It’s March 22 and Spring is finally here. Hallelujah!
Even more significant, it marks a special anniversary for me.
Three years ago today was my last day as a salaried employee.
Back then, I didn’t know I was going to become an entrepreneur. I only knew that a completely different path was calling me. It took another 6 months and a trip to Vegas to figure out what that was.
Yep, Danielle 2.0 was born over a random yet fortuitous conversation sipping margaritas by the Venetian pool deck!
What happened in Vegas definitely didn’t stay there.
But that’s a story for another time.
The past 2.5 years of entrepreneurship has been a thrilling, maddening, and rewarding adventure.
There’s simply nothing like doing what your soul is meant to be doing. You are nourished deep within your bones.
I am truly blessed to hold people through such deep and profound change, both financially and emotionally. To witness clients emerge into their authentic power literally feels life-giving. Freedom is important, but this is what it means to never work a day in your life.
Perhaps you’ve been thinking about taking the plunge and becoming your own boss too.
I’d love to share my best advice to save you time, money, and heartache.
Here’s what I wish I had known about entrepreneurship before I started.
1. Everything will take much longer than you think
Entrepreneurship is a whole other world.
We might be leaving our careers as the big fish in a small pond, but the grand humbling is about to begin!
When you are the CEO of one, there’s no strategic director to create your business plan. No geeky IT guy is coming to fix your frozen computer. There’s no friendly HR person to guide you through a delicate employee situation. No bubbly millennial is writing your social media posts, and no math whiz is waiting to whip up your pay statements.
Very few of us are naturally gifted in all these areas, so it’s going to take time to learn them.
What about outsourcing? This is a good idea, but not until you can confidently articulate your needs and assess external talent. Twice I hired ‘experts’ and twice I got burned. Life has a way of giving you the experience you most want to avoid.
If you are moving into something completely different from your professional background, as I did, your learning curve will be even longer.
I estimate I’ve spent over 1,500 hours studying coaching, online marketing, website creation, financial education, copywriting, public speaking, accounting, and legal protection.
In addition to the business skills you need to learn, it will take time to become really clear on exactly what you offer and how you differ to your competitors (more on this in point #5). This is essential for business success. If you aren’t clear, neither are your customers, and confused customers don’t buy!
2. You need to be far more disciplined with yourself than your current boss
9-5 doesn’t exist anymore. It’s more like 9-5 AND 5 – 9.
Truth bomb: I’m not the 6 am rise and shine type who crushes her to-do-list by 9 am. Boundaries don’t come naturally to me, so I have to work extra hard at instituting what I’m about to say.
There’s always going to be way more to do than you have time for. Always! You simply have to become very good at prioritizing what’s actually important and delegating or ignoring the rest.
Defining a clear purpose is the most important thing you can do to keep yourself on track. Without a north star to guide you, it’s too easy to get swept up into all the latest shiny things. There’s always the lure of another techy tool, free business training, or must-have secret formula to improve your results.
Because your field of view is so much broader than a specialist career, it’s also really easy to feel like you aren’t enough. Someone is always going to be further ahead than you, whether they have a better website, more followers, or higher income. This will drive you crazy without good boundaries, and it will take you away from the core functions of growing your actual business.
The bottom line is…if you can’t manage your time by creating rules and processes to stick to, you are headed on the fast road to burnout.
I find it helps to regularly remember why you went into this in the first place; to create MORE freedom in your life, not less.
3. All of your fears will come up to be faced
Entrepreneurship requires much more than the mastery of your craft or even business skills.
When you work for a large organization, you are a representative of the company’s brand. You can hide your personal inadequacies behind an ‘inhuman’ brand, or behind a specialist job that doesn’t require you to be so public.
When you work for yourself, YOU are your brand. Either your self-confidence will propel you to success, or your insecurities will sabotage your best intentions.
You also have to be prepared to be vulnerable with your personal story. In the case of coaching, people want the same deep personal transformation the coach has already gone through. They need to know who you are in order to feel confidence in you to lead them. They are buying YOU.
If you’re afraid to be seen and share your authentic truth, you won’t stand out. You can’t inspire them to believe in you.
This also makes entrepreneurship a deeply rewarding life experience because it FORCES you to confront and overcome your fears and insecurities – in front of a public audience. Daunting, yes! But what could be more fulfilling?
4. You can’t do this alone
To the superwoman or superman reading this, there will come a time when you are forced to admit that you cannot do it all by your badass self.
There is SO much to learn. And the more you learn, the more you realize there is to understand. It’s easy to go crazy with information overload.
Many of us are super challenged by this, because we were drawn to entrepreneurship in the first place to express our individualism. We want to put our stamp on things!
Eventually you will cross the point where you have to hire others in order to expand, whether it’s a specialist to handle tasks outside of your expertise, or actual employees. The earlier you can learn to accept support, the faster you will progress and the less stress you’ll feel. It’s all about learning a healthy balance. Asking for help is not a weakness; it’s strength.
Here are some other things you can do.
Working with a mentor who has already been where you are can make all the difference in the world. Joining entrepreneur support groups where you openly share your struggles and successes with others will give you the boost you need to keep going. It’s also vital to ensure you have a strong support network from your family and friends – including spending time away from your business.
5. Pay attention to your competitors, but not too much
Before you can get clear about exactly who you are and what you do, you need to understand the lay of the land so you can begin to carve out your unique place within it.
You need to do some research to see who else is in your field. What is their approach, and what are they saying? What are their clients saying? How are you different?
In the beginning you will feel really small as you look up to these giants and think: how can I possibly compete with that?!
Once you have a feel for what your competitors do, however, its’ time to stop paying attention.
Go inside and get crystal clear about how you help your clients. Your job now is to focus on your unique message. Let go of worrying about what everyone else is doing or saying. Stop comparing yourself to them. The world needs your authentic story and the way you express it. It will perfectly resonate with many people out there who feel YOU are the person to help them.
6. You don’t have to have all the answers before you begin helping others
This one is for the perfectionists out there! (myself included).
Many of us think we have to have expert knowledge or qualifications to begin helping (and charging) people. This simply isn’t true. If you have overcome something important and challenging in your life, others want and need your guidance. Even if you are only a few steps ahead, you are valuable. You are a guide.
Don’t confuse your perception of a 10/10 with your client’s. You might know what is possible much further down the road, but they don’t yet from their vantage point. They aren’t evaluating your ability to lead them the way you are. They want to be where YOU are now. Put yourself in your old shoes. Look how far you’ve come. How much would that version of you pay to be where you are now?
I wasted months in the beginning trying to learn everything so I could be perfect. My inaction cost me dearly, both in revenue, and self-esteem. You simply have to adjust to putting your work out there before it’s ready. The juice is in the momentum. Waiting too long to be perfect guarantees you’re missing out on opportunities – and your competitors will grab them instead.
7. You need to communicate your messaging a lot more than you think you do, and it needs to be the right message
Entrepreneurship is a test of perseverance.
Did you know that the average customer doesn’t buy until they have had at least 7 engagements with a brand? Some studies place that number closer to 12 interactions. As a reference, most sales professionals stop trying after cold call number 2!
If you aren’t truly passionate about your business, you won’t want to keep talking about it. But YOU MUST in order to create enough sustainable awareness over time so that your customers come to know, like, and trust you. This is what leads to sales.
Do not give up at the first, second, or even third no. Understand that you’re going to hear several of them before they turn into a yes. Don’t take it personally; it’s natural human psychology.
If you’re still experiencing rejection, either your marketing needs some tweaking, or your fears need to be addressed. Do you actually understand what your customers’ true problems are? One of my biggest shocks was that I did not! I had assumed that the benefits of financial education were obvious, and that my clients knew they needed to learn how to save, budget, and invest. But from my clients’ perspective, their problem was emotional: ‘I’m stuck in a job I hate in order to pay bills. I’m afraid I’ll never escape this cycle and be able to do what I love because of money’. It was a total mismatch in messaging. I wasn’t reaching them despite having the solution.
8. Like any long-term goal, building a successful business is a marathon, not a sprint
Running your own business is glamourized as the ticket to get rich, and quick.
I hate to break it to you, but there’s nothing fast about lasting success. Or profits.
Real success is forged moment by moment. It’s the grand sum of years of consistent small actions over time, especially the ones we don’t want to do, or don’t feel ready to do yet. It’s the commitment to continual progression over the long haul. What kind of person are you showing up as, day in, day out? Are you willing to move through discomfort and the unknown forever in order to reach your dreams?
We need to commit to this very real process as our success benchmark, rather that the sexy image of big wins magically happening while we chill out on a beach. This will remove enormous self-imposed pressure to deliver unreasonable results. We’ll be much less likely to quit or feel like a failure. Best of all, we can extract the amazing rewards that are only available when you go all in.
I made so many mistakes in the first two years as an entrepreneur, and I’m still making my way forward. I’ve learned that it isn’t about perfectionism. It’s about feeling deeply alive, and that inevitably involves messing up. It’s about taking the risk to fully be myself in the world, no matter what obstacle is in front of me.
However, after 2.5 years, all my blood, sweat, and tears has turned into something wonderful. Such is the sweet nature of life when you finally follow your heart.
Entrepreneurship demands nothing less than all of you. If you commit to the process of continually learning, taking action, and putting yourself out there with the right message, you will be successful eventually. Don’t give up. You have brilliance inside of you!
If even a part of you has an inkling towards starting your own business, or you KNOW you want to, I say go for it! The journey will be so very worth it.
Are you already following your entrepreneurial dream? What has your experience been like? Got any tips to share for me? I’d love to learn from you. Leave ’em below in the comments.