer to your business too quickly. If you try to grow before you’re ready, you will be ill-equipped for the influx in clients and the legwork required to promote the new division of your business. Instead, develop your new idea while it’s fresh- write it down, create a strategy, ruminate on it- then wait until you are consistently bringing in a comfortable, sustainable amount of work. Once you’ve perfected your current workload, you be better prepared to launch and promote your newest passion.  Remember: while growth is a valuable way to gauge the trajectory of your business- it is not the only indication of success.

  2. DEVELOP A SOCIAL MEDIA STRATEGY. The all caps are obnoxious, but SO necessary. When creating your business, it’s implicit that you will need to consider the look, tone, and message of your brand. But don’t forget to consider how this will translate to your social media accounts. What will you post about? What will you capture? Who will you speak to? How will you speak to them? Creating a solid social media presence requires a ton of thought and attention to detail. If you’ve been successful in establishing your personal social media presence, this shouldn’t be too difficult- however, if you’re like me and care very little about social media, this is one of the things that I highly recommend outsourcing to a professional. Even having someone create a strategy (no posts, just the foundation of your presence) will help you enormously.

  3. Don’t undervalue (or overvalue) your services. Ahhhh! The nuances of pricing! Among freedom and flexibility, earning potential is one of the major motivations for owning and operating your own business. However, when you’re getting started it can be tricky determining how to price yourself. A confident and eager entrepreneur may be tempted to emulate the pricing of a more experienced, competitor. While your skills may be up to par and your offering comparable (or even better), you should steer clear of overpricing yourself when you’re just starting out. That’s not to say that you should price yourself low- in fact, this is one of the biggest mistakes a new business owner can make. Not only does pricing yourself too low promote undue stress, but it takes pleasure out of the work. You don’t want to begrudgingly work on a project, feeling as though you’re doing a whole lot for a little bit. Instead, calculate your expenses, understand the industry standard rates, and select a price point that will appeal to the people you want to serve.

  4. Clearly define your responsibilities and have clients clearly define their expectations. When you’re starting out, all inquiries are exciting! Any opportunity to start generating income with your business will get you super pumped and ready to jump into work- but be careful not to overlook the details. You should always have a contract with your clients, that clearly defines your responsibilities, your process, and what they can expect to receive upon completion of the transaction/project. Similarly, if your prospective client is terse or unclear in their communication, don’t brush it off. It is important to fully understand what a client is hoping to receive, how they expect the process to go, and any expectations (realistic and unrealistic) that they may have, so that you can properly address their vision and concerns before you’ve begun working together. This will save you in the long run!

  5. Adopt a true work schedule.  Make sure you aren’t ditching your 9AM-5PM for a 8AM-10PM! When you’re passionate about what you’re doing and personally invested in the success of your business, you may find it difficult to turn work off. Early into my business I was working 12 hour days, 7 days a week and hardly noticing. I was so wrapped up in promoting my business, doing my best work, and creating new content that I felt like I couldn’t stop. BUT I NEEDED TO. A few months in and I was burned out. Don’t do that to yourself. When you make the decision to go full time in your business, set a schedule. While there is the perk of flexibility, everyday should not be a flex day. Understand what hours/days you are most productive, schedule your work around them, and then quit at a certain time everyday. This may mean pausing notifications on facebook, signing out of any work related applications, or even putting your devices aways. Whatever you have to do- do it. Just like everyone else, you need to take time off so you can appreciate your business and approach projects the following day with fresh eyes.

Above all else, don’t forget to enjoy entrepreneurship! Having the courage and ambition to work for yourself should be celebrated and enjoyed. :)

Until next time,

Courtney

 

Courtney Miller