In 2014 I graduated from the University for Creative Arts (UCA Epsom) with a degree in Fashion Promotion and Imaging and a final major project that people seemed to like but with zero idea on how to run a business. After deciding to give my personalised stationery brand a ‘proper’ go, I enrolled in some free courses at the local college to understand finances and ‘the legal stuff’ a bit better, followed some online tutorials and followed some fellow small business owners online.
Over the 5 and half years that followed, but especially at the beginning, Google became my best friend, there was so much over that time that I had to make up or work out as I went along.
When you decide to launch your own business, nobody hands you a how to guide, with a step by step process for making it a success. I thought I’d put together a list of some top things I’d wish I had known when I first started my first business.
Watch the pennies
From. Day. One.
Don’t leave it for a bit, avoid the topic because you don’t feel confident or tell yourself ‘I’ll start tomorrow’. Get your head around the numbers the earliest you can.
Not started yet? Do it now.
Keeping track of your pricing, expenses, receipts, profit and loss and cash flow are invaluable non-negotiable tasks for any business owner as is making sure you’re putting aside money for your annual tax return. I know it can feel scary or like a bit of a minefield, I've spoken to plenty of people who have been put off self employment by the financials alone.
Not sure where to start and feeling overwhelmed? You’re not the only one! There are some fantastic tools out there, these two blog posts by Richard Dodridge Accounting on Starting A Business Checklist and Accounting & Tax Terminology for Small Businesses are especially useful, as is the GOV website.
Keep track of all those small extras you’re spending money on, online communities, app subscriptions and members only groups all cost money and add up quickly. Make sure you’re only spending on the ones you really need and use.
Waiting for ‘perfect’
I’m here to tell you now, if you ‘wait for perfect’ to launch your website, first product or Instagram account, you’ll be waiting forever. You could spend a lifetime, tweaking or changing things. Sometimes, when you know you’ve done your best and you’ve worked hard on something, the next step is to just do it. Press launch. You can adapt as you grow, alter as you learn… none of which would be possible without pressing launch. Go for it.
Nobody knows what they’re doing
I made the mistake of thinking (for years) that everyone else really had their sh*t together. Everyone seemed to be unwavering in their decisions and so totally confident in their business, whereas I often felt like I doubted myself and would wonder if I had done the right things. It was only after joining a co-working accelerator hub, that I realised NOBODY. KNOWS. WHAT. THEY’RE. DOING. Everyone doubts themselves at some point or feels out of their depth. This is normal.
Don’t be afraid to do something on the side
I often felt the pressure of making my business work 100%, from day 1. I didn’t even consider having a side job or working part time elsewhere. Instead, I piled on the pressure and made my start-up first business my only income. If you can do this, great! If, however, by doing this you’re going to worry every month that you can’t pay rent or have sleepless nights about how you’re going to pay your invoices… don’t do it. If you need that part-time job or side hustle to make your idea work, do it. You might want this to change one day… you might not. Ultimately you’ve got to create the business which works for you, which leads me to...
Build a business that fits the life you want
I remember the day I had the lightbulb moment of realising I could build a business which fitted the lifestyle I wanted, rather than be a slave to. I was tuning in to Jen Carrington & Sara Tasker’s podcast - Letters From a Hopeful Creative - as I walked down a local canal. Jen had built a business with her life at the centre of it, not the other way around. Safe to say this blew my mind... I don't know why I had never thought about it this way before.
With my first business I had created a brand and subsequently a life that I could not sustain or ultimately made me happy, it wasn’t what I wanted. I wish I had known it was okay to build the business around how I wanted to work.
Do you want to work evenings and weekends? Do you want customers to have access to you 24/7, on demand? Do you want to feel like you have to post on social media every day?
Building your business to fit the life you want, is okay, in fact, it’s really blimen’ great.
This is supposed to be fun
NEWS FLASH! Launching and running your dream business is supposed to be fun. Maybe you’ve always wanted to be self employed or perhaps you’ve been waiting for the chance to make your idea a reality, enjoy it! Of course, it comes with stresses and worries but don’t forget to enjoy yourself and the process.
I’d love to know if there is anything you’d wished you had known before starting? Even a couple months into running your business, you could have a list as long as your arm!
Has this helped identify some areas you’d like more help or support in or would you like to chat through your specific circumstances further? Pop me a message or check out my services page, I would love to help!