I certainly wasn't born wanting to be an entrepreneur. I avoided business classes in high school and university in favour of science and languages.
But when my husband and I moved to France in the fall of 2012 (for his work), leaving behind my full-time communications job in Toronto, I didn't have a clear idea what I wanted to do with my life here. I had no real “job” prospects that lit me up and I spent the first few months here in Bordeaux feeling lost.
Until the idea of ‘solopreneurship’ found me in early 2013. It was exciting to think I could control my own time, my own income and my own projects. Just after my 30th birthday in late February of 2013, I signed up for Marie Forleo’s B-School and committed to becoming an entrepreneur. It felt RIGHT.
One year ago today — May 8th, 2013 — this website went live with my very first blog post and my business was born! (Even though at the time all I was offering was 30min free social media help sessions.)
This past year has been one of profound growth (personally and professionally), ‘pinch-me-is-this-really-my-life’ highs and ‘can-I-really-do-this’ lows and an incredible amount of learning.
So I wanted to share the 12 biggest lessons I learned in my first 12 months in business:
1) Set a date & tell the world (Tweet that!)
I’m embarrassed to admit that I’d owned this domain & server space for years telling myself “someday soon I’ll put up my website”. BUT at the start of B-School I committed to having a website up by the week after graduation and while there were a lot of LONG days fighting with code, I made it. Mostly because I set the actual DATE (rather than just saying “soon”) and told people about it (gotta love public accountability!). So pick a date, tell people about it and make it happen!
2) Work for free (at least at first) (Tweet that!)
While I had lots of work experience working WITH social media, I didn't have a lot of experience teaching it or being a consultant to other business owners. So I started blogging and giving away free social media help sessions. I wasn't making any money yet, but I felt like I was finally sharing my value with the world. And I was getting super valuable feedback on how I could HELP, who I liked working with and what was the most fun for me. I did something like 20 free 30min sessions before I ever had a paying client and I learned something for each and every one. My coach, Jenny Shih‘s sage advice was to do them until they were no longer serving me, until I was no longer learning something for them. Don’t be afraid to give it away, especially in the beginning! (And actually, I still give away lots for free including free 15min mini-sessions for my webinar attendees and I LOVE it.)
3) Say NO to clients or projects that drain your energy (Tweet that!)
Once my website was live and I announced I was in business, opportunities started showing up. Not having really worked for 9 months, I said yes — to everything. At first it was great just to be making some money again, but one of the projects I had taken on got routinely left to the end of the week and felt more and more like pulling teeth every time I had to work on it.
So at the end of my contract, I said No to a renewal — even though it was the most regular source of income I had at the time. It was hard to say no, to feel like I was disappointing them, but it actually would have been a disservice to us both if I’d stayed on. This particular contract was only about a day’s worth of work per week but it sucked up MUCH more of my energy than that because I was working outside of my zone of genius and wasn't enjoying the work. And you can’t do your best work when you feel that way. So pay attention to your work habits, your mood, your energy around projects and only say YES to the stuff that feels GOOD.
4) Say YES when it scares you (Tweet that!)
The first time someone asked to interview me on a podcast, my first reaction was to say no. Same thing the first time I was asked to speak on a telesummit. But luckily, even though I’m still learning to trust my intuition in business, I recognized that gut reaction as nerves, not a true ‘No’ and said YES anyway. (Turns out I really love doing interviews and speaking!) I really believe in the ‘say Yes now and figure out how you are going to do it later’ approach : )
5) Launch before you’re ready (Tweet that!)
When the idea for a 6-week group class to teach business owners ALL the essentials of using Facebook for biz (Facebook from Scratch) grabbed me in the fall last year, I mapped out a high-level program outline, put up a sales page and had a beta group of students enrolled before I had written ANY of the actual lessons. I planned, researched and wrote each week just before I delivered it live and it was the best decision I could have made. I learned a lot from my students as we went and was able to tweak more easily along the way. I also had a hard & fast deadline each week — no room for resistance or perfectionism procrastination. This also a great way to see if there is any real interest in a service or product BEFORE you spend oodles of time creating it.
6) Invest in coaching (Tweet that!)
When I decided I wanted to work for myself and become an entrepreneur, I read, and googled, and read some more, desperately seeking resources and support to help me get started. I had lots of social media experience but zero business experience, and no clue how to run an online business. Investing in B-School, and Jenny Shih's support through her B-School bonus was a complete game-changer. But last fall I took investing in myself and my business to the next level when Jenny released her brand-new Make it Work program — I committed to much more in-depth and personal business coaching for 3 months early this year (including an in-person retreat in Portland, OR).
Jenny and Make it Work helped me on so many levels (lots of which are still becoming clear now!) but HUGE shifts are happening in my business. I am finally consistently profitable, I am starting to build a waiting list and most of all, I’m feeling a real momentum because I no longer wonder if I’m doing the “right” thing. I am confident I have the skills and knowledge I need at this stage and I have a solid plan for at least the next 6 months — and that feels amazing. Figure out what kind of support or training you need and find a way to make it happen, your business will thank you for it SO many times over.
Read Part 2 for the final 6 biggest lessons I learned in my first year in business, including #9: Have 7 backup plans which has been a HUGE key for me in the last few months.
I’d love to hear from you
What's the biggest lesson you've learned from being in business? Please share in the comments so we can all learn from each other!
And if you've found these lessons helpful, please use the Facebook, Twitter and Google+ buttons right below to share it with other new business owners.