Running A Business – What I Wish I’d Known

I have now been running my business officially for fourteen months. In many ways things have gone well. But I didn’t read much of the advice you normally get on the internet. I went to a lot of business workshops and got an accountant. I knew what I wanted and I stuck to my guns.

Was this the best move? Well mostly yes. But hindsight is a beautiful thing and there are probably one or two aspects I would have done differently had I been in a different state of mind.

A year on and reaching my first milestone it was time to re-evaluate a few things. Knowing what I now know I’ve been able to use the advice I’ve found on the internet much more effectively with a good business minded approach and understanding the process first hand.

A few setbacks very early on in my start up meant I wasn’t as effective or as resilient as I should have been in the early days but I’ve finally come through it and I’m going back to square one to adjust a few things.

There are some brilliant advice pages out there. Forbes ‘How To Make Money With No Job‘ is sensible and realistic and easy to understand. I recommend it.

One year on, what advice would I give to a newbie enterpreneur? Well here are a few words of wisdom:

Have another income

I was lucky enough to be able to put aside some serious financial back up. Even now it still provides me with a much needed financial lifeline when things are tight. Because the reality is that running your own business means a very unpredictable income.  I was quick to recognise that during the recession no bank was going to invest in me. Equally I didn’t want debt of any sort. Because keeping your outgoings to a minimum early on is very important.

If you don’t have money stashed away for a rainy day you will need a second income. So if you have a job, don’t give it up just get. If you need time to run your business that demands more than evenings or weekends or you have other responsibilities consider getting a part time job. I left Uni and went straight into business. I had no job to keep and I was so busy in that first six months I wouldn’t have had the time to work anyway. But the 2013 financial year has been quieter and I have been able to take on short term full time work and long term part time contracts in admin and via websites like People Per Hour (a site worth keeping an eye on) which are helping to balance the books, fill time, get me out and about and motivate me more. Because sometimes the more you sit around waiting for the phone to ring, the more you sit around. It’s a state of mind you don’t want to get stuck in because it’s corrosive to your enthusiasm and your ability to do the job. And that takes me on to point 2.

Where are you going to work?

Working from home, to your own hours, may sound like a dream come true, but it will also destroy your social life. So be aware that if you are working at home and unable to factor social time into you budget you may start to forget what the outside world looks like. Consider getting a separate work space that gives you a daily commute and gets you out of the house. Time out from your work environment will inspire you. I worked from home for the first three months after I started my business. It was also immediately after I finished my degree. They were the loneliest and most miserable months and it kills your creativity and enthusiasm for work. If you are still holding down a job this won’t be a problem but bear it in mind if you’re planning to go alone it from the outset.

Don’t mix business and pleasure

Friends will undoubtedly ask for your services. But you have to treat them like a client. Don’t give out freebies (I have seen businesses go under because of this) and treat them with the same respect you would any other customer.

Never under estimate the power of the internet

Social media will be your best friend. It is free, everywhere and totally at your control. Get a strong internet presence and it will do a lot of the hard graft advertising for you. Set up business pages, do not use your personal accounts for your business. Be professional! Get a Linkedin account, get Twitter, get a Facebook business page. Become knowledgeable about your industry and get a blog – preferably on one of the professional platforms like WordPress. Put yourself on Google maps and climb the Google rankings. If you can get yourself on the first two pages, you’re doing well. Set up a website if you must, a free one to start, that is simple yet professional, and get a logo that will give you identity. Use your contacts and swap skills if you’re short of money. These early set ups will pay dividends if you use them.

Don’t invest in expensive equipment

Unless you are starting at point one, don’t buy or upgrade unnecessarily. If, like me, you already have the basics and if they are doing the job, keep using them. Early investments, when you’re not even sure how long your enthusiasm for your business might hold, are risky. It’s the same with taking out leases on office space. Start small and flexible until you are sure you are doing the right thing and you are certain of your direction.

Your ideas and ideals will quickly change as you start to live the reality of running your own business. And it’s surprising how fast your plan can change. But bending with the rules is important. Because you may have to go where the work is rather than making people want what you have to offer. Being open minded as a boss is very important and can take you to greater things and in directions you could never have dreamed. You are your company. Treat it like a treasured possession and help it grow.

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