In the past year I’ve had a few opportunities to speak about my experiences as a small business owner, and have been asked to share advice with aspiring entrepreneurs. I cannot pretend to be an expert, nor is this an exhaustive list, but as I enter my 4th year of business there have been a few lessons learned, often through trial and error, that I am more than happy to share, and which I’ve compiled here today in no particular order.
This one seems pretty straightforward, but it is really critically important to continue learning, to continue asking questions, and testing new ideas. I’ve found that one of the most depressing things to hear in response to a new idea in a workplace is “But this is how we’ve always done it.” Sure, if you’ve found your groove, that’s great, but I can’t stress enough the importance of exposing oneself to new ideas. Sign up for a library card, watch a free webinar, listen to a podcast— whatever it is, even if it only seems adjacent to your business and you feel you know the subject inside and out, give it a chance. I am so thankful for the experiences of others that have illuminated my journey, which brings me to…
FIND/BE A MENTOR
Reach out and find a mentor! And even if you don’t feel ready, explore being a mentor! Seriously, sharing knowledge, building community and kinship, helping the next person up the ladder— the gifts you’ll receive from these relationships are invaluable. Not sure where to start? There are so many solopreneur support groups, newsletters, and discussion boards out there, put yourself out there and explore the possibilities!
Running a business is challenging, but like most things in life, making decisions is easier when your values are clear to you. Ask yourself why you want to be a solopreneur, and really be honest with yourself. If you are doing it for external rewards, I can promise it will be a much more challenging journey. I believe that Jennifer Armbrust was right in explaining that a business can be a microcosm of the world in which we want to live. I want my business to be an equitable, sustainable, socially-conscious, welcoming space, and so I make decisions based around these priorities. It is not a challenge-free path, by any means, but prioritizing our values helps us when we are faced with difficult decisions.
FIND THE JOY
No matter how much you prepare, no matter how much you love being a SBO, you will inevitably have bad days. Such is life. However, it helps to balance the rocky times if you really take a moment to pause and recognize when you are in the good times. Slow down, take a breath, and find the joy. Maybe it’s something as simple as making your favorite type of tea before responding to emails, or wearing your cozy slippers while you prepare tax documents, but if it helps you feel more able to accomplish a stressful task, do it! For me, this includes finding the right music to set the mood in the shop or my studio, and uusing decorative folders to keep organized, which reminds me…
ORGANIZE, ORGANIZE, ORGANIZE
It seems like there are a million different guides telling people how to get and stay organized, but whatever you do, figure out a method of organization that works for you and stick with it. Save your receipts, stay up to date on your bookkeeping, keep an updated calendar, and don’t procrastinate when it comes to deadlines. Sometimes it can feel like running a business is just putting out small fires, but it just makes life harder than it has to be, to suddenly find yourself scrambling to put together the past quarter’s financials and then getting fined for filing your taxes late. Trust me.
Have a question about being a solopreneur? Drop it in the comments below!