Being an entrepreneur and growing your business is tough. It always has been. In light of the push for entrepreneurship during and after the pandemic, I’ve had lots of conversations with friends and family members that either want to give up completely or can’t even find the courage to get started. I’m no expert, but my advice is always the same: do what’s best for you, but don’t give up just because a hurdle jumps in your path.
I have been an entrepreneur on and off my entire life. I’ve sold businesses, I’ve built businesses, and I’ve ruined businesses. Those that were most successful were the ones I put the most heart and soul into, but it wasn’t just about that. For what it’s worth, here are a few things that I did with my first business and with each one since.
I formed a business structure.
To be fair, I started out as a solopreneur. My first business was making T-shirts, and I thought I could just sell them from my house with no problems. That worked for a little while, but then tax time came. I owed a lot more than I thought, all because I was unaware of how taxes work. (In the US, self-employed people have to pay their own taxes every quarter.) I found that forming an LLC (proprietary limited company in Australia) allowed me to pay myself through the company and withhold taxes in a business account. As an added bonus, it was much easier to keep up with what I made and what I spent since I ran everything through the business and not my personal bank account.
I used a lead generation service.
One of my biggest secrets is that I did not source all of my customers on my own. I still don’t. One of the best ways to find customers that you want is to partner with a lead generation service. Companies offering this service essentially act as sales agents on your behalf. This saves me a great deal of time on content marketing, paid marketing, and cold calling. There are plenty of freelance job platforms that can give you a better idea of how lead generation works, and you can find a professional based on your budget, their reviews, and availability.
I stopped invoicing by hand.
Collecting money owed to me was one of the greatest challenges I had as a first-time business owner. I would either forget to send an invoice, write something wrong, or lose the invoice completely – apparently, all of these are common problems. After losing a ridiculous amount of money, I started using a digital invoice template. Now, I can shoot invoices over via email with the payment terms clearly spelled out, and not in my terrible handwriting. I like to use a template because they are already pre-populated with much of the information that I need, such as an area for the quantity and cost. I can also have the logo, and most templates work with common invoicing software.
I hired the right people.
One of the first mistakes that I made as a new business owner was hiring my best friend’s little sister to design shirts for my customers. It was a disaster. Things were misspelled, and, worse, she was pulling pictures straight off the internet, which is a huge no-no in the design industry. Long story short, I lost a lot of money because I was afraid to fire her, something Anchor Advisors acknowledges is a problem with putting friends and family on the payroll. When she finally left for college a few months into it, I decided that I was only going to hire qualified individuals that could see me as a boss and not just a family friend.
Am I a business genius? No way. But, I did learn a few things from my successes and my failures. Forming a business structure, outsourcing lead generation, invoicing the right way, and hiring the right people are the four greatest lessons that I’ve learned and are the nuggets of knowledge that I wanted to share.