January 21, 2016 was my last day as an employee.
I did it.
I walked away from a career I could have grown in; a career in which I had the opportunity to impact hundreds or thousands; a career I chose and had fallen in love with.
There are many circumstances that led to that decision. But ultimately, I felt that my role, my purpose was bigger than the classroom I was teaching in.
You see, I was telling kids they could change the world and they could be, have and do anything they wanted….and here I was not being, having or doing any of that. I quit because my values weren’t aligned with my actions. That needed to change.
So January 22, 2016. Here I am. Now what? While I knew the journey wouldn’t be easy, let me just be candid with you: THIS SHIT IS SO FUCKING HARD. But if you believe in yourself and believe in your vision, it is worth it even if it doesn’t seem that way now. Trust me on this.
I am often asked what advice I would give to new entrepreneurs so here it goes. Here’s what I’ve learned as a full-time entrepreneur:
- As an entrepreneur, you own your time.
Here’s where most entrepreneurs mess up. The difference between being an employee and an entrepreneur is time. Whereas employees are compensated for the amount of time they work, entrepreneurs are compensated based on the value of the work they perform. For example, if I am employed by Starbucks and I make $10 an hour, I will have for work for an hour to receive $10. Pretty simple, right. If I want to make $150, I will need to work…yes, 15 hours. (Let’s ignore taxes for this example. But in real life, come correct with the IRS) As an entrepreneur, I can sell a product or provide a service and value that product or service at an amount that makes sense. I can sell a box of cookies for $15 and sell x amount of boxes in an hour.
Your success is dependent upon how you manage and schedule your time. Now, you could spend your day getting your hair and nails done and having lunch with your girls, but you also have to work. How much you want/need to work is up to you! That, of course, can be scary because “what if”. Don’t worry about that. Create a schedule that reflects the work you want to be doing and put in the effort.
2. At least in the beginning, you will work more than you’re used to.
Unless you have really planned this out (which I absolutely did not) you will most likely begin your entrepreneurial journey solo. This means, you will take on any and all roles associated with your business. You should expect to put in lots of hours toward your business so don’t go planning any vacations just yet. My first 5 months in business I was working 70+ hours per week! As a teacher, my contract hours were 37.5 hours per week. Be prepared to lose sleep, lock yourself out the house and spell your name wrong from pure exhaustion. This is…until you are able to attract the right individuals to help you live out your vision.
3. No matter what business you have, build your e-mail list.
If you plans to start a business, start requesting those e-mail addresses. I sort of did this, but realized, my list was no where near where it needed to be. An e-mail list is important for a number of reasons. For starters, this is how you will contact your potential customers. But I have social media… Correction: social media has YOU! If your favorite social media site shut down today how would you contact those xx,xxx followers? You would only hope that they’d find you. But e-mail addresses you own. Large companies pay big bucks for e-mail addresses. You, of course, will earn yours.
Your e-mail list becomes your network and those people will support you business in unimaginable ways outside of purchasing your product. Don’t send them spam. Create a newsletter that you send our consistently letting them know what you’re up to, what they can expect and answer their questions. This is how you establish credibility and form relationships.
4. Learn all you can about your industry, product, location, organizations, etc.
Networking is important but going out for drinks won’t cut it (unless you’re in the entertainment industry or something similar). You will need to find ways to network with professional organizations and learn as much as you can. This will look different for every entrepreneur. For me, this means reading and research.
Large companies don’t have to work as hard but you, young entrepreneur are trying to build trust and credibility. In order to present yourself as an expert, you kinda actually have to be one. This means, being recognized among your industry peers, knowing your neighborhood and competing businesses, demographics of your target market, trends in your industry as well as professional organizations and conferences to attend. You must stay on your toes and stay relevant. Never stop learning!
5. Look for opportunities…EVERYWHERE!
Your current friends, co-workers (ex-coworkers), workout buddy, local coffee shop, etc are all places to inquiry about opportunities. If you plan to sell your products at events, ask around and see what’s happening and where. A question I love to post on my Facebook ever so often Tag someone you think I should follow and give me one reason why. New people present new opportunities. If you provide a service here’s a question you can bring up to a friend over the phone: Hey girl, I’m looking to expand my business. Who do you know that could use_____ (service you offer)? Talk about your business. Look for ways to gain visibility and sustainability.
6. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
Like I’ve said, in the beginning it will be you, you and you. But as you seek to expand, don’t be shy. Ask your family and friends for help, but don’t wear them out. Here you have to make a decision, do you want you friends and family as customers or part of your support system, you should not expect both. I have some friends that use my products and other who will show up at an event to give me a bathroom break. Remember, this is YOUR business and it needs to be supported by customers. You have to go out and find the customers. However, you have loved ones willing to lend a helping hand. You also have access to great apps like TaskRabbit and Fiverr where you can hire professionals at a reasonable cost to assist you with tasks you may not have time for or be an expert in that particular area. Yes, it is your business, but don’t struggle alone.
7. Create systems that help your business function smoothly.
Now, I would suggest before you run off to hire someone or ask for help, take an inventory of your business and assess your needs. Create a mind map and write out everything that you do on a daily basis for your business. Every. Little. Thing. From checking e-mails to post on social media to making runs to the post office and hosting webinars, etc. Everything. Then you can begin to categorize these tasks and place a value on them. Tasks of the highest value you may want to take on like…creating content for your webinar. Whereas tasks like laundry, you may want to outsource. Now that you know where you want to focus your personal energy, spend some time creating a guide or how-to if you will for someone else to take on those other tasks. This doesn’t necessarily mean hire an assistant (if you’ve got the cash to spare though, go ahead with your bad self!), but you should be prepared to hand off tasks when the opportunity presents itself. For example, your boyfriend/girlfriend calls and says “Bae you’re working so hard is there anything I can do for you?” This is when you send Bae on the store run and to drop off your orders at the post office. Be ready and open to assistance. Create a system for doing things that makes it easy to be done by others.
Another really simple thing to do, template e-mails. This will save you a ton of time. You’ll learn that you constantly get the same questions or will need the same information from different people. Create a template that a helper can easily cut and past to reply to those hundreds of unread e-mails (all of our inboxes look the same I know).
8. Have multiple streams of income…in and outside of your business.
MAJOR KEY ALERT: You want to start small in the beginning, yes. But you will build your business quicker if you have money coming in from different areas. For example, Louis Vuitton sells shoes, purses and clothing. You should offer x, y and z. Create levels within your business to appeal to a larger demographic. Offer a low-end and high-end product, Sell though different channels which include your website, FB ads, Pinterest, Pop-Up Shops, Wholesale, etc.
For many entrepreneurs, this means taking on a part-time job to supplement their income. But that may not be appealing or possible for everyone. I would personally suggest staying at your 9-5 a little longer and saving some dough. Then, I’d suggest becoming an affiliate for various other companies. Affiliate marketers can earn between 2-10% on each sale they make for other companies. If you have a large following on your personal social media account or if you’re a blogger where you can easily place ads, you can bring in good money each month to help fuel your business.
Then, there’s Lyft and Uber. You can become an ambassador and sign up new drivers and riders. Or, you can become a driver and earn up to $1,500 a week! Yes, I drive Lyft, too. It’s a great option because you can drive when and where you want and cash out as needed. Having money on demand will come in handy when business gets slow. And it will get slow.
9. Take breaks. Self-Care is important and necessary.
Last, but absolutely not least is taking care of yourself. Many entrepreneurs get burnt completely out in quarter one and have nothing left to give. While you will need to work hard, you will also need to rest and relax and at some point sleep. You cannot live off of energy drinks (this is what I tell myself). Create a routine in which self-care is central. Incorporate exercise, meditation, sleep, drinking water, laughter and socializing. These are mandatory. Your goal is to become a successful entrepreneur not an overweight hermit! Spending too much time alone is never good as we can easily slip into depression when things don’t go right in our business. If you work from home, make it a point to leave the house at least once a day. If you work in an office setting, make it a point to go out for lunch or set meetings at another location. A change of scenery is great.