8 Things I’ve Learned from Running My Business for 8 Years
On December 30, 2016, my business celebrated eight (yes, 8!) years of officially being a legal entity!
I always laugh (and maybe cringe) at this date because, being the naive business owner I was, I decided to file my single member LLC two days before the end of the calendar year. You see, I was ready to take this business to the big leagues and get official. A sole proprietorship just wouldn’t do in my mind. What this also meant was that I had to pay a few hundred dollars in taxes and filing and annual report fees for that calendar year that I had no clue about. I could have just waited a few days and started in the new year. Lesson learned.
My entrpreneurship journey didn’t just start there though. When I was 19 years old, a college sorority sister and I created a handmade card company. We called it the ABC card company (Amber + Breanne + cards. Pure originality, right?!). Realizing there was a need for cute custom cards to sell to our sorority sisters for all of the various sisterhood events, we jumped in with Suzy Zoo stickers and raffia ribbons. We had great access to a customer base and a sweet profit margin.
2002 was the year that I first joined the online marketplace as an entrepreneur. After college, I moved back home to Las Vegas and I began teaching myself more graphic design software programs. I’ve always had a real passion and love for parties, so this led me to open up one of the very first eBay businesses. (Longggg before Etsy was created!) I designed and sold custom-made printed invitation designs for baby showers and bridal showers in a store called RSVP Paper Co.
I have learned a thing or two about running this particular business, so I thought it’d be fun to celebrate 8 years with 8 things I’ve learned along the way. There’s been happy stories and frustrating memories, late nights, and big wins. I wouldn’t have changed a thing (well, except waiting three more days to file that LLC).
The eight things I’m sharing today are for anywhere in your entrepreneurial journey.
1. YOU HAVE TO TREAT THIS BUSINESS AS A BUSINESS.
You may have a huge passion for whatever you do, and that is great! I want you to be passionate about the work that you create. However, there are some really not so fun things that come along with being an entrepreneur. All the business administrative things being one of them. The sooner you start to embrace them and be open to learning new skills — whether that means from a financial standpoint, or from a marketing standpoint — you will need to know how to run the business side.
No longer can you use the excuse “I’m a creative person, and I’m not good at these other things. I’m not good at math…” Guess what? You’re about to go back to school! Don’t ever stop learning. As one of my favorite online marketers, Marie Forleo, says: “everything is figureoutable.” Google was my friend for many many years. However, after some time and when the profit was there, I decided that I needed to invest in professionals. From accountants to legal services, you will eventually need to invest in the services of professionals to help you run this business legally and profitably.
2. YOU HAVE TO BE REALLY EXCITED ABOUT WHAT YOU’RE DOING!
As the old adage goes, if you’re not excited about it, nobody’s going to be excited about it! This is also connected to the idea I love to drive home: if you don’t tell everyone about what you’re doing (repeatedly), they’re not going to know.
Today, we are very distracted. We have so many messages flying by and at us. Your first instinct is to say things only once. You think, “I’ll put it out there and that everyone will just come running.” That’s really not the case. You need to be excited consistently. You need to talk about it over and over again because you truly are fired up about it!
3. LET’S GET REAL. HOW MUCH TIME DO YOU REALLY HAVE AVAILABLE TO DO #ALLTHETHINGS?
In my early years of business ownership, I had a lot of big crazy dreams. I still do. However, how much importance you place on those goals may need to lead to a reality check.
Do these dreams line up with where you are at in your life story? Can you manage the responsibilities of a growing business while you’re growing your family? This gut check is something that I do often now when deciding what new services or products that I want to create next for my various businesses.
I am definitely a self-proclaimed chasing-the-next-shiny-object person. Like you, I have so many ideas that I want to implement! I have learned hard that I need to table more than half of them. I have learned to trust that the right time will come along. Or usually by the time comes around, that idea doesn’t sound so great after all. Know what you’re capable of right now. Remember, you have to be a sane person for your family and for your customers.
4. MAKE YOUR OWN SUCCESS STORY.
Early on, I thought quitting my corporate career to make six figures as a stylist and designer while styling amazing weddings all day long was making it big. That was the success story I chased — how I could benefit me financially, my passions, and my needs. As I started to realize some of those things, they didn’t feel so great after all. I was worn out and nothing felt like it was enough.
Today? My success is tied to how I can help and serve more women. In also what I can do for my family, and how I can impact others in this life in a bigger way. There are many entrepreneurs I still look up to, but I don’t want what they have. That’s their story. I have my own idea of success.
Maybe your success story is running a business for only 10 hours a week. Maybe your success story could mean using the profits to treat yourself or go on a vacation or pay off debt. YOU get to decide this story and how you choose to run your business.
5. COMMUNITY IS SO IMPORTANT.
You are going to need some cheerleaders in this journey. More than likely, your family and friends are not going to understand what you’re doing.
It’s okay! Thankfully we live in such a digitally connected world that you can have virtual business best friends all across the country. Most of my closest friends don’t live where I live. They are all entrepreneurs that I met along the way in my journey by attending the conferences and connecting in groups. If you’re looking for this type of connection and community you can find it in my Facebook group Inspired Creative Biz Community or join us at an upcoming Inspired Retreat.
6. PUT ON YOUR BIG-GIRL PANTS AND DO IT ANYWAY.
Fear is something that is going to come up a lot. You’re going to doubt yourself, your talent, and your capability to really make this business something. Entrepreneurship is not for the weak. However some of my best ideas and project executions have come from doing something that seemed really scary and really putting myself out there. In almost every instance it was 1000 times worth it. When you start to have that anxiety creep in, “put on your big girl pants and do it anyway!”
7. FIND AND MAKE TIME TO BE CREATIVELY INSPIRED.
When we’re running a creative business, we think that all day long our lives are creative! Maybe you started your business thinking “I’m going to be creating/designing/painting/insert anything all the time, and I will be SO fulfilled!” The truth is, a lot of the times we forget to have fun in this business. The creating becomes a chore. Making time for new creative activities is so important! It will help inspire new ideas and make your work even better! I recommend you find an activity that’s not related to your business. Your action item: make a list of activities you’ve always wanted to try and do one of them in the next 3 months. These new creative adventures will help inspire your business in new ways and it will be a lot of fun along the way.
8. DON’T LOSE SIGHT OF THE REASON WHY YOU STARTED THIS BUSINESS IN THE FIRST PLACE.
Maybe there was a certain joy that was missing in your life. Maybe you wanted something else in your identity. Maybe you knew that you had a skill that could really benefit this world. Remember that when the times are hard. There are going to be late nights. There are going to be tears and frustrations. But if you can remember your why and refer to it often, it will be just what you need to keep going and realize that this is all worth it.
There’s so many more lessons I’ve learned (and maybe could even write a whole book about it one day) than just these 8, but I think this is a good start! What do you think? Do any of these resonnate with you? Have one to share? I’d love to hear from you in the comments!