ENTREPRENEURSHIP: The 10 BIGGEST Lessons I Learned During My First 2 Years Of Being An Entrepreneur
It absolutely amazes me how far I have come in the past 2 years of being an entrepreneur. As I enter my 3rd year in business, there are a few lessons that really jump out at me. When I started writing this, I realized how many mistakes I’d made along the way, but it demonstrates the power of learning and picking yourself up off the floor when you’ve been knocked down.
What can I tell you NOT to do? Here it goes.
1. Do not spend everything you earn.
When business is good, you might suddenly be raking it in. DON’T spend this excess cash flow. Bank it, because in the blink of an eye something can (and will) change. Out of no where, your best client will drop you, or your entire family will come down with the worst stomach flu that ever graced this planet. If you can’t work for one or two weeks, all the sudden your income stops and people may be taking their services elsewhere. Pay yourself a biweekly salary, and only take what you need to survive. Save the rest for when you need it. In my industry, things get really slow in the summer. If I don’t go into July with enough to carry me through to September, I would be in a bad spot.
2. Do not chase money.
Chase your passions, and the money will follow. There is no substitute for hard work — and if you don’t truly love what you do, you’ll never make it. Mindset is HUGE when running your own business. You need to know that things are going to get hard, and your passion and determination will be what drives you forward. You need to consciously love, appreciate, and expect the emotional roller coaster we call entrepreneurship. You can’t maintain the right mindset if you’re not passionate about what you’re doing.
3. Do not waste your time (or money) broadcasting your message to the masses.
Marketing has changed dramatically over the last decade. Everything you do or publish needs to be customer-focused. Take the time to create your buyer’s persona and really speak to that one customer through your messaging. Today’s customers are in the driver’s seat — they want to be educated, informed, and valued. They want to seek out information when they’re ready, and make a decision based on what they’ve learned. So before you embark on any marketing initiatives, ask yourself: is this something my ideal client WANTS? How does this HELP or SERVE them? If you can’t answer these things favourably, then maybe it’s not the right choice. If you need help creating your buyer’s persona you can download my free Buyer Persona worksheet.
4. Do not neglect your own business.
Set aside time each week for your own business growth and professional development. Make sure you keep learning and working to grow your business. It’s easy to get wrapped-up in performing your actual work, and completely neglect your own marketing and personal growth. Ideally, you need to start building a contact list right away. If you’re not doing it already, start now. I use Monday as my “business development” day. I get all my content created and scheduled for the entire week, and set my intentions and work schedule for the next 4 days. If you don’t create funnels to keep new clients coming in, you will suddenly find yourself with no clients and no income.
5. Do not isolate yourself.
Find groups of like-minded people to minimize the amount of time you spend questioning your own sanity. Often, your friends and family won’t understand because they can’t relate to what you’re experiencing, or simply can’t understand why you’re doing what you’re doing. Facebook Groups have been a saving grace for me in this department. There are countless groups out there, that are full of people just like you. Do some searches on Facebook and you’ll find some great groups full of fellow entrepreneurs. Join groups that aren’t spammy or full of self-promotion. Find groups that are all about connecting and supporting one another along our journeys. You can also check out your local networking groups if you prefer to meet people in the flesh.
6. Do not cripple yourself by striving for perfection — focus on improving.
You are never going to be perfect, and there will always be a million other people offering either similar or essentially the same services or products. Sometimes, you just need to focus on being good enough for now. Worry about producing YOUR best work, and don’t waste time and energy comparing yourself against others. You have no idea what’s happening behind the scenes in their business, so don’t make assumptions that ultimately cripple you with fear. Just hit the publish button already.
7. Do not spend any money unless you absolutely need to.
Do not purchase another course until you’ve finished the 3 you already paid for. Do not succumb to Shiny Object Syndrome. I wasted SO much money, my first year in particular. I thought I needed every course, every local Chamber membership, and every possible variation of my domain name. Sure, some of it was beneficial but the reality is that most of it was unnecessary.
8. Do not take advice from people who are not qualified to give it.
I don’t know what it is, but everyone and their dog feels like they are qualified to offer entrepreneur advice. Getting advice from a mentor or experienced business owner is worth its weight in gold. Listen to those people. But if a random internet stranger leaves mean comments on your blog, you need to let it go. When your unemployed cousin insults your latest idea, you need to ignore it. Choose selectively who you listen to and take advice from.
9. Do not ignore failure when it’s hitting you in the face.
Learn to make changes when you can see what you’re doing is not working. This can be a lot harder than it sounds, but it’s something I have experienced a few times already. Just because you think something is a great idea, or you have invested a ton of money and time into it, doesn’t mean it’s going to work or sell. I’m not suggesting you constantly change your strategy or change your packages every time you get negative feedback from someone. But if you spent 3 months creating an eCourse, and after 3 months of marketing you still haven’t sold a single copy, you need to accept that you’ve either made an undesirable product, or that it wasn’t right for your audience. It’s hard to accept, but the reality of entrepreneurship is that you will make mistakes. There will be failures, and you need to recognize those and know when it’s time to cut your losses and move on.
10. DO NOT neglect your mental and physical health.
So many entrepreneurs burn out their first year. They work all day, all night, and then all weekend. No one can sustain this and you must prioritize staying healthy. Countless studies have proven the benefits of exercise when directly related to business ownership. If you are not healthy, both mentally and physically, your business will suffer. Sometimes you will need to take a few days off to recharge, and that is fine. I have reached a point where I now go to the gym regularly, and no longer work weekends. I put in some late nights through the week to compensate for this, but for me it is what works. (Full disclosure: I did write most of this on a Saturday, but only because my Friday afternoon was stolen by a band of sword-yielding toddlers. Making your own schedule is one of the many perks of running your own business!)
I hope this will help some of you avoid making a few of the big mistakes I did in those first 2 years! In case you missed it, I’m pleased to offer you a free copy of my Buyer’s Persona worksheet. Tailoring your message to your ideal client is crucial in today’s marketplace. Download your free copy now.
My name is Alex and I am the owner of Malamax Content Marketing. I help entrepreneurs and small business owners create the content and systems they need to start ATTRACTING customers, instead of chasing them. This includes content creation, email marketing and social media management. I am based in Canada and have worked with clients from around the globe.