Annie is a freelance conversion copywriter who helps businesses capture and convert more leads. Annie specializes in customer research and has over 10 years of experience working with Fortune 500 companies, startups, and small businesses from across the globe.
When I was a little girl, my dad used to tell me the same thing over and over again:
“Be your own boss.”
At the time, it didn’t mean much. As a kid, I was more concerned with playing outside or searching for loose change under the couch.
It wasn’t until my first real job at an advertising agency that my dad’s advice started to click.
At that first job, I worked late, got up early, and did everything short of killing myself to hit my deadlines and deliver high-quality work, all while making little more than my childhood allowance.
I barely slept, drank too much coffee, and subsisted almost entirely on a diet of smoothies made of water, bananas, peanut butter, cinnamon, and honey.
On top of the long hours, poor diet, and pecuniary pay, I was incredibly stressed out.
It was my job to sell ideas to Fortune 500 companies and when it didn’t go well, it eroded my confidence, increased my anxiety, and left me feeling depressed and inadequate.
Even when it did go well, I was always worried about the next pitch, thinking that if I wasn’t 100% perfect, I would get fired and wouldn’t be able to afford basic things like food and rent.
This went on for years, but eventually, I hit a point where I just couldn’t do it anymore. I knew I couldn’t sustain the levels of stress and anxiety I was experiencing and decided to make a change.
I told my boyfriend, friends, and family that I wanted to start my own business, but was surprised when no one thought it was a good idea.
Instead of words of encouragement, I was told things like:
- “Just find another job”
- “You won’t have insurance”
- “How will you make money?”
- “What if it doesn’t work out?”
At the time, it was incredibly disappointing to feel like something that felt so right to me seemed so wrong to everyone else. Was there something they could see that I couldn’t?
Looking back, I know they were just worried about me and didn’t want me to make a mistake, but at that moment, I learned two valuable lessons:
- People are afraid of what they don’t know or understand
- Sometimes, you just have to trust your gut and believe in yourself (even when no one else does)
In 2015, I quit my job as a full-time agency copywriter and started my own business, offering copywriting services to anyone who could pay me.
Nearly seven years later, my business is stronger than ever: I have a steady stream of clients, I make 6-figures consistently, I’ve launched multiple digital products, I have a decent email list, and finally have the freedom to work on creative projects I’ve been putting off for years.
I work from home (or wherever I want), I make my own schedule, I choose my own clients, and have even inspired other people in my family and friend group to start their own businesses, too.
But none of this happened overnight.
Building a business is a long-term process that is never fully complete, but if you’re committed to the journey and believe in what you’re doing, it’s 100% achievable.
Today, I’d like to share with you a few tips I wish I’d known when I was first starting my business in the hopes that they will inspire you as you begin your own journey as a business owner, entrepreneur, solopreneur, or however you identify.
Let’s dive in!
Tip #1: Don’t be afraid to ask for help
When I was first starting out, I didn’t realize that part of growing my business included growing my knowledge, not only of my craft, but of the business side of things, as well.
Like many entrepreneurs, I’m incredibly independent and have such a strong “DIY” mindset that stopped me from asking for help or getting guidance when I really needed it.
For this reason, it’s taken me longer to figure things out, and it’s also caused me to hit earning plateaus when I reached the limit of my own knowledge and experience.
This is my biggest regret, but also the biggest opportunity for you.
If you see a course, mastermind, coaching program, or some other resource that seems like it could help you get to the next level (or improve your knowledge/skills/processes in some way), don’t let it slip away.
A lot of these resources are expensive but think of them less as a “cost” and more as an investment in the success of your growing business.
Not every resource or program is going to be worthy of your time and money, so be sure to do your research and cherry-pick the ones that will get you the highest ROI.
If you haven’t already, I would set aside a good chunk (maybe $10-15k per year as a starting point) to spend on courses, programs, books, events, etc., so you’re always in a state of continual learning and improvement.
This is the most important thing you can do for yourself as a business owner, so don’t skip this one!
Tip #2: If you’re not good at something, find someone who is (and pay them to do it for you)
In business, there is this belief that you have to “wear all hats” and be good at everything in order to make your business successful.
This belief is not only false, it can actually be detrimental to your business.
For example, I spent years trying to learn how to build and design my own website. As a writer, I didn’t have the technical or design skills necessary to do this, so the end result was never up to my standards.
On top of that, I was wasting time trying to learn a skill that was keeping me from doing more valuable tasks, like finding new clients, creating new products, building my email list, and more.
I finally figured this out a few years into my business when I hired a designer/developer to build my website. The process was faster and the end result was about a million times better than if I had tried to do it myself.
Not only that, but I now have a website that attracts new clients, which means my website is automatically making money for me without me doing any extra work.
Plus, the money I spent on my website is only a tiny fraction of the amount of money I’ve made using my website as a sales tool, so the value far outweighs the initial or even the ongoing investment.
Long story short, if you’re not good at something, don’t try to learn it (unless you really want to or have a specific reason for doing so).
Just hire a professional to do it for you and get back to doing the stuff you’re already good at (ideally, the stuff that makes you money!).
Tip #3: Build your network and following
As the name suggests, being a solopreneur can be a very lonely existence.
In most cases, you work alone and spend most of your time by yourself, which can be very jarring and even depressing, especially when you’re first starting out.
When I started my business, I was incredibly excited about the idea of spending my time alone. After all, I had spent years working in agencies surrounded by people and was ready for a bout of introversion.
But that excitement quickly turned into loneliness and despair, especially on days where I was struggling and felt like I had no one I could talk to.
For this reason, I definitely suggest joining some kind of group early on – it doesn’t matter if it’s free or paid, but it’s good to stay in touch with people who are doing similar things and can offer support, advice, guidance, etc. when you need it.
Many times, courses, accelerators, and mastermind programs come with a built-in community which is a great way to get started if you don’t know where to find “your people.”
Within the group, identify a few individuals you connect and vow to stay in touch with, whether through the group or separate meetings. These individuals will be key for sharing ideas, brainstorming, collaborations, support, and helping you grow your network.
Outside of joining a group, I also recommend you focus on building your own community, whether that’s through your email list, a social media channel, or whatever makes sense for your business.
Having your own community/following is a valuable asset that’s not only great for staying in touch with like-minded individuals, it can also become a revenue source if you decide to sell products, services, etc., to your list or following.
Tip #4: Make time for your own business
As a business owner, it’s incredibly easy to get “stuck in the weeds” and to constantly find yourself working “in your business” instead of “on your business.”
When I first started out, I was so laser-focused on finding clients and making money that I could barely think beyond the week I was in, let alone the month, quarter, or year.
Looking back, I wish I had carved out more time to think about MY business instead of the businesses I was serving.
Luckily, I now structure my schedule so I have time every day to focus on different aspects of my business, from research and product development to marketing and beyond.
I also start each year with a clear plan for the next 12-24 months so I know exactly what goals I’m working toward, as well as when and how I’m going to achieve them.
For example, here are some of my business goals for the month of January 2022:
Every day, I look at my list of goals (broken out by the year, month, and week) and then create my daily schedule to ensure I’m always making progress.
Here’s an example of a typical daily schedule I would create for myself (I create a new one every night for the following day):
Structuring each day with specific time slots ensures I have time for every item on my goal list, while also factoring in personal time.
In addition to keeping your goals top of mind, this is a great way to keep a record of your progress so you know exactly what you’ve done and how far you have to go.
When you’re just starting out, there’s a tendency to go into “panic mode” and ignore everything else in pursuit of money, but if you can step back and carve out even just 1 hour per day to think about your own business, goals, and long-term vision, you will be in a better position down the road.
You can do this!
Even though I wish I had done certain things differently in my business, there’s one thing I would never change: becoming an entrepreneur.
Being a business owner is incredibly freeing and rewarding, and it’s an experience I would never trade for anything in the world.
If you can keep that passion and fire burning inside, you will do great things, even if you’re the only one who believes you can.
It’s been seven years since I was told “don’t start a business.” Imagine where I’d be if I had listened to them?
Wishing you all the best today and always!
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