5 Things I Wish I Knew Before Starting a Business

5 Things I Wish I Knew Before Starting a Business

macbook pro beside white ceramic mug on brown wooden table

In 2014, I graduated from the Valencia Graphics program. Before you graduate, you have to go through a “Portfolio Review” with some top industry professionals. That evening I had 3 agencies interested in hiring me. However, even though I had zero business knowledge, with zero business classes or workshops on my belt, I was convinced I could start my own freelancing business and be making 6 figures in no time.

Spoiler alert: That didn’t happen.

The past 2 weekends I’ve had a few friends interview me about how I started my business and I realized that it’s no good keeping my story to myself. I want to help others not make the mistakes I did!!!

I know many of you are contemplating leaving your 9-5 job, and some of you want soooooooo desperately to work from home & be your own boss, or perhaps you are in a position where you NEED to create a living for yourself. I’m here to tell you that you CAN do it,*however,* it takes a lot work, hustle, support and love to get this baby growing. Here are 5 things I wish I knew before starting my own business.

1. Have Money Set Aside for All Expenses: Planned & Unexpected

Ever see those Facebook ads where people are like, “QUIT YOUR JOB NOW, YOU CAN MAKE 6 FIGURES IN ONE MONTH LIKE ME”. Please, please, please, unless you have money set aside for your business and life expenses DO NOT DO THIS. When I started my business back in 2012, I had $1K to my name which half was spent on getting the LLC up in place to begin with. What I didn’t anticipate was the times where business would be slow and unexpected bills would appear. Those times happen more than not, if you have zero business knowledge.

What I recommend now is:

  • Set-aside money from your current job. Whether that’s 10% or 20%, take a little each paycheck and put it in a “business investment” account.
  • Plan the expenses you CAN plan on: What will it cost to start your business legally? How much is a website & logo? How much is it to hire a designer? What is my rent cost? What about email? What about client care?
  • Figure out how you’ll break your business finances so you have room for emergencies (or in Dave Ramsey’s case, create an emergency fund for your business). I break down my business finances 10% to tithe(giving back), 20% for accounting & taxes, 20% for expenses, 10% for savings, and 30% for income

2. Get a Business Mentor

oh. my. gosh. What a difference being in business groups has made!!!! When I graduated from Valencia they didn’t offer any business classes. The focus was to help their students get connected with agencies, which I did get several job offers at portfolio review, however, I ended up freelancing immediately instead. I wasn’t prepared to start my own business. Working from Home and Freelancing was a foreign idea in 2012 (weird right?). Now I feel like you see people starting their own businesses from home all the time! Even though I was in several creative groups with more than 10K members, it wasn’t enough. It was often chaotic in the groups, discussions could end up as bickering, and it was rare I got anything out of it. Then one day I saw a FB ad from a guy named Pedro Adao.

At first I was skeptical about joining his FREE entrepreneur masterclass, because let’s be real, my Facebook feed is FLOODED with entrepreneur guru ads promising they can change my business. I noticed a trend of giving away free value in exchange for a high-ticket offer. What would make this guy any different?

But you know what? Everything changed in my life the minute I put my skepticism away and embraced looking up to someone who walked where I’m currently walking. Everything he was teaching was on point to where I was. And because he gave away a month of free valuable content, he gained my trust enough for me to give the last of my savings to be mentored. And you know what? My business has been growing, I’ve been able to hire and pay my friends and help them grow their businesses, and I’m finding myself growing SO incredibly much. It’s been 110% worth it. God totally tricked me into this.

If you can’t pay monthly for a business or life coach, look into local business groups. I know the St. Pete Chamber often has small biz meet ups and classes to help get people on their feet.

3. Read Read Read!!!!

If there’s anything I have learned from people who are millionaires, one of their top secrets is KNOWLEDGE. Many of you have what you need to start a business already, but you aren’t taking advantage of it! Reading is a great way to keep your mind in a healthy & strong place. It’s a great way to learn new things as well. There are so many entrepreneurial books out there old and new that could radically change your spirit or your business!

Visit my Amazon Store to see what books I’ve been enjoying!

4. Find Ways to Outsource Tasks You Hate

I’ve been a photographer the last 14 years, which totally blows my mind that I’ve been shooting that long, haha. When I was focusing on that part of my career, I would spend HOURS culling & editing images on top of client communications, billing, etc. Then as I expanded my business to design, I had to increase the responsibilities: emails, social media marketing, photo editing, client care, accounting, and the list could go on.
What I LOVE to do is network & focus on client relationships.
What I HATE doing is accounting and detailed photo editing.
The Solution: Increase my pricing to help cover the cost of things I needed to help my weak areas.
– I hired an accountant to do all my tax work for me.
– For photo editing I outsource it to Clipping Path Zone or I use tools like https://remove.bg

What would have taken me hours or days is now sent off so I can focus on booking more clients and doing what I love

5. Place Better Boundaries

This one. Ohhhhhhh this one is SO IMPORTANT if you’re starting your own business.

When you start a business, you are going to want to please EVERYONE. You are going to want to be available on every channel at any time. You are going to want to say yes to every job. You will even give discounts just to make sure you get the job. The brutal reality is, that not everyone will be pleased no matter how hard you try. Many people will even try to take advantage of your kindness.

It’s easy to get swept up in the “Clients come first no matter what!” mindset, but when you’re getting phone calls at 11pm, emails at 2am, with deadlines that need to be met within 24 hours when you have a few other projects to complete, well, you aren’t giving your best. You are working to survive.

That was me for MONTHS when I first started my business, and admittedly I didn’t learn my mistake and I did it again after I quit my full-time job. I had NO boundaries with clients. I made myself more than available taking on any project I could at low rates which made me extremely busy, extremely burnt out, and extremely unhappy.

It wasn’t until I read Breaking Busy where I realized I needed to place boundaries in my business. Since making that change, I feel so.much.better, but my business feels right as well. It’s not so chaotic & crazy!

So what did I change?

  • I do not check business related emails Friday evening to Monday morning (unless it is a project we agreed weekends on).
  • I do not answer client calls past 7pm.
  • I do not schedule client calls or meetings in the mornings because I am not a morning person and I am not offering them the best of me at that time.
  • I only take on a handful of projects each month.
  • I no longer give discounts unless they are loyal customers, family, or a non-profit.
  • In order for people to work with me, they must sign a contract & pay a deposit upfront to begin
  • I disabled my FB messenger for my fanpage and only allow people to contact me through my contact form on my website.
  • Clients must give me 72 hour notice for a project otherwise they will get a late-fee added on

I have now been back into full-time freelancing for the last year and a half and LOVING it. These changes I mentioned above have been a HUGE help and I really do hope they will inspire and encourage many of you looking to jump into the work-from-home be-your-own-boss lifestyle.

If you have any questions or want to know something about who I am, what I do, or what I offer, please send me a message!

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Hello, I’m Lyss

Heart-Centered Solopreneur • Design & Brand Strategist • Lover of Plants, Coffee, and Mother of Backyard Chickens