As I'm celebrating my first year as a full-time self-employed Career Coach, I decided to reflect on my journey, what I learned and what has changed for me over the last 12 months.
To all of you who are thinking about starting your own business, or who might already have started it, here are some of the lessons I learned:
1. The amount of effort you put in is irrelevant (if no clear goals are defined)
If your efforts are not supporting directly your business objectives, you should probably reconsider (a) how much you're putting in and (b) against which specific objectives these efforts should go.
I remember when I started, I was all over the place, trying to work on many projects at once, resulting in a lot of stress and not that many specific results achieved. The minute (try 6-7 months down the line!) I realised I needed to focus and channel my energy and focus against 2-3 objectives per quarter, I finally started to see concrete results.
2. Struggling professionally does not mean that you, as a person, is a complete failure
This was probably one of the hardest things for me to accept when I started. As mentioned above, I invested all of my energy, time and commitment to push my business off the ground as quickly as possible. I was no longer seeing the big picture (i.e. my life is bigger than my business) and this approach impacted heavily my self-confidence across all areas of my life. So make sure that you keep this in mind as you get started working on your business as this will help you, big time!
3. Starting a business does not mean doing everything by yourself
I know it can seem like it's not making sense and starting a business has to involve doing everything by yourself. Because you're on a budget does not mean that you can't afford to pay someone to help you - so many sites are out there such as Upwork & Fiverr. Here it's important to think about it from a time commodity perspective rather than money.
Think about how much time you'll save if you hire an expert who has done this for years?
4. Never underestimate the power of your network
By network, I'm referring to your friends, family, former colleagues but also to the network of self-employed & entrepreneurs within your industry. It's critical to connect with people with similar aspirations and who you can share your journey, struggles and wins with.
5. Test. Learn. Refine. NOT Refine. Refine. Refine. and eventually, launch
When I started I wanted everything to be perfect (not just right). That involved additional time to complete and deliver specific projects but also a lot of stress and pressure. What I realised is that regardless of the level of perfection I was going for, once the piece of work was out there, there was a considerable chance that it still needed refining and updating anyway.
This taught me that it's better to go for a soft launch and make improvements early on the process rather than the other way around where you risk missing a lot of opportunities with clients.
6. Define a schedule: 80 hours/week will not get you anywhere
I think it's one of the hardest lessons I've learned. When you're employed, there is an expectative of the hours you'll be working, where your office is (at least before COVID) so you don't have to think about what your schedule is in a lot of details.
At the early stages of the entrepreneur journey, it's easy to forget spending time relaxing, seeing friends and family, even sleeping or eating. Whilst in the first months this approach can seem like the right one, it's definitely not sustainable in the long run.
Make sure that you keep a healthy work-life balance: define working hours including breaks for lunch, grabbing a coffee, etc. You might not have colleagues to speak with at the coffee machine but you can pop into the coffee shop downstairs (COVID allowing).
7. Celebrate every win, every achievement
It's easy to focus on what is missing, how much there's left to reach the target, how many more clients you need to sign in, but what about those that you already signed? What about this website or newsletter you launched?
Celebrate every step of the way and make sure that you acknowledge how far you come: choosing to become an entrepreneur might not have been an easy decision to make so be proud of your achievements on this journey of yours!