365 days. It is amazing how what seems like so many days, is in other terms, 1 year.
So, I have learned a lot over this past year, and here are some of the highlights:
Keep a pile of those snazzy business cards handy, because you never know where your next client is going to come from. Leaving your business cards in a box in your office will get you nowhere. Network everywhere. Specific meetings, Facebook, going out with friends, whatever, whenever. Have your elevator pitch with your headline phrase, and you are ready to roll.
Get Advice from Other Business Owners
Meet up with other business owners in the same industry and pick their brain on the good, bad, and the ugly of owning your own business. You are not alone in this journey, and you have to ask for help, especially at the start. What you learn will be invaluable, and saved me a lot of time and energy in how much I wanted to charge, what services to provide, and what software and equipment to use to get started.
Have your Own Vetting System
Even if you get a referral from a trusted source, you still need to put in place your own vetting system. Ask the hard questions to the potential client at the beginning. This will save you time and money you could lose, if you have to deal with a client that you don't want to be a part of your business. At the end of the day, you determine who is going to be a part of your business, not the other way around.
Trust your Gut
After your vetting system is put in place, you will know if you are going to connect or not, with a potential client. Trust your intuition, it is there for a reason. You don't need to always say yes. For me, I go back to my vision of where I want my business to go, and who I want to go with me. If it is a situation I am not comfortable with, I say no, and move on to finding where I will say yes.
I remember an Economics professor asking our class if any of us were Doctors. Everybody started looking at each other and thought he had lost his mind [which of course nobody mentioned within ear shot as it was the beginning of the semester]. Then he said "Good, because if nobody is a Doctor, nobody is dying, and you don't need your cell phone for this class." I think this is true for anytime in life...as long as you are not a Doctor of course! If you want that elusive work/life balance, you have to prioritize your life in that equation. If you are checking your email all the time, and responding at all hours and all days, well of course that balance will be gone. Is your business going to die today because you didn't respond to that client? No. Set boundaries with your clients from the start. Let them know what you will offer, when you are available, and for the most part, they will oblige. If they don't, then you need to go back to the question of if this is the type of client you want for your business. Stand by your choices, and the clients will follow.
Being a business owner has been a lesson in realizing that I have the ability to be accountable to myself. I don't need a timesheet, or recovery rates, or budgets to know that I am making a difference in my client's business.
Entrepreneur, bike spinner, and resident of beautiful Steveston, BC.