Break out the noise makers and confetti!
It’s my anniversary week—today is my business anniversary and this weekend is my anniversary with my husband Chris (we don’t call it a wedding anniversary because we eloped).
Chris and I have been together for 13 years, and my business is now officially 2 years old.
What do I mean by “officially”?
Well, I hate to be a tough cookie, but your business isn’t a business until you earn money. Until then, it’s just an expensive hobby.
My business success didn’t come overnight. I had my own editing to do.
Here’s my unglamorous business timeline so far:
- June 2011: Started my (embarrassing) fashion blog just for fun.
- September 2011: Started my self-development blog to help other people.
- August 2012: Quit my day job as a book editor.
- September 2012: Added my products and services to my website.
- November 2012: Made my first sale and officially became a business. $$$!
- All of 2013: Suffered through tons of trial and error as I defined my business purpose, including one failed lifestyle magazine.
- January 2014: Hired my own one-on-one coach. Everything changed!
- March 2014: Rebranded as the Life Editor.
- Summer 2014: Achieved steady income and earning more than my old day job.
- September 2014: Launched my first group program.
The irony’s not lost on me that my business didn’t bloom until I hired my own coach. *ahem*
Though I’ve been in business for 2 years, most of my growth has happened in the past 6-8 months. There’s a lot I would have done differently, but I didn’t know what I didn’t know!
That’s why I love helping my clients avoid the pitfalls I faced so they can be successful in less time. Starting a business isn’t for everyone, but there are some truths that all successful entrepreneurs understand.
Here’s what I would tell my younger self (and you!) about starting a business.
Save Up Before Quitting Your Day Job
It took me a year and a half of work before my business income equaled my salary from my previous corporate job. During that time, I made a bajillion mistakes that slowed me down (seriously, I counted).
That learning curve would have been easier to get through with a full-time income. I gotta tell you, it was HARD for me and Chris to make it work on one salary, especially living in the most expensive city in the country. That’d be San Francisco.
Stick it out at your day job and save at least 6 months’ income before you quit. The extra money will help offset your business expenses like hosting and an email service, plus it will give you time to seek out your customers before you desperately need money.
Don’t Wait for Your Ideal Customers to Find You
During the first couple months of blogging, I only had 2 or 3 regular visitors. Yep, my little blog was a lonely one. I quickly realized that I couldn’t wait around for people to somehow find my blog and tell me how cute my outfits were.
I made it my mission to find blogs where my ideal readers were instead of waiting for them to come to me. Leaving helpful comments on other fashion blogs drove tons of traffic back to mine.
Thank goodness I figured out the importance of commenting before I started my business or else it would have taken even longer for me to get sales! I still search out blogs where my ideal clients are (not my competition), and I leave thoughtful comments to entice the writers and other commenters to visit my website.
Define Your Business Boundaries to Avoid Burnout
Early on, I would take clients any day, any time. I was desperate for sales (again, don’t quit your day job, folks!), and I didn’t turn anyone down.
I often had calls late at night or on the weekends. My schedule was crazy, and burnout was inevitable. Without boundaries, my business was a mess.
Now I have set days and times when I meet with my clients, and I stick to them! It’s been even more important for me to guard my time now that I’m an international coach with clients all over the world.
Figure out what your business boundaries and standards are and keep to them as if they’re written in your employee handbook. Hey, there’s an idea! Create your own handbook or operations manual to define your boundaries and make it easy for you to train staff in the future.
Own Your Worth to Get the Best Customers
It’s easy to own your worth at a corporate job when your paycheck is guaranteed. But when you haven’t earned a dime in your business, it’s harder to value yourself and your expertise.
As an entrepreneur, you’ve got to “fake it ‘til you make it” and act as if you’re a successful business owner even when you’re trying to get your first sales. I learned this the hard way.
My prices were extremely low for a long time, and although I got some dedicated clients, I also attracted a bunch of “looky loos” who just wanted to save a buck. These price shoppers rarely did their homework, and they expected me to wave a magic wand to fix their problems.
When I started raising my prices, my clients became more focused and easier to work with. Hiring someone to coach you through a difficult situation can be scary, and the serious clients don’t want the cheapest coach available. You get what you pay for!
Follow Your Gut, Not the Experts
One of the lessons I teach in Life Editing for Beginners is to trust your gut and determine whether you’re expanding or contracting. Do you feel positive or negative about this decision?
Trusting yourself is the best thing you can do as an entrepreneur rather than relying solely on the experts. Most of my business mistakes came from trusting someone else to tell me what I should do (hello, Sweet and Sage!)
And sometimes you need to trust what your inner self is telling you even if it means making sweeping changes. I knew I wanted to rebrand my business as the Life Editor in the summer of 2013, but it took 6 months and the help of my own coach before I finally took the leap and did it. That decision was the turning point for my business, and I wish I had trusted my gut earlier.
Relationships are Everything
You can’t run a business in a void. Relationships are crucial for growing your business and making sales. I’m talking about relationships with your customers, your team, your family, and other entrepreneurs.
I owe much of my success to other ladies like April Bowles-Olin, Jess Lively, and Molly Mahar who featured me on their websites when I was still trying to find my footing. Their generosity helped me get new readers and clients.
Now I love featuring other entrepreneurs on my website so that they can benefit from my platform. I also learned the importance of nurturing my clients (past and current) so that they know I’m here for them whenever they need some motivation or advice.
Growth Takes Time, But Money Loves Speed
It’s taken years for my business to grow in terms of the subscribers to my list, readers of my blog, and social media followers. I slowly keep adding new testimonials, and my Archives is impressively large.
So although growth takes time, money loves speed. As you can see in my timeline above, I made my first sale only 2 months after opening my business. In fact, most of my clients start earning money (or earn more money) within the first month or so of working with me.
But to get those fast sales, you gotta reach out to the people who know, like, and trust you from the start. These are your friends and family, and getting sales is easy if you start with a warm letter campaign to build on your network.
Eventually you’ll have a big enough list that can constantly supply you with new clients and customers. But at the very beginning you must focus on quickly making sales to the people you already know.
What have you learned about starting a business?
In the comments below, share your own entrepreneurial truths.
This post focuses on Step 3 of the Life Editing Process, Add Good Habits and Routines. For more about life editing and what it can do for you, click here.