Having a business is fun, exciting, and sometimes, not as shiny as having a nine-to-five job. It is a process. An enjoyable one overall, and here are a few things I learned–and you’ll need to know–in running your business well.
1. Be gracious to yourself
You will experience an abundance of highs and lows when you first begin. There is a learning curve in starting anything new, and it doesn’t matter how long you have been in the industry. No one person knows everything. Be gracious to yourself when you do not know something and view it as an opportunity to grow.
You will also need to be gracious to yourself during low points. Remember, this doesn’t make you a failure and doesn’t necessarily mean you need to close shop. Reach out for help, look at your business from a different perspective, and remember every Fortune 500 company started somewhere. In the words of Jona Acuff, “Don’t compare your beginning to someone else’s middle.”
2. Know your value
There will always be those who will try to negotiate you out of what you are worth. Yes, who doesn’t like a good deal, but as as a business owner–even a freelancer–you have to know what your value is. Before you approach your first client, the second customer, or make a few pitches know what you bring to the table. It’s true: you will fine-tune what you serve on the dinner plate over time. This is never a reason to downsize who you are, and lessen your value however.
3. Time isn’t money. Time is precious.
When you work for an employer, time is money; yet, when you work for yourself, time is precious. Working for yourself does not force you to trade your beloved, once-in-a-lifetime seconds for paper bills. You can determine what hours you want to work, what is important on this day and at this time, and can use more of your hours doing what you love.
Don’t feel bad for taking an extended lunch, or spending more time with family. Do ensure you get your work done, but please take a minute to do what you love. Owning a business is hard work. You deserve to spend your precious moments well.
4. Every connection is a possible opportunity
A good friend of mine, Donovon Ffriend, (no pun intended) often says, “Never miss an opportunity to meet an opportunity.” It’s one of my favorite sayings.
Networking is important in business, especially if you are a freelancer. Make sure you get yourself and what you have to offer out there. You never know who knows who, needs what, can help with what, and is waiting for someone like you to help someone like them. I have attended networking events only to receive a call months later saying, “Hey, Ashley. Do you still edit books and magazine articles? Yes? Great. I have a referral for you.” It may seem like all the events you attend amount to nothing, but eventually, someone will contact you.
5. Yes, you really do need an elevator pitch
On almost any link for starting a business you’ll read something about an elevator pitch. So why am I including it? Not to follow with the crowd, but because so many starting entrepreneurs don’t. I’m a member of a networking referral group. Every month there’s a handful of guest–some of whom have recently started businesses–who cannot articulate who they are and perhaps, more importantly what they can offer.
We live in a fast-paced world where you only have 15-30 seconds to say who you are, and why I should do business with you. If you can’t figure it out well enough to tell me, it isn’t my job to figure it out and decide if I should purchase your services. Unless, of course, I’m a brand strategist and helping you craft your pitch is my service.
6. Ask the right people the right questions
If you want get the right answer, you have to ask the right people the correct question. Part of running a businesses is knowing what you do know, and being aware of what you don’t but should. Misinformation can be costly: in time and money.
An awesome technique is making two columns. In the right column, put the information you know; for the left column, include what you have to learn. The goal is to have everything left be placed in the right. Be sure to reach out to professionals and ask them for their expertise. Also, don’t neglect those who have failed either. As the saying goes, “If you didn’t learn what to do, then hopefully you’ve learned what not to do!”