By Adam Steele, founder of Loganix.
Autumn is a good time for reflection, and I've been thinking a lot about the habits I changed that took me from traditionally employed (and frustrated) to owning several companies, which feels truly fulfilling.
It wasn't an easy journey, but I don't think it's beyond anyone to become an entrepreneur or a business owner: After all, I don't think anyone could have been less prepared than I was eight years ago. Like everyone who jumps into entrepreneurship for the first time, I had no idea what I was doing, and there's a lot I would change if I could take everything I've learned back to the beginning.
Here are five pieces of advice I'd give to my younger, 22-year-old self that could resonate with new entrepreneurs and business owners getting their sea legs:
Get out of your shell.
Don't hide. Get in front of as many people as you can, whenever you can. If you're good at something, there's a group that wants to share it. Find that group and learn from them. No matter how small the venue, there's always something you can learn. The more comfortable you get talking about what you do, the better you can sell it.
If we're talking about community involvement, there are few people better at it than Patrick Coombe and Linda Buquet -- both in the internet marketing industry. Linda can be found on every internet marketing forum and community around. She's the first to step up and help people. Patrick injects himself (in a positive way) into every conversation about internet marketing on Twitter and other industry-focused channels. I can't go anywhere without finding these two helping their fellow community members out.
L astly, do some good for the world and volunteer. What better way to meet engaged people in your community, and at no cost to you?
Recognize the real power of your network.
You may think you don't know anyone who would buy your product, but someone you know might know someone who would. Bring it up in every new conversation: Ask them, in a nice way, if there's someone you could talk to who wants what you offer. Even if they say no, they'll have you in mind if they do hear from someone in the future.
Learn from people who love what you love.
Find communities online where you can engage with like-minds. Even if you aren't who you want to be yet, you can learn a lot by reading forums until you're ready to contribute. For the rest of your professional life, stay on the lookout for enclaves of expertise.
Leads can even come from your competitors: Once you get to know them, you'll realize you have more in common with them than their customers do. In some cases, they'll be willing to provide you with leads that aren't worth their time or in their niche. This only happens when you're part of a community you share with them.
Keep your eyes on the bigger fish.
Don't ever settle for stagnancy if you're not where you want to be. If you're determined to keep climbing, you almost always will. You need to focus on growing constantly, and that means leveraging every job. Even if you need to give away work for free to get some experience, do it to find out who your customers are, and what they do and don't like.
Turn what you learn into contracting skills, package those skills, and turn that package into a company. It's never going to be the same path for everyone, but upward is the direction to focus on.
You can do this. There's no guide that's going to help you, and there's no one person who can make it happen for you. You just have to keep showing up, work on what's in front of you and be willing to learn from people willing to teach you.
Trust that people will not ridicule you or look down on you if you ask questions. Good entrepreneurs want to help others, because they know what it feels like to have been in your exact same footsteps before.
Adam Steele is a builder of things, including link-building agency Loganix.