4 Things I Learned In My First 2 Years In Business
#1 Fast growth is not always a good thing.
Sometimes it’s what’s going to do your head in and leave you spending too much cash, juggling too many priorities, hiring the wrong people and ending some days in fits of anxiety and tears thinking… “I can’t do this! Oh my gosh! This is NOT the life I dreamed of!”. #truth
Lesson learned: Rather than thinking just about the excitement of growing a business, think about how capable you are to handle that growth and only to go your level of comfort (or just outside of it maybe, to keep things interesting, but only just). For me, managing my team was a challenge and was taking up all of my time. I underestimated this. I don’t have the time to manage a large, remote workforce while still maintaining my other full-time job and running my not-for-profit and frankly, I’m not very good at it. I have no management experience (when it comes to people) and have always known it’s not really something I’d like to do. So, if or when I decide it’s time to expand, I will have to either take some serious leadership courses or implement infrastructure that includes an Ops/Team Manager position (or probably both of those things). For now, I’m scaling back and simplifying so it fits my life, schedule and capabilities. Success on a small scale is still success. In fact, if you’re not obsessing over growth, you can actually start to make some profit for yourself (which really should always be part of the equation).
#2 Salary negotiations are only awkward if you make them awkward.
Dating back to my office days, I have always found salary discussions to be wildly awkward. I don’t think I’ve ever asked for more money. I would never! I might have thought it, but never would have said it. I just found the whole thing so uncomfortable–discussing your worth and value in money. Similarly, when I was on the other end and made an offer and it was countered, I felt my insides twist up in a fit of fury! “How dare they?!”
Lesson learned: This is normal and it’s going to happen over and over again. Just because I was wimpy and simply bowed a thank you and left the room with my performance review in hand, doesn’t mean everyone will. And this does not mean they’re all dickheads. They’re just looking out for Number 1–as they should be! They’re not trying to offend me or my business, they’re just trying to negotiate as much as they can get. It’s now my job to listen, review and negotiate back. I’m not looking to short change people, but I have a business bottom-line to consider that they can’t see from the same angle, so I must weigh in on that when I counter. But it’s officially time to let the awkwardness of it all go… because I think it was mostly just me that was feeling it.
#3 Think about what kind of clients you want.
When I started, I was game to work for any client who was interested in us. Even clients that didn’t really believe in social media at all. (Insert wide-eyed emoji here.) This constantly left me frustrated, feeling like I wasn’t accomplishing what I could or should, and trying to impress people who didn’t respect me or my business. Why???
Lesson learned: The point of working for yourself and starting your own business is to love what you’re doing. Now, that doesn’t mean it’s not work–and some clients will be challenging at times, or not always fun and games. That’s okay. (Especially if you’re making some good money off them.) But first and foremost, they have to respect you and what you do. If that’s not there, you should not be working with them. Beyond that, it’s also okay to recognize that you are likely to be more passionate about your work if it’s something you enjoy… so if you have a small portfolio and can afford to be selective*, make choices that excite you! Hand pick your favourite clients!
*How can you ensure you can afford to? Refer back to #1 regarding growth.
4 Stop giving discounts.
When I first toyed with this idea of social media marketing services, I decided to offer three months free. Well, you know what happened after that three months? The client decided they would try to handle it themselves from there. Gah! In another example, I offered a friend (not close, but Facebook friend status) a nice discount on services. As completion of the project neared, she fell off the face of the earth, leaving me having paid out of my pocket for the work completed, and feeling completely robbed. It was icky! (And it still is… I still think about it regularly and want to cry.)
Lesson learned: My time and services are valuable. And that’s why I have prices. They are meant to be fair and reasonable, and to cover associated costs while turning profit for myself. That’s how businesses work. I don’t need to be so desperate for clients and work that I start giving things away. That’s only going to cost me money and time–which is not why I got into this. And if I start giving things away for free, I’m de-valuing my time and my services. It’s my job to stand up for the value of me (and my business… even if it does feel awkward sometimes.* Also, I need to protect myself. Contracts. Deposits. All that good stuff. People are never (or not always) going to be as honest, timely and respectful as you’d hope they would be. You may have to chase people, or get lawyers involved, so think about that from the beginning and start things off right so it’s less likely to go sideways on you.
*Again with the awkward money talk. See #2 for another example of this.