Any time someone asks how I’m doing, I always provide the same response, “Living the dream one day at a time!” While some laugh, some seem to be off put and others just smile, one thing I know to be true is the fact that I really am living the dream. The dream started for me about 6 years ago when I quit my day job and finally set off in the world as a business owner. Since then, I’ve learned quite a bit, and some of it the hard way. Here are some of the most important lessons that I’ve learned as a business owner, hopefully they’ll stop you from having to learn the hard way like I did!
Lesson #1: Schedules Are Important
When I set off into the world as a free man, I was so excited. No one could tell me when I had to be at work ever again! In my head, I thought I could come and go as I pleased, there would be no set schedule, I’d just work when it was convenient.
Well, a couple of weeks in, I started to realize that though I loved what I did for a living, it was never necessarily convenient to work. After all, no matter what you’re doing, work is indeed work. Soon enough, I realized something… I wasn’t going to make enough money if I didn’t give myself some structure with a schedule.
So, from then on out, I’ve been working for myself, but I’ve been doing so on an 8 hour per day, 5 day per week schedule, just like I would be if I was working for someone else. Don’t be another to learn this the hard way. When you set off to run your own business, give yourself a schedule, you’ll thank yourself later!
Lesson #2: Always Strive For Better
That first customer is the best one. We get them in, we accept the money, then we go to work, doing everything we can to make that customer happy. We don’t care if it takes a little bit of time, or even a little bit of money, we’re going to make sure that the product or service that customer purchased is the best product or service we can provide. After all, if we make that customer happy, he’ll tell his friends!
Well, somewhere down the line, I lost that drive for a little while. I became complacent in what I was doing, looked at myself like an expert, and decided that if I produced it, it was good work. For some reason, for a stretch of time, I simply didn’t take the pride in offering perfection that I once did.
While it took a few months, that eventually caught up to me when I realized that I wasn’t seeing the growth in orders that I had been seeing for some time. Soon enough, sales were going backward. It wasn’t until I had a very honest client and friend tell me, “Josh, I used to love your work, now, it’s just work.” That was it, I simply wasn’t trying hard enough. While it hurt to hear, that conversation gave me a sense of pride that I could create something GREAT, and made me stop settling for good. Today, my business is better than ever!
Lesson #3: Start With A Great Logo!
When I started, my logo wasn’t all that great. In fact, I made it on Microsoft Paint. It was minimal. Nonetheless, it worked fine for a good while. Then, one day, I got an email from NASDAQ asking me if I’d like to host their press releases on my website. In exchange, they would put my logo in Time Square and send me a picture (one that’s framed today by the way). However, the logo needed to be a vector image that could scale well. My minimalistic logo didn’t work well. So, before I could move forward with the deal, I had to re-brand, and that was no fun.
I know you may think that you don’t have what it takes to get a logo created, but it’s actually very cheap to get a professional logo done. The truth of the matter is that when searching, I found that there was so much competition out there, it actually gave me a competitive advantage with regard to picking my price. In fact, there are even tons of companies out there that allow you to build a logo for free!
Lesson #4: Get Good At Budgeting
When money started rolling in, I thought to myself, “This is amazing, I can buy whatever I want and I’ll be alright.” However, I quickly realized that no matter how much money you make, you can always spend more than you have!
The reality is that in business, we have ebbs and flows, and proper money management is a must if you want to stay in business. While it’s important to spend some money on fun, it’s more important to get an understanding of where you’re spending and leave some room for savings. Building a budget spreadsheet is a great place to start!
Lesson #5: Failure Is Always An Option
One of the biggest mistakes I’ve made in business is convincing myself that failure is not an option. In doing so, I alleviated myself of the fear of failure and made stupid mistakes that I probably never would have made should I have considered the consequences. At the end of the day, business is unpredictable, and if you don’t stay on your toes, failure could be the case. However, by keeping a healthy fear of failure in the back of your mind, chances are that you’ll avoid the mistakes that lead to it!
There you have it, these are the five most important lessons that I learned when I started and throughout the process of working for myself. Jot them down and keep them in mind, they may save you a good bit of money and heartache down the line.