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I’m shocked that I’ve been running a full-fledged business for almost four years. While I’ve been side hustling since early 2015, I went full-time in my business in late 2016. While I love my business and everything I’ve been able to do and accomplish, there have been some business lessons that I’ve learned and want to share.
These business lessons aren’t to discourage you from starting a business. In fact, I’m a big advocate on having multiple streams of income, whether you work on your business full-time or not. However, I don’t want you to fall into the same traps I have, so I’m sharing these lessons in hopes that you can do better than I did when I first started. Let’s go!
Running A Business Takes Hard Work
I mean, obviously, right? But I don’t think people REALLY understand how hard it is to run a business until they do it themselves. Everyone thinks they can be a business owner and entrepreneur, but if it was easy, everyone would be.
It’s kind of like being a parent. Before you have kids, you say what you would and wouldn’t do. You say you’ll be the best parent ever, and you judge people for doing things that you would never dream of doing. And then you actually have a child, and all of those judgments you made go straight out the window.
And then, you’re doing things you said you’d never do, and not doing things you said you would. It doesn’t make you a bad parent, it makes you human. And parenting, just like running a business, is hard freaking work.
If you haven’t started a business yet, the best thing you can do is prepare yourself for the things that will inevitably go wrong. And also, prepare yourself for a lot of research, a few sleepless nights, some frustration, and a ton of patience. Because this stuff is hard, and only the dedicated make it long-term.
You Need To Be Extremely Organized
Luckily for me, I was pretty organized when I first started my business. However, running a business is a whole different level of organization.
For example, I was audited in 2019 for my taxes from 2016. Had I not kept all of my paperwork, 1099s, and more, I most likely would have been SOL. But after hearing horror stories of business owners being audited and not having the proper paperwork, I made sure to always keep my papers with me. Honestly, they say keep tax papers for 10 years, but I plan on keeping them a lot longer. Like, forever.
You also have to be super organized in your administrative work. I keep everything in my Google Drive, and I mean everything. I keep so much that I have to pay for storage. But I’m so thankful that I keep everything, and organize it into the proper folders, because I’ve never needed something and not had it. I can just do a quick search and bam, there’s that one idea that I had back in 2017 that I’m finally ready to implement.
If you find yourself constantly losing papers, having thousands of notebooks of ideas, and not keeping track of your financials, being a business owner may not be in the cards right now. You have to be diligent on keeping yourself, and your business, organized.
Offering Products & Services Is The Way To Go
This is one of those business lessons that I had to learn the hard way. Let’s be honest, the government, the economy, and people are fickle. One day you’re in and the next day you’re out. Businesses close all of the time because they can’t adapt to the changes. And I was almost one of those businesses.
When I first started my business, I was service-based only. I started off as a virtual assistant and was working with lower-paying clients (a lot of them), to make my coins. And then, I started getting exhausted because I felt like I was working so much, and not really seeing the fruits of my labor.
And then, the universe showed me that I couldn’t keep working the way I was. All of a sudden, I found myself having to “fire” clients because they weren’t paying on time, weren’t keeping their ends of our contracts, or were totally crossing boundaries that I had set (like calling me at 12 am and expecting me to answer).
But, letting go of those clients really put a dent in my income. In fact, I lost about 30% of my income just because I made the decision to stop letting people walk all over me.
And that’s when I realized I needed multiple streams of income. I needed to offer services and products. I needed to make both active and passive income. Now, I had no problem working hard, but I wanted that hard work to turn into something more than just me working like a slave.
Now, my income is split pretty evenly between products and services. I actually make more money from my products, because I have multiple, whereas I only offer two main services. However, if one takes a turn for the worse, I always have another to fall back on.
There Will Be Dry Spells
There will be days where you don’t get paid at all. Those days where you’re getting paid will be rare. It’s not that you’re not worthy of being paid, or that you’re not offering something essential. It just means people don’t know you yet and aren’t willing to spend their hard-earned dollars on someone they don’t know.
In my first month as an online business, I made less than $100. Had I let that discourage me, I wouldn’t be making $10k+ a month right now. Even these days, I’ll notice a dip in income during slow seasons or during times where my marketing game isn’t on point.
I’ll go from $12k to $7k. Does that scare me? It used to, but not anymore. A dip in income is completely normal. As long as I can ride the wave and have some money saved up for times like this, I’m good to go.
It’s important to know that when you own your own business, money isn’t guaranteed. But, if you stick with it, those days where you don’t earn anything will become rare.
The Sooner You Start Something, The Better
There were so many ideas that I had that I sat on for years because of my own doubts. Would I fail? Would people think I was money hungry? To top it off, I was a perfectionist that thought everything had to be just right in order for me to launch something.
Boy was I stupid. This is one of the hardest business lessons I’ve had to learn as someone who is Type-A and a control freak. Here’s the thing… there are people with less talent and less drive than you, making more money and becoming more successful than you. Want to know why?
They aren’t letting their feelings and emotions get in the way of their money. These business owners aren’t letting “what if” determine if they launch a product or not. They aren’t scared to take the leap into the unknown.
And if you truly want to be successful in business and scale to make more money, you have to think the same exact way. The sooner you start something, the better. Even if it fails at first, you can use that data to tweak and make it better. You can fix it and keep pushing forward. But if you never launch? You’ll never know if that idea could have been a major success.
And I’ll be honest, since learning that lesson, I’ve launched quite a few things. Were they all successful? Absolutely not. But, the successes I have had have made me thousands of dollars. Well worth just doing the damn thing and launching, fear and all.
Burnout Is Real & Happens Often (If You Let It)
I’ve burnt out quite a bit in my four years of running my business. And one burnout spell was so bad that I thought about quitting altogether. It wasn’t that I didn’t love my business. I was just so tired. I was uninspired, exhausted, and overworked.
So what did I do? I took a break. I guess that’s a huge benefit to being your own boss. Did I lose income? You betcha. But, I gained clarity and was able to focus on ME. I was able to step back and say “Okay, what do I really want to do? What do I really want to accomplish with this whole thing?”.
And, I got professional help. Because I realized I couldn’t keep experiencing burnout. It wasn’t healthy, and as someone who suffers from anxiety and depression, it wasn’t worth it.
Taking those steps changed my life. And I’m happy to report that I’ve had great success in managing my time and stress, and never plan on burning out again. Don’t let this be one of those business lessons that you learn the hard way, like me.
Education Is Key
Do you know the phrase “It takes money to make money”? It’s true. Now, I’m not saying get yourself in debt. In fact, I run a debt-free business and highly encourage that you do the same. Don’t get yourself in a position that you may not be able to get yourself out of.
However, sometimes, it’s important to pay people for the knowledge and resources they provide to you. I’ve paid for coaches, consultants, products, and more that have helped me do certain things in my business.
For example, when I wanted to learn how to create certain products, I bought a course on creating ebooks, workbooks, and more. When I wanted to learn how to set up systems and organize my business in order to scale it, I paid for a consultation with a project manager. I invest heavily in my business education, and every single time, those investments have made me 2-3x more money than I would have made otherwise.
Now, I will say that if you invest in your business, be sure to check out the person you’re investing in. Do they have testimonials? Are they really who they say they are? What do they offer? Does anyone have anything negative to say about them? If you’re going to spend your hard-earned cash, it needs to be on someone or something that will REALLY help you.
I won’t get too deep into this, but just know that when you become a business owner, there will be haters. And sometimes, those haters will be the people you thought you were the closest too. And you know what? Fuck them. You’re doing this for you, no one else. And you don’t need anyone’s approval to be a great business owner.
There will also be trolls. People who are miserable with their little lives so they feel the need to try to bring you down. I’ve dealt with both haters and trolls, and I treat them all the same way. I block them, shake it off, and go about my business. I’ve always had thick skin, but it’s gotten thicker since I’ve been in business.
Remember, NO ONE gets to decide what you do with your life, with your business, and how you run things. Don’t allow haters and trolls to dictate what you do. I guarantee that if you do, you’ll regret it.
The Freedom Is Worth Everything
My favorite business lesson that I’ve learned is that even with all of the cons and issues I’ve faced, the freedom of working for myself is worth it all. I could never go back to a full-time job. It’s not worth the stress, lack of benefits, and everything else (like having to actually get dressed). I love being my own boss, and I’m pretty damn good at it.
Now, this is not to say that everyone needs to be an entrepreneur. In fact, I know plenty of people that love their full-time jobs, and I’m happy for them! However, after doing this for almost four years, I can’t imagine doing anything else. So I take the bad with the good, learn my lessons, and keep it moving.
Wrap Up: Business Lessons I’ve Learned
So there you have it, nine business lessons that I’ve learned my last four years in business. These business lessons have made me into who I am today, and I don’t regret a single one of them. However, if I can encourage someone else to learn these faster than I did, or avoid them altogether, then I’ve done my job as an “influencer” (I hate that word, but it is what it is).
Business lessons don’t always have to be a bad thing. In fact, some of them are amazing and will inspire you to go even farther than you ever have. So good luck, and happy business owning.