As a kid, I used to roleplay a lot with one of my best friends Jess. Perhaps it was because both of our parents were self-employed, but our scenarios often ended up being some sort of fake enterprise. Whilst some kids were playing princesses, we had created our very own pretend stationary and office supplies company.
Twenty plus years down the line, we are both proud owners of our own businesses. I often think back to those days when we were young, and I think about all of the things I’ve learned about what running your own business is really like.
10 Things Running Your Own Business Will Teach You
1. Being Your Own Boss Can Be Lonely
Sometimes I miss having a boss and co-workers. When you’re self-employed, you don’t have someone there to put pressure on you when there’s a deadline approaching, give you a kick up the backside when you’re slacking or praise you when you’ve done a good job. Most of the time you only have yourself to answer to. Which can be awesome. But sometimes it can also get quite lonely. Of course, you can talk to your other half or your friends, but sometimes you just really need to gossip with people that know your industry and can relate to what you’re going through.
2. There Is No Such Thing As Normal Working Hours
Whilst I try to set up a working routine that matches my husband’s office hours, the fact that my desk is 1 meter from my sofa and 10 meters from my kitchen can sometimes blur that line of being at work and being at home. If we’re watching TV and I notice an important email, I have to fight the urge to reply right away. But setting boundaries are really important if you want to keep a healthy work-life balance and not neglect your relationships.
3. Social Media Feels Much Less Social
I first joined Facebook in my last year of university so that I could keep in contact with all of my friends after graduation, and after that so I could post travel pictures when I was away so my family could see that I was still alive. But since starting a business, social media has become another platform in which I feel obliged to take part in on behalf of my business, feeling like I should always have something to say.
4. You Can’t Be An Expert At Everything
Running your own business means you need to do all of the unglamorous, unexciting things that come with running a business. Things like maintaining a website and doing your tax return. I’ve learned from many successful entrepreneurs that they key to running a successful business isn’t being able to do everything yourself. It’s actually about focusing on being awesome at that thing you do that nobody else can, and getting help from other people with the other stuff. Outsourcing the things that hold you back means you can do more of the things that people actually pay you to do.
5. Not Everyone Is Your Client (And That’s OK)
Having worked in tourism, hospitality and retail before I started my business, I had never been exposed to the notion of being able to choose your clients. But when you start to see what life is like when you run a service-based business, you begin to learn and sometimes the hard way, that not every client is the right fit for you. Sometimes it’s simply because your services cost more than they are willing to spend. Other times it’s because their expectations may not align quite right with the service that you offer. Sometimes the best service you can do for them and for yourself is to refer them to someone else who you think will be a better fit.
6. If You Build It, They Won’t Come (You Gotta Hustle)
When I first started my photography business, I thought that having a website and a Facebook page was enough and that the clients would start coming through the door in no time if I just posted a few pretty pictures every now and then. What I quickly realised was that getting people to my website in the first place required some serious hustle, and even today it’s what I spend a large amount of my time working on.
7. If You Try To Compete On Price, It’s A Race To The Bottom
When you start a business, you just want money coming in. Sometimes this means you end up selling yourself far too cheaply and the results can be that you end up being overworked and underpaid. And every time you discount your services, you’re devaluing yourself. And as you start to hone your craft and you look at your working hours vs. your income you realise that something has to change. Usually, that means you need to put your prices up and take on fewer clients in order to deliver the best possible service that you can whilst also making a living. You come to accept that there will always be people offering a similar service for a cheaper price. Instead, you focus on what extra value you bring to the table and show people why working with you is worth that extra investment.
8. Not Everybody Will Value What You Do
I think because my businesses are based predominantly on providing a service, some people around me (including friends and family) will never quite get it. I know there are people who see me as someone who turns up somewhere with a camera, takes some “snaps” and greedily askes for vast sums of money in return, and I’ve had friends expect me to work for them for free. I’ve also been turned down by potential clients because they found someone who could do it for half of the price. But I know that the people who do hire me see what I do as something that is worth investing in.
9. Asking To Be Paid Is Not A Dirty Word
When you turn something you love doing into a business, it can feel really uneasy taking money for it. Because, well you love doing it so much. And at the start, it feels wrong asking someone to pay you for doing it. But then you realise that when someone pays you to do it, you can pay your bills and create even better work because you’re not stressed out about how you’re going to put food on the table this month. And you deserve to be paid for it because you’re actually pretty darn good at it.
10. Investing In Yourself If The Best Investment You Can Make
Even before I was making any money in my business, I was investing in training courses and workshops. Not just in photography but also business development, with courses about things like marketing, PR, SEO and branding. And this year I started working 1-on-1 with a business coach which was a huge financial investment, but one that I am already starting to see benefits from. I firmly believe that investing in myself is a way of keeping on top of my game, not only for my clients but also for myself. I’m driven by learning and I’m always looking at how I can be better at what I do.
I’d love to hear from other entrepreneurs too. What have you learned since starting your business, and if you could go back in time and give yourself one piece of advice, what would it be?
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