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Back in 2011, my husband and I were at a crossroad. He had recently moved to Lynchburg to be with me and found himself in need of a new job. As of November 4th, 2011, we were small business owners. However, we were not remotely prepared for this new title. He had a film background and my experience came from theatre.
Together, we managed to generate six figures in 12 months, but it wasn’t without a lot of mistakes along the way. If you’re contemplating going into business for yourself, here are five things to keep in mind before you take the plunge.
1. Get Down to Business
Artists spend most of their time doing business, not art. We thought that by launching a video production company, we would be able to be creatively stimulated while making a living. While that may have been true on occasion, we spent a significant amount of our time doing office work.
If that isn’t your forte, be sure to hire an employee or find a partner who loves a good spreadsheet to help you out.
2. Listen to Your Customers
You may have spent hours coming up with a brilliant business concept, but remember “business is what people are willing to pay you for.” If you make up in your mind that you want to be a professional cake maker but everyone seems to want cupcakes…evolve. You must be willing to evolve or your business will die. Listen to your customers and revise your business plan often.
3. You Won’t Have Enough Money
One of the biggest reasons startups fail is insufficient startup capital. If you’ve been an employee all your life, it’s likely you will underestimate the amount of money it will take to get off the ground. I would say define your budget and then add 25%. It may sound crazy, but incidentals add up — and if you’ve budgeted buffer room, you will be way more likely to succeed.
4. Prepare to Be Exhausted
I love people, but they drain me. Networking is an effective way to get your name out, but it requires you to interact with large amounts of people in a charismatic way to be memorable. If you happen to be introverted like me, just know that it will tire you out quickly. Schedule daily quiet time to help you recharge so you don’t burn out.
5. Define Your Brand…
Before the world defines you. It’s vital for the growth of your message that you control word of mouth. You need to be the one who sets the tone and defines your brand instead of letting the world make assumptions.
Take the time to cultivate your branding in the early days so that when people do speak about your business, they’re passing on the words you’d like for them to say. When you equip your customers to properly refer you then the money truly starts rolling in.
LaShonda is a serial entrepreneur & marketing strategist from VA. Her company, About 90 Marketing, helps business owners eliminate the shotgun approach by building roadmaps for their marketing. LaShonda also hosts a weekly Twitter chat called #About90Chat Thursdays at 9 PM EST.