5 Things I Learned From Starting My Own Business
Happy Wednesday! I can't believe we're less than 100 days away from 2018! This year went by incredibly fast and it's been an emotional year to say the least. I've learned so many things this past year that have really made me grow not only as a business owner, but as a person. Today I wanted to follow-up from my previous post where I told the story of how Style Is My Obsession began (read it here).
In the post I mentioned there were "growing pains" that I had experienced while on my path to becoming a business owner. Below are the 5 lessons that I learned that I think could be helpful for those on a similar journey. I didn't write them in any particular order. My goal is to just provide an honest portrayal about some of the mistakes that I made and hopefully inspire others to stay focused on your goals regardless of the mistakes you may make too.
1) Never Take Short Cuts - in an effort to build my portfolio, during the beginning of the fourth quarter of 2016 I decided to offer a discount for one of our personal styling packages. To make up for the difference, I thought it would be a good idea to create a "shorter version" of the styling service for the clients who paid for this promotion. Looking back, this was probably one of the biggest mistakes I've made thus far as a business owner.
The first mistake was that I took on more clients than I should have in such a short amount of time. Even in creating a short cut, I'm a perfectionist and very detail-oriented so I was still spending an extended amount of time working on each client's inquiry which left me exhausted and overwhelmed. In addition to taking on too many clients, I wasn't providing the best service I could which didn't reflect well for my brand (you know your clients aren't happy when they don't even respond to your follow-up emails).
Taking short cuts is a disservice to your clients and your brand, especially when you're just starting out and getting your name out there. If you're willing to lower your rates or apply a discount to your service, you must be willing to put in the same amount of work as you would if you were charging your normal rate. If you're not willing to do that, then don't offer the discount. Knowing the amount of time and effort it takes to provide the level of service that I provide, I'm no longer willing to offer discounts. But I wouldn't have made this discovery if I hadn't made the mistake of doing so in the first place. Which brings me to the subject of setbacks...
2) Setbacks Are Inevitable. It's Okay To Take A Break, But Don't Give Up - after this discounted service fiasco, I spent the month of December and the entire first quarter of 2017 in a complete state of depression, experiencing a serious case of "Impostor Syndrome". I felt overwhelmed, overworked, and was disappointed in myself. While not every client will love every single look you put together, I knew that I had messed up and felt guilty about it. This feeling made me doubt that I was on the right path and I was questioning my purpose. What I didn't understand at the time was that trial and error is a vital part of being an entrepreneur. When you make a mistake it gives you the opportunity to do better the next time. You live and you learn, but you must move forward. Every failure is an opportunity to improve your business and as a business owner you have to know that there will be many, many failures. What's important is that you get back up and start over.
3) Take Your Time - whether referring to your journey as a whole or working on a specific project, NEVER, EVER rush the process. For me personally, when it comes to working with clients, if I feel rushed to create a set of looks or complete a project in a short amount of time, I get overwhelmed and the end result usually doesn't reflect my best work. It's important to make sure that you do your best and give 100% in everything that you do. Your work represents your brand, and when it comes to your brand and your business, you always want to make sure that you're presenting your "best self". If that means giving yourself a little more time to get it done (whatever "it" may be), then that's what you do. If that means saying no to taking on one more project because your plate is already full, then that's what you have to do. Have a clear understanding of how long it will take you and give yourself the time to get it done and do it well.
Also, you have to be patient with yourself and your journey. Rome wasn't built in a day (I know that is cliche af, but it's true). So don't expect for your life to change completely in a few months, in a year, in five years. Everything is a process. There will be little victories along the way. Everything is on God's time anyways, so stay present in the moment and enjoy the ride (I'm still learning this myself. It's easier said than done).
4) Get Sh*T Done - a few weeks ago, I posted on our InstaStory about being a "Team of 1" and that in order to reach your goals, you have to learn how to do things on your own when there's no one else around to help.
During the process of relaunching my site, I literally did EVERY. SINGLE. THING. on my own. There were times when I needed help, but there was no one around to help me. I had a vision in mind and a deadline to stick to, so was I going to cry about it (Yes. I did cry, many times in fact.) and just give up? Or was I going to do what I needed to do and figure that sh*t out? If I didn't know how something worked, if I needed fresh ideas and inspiration, if I needed additional resources, I Googled it and got to work. In having to figure things out without the help of others, I learned that having to do something, or many things, on your own, gives you the opportunity to master a new set of skills. You have to make the decision that whatever your goal is, you're going to get it done no matter what, even if that means it takes a little longer to reach your goal.
5) Be Kind To Yourself - even though I'm mentioning this last, this is probably the most important lesson I've learned this last year and a half. I can't tell you how many times I questioned myself and my journey and I felt like a complete failure because I lost a client or was stressed out because I had 3 project deadlines due at the same time and didn't know how I was going to get them all done. When things don't go our way, it's taking a lot longer than expected to reach our goals, or we're feeling overwhelmed and stressed out, it's easy for the negative self-talk and self-doubt to creep up and make us feel like everything that we have done so far has been for nothing.
What I've come to learn is that taking care of yourself is the #1 priority over all other things. Do things that you enjoy and that bring you peace. Speak love and positivity over your life and your business. I love to workout, read a good book, get pedicures, lay in bed watching Netflix or a Law & Order: SVU marathon...the list goes on. But for the first 8 months of my business, I wasn't practicing self-care. I was too concerned with "posting content at the optimal time" or "taking on X number of clients per month". But after a while I just began to shut down mentally and spiritually. Owning your own business is hard AF! And if you don't take the time for yourself, you'll end up breaking down and setting yourself back. As I mentioned previously, after an overwhelmingly hectic fourth quarter, I spent all of December 2016 and the majority of the first quarter of 2017 at home, in bed or on my couch, battling a serious case of depression. I couldn't even muster up the energy to create content or go to the gym. I hadn't taken care of myself those first 8 months and I was paying the price.
Nothing is more important than your mental, emotional, or spiritual health. Practicing self-care keeps you balanced for those times when you really have to grind it out. So take the time to do what you love so you can get back to the hustle well-rested, mentally, physically, and spiritually.
If you're a fellow entrepreneur, what lessons did you learn when you were first starting out? If you're not an entrepreneur, but have some important life lessons to share, please comment below. I would love to hear from you too.