I have been running my own blog and working in social media for almost five years now- which in the new media industry is an eternity. From starting my frugality blog and then later, my own social media consulting business, I made many mistakes along the way, out of fear or due to the fact that I was completely broke and didn’t know how to properly invest my time and limited resources.
When I started, I was earning about $800 to live off of as a graduate student in Chicago. I began blogging with no photography skills and won a camera in a writing contest sponsored by Clorox (I kid you not), and to learn how to use it, I scrappily had to use the net or the library by my house. I was broke, but I was also very, very stubborn and fiercely independent- which kept me going, but it usually meant I carried the burden of starting a business by myself. Now, I earn full-time income (which is only growing), from my blog and social media business, and I hope you can do the same, so learn from my fails and sidestep my mistakes!
Here are the basic lessons I’ve learned in my years of being an entrepreneur:
1. Don’t be afraid to ask for help
Most of us are so scared to ask for help, worried that we’ll seem incompetent or needy. But everyone who’s successful was once a beginner and they probably got help from someone else. My business would be nowhere without the help of others who’ve done it before.
Most people realize that the better the industry does as a whole, the more work there’ll be for everyone. There’s little backstabbing and catfighting in the world of entrepreneurs. If you’re grateful and offer to help out the person, most people will be glad to answer your questions.
2. Don’t be afraid to spend money
When you’re growing your business, it can be really hard to justify increasing your expenses. If you’re barely making any money – let alone a profit – then it can be doubly hard to sign a check to a graphic designer or marketing consultant. But once you do start seeing positive growth, spend that money on your business.
Money makes businesses grow, if done well. If you choose to spend money on teaching yourself about your industry, hiring a coach who can act as a mentor and finding ways to save time, then you’ll have more energy for the most difficult parts of being your own boss. Being afraid of spending money is almost a guarantee that your business won’t make it. If you don’t believe enough in your mission to put your dollars where your mouth is, then how will you be able to convince someone else?
3. Fear is a killer
It doesn’t matter what kind of personality type you have, the biggest detriment to growing your business is fear. People can sense confidence and fear easily. If you’re scared of promoting yourself or networking, then how can you expect to gain clients? You have to be confident in what you’re doing to convince other people to listen to you. When there’s a million voices in the room, only the loudest are heard.
Sometimes the excitement of your business can drive any fear right of you. Other times, you can be afraid to leave your day job and tell your family and friends what you’re trying to do. People will always try to knock you down, but if you show them your fear, then you’re making it too easy.
4. Have a safety net
A friend of mine recently asked me how I was able to grow my business without the safety net of a full-time job. I told her I had an emergency fund with six month’s worth of expenses. If you’re going to go out on your own, you need to make sure that you won’t be homeless if anything goes wrong.
By the way, a line of credit does not count as an emergency fund. Neither does your IRA. An emergency fund is cash in the bank that’s only purpose is to bail you out in case anything happens. Once you have that you, you can start to think about going to work for yourself full-time. Make sure to be fully funded before you quit. If you have a mortgage or a family, you might even need a year’s worth of expenses to make it happen.
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