Things I Wish I Knew Before Starting My Business
Before I dive in let me just preface this post with the fact that I know that I am lucky to own a business that's withstood obstacles like global pandemic and continues to grow. I'm grateful for the continued flow of work and the amazing clients that allow me to grow and continue to evolve, both personally and professionally. Ahem. Having said all of that, there's a couple of things I wish I knew BEFORE I started my business so I'm in the mood to plop these pearls of wisdom right here for you. Ya ready? Let's go! 1. Starting out with incredibly low prices to get traction is only good if you want to stay at the bottom of the barrel. And your "friends" will help keep you there. What do I mean by this? Let me dive in. When I started I, obviously, did not have a deep client list under my belt to pull from so I did, what I think a lot of people do, and I offered everything and the kitchen sink for pennies. Marketing, websites, paintings (oh yeah, I paint, too...) you name it, I offered it. FOR CHEAP. And I'm not talking about "cheap" in Bezos terms. I'm talking about basically trading away my time for the idea of having a client. NOW... this did help me gain word of mouth traction pretty quickly. The downside? Everyone wanted the super cheap cheap offerings I used to get my foot in the door. So yeah. More time out the window for very little cash. I also made a handful of "client turned acquaintances turned pals" (I refuse to say "friends" because it's business and I'm not in Kindergarten) that decided I was their bestest pal as long as my rates stayed below slave labor and I delivered on time. SO word of advice: don't do this. I wouldn't come out swinging with your "ideal" pricing per se, but definitely make sure that your prices match your services.
2. Less is more. I'm talking logo/branding, website, marketing, labels, ALL of it. Keep it simple. I look back on my first logo and there's just a lot of cringing and rage eating Sunchips going on. There was a Celtic tree motif at one point... it was just a lot. Keep things simple. It's much easier to start clean, and ADD to, than try to reinvent yourself down the line because you've outgrown the original look.
3. You're going to work WAY more from your home office than you ever worked in your boss's office. This is not a joke and I'm not exaggerating. The main reason? This is YOUR business. There is no one else keeping things going. If you're not working, no one is. And that means you're not making money. YES. Those are the thoughts that are in your head 99.8% of the time, the other .2% is spent on thinking you should redesign your logo. Work also NEVER leaves your face. Grabbing a snackie from the 'fridge? Guess who's peeping at you from the couch? Your laptop and those last 12 product photos you have to edit. Just sitting down to watch the last episode of the Last of Us? ::notification noise:: You've got a cozy text from a client freaking out that they gave you the wrong phone number on their business cards. This. Is. How. It. Goes. In the beginning especially it's going to be really hard to see any time in your life that's not geared toward work but you need to set boundaries early. Otherwise, you'll have to fight yourself down the line to make sure you have any semblance of work-life balance. Working from home is not about lounging on the lanai with a frosty cheesecake, ok? It's just not. The overwhelm and monotony can become thunderous as your work grows. Just be ready for that. There's no commute, that's a plus. BUT there's also very little decompression time when you finally do shut work off. You need to mentally prepare yourself because it can feel isolating and monotonous and boring and tiring and spastic all at the same time.
4. You're not going to love every customer/client. This one may sound pretty obvious to the less starry-eyed idealists out there but to me and my Mary Tyler Moore tossing my hat in the air at independence self, it kinda took me off guard. I thought surely, working for myself I'd have a better handle on having to deal with people I couldn't stand and honestly, as you get some traction you can allow yourself to say "no thanks" to the projects that you just can't get behind (I'm looking at you backyard dog breeders, gun salesmen and roadside zoos) but for the most part, not every client is going to be amazing. Some are going to be damn boring... difficult... obtuse... maybe even belligerent. But the good thing? They're all learning experiences and help you not only appreciate the GOAT clients but also help you become a more adept professional. Or drinker. Or both.
5. Nothing can beat the thrill of watching your passion come to life. And before everyone comes at me here with "but what about a child or a pet or or or" I'm not referring to that. I'm talking purely about in the professional universe. Seeing your work and endless hours come back to you in success is incredible and worth all of the sacrifice and panic and sleepless nights.
To sum it up, if you've been on the fence about whether or not you should finally strike out on your own, I'm telling you now, just do it. Take the leap and fling yourself head first into that wall. Do NOT listen to the naysayers and "friends" that tell you all of the reasons you shouldn't. Let me break it to you, there will always be a billion reasons not to do something. But when you have a passion for something, don't ignore that spark. You grab hold and ride it wherever it takes you.