It was about this time last year that I began having medical issues that clearly needed more than Zyrtec, Tylenol, or Synthroid. That summer would be a time of intense reflection for me on the state of my career, our family goals, and my quality of life. While my decision led to me quitting my full-time job and launching a full-time career as a writer and social media consultant, I was able to document my process from moving from the 9 to 5 mindset to the entrepreneurial mindset. I can honestly tell you that nine months in I still don't have it all right, but I did learn some things in my first 100 days that helped me ease the transition.
1. Have a minimal but stable stream of income. When I stopped working full-time, I began working part-time for the same employer. A part-time job doesn't do much to help a family of four thrive, but it does make sure we have groceries on the table. I spend my mornings four days a week at that part-time job, and I schedule all of my other freelance and consulting work around that. The part-time job gives me the amount of personal security I need to know that I have some income, but it also gives me the boost to I need to push harder in all aspects of my business. Fyi, my part-time job relates directly to my life as a writer. Try your best to make sure the two are connected.
2. Budget for 180 days. That's six months. Six months is important because it's not too short and not too long. Six months means you are going to have grind from the beginning and it gives you the cushion to start making money. While I quit my job in August, I didn't start making money until October. It was reassuring that I could put all my energy in my business and professional development activities without constantly feeling like I had to make a lot of money right away.
3. Establish your systems. As a procrastinator, this one was hard for me. When I worked for an organization, I just followed their policies and procedures. When I started my own business, I had to develop my own. Some of the electronic systems I tried are Asana and 17 Hats. I now use Freedcamp and Basecamp and love them both.
4. Get the official business entity designation. Decide early if you are a sole proprietor or a corporation. Find out the laws for your county or state for incorporating a business entity. One of my blogging friends, Regina, has an awesome and free YouTube video about this. Once you're on YouTube, search for ByReginaTV. Subscribe to her channel, thank me later.
5. Create Open When Cards for Yourself. There were be good days and bad days, you have to be able to encourage yourself. I gave Open When cards as a Valentine's Day present to my children this year. Take some time one afternoon and create some for yourself.
6. Set Boundaries. I found out quickly that many of my friends and family thought since I work from home, I was chilling. My kids started calling more asking me to run errands for them, my significant other thought we could have special dates everyday, and my former co-workers would call to keep me updated on the happenings at the office. While I love impromptu calls and visits, I also had a job to do and just like when I worked at 9 to 5, I could not spend my entire day socializing.
7. Develop a system of business accounting. I am a creative, not a numbers person. But as a business owner, I have to know what my income is and what my outcome is. If the thought of this scares you like it did (and still does) me, use Paypal for Business or Wave. They make a lot of routine business record-keeping practices easy.
8. Establish your workplace habits and be Inflexible. See number 6 above. It was worth repeating.
9. Figure out the health insurance stuff. The healthcare marketplace was not the easiest to navigate for me. Whether or not you use it or have health insurance through your spouse, make sure all of your medical insurance ducks are in a row.
10. Have accountability partners. This is critical. You need to be willing to talk to them at least once a day and see them at least once a week. In your 9 to 5 job you had regular interaction with you colleagues and supervisors, accountability/ mastermind groups replace the 9 to 5 version of a staff meeting. My friend Cheryl and I attempt to talk business at least once a day. We are each other's business accountability partners.
11. Invest in yourself and your professional development. This was the absolute best thing I could have done. I started working with a writing coach, I took a few courses in website development and graphic design, and I learned the business laws as they relate to my state and county. If there's one bit of advice I took from my previous job to my life as an entrepreneur, it's that learning should never stop. If you're a blogger, I would highly suggest that you read as much as you can from Regina Anaejionou. If you have an on-line business, check out Alisha Byrd. You can't go wrong with her either.
12. Develop a plan for networking. When I graduated from college 20 plus years ago, the career advisor told us the importance of joining professional organizations, attending conferences, and meeting people. All of this still rings true today, but because of the internet and social media, we can and should network on-line. How much time you devote to on-line networking is going to depend on the type of business you own and the services you provide. If the majority of your business occurs online, you should then be networking on-line, a lot. Speaking on on-line networking, we should connect on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest!
13. Define and refine your brand. When I started I thought I would do two things: be a professional blogger and photographer. I didn't have a name for my company, and I didn't even think i needed to create a business entity. I didn't know what a brand was, and I definitely didn't know how my brand would help it's customers and the community as a whole. In simpler terms, I didn't have a clue. One of the branding coaches I follow regularly is Maya Elious. Check her out!
14. Help others. Once you are learning things and your business is growing, you will meet others who are starting out or even considering starting a business. HELP THEM. Answer the questions they have, give them a taste of the knowledge that you learned, suggest the successful mentors for them.
15. Figure Out Free first. I know you're in this business to make money. I know money is important. In order to build your audience and customer base, you may have to some work for free in the name of exposure. Figure out what you're willing to do for free and how long you're willing to do it at the discount.
Here are some books I would also recommend for any new business owner:
Ultimate Monthly Business Planner
Are you an entrepreneur? Tell me about your business and the lessons you've learned?