The Top 10 Lessons I Learned In My First Year Of Business
It’s hard to believe I am celebrating the success (and survival) of my first year in business! This time last year, with sweaty hands and extreme tachycardia, I was gearing up to hit that proverbial red “Launch” button on the When Life website. I wish that I could say things have been nothing but a bed of roses, but the reality is that even though it has been an incredible journey, I have made just as many mistakes as I have had successes. So, before we pop the champagne and eat more cupcakes than I should, I want to share with you the top 10 lessons I learned this past year while getting my entrepreneur feet wet.
Lesson 1 – It’s hard. Like really hard. There is SO much stuff that goes on behind the scenes many people don’t realize. I can honestly say that I work more hours now than when I worked full time for someone else. True story. The difference being that I set my hours around what works best for me and my family and not the other way around. From learning content creation, navigating social media algorithms, researching products, writing and copywriting, becoming fluent in the legal and accounting aspects of your business…the list really is endless. If anyone tells you, “I own an online business; or I’m a blogger,” just know if they are doing it right, it’s a lot of work.
Lesson 2 – It can be very lonely. The rate of depression and anxiety among entrepreneurs is extremely high. You would be shocked at the number of groups, posts, books, and conversations that are centered around balancing owning your own business and life, not falling into the comparison trap, and taking care of yourself mentally, emotionally, and physically. There are hundreds of “reminders” in the form of beautiful pictures that run through my social media feeds everyday to gently nudge me to make sure I put my phone down for awhile.
Lesson 3 – You really can meet some amazing people through social media and networking. This can tie in to lesson 2 a little bit. Sometimes, as an entrepreneur, you just feel like no one “gets it.” They think by running a business you can do what you want when you want, work as much or as little as you would like, show up in your business when it’s convenient for you…it does not work that way! You get what you put into it, and knowing that, we often tend to work more than the average person (even if the hours look different). I have been so incredibly blessed to have made some wonderful friends through social media who understand what it is like because most of them are also writing, blogging, or running their own business. They understand what I am going through. They support and encourage me. They understand when I need to go off the radar for a day or so to spend time with my family. They really are an incredible group of women who support and inspire one another. And even though we are scattered all across the world we are all experiencing the exact same highs and lows. I have found the saying to be true…find your tribe and love them hard.
Lesson 4 – Nothing goes as planned. I thought I would be owning an Etsy shop; I have my own website that I manage. I thought I would be making my own shirts; I have someone that prints them for me. I thought my shop would be known for its products (seeing as how I am a product-based business); my personal writings and submitted stories are by far my readers/customers favorite. I thought I would have a clean house and have all the time in the world to play with my kids; my house is a disaster and I have mom guilt every.single.day over how little time I actually have with them. I have learned the importance of being able to pivot in my business when I see what people love the most. I have learned to give myself grace so I can let the laundry or dishes wait so I can play one more game of Candy Land. We all could stand to have a little more grace in our lives, right? I think so.
Lesson 5 – Be a sponge. I think one of the greatest attributes to a successful entrepreneur is to be a life long learner. I love to read and listen to podcasts, so I am constantly soaking up every morsel of knowledge that I possibly can. However, and this is important, the one thing that I learned (and it took me almost a year to learn this) was you must be able to sift through all the noise and information and find what is going to work for you and your business. Every “expert” has their opinion on how you should be running your website, managing your social media, networking, content planning, etc. but not every idea is one you should be implementing. In the beginning, I was very active in so many business and social media groups and before I knew it I was so confused by everyone’s different approach. I have mastered the art of absorbing it all and extracting exactly what I think would work best for When Life.
Lesson 6 – Enjoy and savor the journey. Overnight successes are rare. As a newbie to business and to social media, it was easy in the beginning to look at someone’s highlight reel and become discouraged where I was in the process. Here I am a year later, and I have mastered so many of the goals I set for myself, however there are so many I didn’t even scratch the surface on. I am absolutely certain there were things that I could have done differently to propel When Life forward faster, but I have intentionally taken the slower road and have truly enjoyed this chapter of my life. I am learning. I am growing. And I am doing the best I can.
Lesson 7 – It’s not just about you. When building a business and creating content and products for that business, I have learned that it isn’t all about what I like. It isn’t all about what only resonates with me. It is learning to listen to my audience and readers to determine what makes them tick. However, this doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t be true to yourself. It’s about finding a balance between your customer’s needs and the values of your company. I never desired to really branch out and make more than t-shirts, however when customers started asking for more variety there was no reason why I couldn’t find a way to make that happen. It’s like I said before in Lesson 5. Be a sponge. Take in what your audience is saying to you and sift through what is best for both your business and your tribe.
Lesson 8 – Not everyone is going to love you. However, that is okay! I am not going to be everyone’s cup of tea. As a natural people pleaser that was a hard pill to swallow. It has taken me this entire first year to be good with the idea that some people are just not going to love and want to be a part of When Life. I really try to be a positive and uplifting person. That can be a turn off to some people. I am a Christian, which may be something you aren’t interested in hearing about. I write about my children and some people hate reading “Mom” related blog posts. I won’t allow certain language in submitted stories. I turn stories away if the topic is one that would not be of interest to my audience. This used to keep me up at night and make me sick with worry and anxiety. So just remember…if you are going into business, starting a blog, or whatever you feel called to do, just put your big girl undies on and keep in mind that famous quote floating around the internet, “You can’t make everyone happy. You aren’t tacos!”
Lesson 9 – There are seasons. This is probably THE most important lesson I have learned (and am still learning). I heard this all my life growing up, but it wasn’t until this Spring/Summer that I have truly learned what exactly this means, and looks like, for me. I plan on writing an entire post about what it means to be in a season, but for now I will share with you my motto that I have used to get me through the hardest times in creating an equilibrium between home (particularly raising my children) and owning and operating a business full-time. God did not bless me with 3 children and plant the seed of creating and doing great things with When Life for me to fail at one and succeed at the other. Now let that sink in. I prayed for my children and God gave them to me. They are young, they are in some of the most important years of their lives, one has special needs, exceptions, and abilities, and I am doing the very best I can with them. I also prayed very hard and diligently that God would open doors and give me a way to bless others and hopefully (if not eventually) provide some type of income to my family after I had to leave the only career I knew. The idea for When Life came shortly after that. In the beginning, I seemingly had all the time in the world to write, network, and run my business. However, as Winter turned to Spring this year, the kids started to really have a lot going on…transitions to kindergarten and middle school, staff changes with my oldest at school, doctor visits, field trips, Summer camps…it seemed like it was one thing after the other and the time I would normally devote to writing or creating became less and less. After a lot of prayer, that is when God gave me the beforementioned motto. This is a season. My kids need me right now, so I have less time to devote to business. Does that make me a failure in it? Nope. It has made me stronger and given me peace knowing that while I am busy doing only what I can do as their mother, God is taking care of business while I am out of the office.
Lesson 10 – There really isn’t anything I would rather be doing. End of story. It doesn’t matter if When Life lasts 5 years or 50, I know I am exactly where I am supposed to be. I think that as long as I am where God wants me to be everything will fall into place. I will keep growing and evolving with the seasons. I will have peace and control over my anxiety. I will continue to build on the wonderful friendships I have made and continue to make. And I will continue to be true to you and the values and morals When Life has been built on. The best part? I get to do it with you!
Here's to our future together!