I can now officially say I have been in business for myself, one month. Although that’s such a small period of time for any business, I thought I would review some of the things I’ve learned thus far.
As you know, just over a month ago I “quit the rat race” to start my own business. I took $5,000 of my savings (it eventually turned into more than $7,000) as start-up costs. Then I just went after it, and worked towards building my business 100% of my waking hours. I’m both exhausted and exhilarated–as they say, it doesn’t feel like work when you’re building something all your own.
My first few days as a “business owner” were spent as a furniture builder, a marketing student, and a telephone harasser of various venders. I was lucky to procure great office space from a friend, which enabled me to transition faster than expected.
Get Over Your Issues With Money
The toughest part of being the owner of a business offering professional services, is that you have to believe in what you’re offering. Early on, there have been many instances where clients have tried to haggle me on prices. I sometimes have a self-defeating tendency towards money, but I have to date fought it off.
I believe that I get to pick my own charities. I also believe that if I do not hold firm, I will myself become a charity. This is sometimes easier said than done, particularly because so many people are hurting right now financially. As the saying goes, however: “It’s better to not work, and not get paid. Than to work, and to not get paid.”
My firm pricing is a great way to separate true prospective clients from pretenders. That said, I’ve also done some free or charitable work.
Maybe You Should Charge More
It may seem counterintuitive, but sometimes charging more can help attract clients. In the first few days of my business, I was offering just about the lowest price in town. Unfortunately, this wasn’t helping me close deals with prospective clients. The only clients it was helping me with were the clients I least wanted to work with–those who only cared about price. (and thus, those most likely to stiff me later on).
A mentor-type figure suggested that my price was too low. He said that people might be suspicious by how low my price was. Again, this was likely just me having my own issues with money.
I raised the price so that it was more in line with market expectations. Thereafter, I have been signing up a much higher percentage of prospective clients. Although this advice may not work with every industry, in mine it appears there is a feeling amongst clients that you only get what you pay for.
This is easier said than done. It’s something I have to tell myself every
day hour. When you first start a business, the telephone won’t be ringing off the hook. There will be days where you don’t make any money. There will be weeks, months, and maybe even a year or two where you simply break even or even lose money. If you’re like me, you’ll already know this in your heart. And yet, if you’re like me, you’ll still feel waves of self-pity and self-doubt. Leaving behind a comfortable and steady paycheck for an uncertain future is not easy to do. Even the most successful of businesses have lulls or quiet spells. Learning to “maintain,” mentally, can be the difference between success and failure in a new business.
But Be ProActive
There’s a difference between maintaining a cool confidence and simply not pushing hard enough. If you don’t have any clients, then your time should be spent finding clients. You may have to spend some money, and make advertising, direct mailing, and other marketing attempts. A press release and/or a “grand opening” celebration may help get the word out. And don’t forget to rely upon your natural network of friends, former colleagues, and family members.
There are certain things we’ve all heard so many times that they are cliched. These old standards have been overplayed more than Jay-Z’s “New York,” and yet should be obeyed. I recently learned firsthand that the reward for “not burning bridges,” with your former employer really can be referrals. Having a “solid business plan” and adequate startup capital are necessary to success. Don’t forget the basics, even as you push towards new and creative solutions. And don’t forget to call on friends or mentors when you’re feeling down or need advice.
The revenue for my first month was much higher than I ever expected. It didn’t match the $7,000.00 I spent in startup costs, but most of those costs are one-time or once a year expenses. If my revenue stays the same moving forward, I should be well on my way to a successful business. So far, I’m loving every second that I’m out of “the Rat Race.”