10 Things I wish I'd known before starting a business
Did you know that I'm a writer #ontheside? Yep, in addition to business coaching & consulting I’ve been a published writer since 2001. In almost every feature interview I’ve conducted I ask this one question of the interviewee: If you could know then, what you know now, what would you tell yourself?
Well, the tables were turned yesterday when one of the awesome students at my latest Loving Mondays workshop, Candice, asked me. "Fiona, what lessons have you learned that you wish you'd known before you started?"
I felt the energy in the room shift; everyone was waiting for the answer. On the drive back to Warrandyte last night, I started thinking over my answer and the lessons I have learned. I thought I'd share today 10 of the most valuable, in case there's one that may help you — no matter where you are in your business journey:
1. Be you, everyone else is taken
Super #real here. When I first commenced business I let fear about not looking a certain way or dressing a certain way get to me. I got caught up in thinking I needed to be someone different — more polished perhaps — to who I am. You know what? None of that stuff matters when you know who your audience is and what they most need. I dress how I want to (bright nails included) and to date it's never been an issue. If I could tell anyone starting out one thing it would be this: shift your focus from how you will look / appear / perform to what your client / customer most needs. Good business is about helping people, not hyping your own self-image.
2. There's enough for everyone
There are a million people doing what I do but if I stopped to worry about that and lived in a constant state of scarcity, chances are I wouldn't be here now. Instead of worrying about what others in my industry are doing, I try to focus on solving problems for my clients. Very few ideas are original these days, so focus on doing the best job you possibly can for the customers / clients in your life and let others tend to theirs.
3. You don't need to be on every social platform
I see so many small biz owners overwhelmed by content these days. One of the biggest problems is that they've been told they need to be on every social platform. I ran @mydailybusinesscoach solely on Instagram until I felt I had the time to add a Pinterest account. I've just created a new FB group wherein I'll post articles and links to new tools, podcast eps or apps I like. I believe it's better to invest in one platform and do it well than to do a mediocre job across multiple.
4. Craft your one-line message
In my first few months in biz, a friend introduced me to someone at an event as a "copywriter". I knew then and there I had failed in letting people know what I actually did (I never write copy these days unless it's as a magazine contributor). Instead of being able to succinctly inform anyone who asked what I did, I'd faff about saying I do this, but also this and sometimes that. Looking back, I was possibly worried I wouldn't get work, but I was also falling into that "if you confuse, you'll lose" concept Donald Miller talks about. Now, I have it down to a quick one-line answer, using this simple formula:
I + help (who you help) + with (what you do) + so that they can (how you achieve results for your audience).
5. Get your money upfront
It took me 8 months to learn this one, but it's now a stock standard part of my biz. I will invoice 50% of my fee upfront before any work is started and 50% upon completion. I make this super clear from the get-go and it's never been an issue for clients. If you're running a product-based biz you might consider taking pre-orders and/or adding subscription services to your offerings to help keep cash flow moving in the right direction.
6. Process = Less Stress
If I find myself doing the same thing more than a few times, I'll look at creating a process and, if need be, templates to help streamline things. For example, instead of going back and forth a million times to set up an initial coaching call or consult, I have an email template I'll tweak that leads people to a Calendly page so they can book in a session. I then have a templated questionnaire I'll send potential clients (again, tweaked slightly for each person). While this has meant investing a bit of time up front, it's saved me HOURS in the long-run.
7. Invest in help
I have recently hired my first employee (yay!) and to say it's helped is a HUGE understatement. I have also invested in a book keeper. I held off on both, worrying about the cost but I wish I'd done it sooner. Time is precious (both financially and emotionally). If you can afford it, I'd suggest you look at investing in help, so that you can get back to doing what you do best.
8. Build an audience before you begin
I started building my email list and social following well before I knew what services My Daily Business Coach would offer. As I told the workshop crew yesterday, you don't need to be selling to start building your community. By doing this you not only have an actual audience to sell to once you do launch a product or service, but you also have a ready-made focus group to figure out if what you're offering is actually something people need.
9. Vent - outside the home!
No business runs smoothly 100% of the time and no partner wants to hear about your problems 100% of the time. I STRONGLY suggest that anyone starting a biz (or in one now) cultivates their bounce-off crew as soon as they can. What is a bounce-off crew? Well, it's basically having people you can vent to, bounce business ideas around with and ask for advice (or encouragement!) on things like pricing, pitching, platforms and people management. While businesses coaches like me can be great (haha!) nothing beats having likeminded people you can meet with every month (even over Skype) to talk all things business. I am fortunate to have a number of fellow biz women in my life (you know who you are!) and it's not only been great for work, but it also means I don't put EVERYTHING onto my husband (although he does hear a LOT! Thanks JR).
10. Experience is your greatest teacher
No amount of reading books or watching YouTube videos about a topic will teach you as much as actually just doing it. While I'm all for preparing and planning, there's only so much of that you can do before you just have to take a leap and hope for the best. I've run close to 40 workshops. I can't even imagine how lacking the first few were, but I couldn't run ANY today if I hadn't started somewhere. If there's something you want to do in your biz, ask yourself what is REALLY holding you back? Chances are it's ego rather than ability to execute.
The above is not a finite list of the biz lessons I've learned. I am in a constant state of learning and I genuinely believe every person and situation has something to teach us (if we're open to it). If you run your own biz, I'd love to know what you would go back and tell yourself? Email me or DM me on IG.