Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow. The important thing is not to stop questioning. ~ Albert Einstein
I have always known that one day I will step out of the monotony of a typical 9–5 job and embark on my own entrepreneurial journey. However, I must confess that I didn’t have a concrete plan in place. Unlike those admirable individuals who meticulously plan their exit strategy for months or even years, I’ve always been more of a go-with-the-flow type. Many of my significant decisions were made in spontaneous “that’s it!” moments.
Bye bye office
In 2018, when I reluctantly bid farewell to my full-time job, all I knew was that I no longer wanted to work for someone else. I had grown tired of reporting to a boss and showing up at the office on days when there wasn’t much to do. As an introvert, I thrive in peaceful and quiet environments. The constant distractions, such as unwanted music blaring from the radio or my colleagues incessantly chatting on the phone, started to grate on my nerves and hinder my productivity.
On one hand, I do wish I had embarked on my business journey with a clearer vision and more organised approach. It was a messy start, lacking direction and clarity. But on the other hand, I’ve always found that I learn best when faced with challenges. It’s just the way I am.
If I could rewind time and start everything anew, here are the invaluable lessons I wish I had known when I embarked on my entrepreneurial venture:
1. Commitment is key.
To achieve success in your own business, you must be willing to make sacrifices and relinquish certain aspects of your familiar lifestyle. Half-hearted efforts won’t get you far.
During the years 2016–2019, I was still in the phase of enjoying wild parties. I suppose it was my way of reclaiming my freedom since I had spent my early twenties living under the watchful eye of a controlling mother. However, partying hard and building a business simply don’t align. Alcohol impairs focus, motivation, and productivity. It’s easy to get side-tracked when there’s an opportunity to go out and have a good time.
Running a successful business requires unwavering commitment.
You need to be prepared to say “no” to Friday night outings, at least in the beginning. Although I have no regrets about my party days (I needed that experience!), today I manage my business differently, and it pays off.
I consume very little to no alcohol because I understand the extended recovery time it demands. I also realise that
by saying “no” to certain things now, I can say “yes” to even greater opportunities in the future.
2. Seek a mentor or coach to stay focused and motivated.
In a full-time job, you have a boss who provides guidance, sets deadlines and goals, and evaluates your work on a regular basis. In the realm of entrepreneurship, you’re on your own.
I wish I had engaged a mentor or coach right from the start.
Having someone to steer me in the right direction and help me clarify my ideas would have been invaluable during those moments of excitement mixed with overwhelm.
It took me a few years to finally hire a coach, and I firmly believe that if I had done so from day one, I would have set and achieved my goals much sooner. I would have been bolder in putting myself out there and more confident in my skills, experience, and expertise.
3. Fear of success can be stronger than fear of failure.
While everyone talks about the fear of failure and how embracing it is essential for success, in my case, I discovered that I was more afraid of achieving success. It felt unattainable and I couldn’t envision myself as a successful person.
I had been conditioned to believe that I should remain small and hide, fearing that people would ridicule me (thanks, Mom).
Countless times, I sabotaged my own success, such as abandoning a blog that was gaining traction. Today, with self-awareness, I recognise this behavior and can spot it immediately. I discuss it with my coach so she can help me stay on track and focused on the bigger picture.
4. Start creating content.
Virtually every client who has approached me for help with their online presence began their business by creating content. They wrote blogs or articles on writing platforms, aiming to share their knowledge and stories of overcoming obstacles, all with the intention of helping others.
Creating content serves your business in several ways:
- It builds trust: When people see that you’re an expert in your field, they’re more likely to sign up for your services or purchase your products.
- It enhances your website’s SEO: By offering valuable content on your website, you’ll organically appear in search results, attracting interested readers.
- It helps you gain clarity: If you feel a bit lost at the beginning, creating content will help you refine your understanding of what exactly you want to do in your business.
I wish I had started my business journey with writing, but I was too focused on discovering my niche.
If I were starting today, I would create content about my experiences as a novice entrepreneur and document my progress for my audience.
5. Attend networking events regularly.
My first paying client came from a networking event, more than six months after I began to feel desperate about earning income from my services. Initially, I made the mistake of thinking that since I had just started my business and had little to offer, attending a networking event would be futile.
Networking, however, is about connecting with like-minded entrepreneurs and business owners, as being your own boss can sometimes be isolating.
These events also provide an opportunity for learning, both about yourself (I discovered that I’m a good listener and not particularly fond of prosecco) and others (most people share the same fear of putting themselves out there).
Engaging with people at these events helped me gain insights into the struggles faced by small business owners, allowing me to develop offers that solve their problems.
6. Invest in yourself to foster growth.
After leaving my job, the first thing I did was purchase a laptop, a justified acquisition given my needs. However, in retrospect, I should have invested in myself sooner. I wish I had bought courses on running a business, online marketing, and cultivating an entrepreneurial mindset. Knowledge truly is power, and by learning, you can gain clarity about your next steps. I did read a few books, including a guide on building a successful consulting practice. But if I had a mentor, I would have taken the book’s advice more seriously and likely achieved a flourishing consulting practice by now. Nonetheless, I am building a successful small business, so hey!
7. Maintain organised files and documents.
This lesson is of utmost importance. I cannot emphasise enough how crucial it is to keep your files organised. I wish I had practiced this from the very beginning; it would have saved me countless frustrating hours spent searching for misplaced files. Imagine the irritation of needing a specific file but being unable to locate it. I certainly know the feeling now, and so do my clients! So, ensure that the files you download have proper names so that you can easily find them using the search bar.
8. Trust your own path, not others’ opinions.
I devoured books on business management, sales and marketing, goal setting, and more. I followed inspirational figures, joined entrepreneur groups and communities, and attended workshops, seminars, and networking events. I gained valuable knowledge and received plenty of sound advice. However, I realised that everyone is unique, and there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to running a business. Therefore, don’t take any piece of advice too seriously, including the ones provided in this article. Instead, take what resonates with you, create something new that serves your needs, and forge your own path.
Since leaving my full-time job and embarking on this entrepreneurial journey, I have never looked back. Despite the challenges and hard work, I find it to be the most fulfilling way of living. It grants me the freedom to live life on my own terms, collaborate with individuals I genuinely want to work with, and, most importantly, it offers endless opportunities to express my creativity.
It’s worth it
If you are embarking on the entrepreneurial journey — congratulations — it is a courageous step towards a fulfilling and purposeful life.
Embrace the challenges, learn from your experiences, and continuously adapt. Remember, running your own business allows you the freedom to shape your destiny, work with passion, and unleash your creative potential. So, seize the opportunity and make your entrepreneurial dreams a reality.