10 Lessons Learned During My First Year as a Business Owner
March 14, 2018
I cannot believe that it’s been a full year since I left my graphic design job to become a self-employed boss lady. Although this journey has certainly not always been easy, I’m so grateful for the progress I’ve made thus far.
Today, I thought it would be fun to share with you 10 things that I learned about my life and business from a year of self-employment. A little disclaimer, I technically have owned this business since 2011 but I took a hiatus and went back to full-time employment from 2014-2017. So, I guess this is more a “things I learned the 2nd time around…” sort of deal. But, that just didn’t make for a good title. Without further ado, let’s get into the post of what I’ve learned so far.
As It turns out, I’m a total recluse.
When I worked at my previous job I was forced to leave the house…at least for work. This generally led to me doing other things too, like going to the gym or getting together with friends after work hours.
But, once I started working for myself full-time that kind of all went away. I realized that I’m a total recluse who enjoys working from home and doing my own thing. I do make some effort to get out of the house by going to the gym or taking a mid-workday walk. It’s nice to get out and change up the scenery occasionally.
I also have big plans to push beyond my reclusive ways and buy a laptop, so that I can work from other locations besides my desk, every once in awhile. That all being said, I’m a total homebody and I’m not afraid to admit it.
Well, I should actually say that strategic and consistent blogging works. Writing posts is something I’ve been really consistent with since I launched Jules Design full-time, last March. Although blogging is a slow growth process, it really does work! I love hearing from other female entrepreneurs that my content has helped them. Even if its just in a very small way. It really makes my day!
My blog schedule is pretty simple. I post on my blog once a week and bulk write all of my posts one month ahead of time. Batching my posts was a big game changer for me! It’s soooo much faster than writing one blog post each week. Admittedly, batch writing day isn’t my favorite day of the month, but I put up with it.
Of course, I can’t mention blogging without also bringing up Pinterest. The two really go hand in hand. Marketing on Pinterest has meant that more people are able to read my blog posts every single day. I use both Tailwind and Boardbooster to get my content out there, with minimal effort on my part. Scheduling and automating is key, my friends! More on that later…
Start growing an email list if you’re not already
I used to be a little skeptical about email marketing and how effective it would be as a marketing tool for a small business. I kept seeing a bunch of online business owners talking about the importance of email marketing and how much business growth they had seen. And, most of them said that they wished they started growing a list sooner.
So, that’s just what I did! I started reading up on all things email marketing and learned a ton. I now understand the importance of adding opt-ins and content upgrades to my blog posts. This has also helped me as a website designer because I know exactly where opt-ins should live on a site to get the best results.
I use MailChimp as my email service provider and I really like them. I know a lot of online entrepreneurs are more into ConvertKit, but recently MailChimp has been adding new features like crazy. Despite popular belief, you can also automate your emails and segment your list using MailChimp.
I’m super glad that I started building a list when I did. Over the past year, my list had grown to a number that I’m quite happy with. Not only that, but my audience is simply awesome! I love getting a reply back from one of my newsletters, letting me know what you got from it.
I also offer my email subscribers exclusive weekly coffee chats, where we can talk about anything you like! It’s usually just two ladies talking about business and our goals for the future. Interested in chatting?! You can sign-up for my email list and get exclusive access, right here.
Automation is my friend
As I mentioned above, automation is essential. Especially, if you’re a one-woman show like I am. This is something I started implementing, during the 2nd half of 2017, and have seen amazing benefits from doing so.
I use Dubsado to set up workflows that I can replicate for my clients brand and web design projects. For instance, I can onboard a client pretty quickly by sending them a proposal, contract, and invoice all at once. I can also send out canned emails automatically after a client has completed a task or reached a tripwire in a workflow. Dubsado does take a little while to set-up and learn, but that extra effort is well worth it. You’ll seriously save so much time once you’re familiar with the platform and have everything set-up.
I also have some automated email funnels set-up in MailChimp. These send out automatically whenever someone joins my email list via an opt-in on my website. I also have Boardbooster, working in the background to loop pins so that things buried at the bottom of a Pinterest board move back up to the top. These are both things that I set-up once and now think about rarely.
Scheduling, although it’s not completely automated, is also my friend. I use Buffer to schedule out Twitter and Facebook posts in advance. I also use Planoly to plan out my Instagram posts in a grid format. Tailwind is my scheduling app, of choice, for Pinterest. Without all of these amazing tools, I would be going crazy and wouldn’t be able to handle everything. Entrepreneurship is no joke!
A killer client process is key to sanity
I already talked about Dubsado above. It’s helped streamline my entire client on-boarding and invoicing process. Highly recommend.
Asana is where I’ve mapped out my entire design process so that I can re-use this tried and true method for all of my clients. I developed my process by writing out common project pain points that I’d previously experienced when working on branding and web design projects. I really thought about how I could solve these common problems and build a process that was streamlined and easy to follow, for both myself and my clients.
Once I had my process down on paper, I moved it into Asana. Now I simply replicate the same process for each project I work on. I invite my client to join me in Asana so that we can collaborate together during the design and development process. I can set due dates to ensure that the project stays on track and make sure that it unfolds in a way that produces the best results for my awesome clients.
Don’t wait for that thing you’re working on to be perfect
Full transparency, I still have to constantly remind myself not to wait too long to launch something. I’m definitely a perfectionist who will overthink things until something isn’t even relevant anymore. Waiting until things are perfect only leads to doing more work, driving yourself crazy with all the options, and in the end, less income.
Over the past year, I’ve learned to stop overthinking things and go with my gut. If something feels like a good idea to me, I put it on my goals list and start working to make it happen.
Don’t get me wrong, I put a ton of work into anything I’m creating for my business! But, I’m no longer paralyzed by fear if something isn’t perfect or the right fit for everyone. I know that the right people will find value in what I’m offering.
Listen to other female entrepreneurs who are a couple steps ahead of you
This is something I’ve done since the beginning. I invested in a freelancing course and Instagram course before I even left my day job for Jules Design. These gave me a great foundation for online entrepreneurship and I learned a ton from both courses.
Surprisingly, I haven’t purchased any courses since going out on my own as a full-time self-employed lady boss. But, that doesn’t mean that I haven’t taken advice from other amazing business ladies out there. I follow a handful of blogs and Instagram accounts, very closely, and really look to these women for inspiration and business advice. And, when one of them offers a course that’s the right fit for me – you bet, I’ll be signing up! Learning from others who are a couple steps ahead of you, is a wonderful way to fast track your own journey.
Don’t compare yourself to others
This is the perfect time to mention that you shouldn’t compare yourself to others. Although I’m inspired and amazed by what these women have accomplished, I’m not comparing myself to them. At least not anymore.
When I first went out on my own, I was pretty intimidated by all of the successful online entrepreneurs. But with time, I realized that you can’t compare your step 1 to someone else’s step 5 or 10 or 20. You just have to keep your eyes on your own work and make strides forward. In the end, comparing yourself to others and wishing for the same success is a waste of time. Taking action is the only way to grow your business.
Self-Care is super important
When I first started self-employment I was totally the girl who would roll out of bed, grab a cup of coffee and get to work in my PJ’s. I’d stopped going to my barre classes just to save a little bit of money and was not taking of myself at all. I was also working lots of overtime hours trying to balance marketing, creating my own website, and the few client projects I had at the time. This lead to some serious burnout and me realizing that what I was doing, wasn’t enjoyable or sustainable.
I took a step back from client projects, just for a bit, so that I could focus on getting my process in order. Once I streamlined my process and had automating, project management, and my business goals in order I was able to start working with even more clients in an organized fashion.
Even more importantly, I was able to build in time for self-care. I started getting up earlier so that I could do some stretching in the morning and relax before getting to work. I started using essential oils and made myself calming teas during my workday to relax. I went on afternoon walks with my dog to get outside and feel rejuvenated. All of these little workday routines led to me feeling healthier and much happier with the lifestyle that I created.
Oh, and if you’re wondering – I actually get dressed for the day now and have a gym membership again. Yay for self-care! 🙂
Vacations are important too
Welp, this is a biggie because I’m going on vacation next week. I’m so looking forward to a little break in the Bahamas! My husband and I are going to relax on the beach, maybe do a little gambling, and swim with the pigs. They are just so cute, aren’t they?!
Vacations are an important thing to consider when you’re working on your business calendar. Make sure you schedule in time to take as many vacations as your heart desires. Whether that’s just a few mini-getaways or 4 weeks straight of time off. Whatever makes you happy.
I think the biggest thing I’ve learned this year is that this business is my own. I can make it anything I want it to be. I’m in control of my mindset and how I choose to spend my time. Saying yes to everything will stifle your creativity and lead to burnout. But saying yes to all the right things will lead to a career and personal life that you’ve been dreaming of.