Starting a business can be a daunting task. There are so many knowledge areas to learn, especially when you are starting out as owner/creative director/accountant/sales/designer/marketing/social media manager. It’s easy to find resources on the best accounting software or where to host your website, but some of the more nuanced areas are ones that you can only learn with time.
One of my favorite quotes about work is, “You can’t do a good job if your job is all you do.” It’s important to be efficient, stay steadfast in your boundaries, and take creative breaks. In the time that I’ve been running my business, I’ve learned a few lessons that have truly helped me achieve these things and be happier in my business life.
1. Only put projects you want more of in your portfolio. There is no rule that says every piece of work you’ve ever done needs to go in your portfolio. If you want to do more brand design work, put those projects in your portfolio. If you want to stop offering ebook design, then take those projects out! If people see something, they will want it. It doesn’t do any good to show examples of things you don’t want to do anymore. Plus, it will save you time responding to inquiries about a project you don’t want to do. Bonus tip: if you want to start a new avenue and don’t have many portfolio examples, do some self-initiated projects. Follow all the steps you would if it were a real client, and you’ll gain both experience and a new portfolio item.
2. It’s perfectly fine to say no. Whether it’s a potential client that doesn’t seem like a good fit or a favor from a fellow business owner, it can actually be more polite to say no. If you take on a client that is a bad fit either style or personality-wise, you are going to resent the project and not deliver your best work. A client who doesn’t have an excellent experience surely won’t be sending any referrals your way. Same goes for a peer who wants to collaborate or swap services – if you don’t have the time or the interest, it won’t benefit either of you. You can always offer to connect again in the future if the timing is bad.
3. Support your community. It is only going to drive you nuts if you think of others as competition. There is always going to be someone who offers your services at both lower and higher price points, who launches their product first, or has more experience. Rather than waste time worrying about who might be “better” than you, look to those people as inspiration and members of your community. You can choose to be annoyed at a developer who is tweeting about how heavy her workload is, or you could befriend her and maybe she’ll send some overflow work your way! It’s great not only for growing your business, but also for finding confidants in your industry who can truly understand what you’re going through.
4. There will always be ebb and flow. This goes for client work and for confidence you feel in your work and business. You’ll have both busy and slow seasons (psst: read my tips for what to do during slow periods here!) with your work. You’ll have days where you feel on top of the world, and days where you feel like your work is crap. This is also where #3 comes in – lean on your community if you’re feeling down! Always remember why you started, and that will make every moment, good and bad, worth it.
What have you learned running your business? Any tips for those wanting to get started?