A year ago, I walked out of the last 9 – 5 job I would ever have and set off on a new journey to start my very first, very own business.
I was done working for other people, done wasting the talents I knew I had, and done missing out on my chance to show the world what I could do just because I live in a town without the kinds of opportunities that would allow me to do exactly that.
Exactly a year ago, I sat down with a simple plan in mind: to start a business helping authors.
I didn’t know how I was going to do it. I didn’t know the first thing about running a business, and I was already dreading tax time.
But I knew I had to try–and I intended to do nothing else but succeed. I decided that every single day I was able to continue running my business and continue paying my bills without having to go back and get a second job would be a successful day by default.
One year later, here I am.
I’ve had quite the rocky, transformational year–many months of being dead ass broke, not a cent to my name, wondering if I would ever get my first ‘business-related’ client. I got by on contracted freelance blogging jobs just to keep income rolling in so that I could focus on my business.
I showed up every single day, without fail (even if it was just for ten minutes) to get it off the ground.
I went through a rebrand roughly 4 – 5 months in.
I shifted my focus many times, until I figured out exactly what kind of business I was building and how I wanted to live my newfound, freedom lifestyle.
And I learned a heck of a lot along the way.
Today, I want to share with you the three, most crucial lessons I learned in my first year of business.
1) Bookkeeping is a must.
Yep. I know what you’re thinking, but believe it or not, I didn’t do any financial work at the start of my business except compiling a sheet of upfront expenses to use at tax time. (Thank God I did this much, BTW.)
So here’s the thing–I suck at math and truly thought I could just avoid finances. I even thought I’d get lots of clients, start making money, and be able to hand it all off to my own tax accountant by the end of the year.
As it turns out, I only just started making money a couple of months ago, so I’m not quite rolling in dough yet and definitely can’t afford my own tax accountant yet. In fact, this was the first year I had no choice but to do taxes on my own.
If you’re going to start a business, then I’m sorry but there’s just no getting around money matters–but the good news is it’s not nearly as scary or difficult as it first seems. (Trust me, I flunked math in high school and this shit’s a piece of cake for me now.)
I highly recommend keeping track of all monthly income (or invoices at least) in an excel file. Total game-changer. I started doing this about five months in after realising I was losing track of which invoice I was up to, and this made this SO much easier for me. I was also able to see exactly how much income was coming in each week and plan my expenses accordingly.
If you want to take your financial management to the next level, I recommend this worksheet bundle by Sweet Paper Trail which I personally use and love–it’s minimalistic so it’s incredibly easy to use and follow. I started using this after attempting to do my taxes as a sole trader for the first time and spending three hours going back through all my business investments and bills over the past year. #NotFun.
If you want to work on improving your money mindset and start planning for 6 figure months or higher, I also recommend this AMAZING book which has already helped me a truck-ton: Get Rich, Lucky Bitch by Denise Duffield Thomas. I flew through the audiobook and starting looking a money a completely new way.
2) There is no ‘right’ way to build a business– just follow your gut.
Some people will tell you’ve got to do this, that and the other before you can start earning money:
- Have a website
- Be active on social media
- Run advertisements
- Have all the tools and systems in place before you can operate functionally
I’m here to tell you it’s all bullshit.
I truly wish someone had told me one very simple thing before I started my business, and I’m going to share it right now:
The only thing you need to focus on is what’s working RIGHT NOW to get you to the next level.
Here’s the thing: you can’t start a business and immediately jump to 6 figures as a complete newbie. Not unless you’ve got a crystal clear plan, some experience and some connections. Chances are you don’t have those things.
So it’s a waste to invest time, money, and energy into #AllTheThings at the very start. That’s a recipe for slow growth, and that’s exactly how my business has grown. Slow as a snail.
I went into this not even knowing what the term ‘6 figures’ meant, and really absently expected to just get tons of clients and make tons of money and be able to manage everything smoothly.
Here’s the reality:
- Didn’t get my first ‘business-related’ client until July 2018. I started in October, 2017.
- Got burnt out more than once trying to do too much.
- Invested in a lot of useless, stupid shit upfront that I never used because I’m only one person who can’t be everywhere at once.
You cannot do office admin, serve clients, marketing the heck out of yourself on 4+ social media platforms, schedule emails and blog posts and videos all at once. You might have 24 hours in your day now but let’s not forget your end goal.
Are you building a business to work more hours than you would in a 9 – 5 for less money?
Or are you building a business that allows you to live the exact lifestyle you wanna live?
A successful business takes time, strategy, and teamwork. If you want to reach a lot of people, you’ve got to start small and focus on growing in one direction, not a whole bunch of directions. You’ll see faster results and success if you focus your time and energy into doing one thing consistently–and I’ll tell you a big secret right now.
You can’t do anything without money. You can’t:
- Pay bills – whether it be for your biz or literally just food and electricity.
- Invest in your business and it’s growth
- Spend money on anything that you now have all this free time for.
So if you want to grow your business fast, just focus on what’s going to bring in money first so that you can actually sustain all the ideas you have to expand and grow later.
3) Growth comes in many shapes and forms.
I didn’t realise just how much both my business and I would grow over the course of a short twelve months. I also didn’t realise there were so many ways to do so. Here are some ways I grew in my startup year:
I learned the value of networking
I already knew how important engaging and networking was, but even more so this year. I see so many online businesses collaborating, so many coaches putting their heads together, and so many people exchanging services and giving free value. Building connections is the key to building a business–doing so allows you to become an industry expert, a default referral, gain immediate exposure to another person’s audience–and better yet, you automatically return the favour to that person as well.
I learned to be more authentic
I started off trying to be what I thought a business person should be: professional, polished, and perfect. I was never myself, never showed when I didn’t have my shit together, and it sucked. I felt fake, I didn’t build any real connections, and people didn’t trust me because they didn’t really know me.
Now, I have a really awesome, engaged community who know me to be many things: sometimes disorganised but mostly well prepped, obsessed with tea, super friendly and chatty, and treats people like… well, people, not a business transaction (because that’s what they are, people).
I like to drop the formalities. I keep a tone of firm professionalism to my emails when needed but otherwise, I just want to be a real human to other real humans. That’s who I truly am, and that’s what people connect with. I realised I can fangirl with clients about our favourite books and help them write their own at the same time without risking my integrity, and that’s pretty sweet as.
I found my purpose
Some people start a business so that they can live the laptop lifestyle and make money as they travel.
Some people want to stay at home with their families and still make decent income.
Me? I started my business so that I could have freedom from a 9 – 5, but also so that I could work doing what I love and what I’m good at. At first, that looked like a blog that supported indie authors but also readers, and it was a total mess. My services were all over the place and totally unclear. I didn’t even know what clarity looked like.
Now, I have a real vision–I went through an intensive rebrand back in March and came out all sparkly and new. I released engaging courses with mastermind communities because I love jumping onto live streams.
I realised I didn’t want to run other people’s social media or promote them–I wanted to teach them how to do it themselves, and started offering coaching services (which was never my original goal and never thought I’d end up doing, but actually love doing now.)
I also opened up a Printable Shop, and even that’s taking a new direction now as well, which leads into my next point…
I evolved… and I continue to do so frequently
My first, original plan and vision for my business is like a faraway dream now. Everything has changed so quickly, but definitely for the better.
I realised that it’s okay to evolve, and I’m open to evolving more. I know that the 3 figure, 6 figure, and 10k figure versions of myself and my business will all be completely different people, and that’s okay. In fact, it’s necessary.
I can’t expect to run a business, pay taxes, or upscale my income on the same mindset I have now. I’m always open to growing and learning more on my business journey.
I know my worth
I started off undercharging myself really terribly.
I then realised that I was running a business and my pricing wasn’t at all sustainable.
Sure, an employee can pay bills working 9 hours a day on $20 – $30 an hour. But when you’ve got overhead costs, extra bills to actually do client work, and also have to think about travel costs… it makes sense to start charging way higher. It just doesn’t feel good at first.
I soon realised that the kind of services I was offering are one of a kind–you can’t just walk into a shop and get them anywhere. It takes a certain kind of person, and a lot of personal development and learning on my part to make sure I’m always up to date and learning new things to help my clients. My services are worth a lot more than I first realised, and I couldn’t ever expect to breakeven if I was charging a fraction of what it costs to actually keep my office running. What I was charging at the start didn’t even cover food each week.
It pays to put things into perspective, and to get comfortable with charging higher pricing. If you’re going to be a CEO of a business or company, you need to adapt the right mindset. Think past the employee wages–remember that now you’re in charging all your costs and if that means you should be charging an hourly rate of $180+, that’s what you gotta do.
(Of course, there are ways to shift this pricing too– repackage your services into flat rate or one time fees and take into consideration how many clients you want to work with each month. Suddenly, it becomes easy to cover all your costs and make your desired amount of profit by charging a 1k package to 6 clients a month, instead of charging a high hourly rate with an unknown completion time.)