I’ve been an entrepreneur for six months. A grain of sand, a sneeze basically, but I did it. I passed my first milestone.
If you’ve read my post on being a mompreneur, you already know that it hasn’t been just a simple journey. But how much I have learned!
Half a year running my own business does not make me a connoisseur, quite the contrary – it makes me humble and open to admit there is still so much to learn. There have been a lot of things that I first presumed would be self-evident, but it doesn’t really work that way.
I’m extremely proud that I took a leap of faith. It was a risky decision. A lot of people said brave, some chose to use less encouraging words. It was however my choice alone, my own dreams that I chose to follow. These past six months have been truly eyeopening and I want to share six valuable lessons I’ve learned.
Lesson 1: You are valuable
You are valuable in every single possible way. Something I remind myself of constantly. Your time, your effort, your wellbeing are important. Take care of yourself. Being an entrepreneur requires a lot of work – if you’re exhausted or overwhelmed, you’re wasting everyone’s time and you will not be seeing the results you’re hoping for. You are human, which means there are basic needs you need to tend to, i.e. sleep, eating, exercise and social relations. Though it might feel like there’s so much to do all the time, that you can’t stop, stop anyhow. Take a break.
We are living under the collective delusion, that in order to succeed we have to burnout along the way – Arianna Huffington
In the first phases of setting up a business the to-do list is never-ending. There will always be work that needs to be done, it won’t end even if you work around the clock. Prioritizing is key, but so is taking a break.
Lesson 2: Plan, prepare and follow through
When something is done in a haste, the end result is generally poor. Of course there are exceptions, but when we’re talking about running a business, fulfilling your own success story, then no. Plan well, prepare and follow through. Amending plans is a different story, that you’ll also have to do quite a bit, but I strongly recommend not to skip the planning phase. Map out your goals and to-do list, make schedules and ensure you have enough time to get things done.
Organizational skills are a must. You might get away with winging it once or twice, but trust me, it’s not worth it in the long run. No matter how big you grow your company, as the entrepreneur, you are responsible to your clients, yourself and your family to deliver on promises.
Lesson 3: Freedom is a two-way street
Being your own boss means freedom. Remember Eleanor Roosevelt’s legendary words “with freedom comes responsibility“? Well this. You’re free to set your schedules as you please, there’s no one monitoring when or how much you work. If you want an income however, you need to work. Freedom does not mean you can always come and go as you please, you still have responsibilities. Even if you’re not working for someone else, you are working for yourself. You do need to be proactive and efficient, set schedules and concentrate on your key business. With the freedom of being an entrepreneur you can head off to the gym in the middle of the day, pick up your kids early, or simply take the day off, but you can’t forget about the big picture and your responsibilities.
Lesson 4: Being an entrepreneur is not free
No matter how great a product or service you’re offering, chances are, it will cost you to get it on the market. There are material costs, production costs (yes I sew my products by myself, but my time also has financial value ;)), marketing costs, and a lot of mandatory fees you need to cover. And not to forget about normal life expenses – you know the living costs your steady income used to cover!
How well you need to be prepared financially before you become an entrepreneur depends completely on your situation and initial costs. In my case, my business is my family’s income. In Finland you can get a startup grant from the government for up to 12 months. It’s not a lot of money, but it is something, and I am very grateful to have been granted it. Not only has the startup grant meant additional financial support for me, receiving it also meant that someone else believes in my business too. A great reminder for those days when a confidence booster is needed.
Be prepared when you set up a business, it will cost you quite a bit of time, money, nerves, sleep [and coffee], but hopefully also one day pay you back.
Lesson 5: Network!
Working by yourself can get super lonely. No one to talk to during the day, brainstorming, questions that need answers.. Find yourself an entrepreneurial network. The world is full of like-minded entrepreneurs like yourself, and they’re actually a lot easier to come across than one would think. I joined Suomen Yrittäjät, i.e. the Federation of Finnish Enterprises very early on, because I acknowledged I would be needing support from fellow entrepreneurs. I’ve also been a part of Mothers In Business ” a nationwide network that supports educated and career-oriented mothers in balancing work and family ” for several years. In addition I belong to several other support groups on Facebook, that I can turn to, and have turned to, in several questions.
Not only can the members in your networks be very helpful in solving problems, they’re also there to support you. Feeling lost and need a hand? Reach out to your support network. Someone is always online. Instead of comparing yourself to or fearing a rivaling entrepreneur, remember, they’re in the same boat and they too have started from somewhere.
Lesson 6: Write it down
If you’re like me, with the memory of an elephant, you have nothing to worry about, right? Just keep it in your head, you’ll remember it. Or then not. Simply because there are so many things, ideas and dates you need to remember.
My mother once said “You really need a break, clear your head, you have so much going on right now.” To which I replied with a laugh, “Well, can’t clear my head now, at least not before I’ve written it all down.” Which is true. I have a good memory, even if I live a very full life and sleep a fair bit less than I would hope to. But, I do get system overload every now and then. Again, a human trait. So trust me on this one, write it down – preferably somewhere you can find it later.
I have a million journals lying around the house, which is not a perfect system. Sadly I’ve been for example guilty of writing down important dates on random pieces of paper never to be seen again. My memory to the rescue, but it is not a fool proof system, hence I try my best to keep things coordinated.
Invest in a good planner and several notebooks
- Focus on your agenda. Be it an online calendar, on your phone, or a physical notebook, use it. I have two calendars, which is not optimal, but it works for me – one on my phone and my beautiful beloved 17 month planner from Rifle Paper Co. I set alerts on my phone and share it with relevant people. My physical calendar is more for planning purposes, so I can see my entire week or month with one glance.
- Keep a notebook by your bedside. You know how you’re about to turn off the lights, or perhaps even have already, and you suddenly remember something? Grab a pen, jot it down and get on with your sleep. You’ll have it waiting for you in the morning, don’t have to think about it during the night. Or first thing when you wake up, you remember an epiphany or idea you had in your sleep? Write it down right away.
- A whisper of a thought can turn into a snowball. Sometimes the slightest smidgen of an idea can lead to huge things. It might be a color, a word, a song you heard on the radio, anything really. And sometimes those thoughts pass through your brain like a lighting bolt, forever forgotten unless you write it down right away. You never know where that teeny tiny thought could lead you. And if you’re an entrepreneur, my guess is you’re curious to find out.
Being an entrepreneur is a choice
Being an entrepreneur is a choice you make for yourself. It requires a special mindset, a need and want to succeed. A willingness to put in the extra hours and effort. It can be really scary to dive in, and even if you are well prepared, it’s still a completely new world. For me personally, it was first like quenching a thirst, but then I realized it turned into a hunger and now I can’t stop feeding the beast.
In all honesty, I am celebrating six months. The first six months are crucial in showing you if your idea will make or break a business. I’m extremely proud that my main product, the pocket scarves have got off to a good start, that they have kept my business viable. But it definitely does not stop there. Not even close. So here’s to another successful six months, full of learning, adapting and advancing in baby steps towards the future! x