Hello SOTGC community,
“So, you want to start a business?”
This topic and theme continues to come up at networking events, brunches with fellow #WomenInBiz and online Facebook groups that I belong to and it’s always followed with the respondent, who’s just shared that she wants to leave her 9-to-5, saying, “Well, yeah. I want to leave my job and start my own business ….. I just don’t know where to start.”
Having started my own business nearly five years ago, I sat down at my laptop, (fueled by a Starbucks venti drip coffee), contemplating the top advice and tips I could share with aspiring female entrepreneurs based on personal experience.
The first thing that came to mind was this line: ”Once you’ve tasted freedom, you can never go back.”
Full disclosure gals: there are moments when entrepreneurship will test your faith, there are moments when entrepreneurship will make you want that steady, direct deposit check and break your heart open to a type of self-love and acceptance you never knew you needed. There are moments when you will relish in being able to set your own hours and wear what YOU want to work. And it’s that freedom that makes it worth it. The freedom of choosing who you work with, what you work on, how much you earn, the freedom to evolve.
So, how do you start? Maybe you trade Friday nights out for Friday nights in, to watch and learn from every Shark Tank episode. Maybe you eventually strike up the nerve to tweet Lori and Barbara, or at least read their books and bios. Maybe you start by thinking about your job, your commute and your wardrobe and finally realize they no longer suit you. Maybe you set up an automated savings account for your cash cushion and when you hit a certain amount, say $5,000-$10,000, you make a move. Maybe you’re inspired by the freedom you see on Facebook and Instagram updates from your friends, those collecting passport stamps and working from their mobile offices overlooking the beach and you’ve done your market research, you have a site map waiting in the wings and you plan to use social media to spread the word and acquire customers. So, you quit, launch, and never look back.
Nearly five years ago, I too felt ALL of the above (and I had a $10,000 cash cushion when I started my business). This was when social media and Shark Tank were still in their infancy so if I could do it then, you can do it now. Personally, I longed to be free to write like Elizabeth Gilbert in “Eat, Pray Love,” to work from my Macbook anywhere in the world, to inspire other women to start and grow their on ventures and to tackle my earning potential head on.
Now, all this tweeting, posting and blogging—not to mention networking—has certainly shown us what freedoms are possible as women when we finally face our fears of failing, of not having to follow in our parent’s footsteps, of not knowing whether we will succeed as entrepreneurs. As someone who’s experienced both exhilaration and overwhelm in pursuit of freedom when I left the last cubicle I’d ever work in to start my own venture, I hope to help with the tips below. The advice I am about to offer is based upon a little mix of 20-20 hindsight, advice I’ve asked other girl-boss babes to share, and general tips from my experience as an entrepreneurship mentor and coach, too.
Rule #1. Thou shall not compare and also, focus on self-care. No one’s first year in business is the same. The first 12 months of my business definitely felt like a series of frantic actions including over tweeting, working ten hour days, undervaluing my rates, networking, learning how to work ON a business, how to work IN a business, and everything in between. The first year you launch a business is like the first year you learn how to drive. You know the basic rules, but you may be too eager to speed up OR you may avoid the freeway all together. Some people have a six-figure business their first year, some people break-even. Focus on life balance, focus on scale and profitability, focus on creating and working your strategy, on quality versus quantity of customers and on taking care of you. Eat right, sleep eight hours per night and take off on the weekends. Your mental and physical faculties are the keys to your success.
Rule #2. You have options as far as your “legal” structure is concerned. You can be a DBA/sole-proprietor, an S-corp, an LLC, the list goes on and on. You can pick one and evolve later. Each has its own taxation structure. And depending upon the state you reside in, each will have its own fees and filing too. Talk to a lawyer, talk to an accountant, talk to the entrepreneurs you know and ask them which structure they recommend and why. For an overview on each type according to the SBA, click here: https://www.sba.gov/category/navigation-structure/starting-managing-business/starting-business/choose-your-business-stru
Rule #3. On finding your first customers. Provided by @MsKara_Isreal. “Never underestimate the power of who you know. Simply discussing your business model and goals with another boss babe can be the start of your success. Expressing confidence in your dreams will show your acquaintance just how passionate you are, then they will search their mental library of who recently expressed their need for a service or product you provide and connect you. Also, because we are a product of the people we spend the most time with, try expanding your horizons. Pursue hobbies in your off time and be open to meeting new people. Join that SoulCycle class on Thursday nights you’ve been dying to try out. SoulCycle classes, as an example, bring together a large variety of women. You never know if your next client or strategic alliance is on that bike next to you. Your customers can be anywhere.”
Rules #4 and 5. On bookkeeping and other operational stuff. Technology can make bookkeeping very seamless. Years ago, an organizer introduced me to Outright (now GoDaddy Bookkeeping) which syncs with your business bank accounts and provides reports. If I had to do it all over again, I may have started out with Quickbooks but GoDaddy is a great tool to start and grow with. Also, make it a point to try to automate what you can do in your business to save you time. As an example, if you have a service-based business, automate your invoicing and billing or monthly recurring payments. If you have a product-based business, automate your email communications pre and post purchase. You can even automate your blog post publishing in WordPress and your social media (although I don’t suggest you default to that without a content marketing strategy). Speaking of content, find out how another SOTGC contributor was inspired to create a great content funnel by a Cup of Cappucino.
Lastly, here are brief words of wisdom from other women who started their own businesses in pursuit of freedom, too.
Sarah Collette, founder of Sarah’s Skinny Sweets from Los Angeles says, “Find someone one year ahead of you & ask for advice. My mentors have been angels for my business!”
Lolita Taub, Creator of The F Show; Female Millennial Entrepreneurs from San Diego says, “Know what you’re selling; you must help customers solve a problem + achieve a goal. Do that and it makes it easy to buy.”
Helene Kwong of The Hashtag Hustler from Denver, Colorado says, “Check out your local small business development center (SBDC) or hire an independent business coach to help plan your business.”
“Once you’ve tasted freedom you can never go back.” Which brings me to my last piece of hindsight 20-20 advice: you never regret the day you finally start working for yourself. At a certain point, you have to stop taking advice and start taking action.
Speaking of action, looking for more information and inspiration on being a female entrepreneur? Join my email list where I dish out advice on social media marketing strategy, naming your biz, collaborating with strategic alliances, building your online community and more. I’ll even let you know when my Startups and Stilettos boot camp+book will be released www.jaclynmullen.com