8 Lessons From My First Year of Business

This month marks my business turned 1, so I want to share with you 8 lessons from my first year of business.

Yep, I made it to the 1 year mark, and I am so stoked that I made it. I feel like all business owners hear the stories of not many making it through the first year. Interestingly in Australia the stat is 14% of new businesses call it quits before hitting the 1 year mark.

This is much lower than the 70% rumor I heard when I first started my business. Perhaps this exaggerated stat was confused with another country like America or the UK, or perhaps it’s after 3 years of running a business? (- I still can’t find this stat, who knows?)
Either way, us Aussie are a dedicated and hard-working bunch – and I know, the new business rollercoaster is real, and has tested me constantly this year. You really get tested on how much you want to run your own business, that’s for sure.

If you’re on this rollercoaster currently and are experiencing the highs and lows of entrepreneurship, keep holding on! After a year of the ups and downs, I still haven’t been able to get off of this crazy ride. Instead I’m crafting how those tracks are laid (a.k.a. creating the life I want).

This entrepreneur life will test your mental strength daily, so I thought I’d share with you what I’ve learned in my first year of business and 8 lessons I’ve learned this year, kept me motivated and enjoying the process of running a business.

So here they are, the 8 lessons I’ve learned in my first year of business:

1. Location matters

Starting my business I thought working from home would be great. I could sleep-in, wear my pj’s for most of the day, eat when I wanted and make my own business hours. In my mind it was going to be super chilled and I’d pump out the work like a queen.

But after a couple of months of working from my bedroom or coach it became a nightmare. I rarely left my apartment, I barely moved or ate or drank anything (apart from coffee) – I was not in a good way.

My four walls started to get claustrophobic, yet at the same time my anxiety levels were super high and I felt like I couldn’t leave my flat. I was stuck.

During this phase, I told one of my best friends what was happening, and she suggested I should work from a library, café or co-working space.

As I had very little money (#smallbusinesslife), so I looked up all the libraries in the Melbourne area, and discovered they not only have a table I could work from but free wifi too!
I’m not going to lie, it changed everything for me. My anxiety lessened because I was away from those four walls that had been smothering me. I also didn’t have to hunch over my laptop either, like I did when I was working from my couch.

I now mix it up by working from many different libraries all over Melbourne, local cafes and next year I plan to invest in working from a co-working space.

These different environments allow me to be way more productive than working from home.

2. Exercise

I mentioned before how my anxiety spiked when I started my business. Well, exercise has been my saviour.

Whenever my mental health has strayed away from the norm, I go on a walk. If I am doubting myself, I have a bad case of comparison, or if I’m not feeling creative, I put on my runners and hit the path.

I am not a runner by any means. I walk. I walk everywhere. I’m lucky enough to live near beaches, rivers and beautiful parks.

I have made it a habit to walk the long way to wherever I need to go, getting into nature or near it and get my heart-rate up. This way, I get a minimum 30 minute walk in before I start working, have a meeting or catch up with friends.

After these walks I feel like a reset button has been hit and I’m motivated, focused and clear on my goal for the day. All the hard tasks I’ve been stressing about now seem possible and achievable.

3. Good Tunes

If you haven’t curated a motivational playlist for when you’re on your way to work or for while you’re working in a communal space, do it now.

Most days I am dancing and singing along to my different playlists. I have playlists for motivation, focusing or relaxing.

For example, if I need to concentrate I’m not going to play Destiny’s Child ‘Survivor’, because I’ll be singing all the lyrics to that song, I need something along the lines of Hermitude or Petit Biscuit, something with minimal lyrics and an upbeat tempo to keep me focused and motivated.

I find the right type of music cheers me on to work harder and faster, than without music.

It’s also great as you’re getting ready for your day. I’m not a morning person so if I have a good beat it gets me moving much faster. It’s also great when I go for a walk before starting work.

What tunes come to your mind that get you moving? Create a Spotify account and start creating a playlist for your work day.

4. Grit/Tenacity

I feel this is possibly an American phrase, but if you want to start a new business, you will need some of this. Simply it’s defined as “courage and resolve. Strength of character” (- thanks google).
To me it’s not being defeated when you’re hit with daily problems, instead being resourceful and finding an answer or a way to fix the problem.

Small business life is not all sunshine and rainbows (no matter how good it looks on Instagram). There are many days over this past year that I have questioned if I’m cut out for small business life, but I must be stubborn because I keep going.

Perhaps another definition for grit is being mentally strong enough to keep going no matter how hard it gets, and believing in your business idea when know one else does.

Small business life has shook my confidence, finances and my approach to hard situations. And I’m not going to lie, if I didn’t have the tenacity or grit to push through those hard times, I would have packed my (metaphorical) bags pretty early on.

5. Social Media

Just like networking, social media has been a great source of leads and sales. But also like networking, the more you show up, the better the results you’ll get.

In contrast to this, social media has also been a source of much comparison and anxiety. And for that reason, I’d advise any business owners to put daily limits on your social media usage.

As I am writing this I haven’t posted on Instagram, Facebook or Pinterest in 3 months. I have been stuck in a “who am I” paradox of not sure if I am being myself, my brand or what my customers want/need. I’m putting this down to information overload and searching to find clarity – I’m in my first year afterall, I feel like these moments are going to happen and I shouldn’t put so much pressure on myself, right.

So if you find yourself in the same position, be kind to yourself. You’re just starting out and trying to find what works for you and your business. Don’t feel the need to be like anyone else. And not to be cliche, but you do you.

In 2020, I plan to only post during work hours (Mon-Fri between 9am – 5pm) and during these times I will restrict how long I’ll engage with my community, and what times during the day (e.g. 20 mins at 9am, 1pm and 4pm).
I hope I’m able to, because when I do I get such a lovely response from other small business owners, networks and friends.

6. Networking

This old school technique is one I need to work on the most (#introvertanxiety), but surprisingly it’s been the one that’s gained me the most business.

I have found that when I network and meet people face-to-face I make sales easily verses email or social media.

I found many online and offline groups like Meetup, Business Chicks, LMBDW, and other paid female-based networking groups (my businesses target market). Think about what networking groups would be supportive for you and your business?

The mantra I’m going to use for 2020 is “move towards what scares you”, so for 2020 I have decided to networking like a crazy person in order to attract more business, create new business networks, and get my business to the next-level.

7. Niching

When I started my business I thought this was crazy. Why would I turn clients away? I wanted to help as many small business owners as I could.

And then I got my first bad client, and the case for niching hit me *palm-face*. This is why niching your business is so important, so you don’t waste your time on someone who doesn’t appreciate or respect your hard work (a.k.a your blood, sweat and tears. Literal tears).

My hardest lesson was, you’re not always going to be everyone’s cup-o-tea (the people pleaser side of me took a long time to accept this). Instead, look for clients who love your work, the ones who are super excited to work with you and share the same values as you do.

So from one business owner to another, please take note of the clients you enjoy working with. Understand what it is about these clients that make it enjoyable for you? And if there’s a common thread between these client experiences, make these lovely humans your new niche.

8. Gratitude

Gosh this is a good one, it makes such a big impact on my day, outlook and vibes I put out into the world.

Daily I try to be grateful for my life, but there are definitely days I’ve forgotten to be grateful for the opportunities I’ve been given, and my life seems dull and grey.

So, let’s get the ball rolling on gratitude. I am grateful for this beautiful country I live in, the opportunity to start my own business, for the resources I have to build it (laptop, phone, notepad, wifi, Spotify, Keepcup, libraries to work from, and my backpack – so I can carry my life with me between my home and workspace, like a little turtle).

If I’m in the afore mentioned anxiety spiral, gratitude makes me stop and laugh off all the crazy thoughts circulating my mind and allows me to realise that I’m actually doing better than okay.

If you have a roof over your head, food in your fridge and the ability to feel safe throughout the day than you have a lot to be grateful for.

 

Share with me in the comments what your biggest takeaways from this post was? And what you’ll do in 2020 to make it your best year yet? Or join the community of wonderful business owners on Facebook or Instagram.