Three years ago today with the push of a button, I launched a website. With a few sentences on Facebook and LinkedIn as well as some personal emails, I made an announcement. I was in business -- a one-person public relations shop.
While I didn't know exactly what the future held, excitement abounded. Of course, I couldn't know all that I'd learn in the subsequent three rotations around the sun. Here's what I would tell my 2016 self and those of you yearning or planning right now to pursue your entrepreneurial dreams. These lessons are important for keeping going and for getting going, too.
1. People want to support you.
Know that the people in your circle want to support you. That could be by giving you some business. But there are other ways, too. Think about how different friends, family members and professional contacts can help you -- and ask for it, always offering what you can to reciprocate. Maybe it's a LinkedIn recommendation -- and you offer to write one in return. Maybe it's chatting over coffee and when your connection asks "Who is a good referral for you?," you ask the same.
I once asked a friend to introduce me to someone she knew at a company I wanted to get work from. Not only did I end up getting to work with that company, I made a new friend, too.
2. Prepare to be your own IT.
What I miss most about my old corporate life: the IT help desk. I've become a pro at solving many of my own IT issues and glitches thanks to the power of Google searches and Facebook crowdsourcing. When necessary I employ IT pros to help me with my testy wireless printer or to do things like get all of my email accounts to flow seamlessly into one in box. Worth every penny.
3. Celebrate your successes.
This is the biggie. Every new client and each new piece of business should feel like a big deal. They are. Take a moment for a fist pump. Tell yourself you're knocking it out of the park. Our internal dialog is important. We are who we say we are, so we might as well tell ourselves we are wildly successful and killing it.
I didn't really appreciate this until I interviewed and wrote about Jen Sincero, author of You Are a Badass at Making Money. Now I talk about manifesting what I need for my business all the time. It's mindset.
4. Expect a sophomore slump.
Progress is not a straight shot upward. I know this. But I was surprised and disappointed in myself when 2017, my first full year in business, didn't end as strongly as 2016. My husband called it my sophomore slump. He was right. While the early supporters in my circle were key to my initial success, I couldn't count on them forever. I needed to expand my network. I needed to understand these things take time. I also needed to do my own PR, which brings me to...
5. Do your own PR.
Nobody will ever care as much about your work, career or business as much as you. You have to do your own PR. Write articles on LinkedIn or start a blog. Add testimonials to your website. Spend time on your business Facebook page. This is how I worked my way out of my sophomore slump. Doing all of these things made me feel in control. I was doing something. It also lifted my spirits and reminded me of the work I've done exceptionally well and am the most proud of. See, it really is about celebrating your successes.
6. Find your people.
Find the people who you need for various aspects of your work. Perhaps you work with a coach, and there are several kinds -- business coaches, sales coaches and life coaches, for example. Find a networking group -- or two or three. I belong to a few different groups, including one for fellow entrepreneurs and another for fellow PR professionals. It's good to have people you can bounce ideas off of and network with. Because I work from home, these groups are especially important. These people fill a void that my former cube dweller colleagues used to occupy.
7. You won't mind working more.
I've never worked harder or longer at anything than building my business. Knowing that this would be required no doubt kept me in my cube longer than it should have. Would I want to go to evening networking events after a long day? Would I want to do work on the weekends? Turned out I don't mind. It's ridiculous I ever thought otherwise, because I've worked hard and cared a lot at every single job.
I work more, but also on my own terms. If working an hour in the evening or on a Saturday frees me up to pick up my daughter from ballet class or go to yoga class, then I don't mind at all. I'm working to build not just my business but the life I want for me and my family, too.
8. You will need boundaries.
Because you likely won't mind working more, you will need some boundaries. No cell phone at the dinner table, for example. That one is still tough; I won't lie.
Another example, I won't email clients back at say 10 p.m. unless there is a crisis -- and so far (knock on wood) there hasn't been one. People -- bosses and clients -- will treat you as you allow yourself to be treated. Since I don't want to be on the hook to answer emails at any hour, I typically won't answer them in the late hours. I might reply at 5 a.m. on my way to the gym, but I don't expect a response until normal business hours.
9. Hire people.
As soon as you are able, hire people so you can take on more work and grow your business. There's another benefit that is just as important, and that's getting to experience client service from the other side -- from the perspective of a client. When I contract work I pick up on what I appreciate as a client in terms of responsiveness and output. It's a great reminder to make sure I too am providing excellent customer service.
10. It's going to be all right -- great even.
Don't believe it? Reread the third item on this list.