For one year I have been waiting to wake up to the glamorous life that comes along with entrepreneurship. I’m still waiting… In fact, I’ve experienced the exact opposite. No glamour. No complete bliss. No days off. No magic bag of money. What it has been is hard work. A roller-coaster of emotions. A bunch of costly mistakes and “brokeass-ness”.
There are so many things that “they” don’t tell you about being an entrepreneur that I wish I would have known. The lessons that I have learned the hard way were definitely from being unprepared, waiting until the last minute and lacking confidence. If I could go back and give my first year self (actually myself that only had this idea) my most valuable piece of advice it would be to plan, plan, and plan some more. Plan and be realistic with your plan. Rely on your plan and don’t be afraid to change your plan.
Let me be honest. I went head-first into this thing. Solely relying on my talent and product knowledge. When you’re building a brand, however, all that doesn’t matter. Some days it made me question my product. Questioning my product made me question myself. I’ve cried so many days. I’ve decided so many times that I needed to sit down at my laptop and fill out JOB applications. When things went totally awry (which they often did) I decided to pack my bags and move away.
No one tells you there will be days like this. There are so many things that I wish I knew that may have helped me spend less time doubting and realize that this thing can manifest itself into something awesome. I’ve got something special and people need what I’ve got. Year one has been a bipolar experience. I have cried, given up, cursed clients in my head, almost smoked a cigarette (I have never smoked a cigarette), decided to become a nun so I didn’t have to pay rent or have a job, even thought about giving my kids up for adoption because I can’t afford them. After all those emotions, however, when it’s bedtime and I’ve put out every possible fire, I’m proud I survived. I’m proud that my product and concept has potential to reach masses and literally affect lives. I’m so proud that I have the heart of a lion otherwise I would have given up in Month Two.
I decided to jot down a small list of things I’ve learned that may possibly help someone else. They are in no particular order. I didn’t do all of these things in my first year (as simple as some of them are) but my second year self is all over it!
1. Timing is important.
In my case, I’ve underestimated time on so many occasions. The time it takes to get things done. The amount of time it takes to shop, cook, get new clients, execute an event, and become an overnight success…. Timing is everything. Always give yourself plenty.
2. Your word is all you have.
People like to hold you to the fire. Do what you say and say what you mean. People hate excuses. They don’t even like apologies.
3. Don’t compare yourself to anyone.
Things are not always what they seem. Rely on your own talent, knowledge and research. Rely on perfecting your brand and moving your product. Be encouraged by others but not discouraged by others success.
4. This is your vision.
No one can see your vision but you. Don’t let others inability to see the potential you possesses stop you. Don’t resent them for it either. See bigger and DO bigger. You have to show them.
5. It’s okay to say no.
This one was the hardest for me to learn. Every client is not a good fit. Don’t take a job just for the sake of having a job. If you cannot accommodate people’s demands within the realms of what you can realistically offer, it’s not a good idea to attempt. Don’t destroy your brand trying. Just say no!
6. You don’t have to explain your prices.
Your product should be priced to make a profit. If you are not making money then it’s a hobby. People who constantly try to talk you down or get a deal are probably not the people you need to do business with. People will always try it when you are small. Be firm and confident in your prices.
7. You get one try to make a first impression.
Show up and show out.
8. Networking is important.
Actually knowing people in your industry and other industries that can help you get to the next level when its time is the key. You have to get out, shake hands, show your face and introduce yourself. If you have to schedule actual networking time, do it.
9. Surround yourself with likeminded people.
I’ve said before that no one can see your vision but you and that people may not support it. I need to say, however, there are so many people who will. Most of the time these people are strangers. People you have never met. Join groups that encourage creativity and enthusiasm. These people become your cohort. You’ll need them for ideas, low budget resources and sometimes that push when you don’t think you can.
10. You are only as good as your team.
If and when you get to the point you need to hire help, hire someone that believes in you and can see the bigger picture. Create a team that can go the distance.
11. The one thing that has stopped me from moving forward on a lot of things is my inability to accept when someone tells me “no”.
We have all heard that is takes 100 no’s to get a yes. What if that one person tells you yes the first time? How would you know unless you ask? Don’t be afraid. Always look for the YES!
12. Don’t let fear stop you from moving forward.
You are supposed to be afraid and a little uncomfortable. If you aren’t afraid, you aren’t thinking big enough.
13. When you feel like you want to quit, don’t.
Rely on faith (find some if you don’t have any) and the fact tomorrow is a new day.
14. Your greater than you think you are.
If you don’t believe in yourself and what you are doing, why would anyone else? You can do it! Be great!