Has it really already been a year?! WOW!What a whirlwind it has been!
Whether you are a seasoned business person, a curious contemplator considering a startup, or a faithful reader of this blog, thank you for taking a moment to let me share about my first year in full-time business for myself and some of what I have learned from it. My hope is that this transparency will help you in your own businesses and aspirations.
1. Bring God Into Your Business Plan
When I first started, it was easy to get overwhelmed. My mind was racing in a thousand directions. I knew I wanted to make writing my business, but what did that look like?
One of the most important things I did was let myself freewrite (in my case, paint) what I thought my business would look like. Freewriting pulls out the heart of what you want to be without all the edits and filters that “be reasonable” will put on it. It helped me see what was most important to me as a person as well as a business.
Next, I needed to translate that into a written vision and mission statement. People call this all sorts of things in business, but it is generally your articulation of who you are, what you do, and why you exist as a business. Writing your vision like this is an important part of guarding yourself in business too.
The most important part of planning your business is praying and inviting God into it. I gave it all to Him. I would be nothing today if I hadn’t done that.
Over this past year, God has led me to do some pretty crazy spontaneous things (which only served to deepen my dependence on Him and joy in what we do together now). He has opened doors for me to meet and have favor with people I would not normally have that with in my own strength. In each step of this journey with Him, my business plan has become more clearly defined, and I have grown in character and confidence. I’ve had to trust God to provide when money wasn’t coming in as well as when it was. I’ve had to learn to be fearless and even excited when my calendar filled one day at a time instead of months in advance.
2. Say Yes To Every Good Thing
In the beginning, you say “yes” to every job you can do. Even when it was a stretch, I said yes to it. Why? Well, the obvious reason is that you need the money. The less obvious reason is that you need the experience.
Writing as a business takes business acumen. You have to learn what is a marketable skill that you can offer and others will pay you to do for them. In my case, I have a talent for capturing the heart of a business or story in words and pictures. I am also good at capturing how to represent someone online with their own website, logos, print graphics, etc.
I’m not just good at this list of tasks, I enjoy doing them. That is important! If you are going to work for yourself, you have to be willing to work harder and longer hours than you would for any other job. That is just how it is–especially in the beginning. If you want to stay in business, you can’t be a slacker. Success in business comes from being a person of integrity that keeps their word, balances multiple tasks at once, and is a good steward with the resources they are given.
Equally important as the things you say yes to doing are the thoughts you say yes to entertaining and believing about yourself and your business.
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.Philippians 4:8
Matt Tommey, a mentor to artists and successful artist himself, says that negative thoughts stifle creativity. If you allow yourself to entertain fear, you stop seeing creative solutions to your problems. That is so true! Many times I had to repeat Philippians 4:8 over and over before I could start my work day because I was so paralyzed in fear. Entrepreneurship has no room for fear. You have to keep your mind open and flexible to knew ideas and things to try.
3. Make Time To Learn New Skills
Entrepreneurship takes a lot of different skills at once. On one hand, you need to develop mastery of the craft you are trying to sell. On the other, you need to understand how to handle your finances, taxes, marketing, etc. There are infinite opportunities to grow and learn new things in both directions.
Don’t let the things you don’t know overwhelm or scare you. Believe it or not, it is better to get started than to try to know everything first.
The real truth is that we are always learning and striving to remain relevant. You never fully know all you should know, and if you think you have, you probably aren’t paying attention to your market anymore.
Education is a passion for me, so this was not a hard sell for my business. I made time for mentorship, webinars, workshops, conferences, software training, email subscriptions, and more. If it was even remotely related to what I do and came from a source I trusted, I signed up for it. I learned so much that I became a resource for others.
One other important reason to learn new skills is to expand your portfolio. Learning how to market myself on social media helped catalyst me into helping other businesses do it as well. Learning how to build my own website helped me get hired to build websites for others. Skills learned equate to more dollars earned (and saved) in the long run.
4. Say No To Some Things
Remember that business plan in my first point and how I said it protects you? Well, this is where it protects you. In the beginning, you do say yes to every job you can possibly do that fits within the guidelines of your plan.
You start very open minded. The world is your oyster and you shuck every oyster you can to find your pearls.
But with time, you learn what you like and dislike doing, so your plan becomes a little more clearly defined. You also begin to learn the limite of your time and have to be a little more discriminating. There is only one you, so you have to figure out what tasks are the best use of your time and which you should probably pass on to a colleague. (That means you also need to know good people who do stuff like you that you can send people too. Yes…work can get that hectic sometimes.)
My best example of this was with my sister when she was a massage therapist. Even though she could do anything she could (literally) put her hands to, she realized quickly that she only had a certain number of hours to work each day with full strength in her hands. That made her have to alternate times of services as well as what services she offered to be able to maximize her time each day.
It is not just saying no to jobs that aren’t the best match for your business, it is also saying no to some things so you have time for self care and fun too. Life is not just about work–even for us 5-percenters (the estimated percentage of the world that claims to be entrepreneurs). Making time to do what brings you joy requires saying no to something else.
5. Break The Plan
The most important part of your business is flexibility. You are going to have things that don’t work out the way you thought they would. As precious and essential as that written plan is, it’s not the details that matter as much as the core of who, what, and why you exist as a business.
When I first started, I thought everything I did was for artists only. I wrote to help mentor younger versions of myself. Even my first business cards said I existed as a business to “empower makers and young artists to live out their callings”. Imagine how hard that was to explain when I handed it to a business professional telling them I could help them. The whole first year of making any money in my business relied on proving my worth, necessity, and value to small business—NOT mentoring artists.
One thing I learned was that my passion for the arts (as an artist and business woman) is also my passion for small business. I want to help people get more exposure, expand what they do, and get better at it. Sometimes that is mentorship, but most the time that is marketing. It took time working my business to know that.
You can’t treat every little thing you write in your business plan like it is the holy grail, but it isn’t. You wrote it, and you are not God. Be open to wherever God will take you with your business because the more open you are to Him, the farther He can take you.
One of the things I like to do now is do an assessment at the end of the year of how the business is progressing. I look at my analytics and stats to see what is resonating with you, my readers, and plan how I can create more content like what you love to read. I do the same with my business and see what areas have sold the best and what areas I want to pursue more. I make goals and work towards them throughout the year, but I remain flexible to change them if the Lord clearly shows me something else I need to focus on. I encourage you to find a similar rhythm and pace yourself in your business. Oh, and I made new business cards. 😉
I hope this helps you.