There’s a vague misconception running wildly about that owning your own business is the gateway to freedom. In an unintentional experiment, my wife Kirsten and I took this idea on head-on last year and found it to be a bit lacking in the truth department. While there are some awesome benefits and you don’t answer to The Man™, it’s easy to become a slave to your work and forget that there’s life outside of your deskspace. In running Designs by Kirsten Renae, my wife and I have discovered through 8 months and countless hours of perilously hard work (and fantastically good times) some wisdom that has made running our business much more rewarding and fulfilling.
1) Avoid over-preparation
Much like those wanting to become parents, it’s easy to keep telling yourself “I’m not ready.” The truth of the matter in both instances is that you’ll never be completely ready. Figure out the basics of what you need to get started in a comfortable workspace and jump in. Beyond getting you into the game faster, avoiding the temptation to overprepare can also ensure that your business gets into the black faster and that you’ll recover more quickly in the event your business fails. For a proven approach with a similar methodology, check out The Lean Startup.
2) Bear in mind the work-load
Running a business is a lot more work than one may think. For us, there were aspects of it (especially on the administrative side) that we hadn’t considered. This will vary between types of businesses, but having an idea of how different aspects of your business will work and having a plan in mind for it is crucial. Explore how similar businesses are run and if you can, ask the people that have started and run those businesses their planning and startup process. Once you figure that out, delegate where you can (if you can) and try not to kill yourself.
As an addendum here, find creative ways to make your work-life more fun. Your sanity will thank you.
3) Develop a routine and stick to it
Directly related to the work-load, make sure you institute a schedule for yourself early on. It’s important to give yourself breaks and to make time for family. Without some sort of time management, it’s easy to become lost in what you’re doing and realize hours later that you didn’t factor in time for household needs. Plan for this accordingly, as some people will need a loose schedule and others will need one that’s tightly regimented. An excellent app for this (at least for iOS) is fittingly titled Daily Routine. If you have an iPhone and/or iPad, I’d highly recommend giving it a try.
4) Avoid getting stuck
When you’re a small business, it’s important to be able to improvise and be fluid. If a product isn’t faring well, be ready to reimagine it or stop selling it. As an example, while we started with coats, we transitioned that idea to sun dresses because of the local climate. Since then, we’ve moved to yoga pants and shirts, accessories, and stuffed animals. A lot of the designs have done well, but some didn’t and weren’t continued. The basic rule here is learn what your clientelle likes and adapt. Also, be open to get an outsider’s opinion on your product and business methodology from someone you know and trust. There’s also some great advice on Entrepreneur, Buffer and Inc.com for adapting your business and line of thought.
5) *Always* remember how valuable you, your time, and your product are
What you’re selling is a product of your time, and your time is money. Remember that. When someone asks for a discount, make sure to carefully consider how much time went into that item. Obviously, you can make exceptions with proper judgment, but refrain from doing it to the detriment of your business’s bottom line. This will not only vary greatly based on production time and material cost, but also on your markup percentage. If you are barely paying yourself minimum wage, discounts should rarely be a consideration. However, if your markup is considerably higher than your time+materials+salary formula, you will have much more wiggle room to negotiate.
Similarly, remember that your time is a precious commodity and it’s important to spend it carefully. Overly negative or critical people can be toxic to your outlook and subsequently your business, while chatting excessively with gabby people can keep one from what needs to be done. Ensure that your time is being spent to lift up yourself, your business, and others; pessimism and negativity is dead weight.
It’s our hope that this is helpful to someone. Everyone’s situation is going to be different, but overall it’s important to just go and give it a shot. If you’re looking for more business start-up advice, check out these articles: