19 Things I Wish I knew When I Started My Business

credit to Erik Napoletano

Nineteen is a pretty random number, but what better compliment to a numbered list than such? A week or so ago, I got my smack on when I talked about theory versus teaching. One of my readers left a comment that in turn sparked today’s post – an expansion on the idea that we are all in business to make money (otherwise, it’s a hobby). From the inception of RedheadWriting and my first amateur-hour website to where I am today, there’s a rap sheet filled with garbage I wish I knew.” So today, there’s less intro and more meat because I’m short on sleep (after a client’s raging success) and I need to get to the work that puts food in the dog dishes and funds bicycles that hang from hooks on my wall. Priorities, y’know? Maybe you’ll find something in here that’s of value to you, and I fully expect that y’all will share your own tips. After all, I get my best ideas from you.

  1. Trade is crap. It’s a very fine line and there’s little margin for error. Someone always ends up getting the short end of the stick. If you’re looking for ways to build a portfolio, I think it’s better to quietly do work for pennies on the dollar and later raise your rates than give it away for something that’s unequal in value.
  2. You’re not a freelancer. You own a business. Start treating what you do like a business from day 1 because sooner or later, you’re going to wish you had.
  3. Pick a ditch to die in. Take a stand. Believe in something. Being wishy washy gets you nowhere. Grow a pair. When you stop caring about the people who will never like you, the coolest thing happens: you find the people who actually do.
  4. Your target customer is not “everyone.” I watched roughly twenty six-minute pitches from startups on the DEMO Conference live feed this week, and not one startup stood up on stage and said that “everyone” was their target customer. Take a hint.
  5. There will always be naysayers. If everyone agrees with you, you’re doing it wrong. But then again, if everyone disagrees with you, you just might be doing it wrong, too.
  6. Bank accounts are not piggy banks. Make your business revenue hard to access. You’ll piss away a lot less and have a lot more to invest in your business. (Tacos are not investments unless your awesome customer likes tacos for lunch.)
  7. Stop doing it on the cheap. There’s a way to get anything you need at a variety of prices. Stop shopping on the clearance rack. Understand that there’s a difference between a great value and cheap. One’s worth having, one’s not.
  8. You need a team. Every successful entrepreneur has a carefully selected team surrounding them. I wish I stopped thinking I could do everything myself a looooooooooong time ago. Don’t believe me? There’s never been a single person to win an award who hasn’t thanked someone. Chew on that. Start thinking of who you’ll thank when that day comes.
  9. Some people just don’t give a darn. From contractors to clients, vendors to the asshole meter maid who just ticketed your car…people will screw you, If you assume everyone is in business to do good business, you’re wrong. Start your business on planet Earth with real-world expectations and get off Space Mountain.
  10. Karma’s a bitch. No matter where you live, the business community is small. Think you can hide from someone you hosed? Think again. What comes around goes around, and it’s glaringly obvious in the professional world. Keep that in mind the next time you think people won’t notice.
  11. A business plan is a living entity. It’s not something you throw down on a Word doc and file away in a folder called “Company Docs.” You need to feed it. Ask it for feedback. In order to have your business grow, you need to be in a constant state of “what can we do today and what do we need to do to make those things happen?” The only place static belongs on your AM radio dial.
  12. Listen more than you speak. (I have nothing to say on this except that I’m still working on this.)
  13. Failure is always an option. And if you learn to fail faster, you can actually get on to the stuff that works toot-suite. Some things just really need to die.
  14. The most important people in your business are other people. They’re not your developers or bookkeeper. Sure as hell isn’t your CEO or biz dev dude. It’s The Others (in a non-LOST sense). Your advocates, customers…everyone you meet in the grocery store checkout line or those you play softball with on Thursdays. Your kids, your spouse, your friends. Don’t ever forget that, because they’re the reason you’re so damn lucky.
  15. YOU are your first customer each day. If you ignore your blog, your workout, your bike ride, your mother…you’re letting your business run you and not the other way around. Pay yourself first. You’ll get to everyone else soon enough.
  16. Skip the buzzwords. You’re a smart human being and don’t need them. Speak English (or your language of choice).
  17. You don’t want every piece of business that walks through your door. Standards are important. And yeah, sometimes we take business because our business is young and food needs to show up on the dinner table. But stick to your standards. For me, the best clients are those who understand who they are and who they want to reach. The worst ones expect me to be a savior of sorts. I can build strategies, but I can’t perform miracles.
  18. Scope creep sucks. It’s got two sides: clients who keep adding on to projects and when you keep saying yes to things. There is nothing wrong with saying no or that what a customer wants will cost additional money. You run a business, not a free clinic.
  19. Don’t be Joe’s Mortuary and Fine Sausage Emporium. You don’t do everything. You’re not good at everything. Pick your business ditch to die in when it comes to your services. No one wants to buy sausage from a mortuary. I don’t want to buy a 36-floor commercial office building from my hairdresser. Say what you do, be clear about it, and align yourself with those who can bring value to your clients without you having to do it all.

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One response to “19 Things I Wish I knew When I Started My Business

  1. Pingback: 19 Tips To Know When Starting A Business -TheBusinessProfessor

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