As I am about 4 months shy of my 2nd year in business (crazy right?) I thought I would share what I have learnt so far about starting my own business from the ground up. And also reflect on a few life lessons along the way as well.
When my mum was younger, times were a lot different to what they are now. You kind of chose one of a few career options and kept your head down and stuck with it for the long haul. Unfortunately that also meant that if you chose the wrong career path you could find yourself stuck in something that doesn’t really fulfil you or make the best use of your talents for a large portion of your life. And some people just work a job they hate but find outside pursuits to fulfill those greater needs. That's fine and if that works for you then that's awesome. I am not here to pass judgement, but to share my personal experience.
My mother chose a career that wasn't really the right fit as she didn't know what else to do, and sadly spent a large portion of her working life dreading going to work. So as most children do when they grow up they either model their parents behaviour or do the exact opposite. I was the latter. I was taught to work hard and everything else will fall into place (which is half true) stick with me here. But the fear of being stuck in the wrong job lead me down so many rabbit holes. So I went for the extreme opposite path. I tried to do all the normal things that you're (supposed to do) I finished school, went to uni and worked my butt off ticking these metaphorical boxes.
This is showing my age but when I was in highschool I literally went to the letter A in the yellow pages (for advertising) and went down the list calling advertising agencies pimping myself out for work experience. Because i was told that the more experience you had the more likely you would be to get a job after graduating. I had some great experiences, I worked at a PR firm where I took charge of updating the entire events calendar for the year. I wrote a radio ad campaign for Miller's turf supplies that went on to be produced, and a tagline for a range of cleaning products. Although I was also brought to tears at the expense of a narcissistic ad exec who basically told me I couldn't write (without seeing any of my work) because I was too young to understand the world.
I hopped from unpaid internships, to temp jobs and on to entry level jobs in varying fields. I sat down one day and worked out how many paid jobs, unpaid jobs and job trials I had completed from the age of 17 to current day (just turned 34) and it's close to 50! think about it, that's 50 jobs in 17 years which equates to multiple jobs a year. That's a lot of jobs! alot of skills learnt, alot of free labour as well. I put my heart into every single one of those jobs too, whether it was scrubbing floors, de - boning fresh salmon with a eyebrow plucker, door to door sales, telemarketing, serving juices, operating rides, fast food, ALL the entry level jobs I did them! I can write a mean covering letter and resume by the way. In fact I can write 3 resumes for three different careers. It got to the point where I had to edit out alot of my experience so potential employers didn't see red flags.
And don't get me wrong, I have met some amazing people in those years, and had some incredible experiences which have helped shape who I am today. But I just couldn't shake the feeling that if I took all of this energy, passion and ideas and poured it into my own business instead of someone elses, then maybe I would finally feel a true sense of accomplishment.
Now I am not disparaging hard work at all, a good work ethic is so important if you want to succeed in any field. But one thing that I have learnt in life and in business is that you need to carefully manage where you input your energy. You only have a finite amount so you need to be smart. This is especially true now that I am a mum.
Now I am still a small business newb. Still learning every day, I am definetley more creative minded than business minded but I am getting there. Here are a few bite size nuggets that I have learnt along the way.
Dont try to do EVERYTHING yourself. People have told me this in the past and I never truly believed it until I spent a lot of wasted energy trying to design my own logos, labels, photography etc I was trying to save money by doing alot myself but the time wasted trying to get something that i ultimately didnt like could have been avoided. There are services for almost everything these days, and for all budgets. So if you're not a graphic designer then pay a graphic designer and consider it an investment. Because good design will help build your brand essentially. Or if you have no expereince with marketing pay someone to develop a startegy for you, write copy etc and if you're supporting another small business in the process that's even better.
Be careful with whom you work with (on the note of getting help) Make sure you take the time to find the right fit. Read reviews, look at their current work and track record. I have paid for designs in the past that I was unhappy with and never even used because I didnt have the confidence to assert what I wanted, nor had i considered what i wanted carefully before enlisting help.
Expect to spend more money than you think, its not easy to invest so much time and money into something that doesn't see an immediate return on investment. But that is the nature of business. If you arent prepared for that, then it might not be right for you.
Things won't happen overnight, we as a society are becoming obsessed with instant gratication. We have so many options available to us now that we often get shiny object syndrome. It's also so easy to compare yourself to others in business. Don't do it. You are on your own path.
Have fun! Yes it's stressful but if you cant find joy in what you're doing you won't stick to it. Part of the joy of your own business in being able to do things on your own terms.
Keep your reciepts (yeah i know that's really basic) but I still struggle with that...oh god not looking forward to tax time.
Be prepared to feel bored, stressed, happy, sad, hopeful (sometimes all in the span of one day) it's not easy, and anyone that tells you they have a winning formula is either lying or they have been incredibly lucky, OR they have made alot of mistakes getting there that they aren't revealing. Trial things, learn what works, what doesn't, visuallise your ideal client and talk to them and them only. It's a huge learning curve and you won't know until you dive in.
Looking back over this list alot of these lessons also apply to being a parent, go figure! This is not an exhaustive list by any means but its just a few of the many lessons I've learnt along the way.
If you read this far thank you. And if there's someone in your life that is going out on a limb trying to start their own business then simply liking a post, commenting or sharing it can sometimes turn a hopeless day around. Don't underestimate the power of your actions, even small. Be kind always.