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In March, 2018, I launched my business, almost on a whim, you could say. At the time, I had lots of energy, passion and what I thought was direction. But it took me six months to find my groove and settle into a rhythm and close to a year to be confident about this decision. So, if you too are thinking of launching your own business, here are some key lessons for entrepreneurs that will help you too, from my first year as a creative entrepreneur.
Back in October, I wrote a post about 7 things I’d learnt as a solo entrepreneur. So, if you haven’t yet, go on and read that first.
7 Challenges I Faced as a Solo Entrepreneur and How I overcame them
Today, when I speak about the lessons I’ve learnt, I want you to keep the challenges in mind and then dive in. Being an entrepreneur is very challenging and very fulfilling all at once. These lessons that I share will tell you if you’ve got the grit and endurance to see the venture through from start to finish.
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1. Be a self-starter
When you work for yourself, you have to be your strongest motivator. There will be days when you don’t feel like picking yourself up, when you feel defeated and when you think that all your hard work is producing nothing.
But that’s when you shouldn’t quit.
If something doesn’t work, figure out why. Go back to the drawing board and revise your game plan. Maybe the strategy needs tweaking.
Working for yourself also means that you have no visible support system or a team to help you break through blocks, mental or otherwise. Self-pity is useless at these times. Instead, stay with the feeling of defeat briefly but learn from it. Reconfigure your methods to find out what will work.
Also, find and build a support system. Reach out to friends who have been in your shoes and ask for advice. Don’t be shy.
2. Be Diligent about Time Blocking
Your time as an entrepreneur is sacred and valuable. The only way you’d get anything at all done is if you put it down in a schedule on your bullet journal or calendar.
Need tips on Time Blocking? Read these to get started.
Time blocking is especially valuable when you have multiple things that demand your attention. For instance, in my particular case, my focus areas are work for my clients, my own blog’s growth and automation of my social media channels.
Strict time blocking for each segment helps me keep my sanity. Plus, when I write things down, assign a time frame to them and work through it without distractions, I get it done.
3. Saying ‘No’ to Time Wasters
As much as you need to say ‘yes’ to a lot of things as an entrepreneur, it’s equally important to say NO.
Why? Because there is only that much bandwidth you have for yourself and your business. If you were to agree to every request, every meeting and every proposal that came your way, chances are you’d never move forward on the path you’ve chosen.
Each time a new offer comes my way, either from a potential client or a possible collaborator, I weigh it against the following questions:
- Do I have the time to commit to this task?
- Does the money involved make it worth my while?
- Does this move the needle forward for my business?
If even one of those questions aren’t answered satisfactorily, do not take up the task. Be firm, be kind and be sure about saying ‘No’.
Similarly, say a BIG ‘NO’ to time wasters of the other variety: Distractions! If you’re in the virtual space, there are distractions screaming for your attention.
Your time is valuable and every second lost is money lost. Keep that in mind before you go down the rabbit hole of diversions.
4. Wake Up Early
Now I know this may be a bit difficult for most people to come to terms with. I also know that many people consider themselves night owls who can only get work done when it’s past midnight. Believe me, I used to be one.
But a few years ago, I read about the Sleep Revolution by the owner of Huffington Post, Arianna Huffington, in her book ‘Thrive’ and it reset my view of late nights, completely!
As a result, I made it my life’s mission to be in bed no later than 10 pm and be up by 5 am the next day. Some days it was 4.30 am. The very significant thing this did for me was it changed my approach towards creative thinking, good rest and energy. I found that I had more energy to tackle challenges when I was well-rested from a good night’s sleep.
Trust me, switch to the early mornings. That saying about the early bird and the worm? It’s actually true, if you think of yourself as the bird and opportunities as worms. (Not a very appetising image, but you know what I mean. ) 🙂
5. Niche Down to What You’re good at
One of the earliest mistakes I made as an entrepreneur was not niching down when it came to the services I was offering.
I knew I was good at Pinterest and Mailchimp, but I was saying yes to all kinds of requests from WordPress theme selections to Instagram help to setting up Twitter accounts!
This led to two challenges: Inability to say no (which I talked about earlier) and a significant sense of overwhelm leading to burnout within 4 months of launching the business.
In mid-August, I reset the dial on my business and decided to focus on 3 core areas where I could actually help people improve. So, when I re-branded my website and launched it in late August, I placed the emphasis on my focus areas, which I had worked on consistently: SEO, MailChimp and Pinterest.
Almost within a week, I observed that the nature of enquiries improved and I had more targeted clients interested in my work.
6. Work on Moving the Needle Forward
Have you ever spent a whole day doing a lot of things that apparently seem to lead nowhere? Yeah, I know that feeling.
As an entrepreneur, you’ll suddenly find yourself torn between two kinds of tasks: the creative and the administrative. While the former is to do with energising you as a person, the latter grounds you and keeps you focused.
For instance, you have to create quality content, but you also need to create and send out invoices to clients for services rendered. If you do too much of one and not enough of the other, there will be an imbalance.
The only way to combat this is to set aside specific time blocks to work on those items on the to-do list that will actually move your business forward day-to-day.
So, no more scrolling Instagram endlessly or visiting 20 blogs a day, if those aren’t actively contributing to growing your business. Instead, work on optimising your content, generating leads and clients, reaching out and networking with individuals in the same space.
7. Don’t be afraid to make money
Huh? For real? Yes, I absolutely mean this! A lot of entrepreneurs walk into a business with the mindset of offering services and help to others.
While this is a very noble intention by itself, it won’t pay the bills. Don’t be afraid to place a price on your services. If people build trust in your credentials and the quality of your work, they will be willing to pay you for those services.
Unsure about how to price a service or a product? Join private entrepreneur groups in your niche (I love Facebook for this). Ask around on the current rates and build your rate card around that figure.
Yes, there will be people who ask for discounts or tell you that you’re too expensive. But only you can determine how much you’re worth. Don’t under-value yourself.
8. Never stop learning
As a die-hard, lifelong learner, this is one thing I keep repeating to everyone who becomes a client of mine. The digital landscape, especially, is given to frequent changes and upheavals.
One way to tackle it is with annoyance. But the better thing to do would be to embrace change and learn to roll with the punches.
If we stop learning, we stop growing. A growth mindset is critical to being an entrepreneur. Sometimes, you’d see that a product that has been doing well for ages has suddenly tanked.
Re-invent the wheel and figure how to to re-package and re-launch the product to keep abreast of the latest changes.
9. Practise Self Care
Entrepreneurs are among the most hardworking people out there, because they are putting in more hours and days into their pet project than anyone else.
If this is you, I completely empathise. But I also caution you to make enough time for yourself that will ensure you get the rest you need ever so often.
With all of these tips in mind, I sincerely hope that you too get to launch your own business with confidence, dedication and joy.
From one entrepreneur to another, I wish you all the best. 🙂
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