10 Lessons Learned In My First Year of Business

Lessons Learned - August 18So that title may or may not be correct, depending on how you look at it… because maybe this has been my first year in business, maybe not. It’s definitely not my first year of entrepreneurship. Here’s a little timeline to set the stage:

In 2007 I wrote a full business plan for an AMAZING business but realized that I wanted more location independence and scraped it.

In 2012 I dabbled in marketing consulting for businesses that were not the right fit.

In 2013 I did business plan + branding + website + B-School for a pretty awesome business but realized after 5 months struggling to make it happen that my heart just wasn’t in it.

For the remainder of 2013 and a good chunk of 2014 I did the mommy blogger thing with some freelancing sprinkled in.

Which led me to my business as it is now: In the summer of 2014 I started offering content strategy and writing coaching services.

And everything clicked.

So here’s what I’ve learned from all those weird-wondering-wandering years and this past fabulously focused year:

1. It’s more important to start than to get it all perfect.

Yes, branding and a beautiful website are important but don’t let selecting the perfect colours or tagline keep you from landing that first client. It could also save you a lot of time and money if the business is actually not your next-best-thing. When I finally got going in this business I had an awful website, built around 1 single head shot and grew things from there. Go land clients, don’t let your branding/website/offerings/onboarding process/opt-in stop you from this fundamental business activity and opportunity to test the waters before you fully dive in.

2. You can’t just sit behind your computer waiting for clients to come to you.

The perfect Facebook post (or even blog post for that matter) isn’t going to have them knocking down your door. If you want clients go get them. Reach out, call, email, follow up. Go to an event where you’ll see them. Talk to them. If you’re not willing to do this you straight-up shouldn’t be in business. I learned this the hard way, though thankfully fairly quickly.

3. Listen.

Listen to the people you wish were your clients. Pay attention to the words they use, the problems they have, the questions they ask. This is why I started my Write Joyfully workshop. I saw potential clients online complaining that they struggle to find the time to write their blog posts. Bingo. Workshop offered. Workshop filled. Month after month.

4. Forget passive income.

(At least in the beginning.) Get clients. Work with them. Teach, coach, consult or do whatever you do with 1:1 clients and grow from there. And understand, those who are really rocking passive income are investing THOUSANDS of dollars into ads and affiliates. If you’re ready for that investment, go for it. Otherwise, get yourself some 1:1 clients and make the money you need to pay your bills. There’s no secret recipe for business success online, it works like every other business: it’s a marathon not a sprint.

5. Be ruthless.

Fire the coach who doesn’t get you. Stop going to the networking meeting that doesn’t serve you. Don’t take on the client that you know is going to drain you, leaving you depleted and broke. I’ve called halt to each of these things at various times this year and each instance brought me into greater alignment with my purpose and the business of my dreams. Be ruthless. It gives you more space, energy and time to do what you’re meant to do.

6. Be a minimalist.

Don’t jump on every bandwagon. You may not need to podcast, or guest post, or run Facebook ads. Scrap offers that don’t light you up. Forget about the social media account that bores the shit out of you. Know what you need to do to make your business work and let everyone else do everything else. Last year I thought my business would surely fail if I didn’t start a podcast because EVERYONE was starting a podcast. But clearly, that didn’t happen. I chose to focus on my writing instead and I’m still here.

7. Take smart risks.

Yep, it’s scary to see the debt build up. It’s scary to put more of your revenue toward business development than your own personal finances. It’s scary as hell. I know. I really really know. But it’s how you grow. It’s how you move from a piddly little side business to something that can support you (and pay off all that debt). That said, make sure you’re making money while you’re investing. Make sure you’re working a proven business model before you go crazy taking every program that speaks to you. There is a balance you need to find here but don’t expect to grow your business without investing in it.

8. Honour your energy.

Get enough sleep. Eat well. Meditate. Exercise. Be kind to yourself. Building a business takes a lot out of you. You need to take care of yourself if you’re going to do it successfully. When I made this shift in my life, my business instantly became stronger, more sustainable. I started feeling more like a professional instead of like a hamster on a wheel. All the greats take care of themselves. This is a non-negotiable.

9. Build relationships with other business owners, the right business owners.

Smart business owners. Kind business owners. Both online AND in real life. Business owners who will support you when you’re having a rotten day and on the other days push you, hold you accountable and help you grow. The right people in your corner will make all the difference. The wrong people will too. Choose wisely.

10. Do the work.

DO THE FUCKING WORK. When life gets hard, do the work. When your gremlins creep in, do the work. When everything comes crashing down, take deep breaths, refocus and do the work. If you’re too scared/worried/overwhelmed/confused and feel paralyzed, hire a great coach. And then do the work. Everyday. Every week. Repeat.

I could go on with this list. Building a business is the most educational activity I have ever engaged in (and I have 7+ years of post-secondary education to compare that to). I have learned more about relationships, finances and systems than I ever thought possible in such a short time. I have learned marketing, sales and WordPress development, much more than I did in any course I ever took at college.

But more than anything, I have learned about myself. I have learned that I am stronger and more resilient than I had ever thought. I found the (almost) unwavering confidence that lives deep in my soul when I have the courage to tap into it. I realized the power of following my dreams, how it makes me feel like my best self and capable of overcoming any challenge in my way.

Let me assure you though, all this learning hasn’t come from an easy ride. This confidence hasn’t grown because everything went right. It has come from struggle balanced with determination. Hard work balanced with ease. Tears balanced with spontaneous dance parties in my living room.

It has come from commitment, passion and a firm believe in the value of my service.

And a whole lot of heart.

xo parrish

13 Comments

  1. This post could not have come at a better time. I feel #10 I have down pat. But, need to hone in on the others…especially #8. I’m so glad you also touched upon being ‘ruthless’, even though at first, that subtitle scared me. (lol) Letting go of things/people that AREN’T bringing you support is important…having a bleeding heart will only drain you, and your wallet. Thanks for the reminder, and for sharing this experience. It’s definitely a list I will reference again and again.

    • parrish

      I love that you appreciated this so much Lysa. The thing I’ve found hardest about being ruthless is that it’s totally individual. Your business BFF could love the networking group you hate… your mentor might rave about the coach you don’t click with. It can be hard with a lot of other (good & trustworthy) voices to figure out what’s truly best for you but that’s the key to this. Your internal compass must lead you.

  2. Every single on of these feels so intuitive to me. I just love this list! Thanks for the insights – it helps us beginners 🙂 And the “permission” your story gives to bagging it if we need to and recalibrating the compass towards our hearts deepest desires is just lovely.

    • parrish

      #4 seems to be a winner for many. But so sad how many new business owners have that in there early plan (as I myself once did). And ya… LinkedIn, Google+ and Pinterest for me.

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