So you’ve decided to start your own business. Or maybe you’ve had a side hustle for a little while and you’re thinking about taking it to the next step. Or maybe you’re still mulling this whole entrepreneurship thing over, but it’s something you’re seriously considering. Whatever stage you’re at, I’m excited for you! Starting your own business is one of the biggest and bravest decisions you can make and I’m over here applauding your ambition and cheering you on with handmade signs and a super obnoxious bullhorn! 🙂
The journey of entrepreneurship is long and literally never-ending. But it’s also one of the most rewarding adventures I’ve ever embarked on. To give you some guidance and perspective as you’re starting out, I’m cataloging all of my best tips and advice. This advice comes from my experience as a small business owner and also from 2+ decades watching my parents run their small business. Some tips are practical, others are more personal. But these are the ones that were pivotal for me starting out.
Buckle up because here we go!
Make it legal
Get the legal side of your business locked down. Determine your business structure (LLC, Sole Proprietor, etc.), get the proper permits, register with the appropriate entities, pay your taxes, have ironclad contracts. Nothing sours your dreams of running your own business like accidentally getting in trouble with the law or having a client take advantage of you because you didn’t get something in writing. So make everything legal. If you’re confused on where to start, begin with the Small Business Administration website and it should guide you to where you need to go.
Know your numbers
I happen to love numbers. And spreadsheets. I geek out over pivot tables and Excel hacks. If you don’t have a weird love affair with numbers, get yourself an accountant. But this goes beyond finances.
People say know your worth, but I add to that be honest about your worth and be clear on your audience – if you’re hoping to win Honda clients but you’re charging Maserati prices, you’re barking up the wrong tree.
Another part of knowing your numbers is setting goals. Once you get your marketing set up, start establishing attainable goals for yourself, like hitting 100,000 impressions on Pinterest in your first month. Or getting 70 new Instagram followers. If you set specific numeric goals, you’ll be more motivated to hit them.
Invest in a strong brand and killer website from the get go
I’m not just saying this because it’s what I do. Whether you get your design services from us (we hope you do!) or from someone else, it is so important to look, sound, and act the part. If you want to be a business that other people take seriously, you need to take yourself seriously first, friend. And that means having a well-designed brand identity that is clear, cohesive, and consistent as well as a digital storefront (aka website) that you’re proud of and people want to buy from.
If you need an easy and free place to start, grab our Brand Navigation Planner. It’ll help you get to the heart of your brand and build a rock solid identity so you’re starting off on the right foot!
Start with Social Media
When it comes to promoting and marketing your business, I always recommend starting with an organic social media presence. Why? The big one is that it’s free, which is my absolute favorite word as a small business owner. The second is that it’s where everyone is. Literally everyone. It’s also a low risk environment, giving you the perfect opportunity to play around with your brand voice and see what works. AND it’s a great place to learn about your target audience and the content that resonates with them, which you should 100% do before putting any money behind your posts or pins.
Be willing to learn – a lot
Look at everything – every success, failure, want to rip your hair out moment – as an opportunity to learn and be open to what it teaches you. Take classes, read blog posts, download ebooks, watch webinars. Be a sponge and soak it all up. And recognize that no matter how prepared you try to make yourself, you’re going to make mistakes. Don’t beat yourself up. Everyone makes mistakes.
When you do, you have three courses of action – you can ignore it, you can run from it, or you can turn it into an opportunity to learn and grow. Friend, if Kim Kardashian was able to turn a NSFW tape with a D-list R&B singer into a multi-million dollar empire, I guarantee that you can survive your mistake and find a way to use it to push yourself forward.
You’ll need to adapt
Grab the yoga mat because flexibility is critical for an entrepreneur. You go into this believing with your whole heart that your audience wants one thing, but then you realize they’re not engaging on that one thing. It’s getting crickets. So you’re going to need to do your best Ross impersonation and…
And this is okay. This does not make you dumb or a failure. Think of all the products out there that someone at one point thought were a great idea. I mean, let us not forget New Coke (may it rest in peace). If you listen to your audience, they’ll tell you what they want. Then you just need to be willing to adapt your approach accordingly.
Don’t expect it to be a wildfire out of the gate
Results. Take. Time. I see you over there, Eager McBeaver. You want it all and you want it now. And when you don’t get everything right off the bat, you start to doubt yourself. You start to get frustrated. You start to panic. Or worst of all, you start to give up. You want to know how I know? Because I’ve been there. If I’m being honest, I still find myself there from time to time.
But good things take time. Every giant oak tree starts as an itty bitty acorn that survives storms and squirrels before it finally takes off. Some days it may feel like you’re taking two steps forward and one step back. But just keep pushing forward and doing your best, and I promise you will make progress.
And if you need a good reminder that we all have to start somewhere, just remember that Scarlett Johanson got her start starring in movies like Home Alone 3. If that doesn’t put things in perspective, I don’t know what will.
It can be easy to fall into a swirling vortex of self-doubt when things don’t take off right away. Trust me. Been there, done that, bought the t-shirt. But don’t let that cause you to change who you are. In the world of social media, people who are “doing it right” are thrown in our faces constantly and it makes us second guess who we are or what we’re doing.
To this I have two pieces of advice for you – DO NOT compare your messy beginning to someone else’s seemingly perfect middle, for two reasons. One, I promise you their beginning was just as messy. And two, their business and their life might seem perfect, but you’ll quickly learn that half of being an entrepreneur is faking it ’til you make it. Underneath that perfectly curated Instagram filter is someone who is just faking it ’til they make it.
My second piece of advice? Success comes to the differentiators, to the people who do things their own unique way. Be who you are and you’ll attract the right people who will appreciate you for you.
Celebrate every win
Friends, I still have a mini party for myself whenever I get an email subscriber. I still give myself a high five when my engagement grows on Pinterest. As a small business owner, I know how hard I work for every Instagram follower, every Pinterest pin, every email opt-in and you better believe I don’t take it for granted. Celebrate those wins. Remember that you are doing amazing things, that there are people out there who wish they could do what you’re doing, but are too plum scared to try. So if you’re struggling to even find a win today, celebrate the fact that you’re strong enough to bet on yourself.
To sum it all up, I truly believe you can do this. And to reference a somewhat over-used – but no less true – quote: “I can’t guarantee it’ll be easy, I can only guarantee it will be worth it.”
We are all in this together. If you’re ever stuck, need help, or want to vent, my inbox is always open – just drop me a line!
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