I remember when I got out of law enforcement and started my own freelance writing business. It was a big move, but one that I made because I moved from Michigan to California and wanted a career that I would enjoy that’d also enable me to work from anywhere since my husband was likely going to be travelling quite frequently.
Although it was five years ago, the long days, short nights, and countless hours spent wondering, “What am I doing??” are forever engrained in my head. In fact, looking back, I recall the first year or so being filled with so many questions and so few answers. And the more I sought to figure out what I was supposed to be doing as a self-employed entrepreneur, the more questions I developed. It was a vicious circle that went round and round and round.
If so, it’s time to stop spinning and let yourself off the merry-go-round that’s common with new business ownership. To help you with this, we’ve reached out to other small business owners and asked them to give you their best piece advice.
Here’s what they had to say…
Be Realistic with Your Goals
Lori A. Ben-Ezra, PhD, is a psychologist in Hollywood, Florida, and her one piece of advice to new business owners is to “set realistic goals.” What’s a realistic goal?
“Goals need to be high enough so that you get a foothold in your market,” says Ben-Ezra, “but not so high that you become discouraged at the lack of growth.” This type of approach encourages you to push harder and be your best without facing the I-just-wanna-quit frustration that can come when the path to success is slower than you expected.
Make Sure It’s Something You Love
Speaking of goals, Anthony Franciosi of Honest Marijuana Company says that, as a new business owner who wants to succeed, it’s important that you “have an unfaltering passion for your business and the goal you hope to achieve.” In other words, you better make sure you love what you do and stay in touch with the reason you’re doing it.
“With strong passion, you can overcome countless obstacles and ensure your business aspirations come to fruition,” says Franciosi. This means looking beyond the amount of money you stand to make and truly understanding why your business is important to you so you don’t give up when the going gets tough…which it will.
Do your services or products make the world a better place? Is it something you’d do even if you weren’t getting paid? Figure out why you’re so passionate about your business succeeding and let that push you to keep going when you’re feeling tired and just want to give up.
Niche Your Talents
Franciosi also says, “While having a broad range of skill-sets is vital, I think it’s more important to focus specifically on what makes you valuable to the team.” Put simply, “Don’t be a jack of all trades and a master of none.”
Niching your talents “helps clarify roles, delineate work streams, and increase overall productivity by allowing yourself and your team to focus on their individual strengths to achieve team goals,” says Franciosi. In this case, everybody wins.
Also, Define Your Niche Before You Do Your Website
And if you aren’t totally clear on your business niche—what specifically you have to offer your clients—then Karen Sue Dennis, freelance writer, publicist, and branding specialist, advises that you “put off creating your website until you have been in business for six months to a year.” Why this length of time?
“It took me close to six months to define my niche as a publicist specializing in healthcare,” admits Dennis. But once she did, it enabled her to become more “confident the web copy I am writing for my site truly reflects my present clients as well as the future of my business.”
So what’s your niche market? Knowing this makes it easier to create your website and all of your other marketing materials, as you’ll have a better idea of their pain points and the keywords they’ll use to search you out.
Be Willing to Get Your Hands Dirty
“When you start a business, you need to be willing to get your hands dirty,” says Ross Cohen, co-founder of BeenVerified.com. “That means picking up the phone and talking to customers, learning to code, or even taking out the trash.” This is especially true if you’re a one-person show, as are many freelancers or contract-based entrepreneurs, since there’s no one else there to do these tasks for you.
Even if you have a team of people at your new small business or start-up, it’s critical to remember that “there is no single job that is ever above or beneath you,” says Cohen. The more you show that you’re willing to step in and help, the more your team will respect you and the harder they’ll work for and with you.
In addition to working hard and getting your hands dirty, Lorena Canals of Lorena Canals machine-washable rugs says you should also “think big from the beginning. It’s important to see the big vision and work to get everything in alignment from there.”
Thinking about your small business, what is it that you hope to accomplish? How do you see your business 10, 20, 50, or 100 years from now?
“Always believe in your idea,” adds Canals, “and put more hours into the work than your competitors.” That will help you make your big dreams, your big vision, come true.
Learn from Others
David B. Moadab of Solutions Squad, an IT support business, also suggests that you “find others like yourself, either in the same industry, or running businesses of the same size, and soak in as much information from them as possible.” What makes this piece of advice so important? “What you will learn from them in five minutes can offset months of trial and error on your own,” says Moadab.
Basically, by getting a mentor or someone you can go to for advice, you can potentially achieve higher levels of success at a faster rate. And you can do this simply by avoiding the common pitfalls that come with newly owning and operating your own business.
Be Ready to Take Risks
Moadab also says that new business owners must be ready to take risks. But not just any risks. Calculated risks.
Business Dictionary defines a calculated risk as “a chance of exposure to loss or injury that might be undertaken after its advantages and disadvantages have been carefully weighted and considered.” This requires looking at the pros and cons of the risk at hand and making an intelligent, well thought out decision based on the information at hand.
“You can’t win if you don’t play,” says Moadab. Just make sure you play with both eyes open.
Maintaining a positive attitude is something that is “essential for success,” advises Grainne Kelly, founder of BubbleBum car travel innovations, adding that “energy is the fuel that feeds our attitude and it needs to be replenished on a daily basis.”
“When negative thoughts creep in,” says Kelly, “stop them in their tracks and replace them with positive self-talk. Repeat words or phrases that focus on affirming truths about you.”
Is your mind saying you can’t do something? Tell it that you can. Do your obstacles look too big? Remind yourself that you’ve faced obstacles before and found ways around them, and you can do it again.
Additionally, “surround yourself with like-minded women who are an inspiration and who will provide encouragement,” advises Kelly. “Positivity allows you to see the potential that lies within you and gives you the faith to step outside of the box to achieve your dreams.”
Keep Yourself Motivated
Kelly also suggests that, as a new business owner, you “have a motto that you believe in and live by as it will motivate you when the work gets difficult.” What slogan helps push Kelly in tough times?
“The one question I always ask myself is: What is the worst that can happen?” says Kelly. “Every day, I also always tell myself: If you do things for the right reasons, only the right thing can happen. Do whatever it takes for as long as it takes.”
Part of keeping motivated with your new business also means that you “don’t let ‘no’ or an obstacle stop you,” says Kelly. “Adversity cultivates inner strength, so don’t throw a pity party when life gets tough. Instead, look for the inner lessons to be learned and apply them to your life. Character isn’t born from an easy life– it is forged through pushing through trials and being persistent.”
Kirsten Chapman of Kleynimals stainless steel toy keys agrees that staying motivated is key. “As an entrepreneur, it is important to be willing to overcome challenges again and again,” says Chapman. “It is never a smooth or obvious path, and there are lots of disappointments along the way. However, you have to just keep plugging away to make your vision a reality.”
Constantly Reevaluate Your Business
Lisa Furuland, founder of DockATot, offers the advice to constantly look at your business to see if any changes need to be made as you go along. “Reevaluate if your product or brand is growing and not standing still,” says Furuland. “Always move forward and never settle. Even the word ‘settle’ makes me cringe.”
At some point, this may mean bringing on new staff, says Furuland, as it is “important to not take on too many of the tasks you don’t specialize in.” Therefore, don’t be afraid “to hire people to take on some of the work that gets in the way of you being able to do what you do best.”
Be Your Own Client
“My tip for new business owners is to remember to treat yourself like a client,” says Christina Nicholson, award-winning journalist and owner of Media Maven. “No matter your industry, whatever you do for clients, you need to be doing for yourself.”
Essentially, by being your own client, you’re highlighting that you know what you’re doing so that potential clients can actually see your work in action. Case in point: “Would you get your makeup done by someone who did their own makeup terribly?” asks Nicholson. Or “would you pay someone to manage your social media accounts if theirs weren’t impressive?”
Think about the products and/or services you offer. How are you handling them within your own business? In a way that reflects your expertise and would make others want to purchase them? If not, you may want to make some changes.
Grow Comfortable with Saying “No”
“Business owners tend to be at a higher risk for business burnout, due to high stress lifestyles from being a small business owner,” says Ed Becker, licensed CPA and managing director of OSYB (Outsource Your Books, LLC). This stress comes from having more expenses, wearing “many hats,” and everything else that is required when you own your own business.
However, you can potentially avoid new business burnout by “learning to say no,” says Suzanne Fisher, MS, RD, LDN, a nutrition consultant with 25+ years of experience and owner of Fisher Enterprises. “You cannot please everyone,” says Fisher.
Part of saying “no” means also knowing which clients to accept and which ones to refer out. “It is so tempting to take on every client regardless of time constraints,” admits Fisher, “but quality of life should be priority number one.”
So think about whether or not having a particular client will add to your quality of life or subtract from it and make your decision from there. Not everyone interested in your products or services is worth your time.
Don’t Forget About YOU
Finally, as a new business owner, it’s likely that the day-to-day operations take up a majority of your time. However, “Putting yourself first and making time for yourself will make you a way better entrepreneur, manager, partner, etc.” says Anna Schwengle, founder of Finn + Emma eco-friendly baby gear.
This comes from firsthand experience as, “When I started my business, I always put my business first,” says Schwengle. “I did nothing but work.” As you can imagine, this can lead to burnout…fast.
“Now, I make sure that I put myself first because even though I lose a few hours to go to the gym, for example, I’m way more productive in the remaining hours,” says Schewengle. “It is all about quality and not quantity when it comes to your work.”