7 Things One Year of Business Ownership Has Taught Me

If there’s one thing I am, I’m honest. Sometimes to a fault. If you want honest feedback on how a pair of pants fit, I’m not the person who will tell you that they fit great, skirting the point that they’re baggy in the butt and too tight around the waist. I’ll tell you to change.

I don’t think I was always like this. But for the last almost 1.5 decades, critiquing has just been an essential part of my line of work. I’ve learned to take it, and give it honestly, just the same. In critiques, the point isn’t to criticize the person or project or design. It’s to give good, intelligent feedback so they can make it better.

And like feedback for improvement, I also like to openly share my experiences. I don’t really feel they’re unique, but talking honesty about them may help someone in the same situation learn something new about theirs and make it better.

So here we are ONE YEAR after officially starting my business -albeit a side-hustle at the time - and I thought I’d share the top things that this last 365 days has taught me. It’s mainly so that others who have just started theirs, or are still just thinking about starting a business, can maybe learn from my mistakes and from my achievements.

1. Just start.

This is my first bullet because this is a motto I learned and I tell everyone who will listen. If you do not start, sure, you have nothing to lose. BUT if you do not start, you also have nothing to gain. So, just start. This time last year I still had the one friend I was doing a little logo work for here and there, but no “clients”. And I still wasn’t registered with the govt. (see below), BUT I consider this my anniversary date because this was the month I finally just started.

I took some cash I had saved (no debt in this business), and purchased my first year of website hosting and domain name with Squarespace, and started just writing up a list of tasks I could make a part of my business. Now I only do a handful of what I originally wrote, BUT that list got my juices flowing and helped me to continue to pull together my website. If I hadn’t just started, I’d still be without business, no Instagram, and no clients.

No cash saved? Ok, well work what little side hustle you can to start saving up, or you can get a free website, or even just a Facebook page. But excuses aren’t going to get you anywhere.

2. Getting legit is great, but paying taxes sucks.

It’s probably the sh*ttiest part of owning a business, but becoming a legal entity with your state not only makes you sound more professional (hello, LLC!) but protects your personal assets from your business assets in the event that god forbid you go bankrupt or get sued. The sucky part is that you gotta make sure you continue to put a portion of your revenue away for taxes. Of course, whether you register or not you still need to pay taxes, so make sure you plan accordingly.

My accountant (not necessary if you’re good with your books and organization, and you’re the only one getting paid), said to put away close to 50% just to be safe. It’s my first year, and since thankfully we’re not too dependent on my income, so it’s easy to do. But keep that in mind when you’re pricing a service or a product - close to half of what you pay yourself will need to go to taxes!

3. Have a few key systems in place before you get too busy.

I created a blog post a while ago with a list of tasks you should have in place before you get started, and I pretty much still stand by it. Wish I had them a little more cemented, and more of these in place before I started, but like my first bullet says, “just start”. So I did, and don’t regret it.

4. Get well organized.

I’m a really organized person. But for some reason, I didn’t really have a plan for how I was going to organize, save, and share back my client’s work. Once it started coming, I kinda just put it on my computer, and sometimes on my Gdrive too, but nothing was, and kinda still isn’t, consistent. Like my systems, I wish I had planned this out before getting too deep with too many clients, and now I need to go back and reorganize.

5. Really think about how much work you can take on.

Granted, I had 2 little kids when I started my side-hustle, while working a full-time job, and then baby #3 joined us pretty early on in my business venture, however, I did plan for how many hours I could take on each week (“Ok, so I can work evenings, when the kids are asleep, during naptime, and weekends…”) However, things don’t always go as planned. So with a baby who didn’t nap well, me being too exhausted to work too late, and at the same exact time Brooks was born, my husband’s workload increased substantially, I wasn’t pulling the hours I thought I would.

Thankfully, I didn’t have clients knocking down my door. I managed with what I had, and at a point, decided not to take on anymore new ones. But even today, I don’t work the hours I once thought I’d be able to - that is, not yet. As soon as this 6 month old starts dosing off for longer stretches I may be able to fit some more time in.

6. As long as you’re productive, it doesn’t matter how nice your office or your hardware is.

If you follow me on Instagram, you probably know my laptop is failing. I’ve been using it for as long as I can, but when it restarts itself during a video conference with a client, you kinda give it the last straw. You may also know my office is far from Pinterest worthy… BUT you know what? Besides a conference call delay, I’ve been able to get all the tasks I need to get done without problem. Sure, I may not have as many likes when I post a picture of my free IKEA desk I scored on Facebook, and it’s certainly not getting any re-shares, but I’m also making the same amount of money, and not spending it on new stuff for my office… yet. I do have plans to invest a little, but I’ll be using my husband’s old laptop (new to me) once I save everything over, and I’ll be painting and decorating myself.

7. Do what’s right for you and your business.

Let me say it this way:

Name the top 3 closest grocery stores to your home. For me, it’s a Klein’s Shop Rite, a Safeway, and another Klein’s Shop Rite. But you know what? Today, I drove all the way to Aldi’s Grocery because they’re WAY cheaper, and have just as good produce as anywhere else. (WAY cheaper meaning my grocery bill is only 2/3 what it was, even with Walmart, and most of which is healthy veggies!)

“OK, so what?”, you say. “They’re a cheaper grocery store.” Yeah, but do you know how they get their prices so much cheaper? 90% of their products are Aldi branded but meet big brand standards, they have a cart “rental” system so they don’t need to hire someone to continue to collect carts, and encourage customers to bring their own bags by charging for their paper or plastic bags, all of which create savings that are then passed onto the customer.

My point? They are running a grocery store - one of the most common and long-time businesses there is. BUT they’re doing it differently, and the customers notice!

There are tons of others out there doing services or selling products that are similar to yours. Trust me, I’m right there with you. Figure out what sets you apart, and what’s right for your business, and of course makes you happy. However, I’m pretty sure if it makes your customer’s happy, it’ll make you happy too

For me, it’s that I have a strong love for branding, but I have the long-term professional experience to back it up. Not many can say that. So sure, I can do graphics, and social media, and websites, but I understand how to make it cohesive, and how to incorporate and strengthen your brand. How many can say they worked with well known brands for 13 years?

I hope this information has taught you something, or if anything given you a heads of of some things you might encounter on your first year of business. Have you started yet? Or are you in your first year? Let me know in the comments or shoot me an email - I’d love to hear and respond to you.

 
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5 Big Reasons For A Strong Social Media Presence

Having a strong social media presence for your small business is not optional - it’s completely necessary. Without one, your business is just not being as successful as it could be. It’s a huge opportunity to grow and find new customers. If that isn’t motivation enough, here’s 5 big reasons why you need to act on getting a strong social media presence up and running today.

Customer Communication

Believe it or not, customers are no longer breaking out the jumbo Yellow Pages book to search for a service or product. (Do they even deliver those anymore?) Clients and customers are doing an easy, quick search on using a search engine or their social media service of choice, where they’re getting real-time information from past customers and their own peers.

It’s here where they not only are getting reviews and feedback on the service or product, but also getting the latest from the business and brand itself. All communication - between customers, to the business, from the business, etc. is located in one easy and accessible location. Not only do they not have to pick up the phone to find out things like hours, location, and daily specials, but they can email/leave a post/or DM (direct message) right from the same page to get real-time responses right back to their computer, iPad, or phone on the go.

Level The Competitor Playing Field

There’s a good chance you already have business competition. Most do. If you don’t, you’re probably very successful (that is until competition inevitably comes along.) So having a level playing field gives your business an actual chance at winning the game! If you’re not using social media, you’re missing out on an easy (AND FREE - see below) avenue that can strongly effect your business for the positive. Someone in your industry or location is going to have great social media - don’t leave your business in the dust. A strong social media presence is one bandwagon you WANT to be on.

Search Engine Visibility

Not everyone is going to be an expert at SEO (Search Engine Optimization), but you should generally know that the more active you are on you social accounts, using words tailored to your business, the higher the chance your site will rank higher in visibility when someone searches for a term related to your industry. If you aren’t actively posting and communicating with followers and customers, or worse - don’t have any social accounts - you have low or NO chance of showing up in a search engines results. The simple way to look at it - the more active you are on your accounts, the better off you’ll be when someone Google’s you.

Analytics

Maybe you’ve heard the word but aren’t exactly sure what it is, or why it’s necessary. Well listen up! Analytics related to business is the data created by using the math and science of recorded computer information and patterns so we can find out statistics primarily about our website, brand, demographics, products, etc. In simpler terms, it’s direct information we can use to learn more about the people, products, and services we offer so we can change and improve our business, products, and services for the better. For instance, you may think you market your product primarily to men, when in reality 76% of your customers are women. That may change how you market, or even what products you sell in the future.

Analytics are an amazing tool for business owners, and the best way besides your website to get this valuable information is by having a strong social media presence. Most social media platforms offer some sort of analytics and data. For instance, business Instagram accounts can receive “Insights” data on activity, content, and audience. All for free!

It’s FREE

Speaking of free, not all things that come free are worth investing in. But Social Media platforms are the most profitable digital marketing tool (did I mention FREE?) you can use to increase your business visibility without paying a dime. You lose nothing, and gain everything as it has the greatest return on investment. Sure, you need to invest your time, and time=money, but if you’re not ready to invest time in your business, maybe running your own business isn’t for you.

OK, sure, you may already have opened an account on Facebook and Instagram, but guess what? It takes more than just having a custom branded handle (the @ name used on social media). You need to actively communicate and promote yourself.

But if you don’t have all the time to invest right now, I’ve got good news for you. That’s where I come in. If you don’t have the time to come up with the posting ideas and create the content (many business owners like you struggle with both), I can help not only create a custom social media content calendar, but I can design, write, and schedule all your posts too. Just leave it to me.

Find out more about my services and prices by contacting me at lauren@laurenaustincreative.com.


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