What I learned in my first year in business

One year ago, I walked off a cliff. More like jumped off. I left the comforts of a job that paid well so I could start Evolve Communications. When I started, I had a general idea of what I was getting into. I read a lot of business books, talked to a lot of other entrepreneurs and business owners, and tried to learn as much as I could about how to run a business.

One year later, I’m glad to say that I’m still learning things. Almost every day. Here’s a few things I’ve picked up along the way:

If you think you’ve made it, you haven’t.

Around the middle of Spring this year, I thought I had made it. I had been working really hard, had a few clients under my belt, and was starting to feel a little burned out. So, I stopped working as hard. What I forgot is that it generally takes about two months to land a new client (that’s from initial conversation to signed contract). So, by the end of May, I realized that I didn’t have a huge amount of work coming in. Whoops.

The truth is that you can never stop. You can take short breaks, but you need to keep the wheels of commerce moving.

Choose your priorities wisely.

When you own a business, you often have to juggle a lot of different balls simultaneously. Either it’s a full plate of clients, or it’s new business meetings, or it’s just making sure your business is healthy. There’s only so many hours in the day (unfortunately), and there’s a finite amount of work you can accomplish in that time. This is especially true if you provide service like I do, where you are billing for your time.

There’s a million more things I’d like to do to support my business, including more marketing. The truth is, though, I don’t see a huge need for more marketing. All my clients have been won by networking. I’m not saying this is true for every type of business, but in the marketing consulting world, it’s entirely about building relationships. That’s been my focus for the past year, and continues to be the focus of my business as it grows.

Push yourself past your limit. Then grow.

This is something I sort of knew going into the business, but it became even more apparent as I picked up more work. There were times where I’d worked past 2 a.m. for weeks on end. That sounds like a lot of work (it is), and might seem like a sign to hire someone. It isn’t. While there have been times where I wished I had an employee, I knew that it was financially untenable at the time.

Fortunately, I’ve grown past that. I now have a fantastic part-time assistant who is like a right hand to me.

The bottom line for anyone looking to go into business is that you have to absolutely love what you do–enough to deal with the parts you don’t love. I know I’m not the first person to say this. No matter what, there will be challenges. There will be ups and downs (hopefully more of the former). Keep an open mind. Be flexible. And most importantly: be creative.

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