5 Lessons I've Learned from 5 Years in Business
What I did right and what I wish I had done sooner!
This October, 2023, my business turned five! This is a huge milestone because the stats for starting a business are horrific:
Data from the BLS shows that approximately 20% of new businesses fail during the first two years of being open, 45% during the first five years, and 65% during the first 10 years. Only 25% of new businesses make it to 15 years or more.
In this blog, I’m sharing my top 5 lessons I learned from 5 years in business so that you don't make some of the mistakes I did!
Lesson 1: You don’t need to do 100 courses/download a million freebies
When I say that I have bought over 100 online courses, I am not joking. As an infovore, I thrive on learning new things and I have a massive case of FOMO (fear of missing out) when it comes to learning about running a business.
At the beginning of my entrepreneurial journey, I dove deep into the world of social media, marketing and life coaching.
So I signed up for numerous freebies, downloads, webinars and courses. Some were free, but many were paid products at a time when I was earning pretty much nothing from my business.
I thought the more I knew, the quicker and easier it would be to start making money in my business.
Well, spoiler alert, this is simply not the case.
I was also struggling with a major case of imposter syndrome and simply needed to realise that all these people I admired also started off knowing next to nothing about running their businesses.
And that there's no magic "right" way to do things and to be honest, I sometimes used the "learning phase" as an excuse not to step into the "doing phase" (see Lesson 2 below).
If you also find yourself opting into dozens of webinars and signing up for a bucket load of courses that you never seem to get through (or implement), I urge you to take a step back.
Evaluate why you think you need to learn another strategy or skill. Instead of being overwhelmed, pick one or two mentors who have proven results doing the thing you want to do, and stick with them.
Otherwise, you risk becoming completely consumed with other people’s tips, advice and strategies and might never make progress on your goals.
Sometimes less is more.
Lesson 2. Research mode vs actually doing work
Leading on from Lesson 1, was my tendency to devour copious amounts of information, but implement very little of it. If this sounds familiar, don’t beat yourself up about it.
I think there is a place for researching, learning and up-skilling, but at some point, you need to do the work.
Build the website (or outsource it), create the lead magnet, go to a networking event, reach out to a lead and try make the sale (land the client). Just do the thing!
Stop thinking about it, and start doing it - you’ll be amazed at how quickly your business grows.
Lesson 3: Focusing on social media content creation
If I could tally up the hours and hours of my life I’ve wasted creating social media content, I would cry.
There seems to be an endless supply of business coaches encouraging you to create content pretty much 24/7. As much as they say “Pick one platform to start with”, you’ll find that these same people are consistently active on pretty much every platform.
Which sends the unspoken message that perhaps you should be, too.
The thing is, I gained exactly 1 client from my social media posting. I'm talking hours and hours of work. The rest of my clients? Well, they have all come from word-of-mouth (more on that later).
I’m not saying that social media is bad, after all, my business is to help established entrepreneurs stay consistent on Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest. To save them time by doing the taxing content creation for them.
I believe that social media is a tool that can help you build your brand, provide value to your audience and have a strong online presence.
I recommend focusing on getting paying clients first.
Keep it simple: create an Instagram, Facebook and TikTok (if that’s your vibe. It’s not mine) account and for the love of all that is holy, secure your business/brand name on every platform you can think of because you might decide you need it one day.
But when you are just starting out, focus on landing your first client and blowing their mind with how incredible it is to work with you. Overdeliver. Wow them. And then maintain that standard so that they cannot imagine how they ever coped without you.
If you are time-constrained but don't want to ghost social media entirely, try posting once or twice a week, just so that if someone lands on your account they can see that your business is still active on social media.
Check your Inbox daily in case someone enquires about your product or services. And post Stories if that appeals to you.
It took me several years of endless content creation to realise that the easiest way to find new clients was not by posting more frequently, but by speaking to the clients and acquaintances I already had.
Which leads me to Lesson 4...
Lesson 4: Connections over content
Which is why networking is my next lesson. As an introverted solo entrepreneur who has worked from home for 6+ years now, isolation has become the norm.
I truly relish my own company so I rarely ever feel lonely.
But one thing I do is schedule regular Zoom or in-person meetings with my clients so that not only can I provide them with white-glove service, but they keep me top of mind when one of their business-owner friends are looking for a social media manager or copywriter.
Nothing is more satisfying than to have someone contact you and ask to work with you, because of something one of your existing clients has said about you.
Prioritise your connections and be kind to everyone you interact with. You never know where a chance encounter may lead.
Lesson 5: It’s okay to pivot
My first business model was as a life coach. Yup, I’m a certified Life Coach, NLP Practitioner, Body Coach and Business Coach. I fell in love with various self-coaching methodologies and truly wanted to help people learn how to help themselves.
But I’m also a social media manager and Meta ads expert with 6+ years proven experience.
I began to realise that it was far harder for me, personally, to land new coaching clients consistently, but my social media manager client list was growing without any active marketing on my behalf. No promos. No ads. Just word-of-mouth referrals that 9 times out of 10 led me to a wonderful business owner who is a dream to work with.
I had to face reality and the truth of the numbers.
The services I was providing to small business owners were generating far more revenue than coaching.
Businesses run on cashflow and while my overheads were extremely low, until I started taking on business owners and helping them with their social media, I was earning next to nothing. I had to face the horrible truth (I'm sure you've heard it before) which is that if your business isn’t making money, then what you really have is a hobby.
And I wasn't here to play around. I wanted to be a real business owner (imposter syndrome rearing its ugly head again) and to do that, I had to go where my skills and value was most needed.
So I pivoted my website and social media to speak more to business owners, and it’s all worked out for the benefit of everyone. The great thing is that I am able to assist my clients with mindset and business coaching if they want it.
A note on your business and your identity
It’s important to realise that you are not your business. It’s not healthy to define yourself or identify your self-worth by “what you do”.
You can love your business but also have a healthy emotional detachment from it. This is vital if you want to stay agile in an ever-changing market. You will find it far easier to shift, change and pivot when you need to.
When I switched from coaching to being a social media manager, copywriter etc. for other entrepreneurs, I didn’t mourn the “loss” or “failure” of my coaching business, or regret the over R100K I invested in my certifications.
Instead, saw it as the launching pad to something bigger and better.
And I still use my coaching tools and NLP techniques every day, even if it’s just on myself!
Some might look at this list and see these five lessons as five failures or mistakes, but I don’t view them that way at all.
I see them as indispensable steps along the path of my entrepreneurial journey.
That being said, I don’t want you to waste time and energy on some of these things, if knowing about them today can help you grow your business quicker tomorrow.
I still have a lot to learn and much growing to do, but after five years, I can honestly say that starting my business has been one of the most satisfying things I’ve ever done.
And if I can do it, so can you!
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