In the second week of July, I celebrated one year of self-employment. I started out with barely any clients, a lot of fear and no business name. One year later, I have several clients, less fear and Cmd Tab as my business name. I took a few minutes to write down some things that I have learned in my first year of owning my own business.
Nobody knows what they are doing
I saw people walking around in suits and sitting in big corner offices like they knew all the answers. The truth is that nobody knows 100% what will work and what won’t. When you start to realize that it is very freeing and allows you to approach your work with more confidence.
Who you know is essential
Every single new client I’ve gotten was through someone I knew. My marketing strategy is to do the best work I can for the clients I have and that will hopefully turn into recommendations to others. I think people like traditional advertising because they feel like they have more control, but don’t fall for that.
Make your client’s life easier
If you or the client has a great idea, but the workload to maintain it is not sustainable for the client then it’ll never work.
“I need it yesterday” is a red flag
Make sure you double your price if this is the answer to a question about timing. Every time I heard this, it signaled a poor working relationship.
Don’t compromise on price
If you take on a job for less money, you still have to put the same amount of effort as a full price job. If your work sucks, you don’t get more work. This is a really hard decision when you need to pay the bills, but stick with it. I still don’t have pricing completely figured out, but I’m learning to charge for what my work is worth to the client.
Partner with other companies at first
I have been extremely lucky to partner with three, more established small companies. This has allowed me to have more predictable income and get referral work when a project isn’t a good fit for them. It also is a great way to get advice about running your own business.
Projects take longer to start than you expect
Don’t count on a project starting soon after your initial discussion. Almost every project I have had has taken a lot longer to kick off than expected, often by several months. Plan your revenue and project schedules accordingly.
Don’t be afraid of something you don’t know how to do
Assuming you know it is conceptually possible, you can always figure it out yourself or pay someone who does know how. Just include that unknown factor in your price.
Spend money but wisely
I purchased the more expensive laptop. I waited months to purchase a good office chair until my back started hurting. I was reluctant on both decisions but I’ve never regretted either.
You are more productive alone
I was amazed at how much faster I was able to get stuff done. You don’t realize how much time is spent with unnecessary meetings and people stopping by your cubicle/office.
Don’t be scared
I was thinking back to all of the hesitations and nervousness I had in leaving a steady job for the unknown. Where would the clients come from? Will there be enough money each month? What if I failed? These are all good questions to ask, but you’ll never be truly motivated to figure it out until you make the leap. I look back on them now and realize it was much easier than I had built it up to be in my head.