10 Things We Wish We Knew Before Starting A Business
We started our business in November 2014 and we’ve learned a thing or two about running a business since then. We’ve only been full time entrepreneurs since June 2016, but there is so much that we wish we would have known sooner. So we figured why not share with you all of the things we wish we knew before starting a business.
1. Networking is your friend, and it doesn’t mean you have to go to lame conferences.
One of the most important things we’ve learned about owning a business is how valuable networking can be. Cody and I are both pretty introverted, which means walking up to someone we don’t know is a no go. Networking doesn’t mean you have to go to conferences or events where you don’t know a single person. It means to build genuine relationships with people, and of course tell them what you do. We’ve made friends through Instagram because people were interested in our van or they have asked us how we took a certain photo. We try to help people as much as we can and be as kind as we can. Sometimes just sending a person a message telling them you think they are rad is enough to get the conversation going.
2. If you build it they wont come.
Simply creating something and putting it out in the world wont magically make people appear to buy your products or services. They wont even read your blog or follow your Instagram. Why? Because they have no idea that it even exists. This is where marketing and strategy come into play. It’s important to figure out how you will get yourself seen, how you’ll tell people about what you do, and how to get people to come back to your website. Figure out how you’ll reach people and build relationships before you start selling something, or you won’t see results.
3. The foundation to your business is more important than making it look pretty.
When we first started our business we thought why not offer every service because we can? So we did that. We made a brand and website but never really sat down and figured out a solid foundation until about 6 months ago. This resulted in people thinking we look cool and that we do cool stuff, but not understanding who we are or what we actually do. Pretty designs or websites can only get you so far, so spending a lot of time on your brand direction or business foundation is such a crucial step to owning a business. Sometimes you just have to put yourself out there to really figure out who you are before investing a ton of money on branding. If you do the latter, eventually you’ll have to invest more money to rebranding your business because you changed your direction and ultimate goals.
4. You have to learn about taxes and finance.
This is something they don’t teach you in school. Even when you get a job in the corporate world, you never really have to learn about finance or taxes. You get a paycheck, save some money, and move on with your life. With owning your own business, you have to worry about paying your bills, keeping track of your own personal spending, managing and keeping track of every single income and expense through your business, and figuring out how taxes works. It’s really confusing and we eventually we will be hiring a specialist to help is in this arena. But at first you have to do everything yourself. Do it right the first time!
5. Cool Instagram feeds aren’t that important.
It’s great to have a beautiful perfectly curated Instagram feed, but it's not great to stress out about how it doesn’t look ‘cool’ compared to others Instagram feeds. We spent a good amount of time on figuring out how to make our images look great on Instagram, but we ultimately figured out that cool Instagram feeds don’t convert, at least for our business. We decided that our Instagram feed should be used as a source to get people to go come back to our website and hire us. So spending a ton of time on that wasn't super effective. If you are a photographer, it's also something to think about. Sure it's great to share photos, but that alone won't get someone to hire you. You have to spend time strategizing the content you share and how it will bring them back to your website.
6. You have to have a lot of patience.
It’s a hard pill to swallow, but a lot of time you’ll have more upsets in your business than celebrations. Especially when you are first starting out. It takes a lot of time, dedication, and hard work. Cody and I haven’t spent any time with friends or done anything other than work in the last 4 months because we are working on growing our business into a something bigger that will support us later down the road. You have to give up a lot of things in order to get to the place you want to be, and that takes a lot of patience. You’ll work for months and months and wonder why you haven’t made it big yet, but it’s important to believe in yourself and believe that it will come when it needs to, at the right time.
7. Money does not define your worth.
Just because you aren’t sitting on a beach in Bali sipping strawberry daquiris, doesn’t mean you aren’t valuable. Just because no one is hiring you right now, doesn’t mean you suck at what you do. Just because you aren’t where you’d imagine yourself to be, doesn’t mean you haven’t made any progress. It can be hard as a business owner to place all of your worth on your bank account, but you just have to push through those negative thoughts holding you back. The number one thing is to believe in yourself. Corny, but true.
8. Don’t do things because it makes other people successful.
This one is HUGE. It’s also easier said than done. It happens to the best of us, but sometimes we see a competitor or someone we admire doing something that is bringing them the big bucks. They are making tens of thousands of dollars a day and we are sitting here thinking to ourselves..maybe if I do that too, i’ll have the same results. Maybe if my branding looks like theirs, I will be just as successful. Maybe if I blog about the same things, ill get more page views. This type of thinking takes away from what makes you unique, so it's important not to be influenced so much by other successful businesses.
We originally thought we should be selling digital products. Everyone is making a huge success off of it, so maybe it will happen with us. It looked like a great gig too. Create something, put it out there, people buy it over and over again. We tried it, and immediately after we talked about if it was even something that we liked. Even though we made a decent profit off of our e-book..we both decided we disliked it. The question we asked ourselves was why should we spend time doing something that we don’t even like? We realized then and there, we were just following everyone else's path.
After realizing this, we had a huge shift in our thinking. We are rebranding our entire business! Plus, we’re sharing the whole process with you. If you wanna be a part of it and see how we rebrand everything, sign up for our newsletter. We’ll be sharing updates, videos, photos, and a ton of fun behind the scenes stuff.
9. Don’t be cheap and take short cuts.
As a business owner it can be hard to invest in your business because it gets really expensive. You're already trying to figure out how to make money as it is, so investing in branding, tools, or equipment can be hard. It's really important to invest and do it right the first time. This will save you time and a headache later down the road. Don’t spend money on a cheap logo, save up to do it the right way. Invest in a website designer to help you create a website. Buy the gear that works better. Sometimes Cody and I will be like “let’s just buy this cheap tripod right now and we’ll buy the one we want later.” Then the cheap tripod breaks in a week and we end up wasting money and having to buy the more expensive one we wanted anyway. Saving money is great, but not at the cost of your business operating and running successfully.
10. Set up a process to make things easier.
Having a clear process for your business is super important. As you continue to work with people or do repeated tasks you’ll figure out a good system. First we developed a system with our pricing guide, inquiries, and proposals. But then we had to figure out a smart way to get contracts signed and invoices sent out.
Bonsai is a tool that helps create your contracts. It walks you through each step and you fill it all out like a mad lib. Once you sign it, it auto sends it to your client. The automation process is amazing, it makes everything really easy for us. The client signs our contract and then it auto invoices them, it even will send an automatic reminder to them. Figuring out processes and auto systems for your business just makes everything easier and cuts time in half.