Well, Brand Mark Digital made it one year. One whole year – full of twists and turns, uncertainty, challenges, a new hire, a new office, and much more. It was the hardest year of my life, but I wouldn’t change it for anything.
In reflecting on the past 365 days, I’ve learned a lot – much more than I thought possible. I feel compelled to share that with those who are in the same stage of life or considering starting their own business. Get ready, it’s a wild ride.
Here are the top 5 tips that I learned in the first year of being a true entrepreneur.
1. Find your people and lean on them
First and foremost, make sure you have a support system. I don’t mean a group of “yes men” who will tell you what you want to hear; I mean true friends and trusted advisors who will tell you what you need to hear (like the best friend you take shopping to make sure you don’t buy something unflattering).
My crew is full of people who not only support me, but they question me and push me to be better. They hold me accountable, make me think about the long-term impact of decisions, let me bounce ideas off of them (and vise versa), empower me to do my best, and flat out don’t let me fail. They’re there to offer advice when I’m weighing options, words of encouragement when I’m feeling discouraged, a much-needed happy hour to relax, an ear to listen when I need to vent, and even a good ass chewing when I’m not performing my best.
You can find them at former places of employment, professional organizations (AMA Nashville has been my godsend), college friends, family members, or someone you run into at a coffee shop.
A friend of mine always says, “Nothing is as lonely as being an entrepreneur.” I honestly can’t imagine getting to where I am today starting a marketing business without this group of people. They’re my rocks. Find those people who will be your rocks and hold on tight.
2. Entrepreneurship is not for the faint of heart
I always heard, “it’s rough – owning a business is hard.” You have all the responsibility and essentially no resources. But with that comes authority, the authority to do whatever is necessary to succeed.
It’ll weigh on you (literally and figuratively). You’ll have sleepless nights where you can’t turn your brain off and worry about ‘making it.’ There will be days when you’re so busy you don’t have time for a bio break or working out. You may eat nothing at all. You’ll start thinking about your burn rate or how you’re getting your next client in the middle of a conversation with your dad.
You’re always selling (namely yourself). Days can be a roller coaster where you’re on top of the world, hit rock bottom, and then you’re owning it again in a matter of 20 minutes. So it goes. You better be flexible.
Some days, you just want to show up and have someone tell you what to do, get it done, and go home. That’s not an option. You control your own destiny. You are the driving force. Drive.
3. Learn as much as you can
There is no playbook for ‘how to start a business.’ Sure, there are books that tell you where to file your LLC, when you have to pay taxes (it’s quarterly, by the way), the best way to build a team, but there is no true game plan for how to do it. No one who starts a business knows exactly what is going to happen or has the skills to perform every function that is required.
I had coffee (ok, some were drinks) with as many entrepreneurs as I could, and I took away something different that I needed to do from each one of them. I listened to podcasts, Googled everything, followed social media influencers (Lori Greiner is one of my favorites), attended networking events and webinars, read books, and even became a member at the Entrepreneur Center.
Confession: we’re all just making it up as we go along. If you want to succeed, become a student and never stop learning.
4. [Try to] Find work-life balance
This tends to be a difficult one because when you own a business, your business is your life. However, you have to step away some to avoid burnout, clear your head, and perform at your best. Set boundaries for ‘work hours’ and email responses. Make time in your schedule for exercise, whatever you do to decompress or relax, time with friends and family, experiencing nature, or watching mind-numbing tv. Everyone needs a break, so let yourself have one (and even block it off on your calendar).
Also, take a vacation (This is a picture of me in Banff, August 2010)! You are a human, not a robot. You need time away. As long as you set expectations with your clients, they completely understand and generally support it because they know how hard you work. If you have trouble stepping away domestically, travel abroad so you’re less likely to pick up your phone to check emails. When you get back feeling refreshed, you and your clients will be glad you did.
5. Let go of things that waste your time or aren’t your strength
I admit my business coach has been feeding me this since day 1. He asked me, “Is it really the best use of your time to run payroll? If you can outsource that for $20/month and your hourly rate is significantly higher than that, why are you doing it? What if you reallocated that time to develop your business further? Which has the bigger payoff?”
The same goes for your marketing. We’re here to help with that.
All that administrative work that takes time but doesn’t help grow your business – outsource it! Get a virtual assistant. Use a calendar scheduling app with a link instead of emailing back and forth what your availability is.
Time is your most valuable resource. Protect it like you do your money.
Ramping Up in Year Two
I hope you enjoyed these nuggets of learnings. Hopefully, the next 365 days will be just as enlightening as the previous ones were. We’re taking our marketing business to new heights.
Join us for the ride through our social channels, or subscribe to our blog. And be sure to reach out if you find yourself needing to offload marketing strategy, digital marketing, or creative services for your business.
What have you learned since starting your own business? Or what are you still trying to figure out? Comment below with suggestions or questions!
Founder & Chief Digital Strategist, Brand Mark Digital