Hey guys! Let's talk business.
Since starting The Misses Ambitious Podcast, I've discovered just how valuable it is to share what I've learned from the various struggles I've experienced in starting a small business. Yes, I'm a lettering artist, but I spend most of my time wearing the 'business owner' hat, and trying my darndest to keep this ship running smoothly. However, you've got to hop on board the ship before you can ever leave the pier, and sometimes (most of the time) that's the hardest part!
In Episode #3: Making A Splash, my co-host, Blaine, and I discussed the first steps we took in getting our businesses from lovely, exciting thoughts in our head, to full-fledged-oh-this-is-real-status. In talking with our listeners and some friends of mine in a Facebook Group, I've noticed the hardest step in any hobbyist-turned-business-owner's journey is this: the step where you start taking yourself and your work seriously, and begin to treat it like a business. And something else we discovered? It all boils down to mindset!
Further discussion led us to share what we each had to do to overcome that initial struggle, and take the first step (or, make the splash) into our business, in order to put our best foot forward. For some, it's a financial investment or a sacrifice of time; sometime's it's as simple as ordering business cards. No matter what, if you're having trouble figuring out what your first move should be, or how you're going to finally muster the courage to dip your toe in the small biz pool, here are some (fairly) simple first steps you can take to get your head and heart in the right place, and cause that mindset shift that can put your business on an upward trajectory.
Taking yourself seriously is the best, most important first step.
It might seem crazy to say this, because I bet you think you are taking yourself seriously. At least I thought I was. But, I didn't have a separate business bank account for the longest time. I knew I needed one, but for some reason, I just couldn't pull the trigger!
It wasn't until a chat with my CPA, when she urged me to run out that very afternoon and start a new account, that I knew there was no more putting it off. It had to be done!
Don't worry--you don't have to have an actual 'business' checking account. You can start a second personal account and only use it for business transactions. As long as you are separating your personal spending from your business spending, you're loving on yourself (and your business) by creating a mindset of healthy business practices, and keeping it VERY professional--especially when your first tax season comes a-knocking...and it will. It took me entirely way too long to make this move. If only I had done it sooner! If you want to get off on your best foot, I highly suggest opening an account for the sole purpose of keeping track of your business expenses. Also, when you begin getting paid, you'll have a clear look at how much you are bring in vs. spending per hour/day/week/month, and can more easily plan for how to increase your income or decrease your cost of business, if needed.
Sometimes, all it takes is ordering business cards.
In Episode #3, Blaine talked about how ordering business cards affected how she thought of herself in her mind...there's that mindset shift again! The second she had to put her business name and offerings on a business card, she was officially, officially making that decision to be seen as the sole representative of her business, and to offer the services listed on her card. Once the cards arrived at her doorstep, and she was able to hold them in her hands, she felt such a sense of pride and excitement and motivation for her new endeavor. She couldn't wait to network and connect with others in her industry, hand those cards out, and get to work. Maybe a gesture like this one is what you need in order for your business to become more 'real' to you! Don't worry--business cards can be re-made if you change your offerings, but it's the act of ordering them (or any other business materials) that may put you in that headspace.
Maybe it's a time commitment or a financial sacrifice
Blaine and I both experienced financial sacrifices in order to get our businesses off the ground smoothly. Though neither of us went into debt, seeing a large chunk of savings go toward something we put all our hopes into was a scary, but defining moment for each of us. For Blaine, it was a training for a certification she needs to train her clients to the best of her abilities. For me, it was an educational course that cost more than the nicest thing I'd ever purchased for myself. If you're like either of us, the financial sacrifice (or commitment, however you choose to view it) is like an invisible accountability partner. I am happy to report that I made my money back within a short time (I believe it was about a month) of being in business, because my mindset was focused on getting a return on my investment, and working really hard to justify that humongous purchase. I'm not saying that you have to justify every single purchase you make, but for me, that is a key part of how I run my business debt-free, and how I stay financially stable (and safe) in a fairly unpredictable climate.
On the other hand, a time commitment or a sacrifice of your time could be the thing that gets you wheels turning, and that fire lit under your booty! As a beginner in the small business world, coming off a 9-5 job I hated, I was more than happy to work 60+ hours a week on setting up shop. However, when I evaluated how much I wanted to earn per month, then figured out how much I would make per hour if I continued to work 60+ hours a week....oh, heck no! I quickly realized that the time I had already put into my business was incredibly value, and that sacrifice would be the cost of doing business. However, moving forward, I created a daily schedule for myself, very similar to a 9-5 (but filled with the thing I love doing: my business), and try my hardest each month to make an hourly wage that meets my monthly income goal. I don't meet it every month, but I respect myself and my business enough to realize how valuable my time (spent both on my business, and out of it; with friends and family) truly is.
Or, if you're a shop owner...
Have you ordered your shipping supplies just yet? Mailers, tape, shipping labels, a printer, a shipping scale, and brand materials like thank you notes, stickers, and inserts? For a fellow letterer and Etsy seller, making these purchases (which could also be filed under the financial commitment category) and getting them organized in her creative space as her official 'shipping station,' really helped her to visualize doing business in an efficient and organized manner. As soon as her shipping station was ready, she felt ready to receive lots of orders and get them fulfilled like a boss.
Maybe none of these suggestions will work for you, and that's okay! These are all examples of 'moves' you could make as a strategic first step to getting your business set up in a healthy, professional way from the beginning. The important thing is that you begin to take yourself and your business seriously as early on as you can. Have respect for your new endeavor, and treat it accordingly. If you plan to take your business full-time or to create a life-long career from it, starting off with a healthy mindset will take you far.
If you have any suggestions or 'splash moments' that have worked for you, drop them in the comments below, and of course, don't forget to subscribe to my podcast if you want to hear more about this topic!