I won’t say it is easy to be one, but I will say it is worth it. That’s exactly how I sum up being an entrepreneur to people that ask me what I think about being counted among those crazy enough to leave their consistent corporate careers for the wild west of working for yourself.
You need guts, you need to haul yourself up by your bootstraps, you need to be relentless, you need to wake up every day determined to make it work. It’s exhausting. It’s exhilarating. It’s one heck of a learning curve.
Speaking of learning curves, these are the 5 things I wish I knew my first year in business, and here’s to you avoiding the same mistakes I made! Mistakes add up to how you learn and the ones I made are all a part of how I got here, but I would definitely like to help save you some stress along the way if I can.
Your Business Needs To Come First
A lot of would be entrepreneurs I meet assume that starting a business is all about chasing your dreams. Well it is, but it isn’t. Running an actual business needs to be your top priority above all else, or you have no business having one.
I’ve always been a hard worker, but I never knew what it was like to really put a business first until I owned my own one. It’s a whole other level of assiduousness. The faster you realize this and accept putting your business ahead of other things, such as going out with your girlfriends for drinks when you should be home shipping out orders, the faster you can be successful at having one.
I’ll admit, it took me awhile to accept that some things have to give in order for you to get ahead as an entrepreneur. Like my social life. And my sleep schedule.
Busy Work Doesn’t Equate To Growth
When you’re just starting out, there’s a ton you think you have to do. There’s also a ton you’re going to end up doing too that absolutely won’t contribute to your growth in any way, shape, or form.
Busy work doesn’t equate to growth. Growth is revenue. Growth is getting your product or service to market as fast and efficiently as you can, and then building your clients and customers, which results in revenue generation. That’s growth.
Rebuilding your website fifteen times, getting lost in minuscule details about your product or service, staring off into the clouds and dreaming about all the million products you think you can make, redoing your package a zillion times, fussing about the margins on your marketing materials for hours on end…this is all busy work. This isn’t growth.
I used to waste hours of my life worrying that maybe the black whip stitch edge detail I added to a line of my scarves was maybe too bold…or too tacky….despite having put it through market testing with glowing feedback and a stack of preorders. I would spend an inordinate amount of time recoloring best selling prints because I wasn’t quite thrilled with the colors. All that boils down to is being counterintuitive, because those are hours I could have spent making money instead.
Don’t fool yourself into thinking by being busy you’re building something. Don’t get lost in the busy work.
Be A Lean Machine
Be careful with how you spend your money. Be a lean machine. Don’t spend superfluously on anything for your business. Keep your costs low. I wish I had been more exacting with how I spent things in the beginning.
I put over $10,000 into inventory, when I could have done things leaner than this and made accessories on demand. I spent over $5,000 on bad advertising before I knew anything about the industry at all.
I known entrepreneurs that wasted six figures building their websites, sunk money on purchasing worthless email lists, and nearly bankrupted themselves on leasing retail space. Don’t let this be you. Invest smarter in yourself and what you do.
Learn To Let Go & Outsource
I used to be a firm believer that nothing got done right unless I did it myself. To some extent, that might be still correct, but I’ve grown to learn it’s contingent upon the task. I’ve also grown to outsource what I’m not good at and let that just go.
For example, I cannot outsource designing the prints on my accessory line. I went to school for Textile Design. I’ve designed best selling prints for major brands. It wouldn’t be worth my time to try to outsource that and it’s not a task I should try to let go of, since it’s highly specialized and something I excel at.
In contrast, I can however outsource all of my tax needs for my businesses, because I’m terrible at math and it would take me years to learn how to do it right. It’s simply a waste of my time to try to do something I’m not good at.
Maybe you’re terrible at marketing, or advertising, or logo design. Outsource it. Find a freelancer to take it on for you.
Learning to let go of doing it all yourself is hard. Learning to outsource something you’re not going to be able to accomplish that will result in wasting your time is also difficult to master. Do it anyway.
Get A Contract For Everything
Contracts are your new best friends, and you need to get yourself a contract for everything. Why? Because the world is a litigious place and there is either going to be someone wanting to sue you for anything under the sun, or there’s going to be someone trying to take every possible advantage of you. That’s just the way the world works. You need to protect yourself.
Most entrepreneurs I know put the step of getting contracts drawn up off and say they don’t have the time or resources. Well, make the time. Make the money to invest. Contracts make it well known what the boundaries are to every single person you could possibly do business with. It also gives you legal recourse for when things go south. You absolutely need them.
I’ve been screwed over by more people I tried to do business with than I care to admit in the beginning, without a contract. Had I drawn them up before starting my company, I would have saved myself a world of problems. I would have saved myself money in the long run. I would have saved myself time and gotten back the months of my life I spent on being upset and angry at what transpired.
Don’t be naive. Don’t do anything without a contract.
My Final Words On Making A Mistake
So, there you have it. Those are all the things I wish I knew starting out. My final words on making a mistake:
Once you realize it, don’t beat yourself up over it. Mistakes are a valuable step in the learning process, so take a look at what you can learn from your mistake and just move on!
Bre is a female millennial go getter residing in New York. One part entrepreneur, one part geek, she obtained her degree in Textile/Surface Design from The Fashion Institute of Technology.
She has held some exciting roles in both fashion as a designer working for brands like Victoria’s Secret and Henri Bendel, as well as in ad tech working for publishers like Ziff Davis.
Today she operates her own luxury label Bre Avery, and is also the Chief Chick at Chipchick.com which reaches millions of women each month.
Bre is passionate about keeping women informed of the latest technology trends and products to improve their lifestyle and believes in providing real, useful information and advice to her readers.