This April marks my second year as owner of my communications and public relations business. When I started, I thought I was so prepared. Website -- check. Newly rewritten LinkedIn profile -- check. Business cards, networking appointments, even a client or two. Check, check, check.
But I wasn't prepared for the self doubt or the rollercoaster ride that entrepreneurs know so well. I was inexperienced in contract negotiations and even communicating who my ideal clients are. In the time it takes to earn an MBA, I've learned more lessons than I can count. Here are the biggies.
1. Trust your gut.
This is the biggest of the biggies. If a potential client or current client doesn't seem like a good fit, trust your gut and say "no thank you." Even better, if you feel the prospect is a good one -- just not for you -- add something like "I am happy to refer you to someone who I think would be great for you."
If you feel the need to say yes to every potential client, you are likely working off of fears of scarcity. You don't need that bad mojo. A polite "no thank you" is your way of making yourself available for the right opportunities that are just around the corner. I've been grateful for the times that I've turned down the wrong work, because something better always comes up.
2. Prepare for a rollercoaster ride.
One day you're flying high -- contracts are getting signed and checks are coming in. The very next day you might be feeling low. Being an entrepreneur can be a rollercoaster of emotions, adrenaline and self doubt. Recognize that. Celebrate the highs; don't beat yourself up during the lows.
3. There's no such thing as a day off.
Yep, no such thing as a day off, and I'm OK with that. I don't mind logging hours after 5 p.m. or on weekends, because I'm building my business and I love it. Plus, it's all my choice; I'm in control and I call the shots. I no longer feel guilty for ducking out to attend my kid's school play or take my turn for ballet class carpool. And I no longer feel bitter when work creeps into my "free" time. It's all my time, and I'm creating the business and life that work for me and my family.
"The phone rings seven days a week and, of course, the email never stops," said Joe Alexander, CEO and Founder of Nest Bedding in San Francisco. "Someone always needs something, a customer always has questions. And while this can be draining, it means we are busy, so I can't be upset about it. It just means I need to make the most of every little break I can get."
4. Surround yourself with positive people.
You need to keep your energy positive and upbeat, and one way you do that is by spending time with the right people -- whether it's friends, colleagues or prospects. As Jen Sincero, a life and career coach and best-selling author of You Are a Badass at Making Money, told me, hanging out with haters and doubters is "the fastest way down."
I have definitely invested less time in friendships in which there's a lot of drama or negativity or judgment. All of that drains me, and I'm on a mission to create big, big things. Let's all lift one another up.
5. Hiring a business coach is worth the investment.
If there's one thing I wish I'd done before I even started by business, it's hire a coach. Best thing I ever did. I've worked with one who specializes in sales, because as a journalist turned in-house corporate communications professional I never had to sell. My coach Rachel Sheerin walked me step-by-step through the sales process and helped me ensure that my website was selling for me. She also helped me identify my ideal clients and how to communicate better with them.
Working with a coach was also good for my marriage. I no longer ask my husband, who has a full-time job of his own, for guidance on fees, potential work, contract wording, or anything to do with my biz. I'm comfortable and confident in my own entrepreneurial shoes. And, heck, he's never run his own business. And that leads me to...
6. It's my business. Period.
It's my business. I can do what I want. Charge what I want. Ask for what I want. Say yes to what I want. Decide my plate is too full or squeeze in one more project if I want.
I can take a Friday off. Take this meeting, but not that one. Take a nap.
It's my business. I can do what I want. And so can you.