This weekend my sister wrote me asking for advice for a family friend. She just started a business but needed a coach to get her motivated. My sister was asking me to reach out to her which was the first mistake… I told her that if she wanted help she had to take the first step and reach out to me. On my walk home I started thinking about what I would tell her. It happens often that people reach out for business advice and most of the time people are looking for overnight success and a healthy bank account. So I decided to write down my top 10 on what I have learned over the years. I would love to know your feedback in the comments on if this helps or if you have any other lessons to add! xo
- Slow and Steady – my first year on etsy I made just over $1,000 I had no idea what I was doing. It was a struggle to find the right pricing and the right product that worked best for me. Each year my business continued to grow as I learned how to market myself. Now I am the #13 photographer on etsy.
- You will make mistakes – if you constantly live in fear that things won’t work out so you hold back from trying something new, that’s your biggest mistake. Its not how successful you are its how quickly you recover after falling.
- You will get burnt out – This is a big one for me. My job sounds perfect to the outsider. A Travel Photographer. I spend a lot of time traveling the world and taking pictures and its AMAZING. Don’t get me wrong. But there is a balance of editing, marketing, a lot of behind the scenes work that goes into getting to the next destination. Running your own business is exhausting. If you don’t take time away from work you will suffer burn out.
- My Dad’s favorite word that he has taught me. Just because you have a very lucrative job one week does not mean should spend all your earnings. Invest back in your business and save wisely!
- There will be quiet times. The first time I experienced a quiet wave in my business I freaked out. Its only normal, but all businesses go through waves of high peaks and low peaks. When it is slow find time to catch up on busy work. Get organized in your business and take some time out for you. Before you know it business will be busy again and you will regret taking that time for yourself.
- Take a step away from the computer – Its easy to sit and stare at the computer and hope that something is going to happen. You feel guilty not being on guard to catch an email go through. For me the first time I stepped away from the computer was when I traveled to Switzerland for a month. I didn’t have service when I left the house and I just decided to see what happened if I wasn’t so attached. I actually sold more that month than ever before. I enjoyed my time shooting in Switzerland and exploring the culture and had a balance between work and life and it felt good!
- Balance – When you own your own business its so easy to work 24/7. My grandma used to beg me to take time off of work because she feared I was working too hard. Its so hard to shut down and put your phone away. Enjoy your friends and family. Take a yoga class in the middle of the day or enjoy lunch with friends. Leave the guilt at home. You will end up working way more than the normal 40 hour work week but the one positive part about owning your own business is flexibility and creating your own hours.
- Remain humble – You can build success and it can be gone tomorrow. Don’t bank that every past successful opportunity will be a slam dunk again. Enter each opportunity with as much effort as you approached it last year or even more. I have a successful show that I participate in every year. It’s a jury process and every year I wait on pins and needles to see if I am accepted. People assume if I was in it last year I will be invited back but that’s not always the case. Before the show each year I am a ball of nerves because there is never a guarantee that the next year will be the same success. There are so many factors that play into each show being a success. Weather, the economy, other events going on in the city (sports, holidays)
- Appreciate Good Fortune and also accept that there are things not in your control – Maximize moments when things go your way and also don’t beat yourself up when something that is beyond your control goes wrong. You cannot run a business believing it all happens because of you. Appreciate the good luck and shrug off the bad luck.
- Produce Quality Work – Stand behind one quality product instead of making a bunch of different products that aren’t your best. Learn to grow your business slowly and right vs taking every opportunity you are given. Quality vs Quantity
Bonus: There is always more to learn. Be willing to admit you don’t know the answer. Find someone that is an expert and take their advice. Don’t feel just because you own your own business means you need to know all the answers. Be resourceful in finding the answers you need to be a success!
A special thanks to my friend Marc Weinberg for his additions to the list.