No one’s first year in business goes quite as they expect, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. It’s the surprises or ‘un-expectations’ that can be most valuable.
My husband and I are about to celebrate our first year in business and what a year it’s been. With no previous experience as business owners it has certainly been a learning curve and needless to say that although we’ve made progress not all of the expectations we had going into our venture have been met. What I’ve found much more interesting though are the unexpected discoveries I’ve made along the way.
Social media support network
Thanks to the Flying Solo forums, Facebook and (surprisingly to me) Twitter I’ve made some great connections both in my area and across Australia, some of which have turned into great friends. These are other small business owners who’ve been so supportive in listening to my frustrations, ready with some great advice and motivation or a comforting “been there”. They’ve been invaluable and if you haven’t thought about using social media it is more than worth it for this reason alone.
Marketing, marketing, marketing
I spend a lot of time on marketing. I write articles for Flying Solo, our own website and other guest writing opportunities. Then there’s participating in Twitter and other social media, attending meet-ups and networking events, the never-ending website tweaks and SEO work. So much of our first year has been about raising awareness. If you’re just starting out: plan to spend lots of time marketing. If you don’t have the time to do it consider paying an expert to manage your social media or write some articles for you. (Also check out the Flying Solo Guide to marketing – available to download from the member benefits area.)
Want more articles like this? Check out the business startup section.
However long you think something will take, it will take at least twice as long. For us this included getting our first client, then getting our second client… are you seeing a pattern? Getting our website designed and live, bookkeeping, BAS, superannuation (arrggh) putting together a quote – the list goes on. Allow for extra time in your budget and make sure that you have the finances to support your business while you are waiting for those first precious clients. As soon as you can, set up a checklist or instructions so that you can get through routine work efficiently and non-routine work more confidently.
Help from unexpected places
While you might expect support to come from close family and friends, we discovered the most valuable help came from previous business colleagues and acquaintances and more distant relatives who run their own successful businesses. We’ve been lucky to get some great mentoring and had the benefit of some experienced eyes to go over some of our work. Our business is all the better for it. Don’t be afraid to make contact even if it has been a few years. We were blown away by the generosity we’ve received from people we didn’t expect.
Back to basics
I knew I would learn new things when I started the business but the surprise was what I learnt. I hadn’t considered that I’d be writing articles for publications, being interviewed for podcasts and industry magazines, interviewing other experts, leading workshops and tweeting (I just didn’t get it). It has forced me to step out of my comfort zone and in some cases to go back to basics to learn about social media for B2B, SEO techniques and marketing. Although learning can be very satisfying, if you get stuck like we did at times, make sure you get some help from an expert. We’re all too busy to waste time. Don’t be too proud to ask for help.
These unexpected discoveries have made for a very interesting first year in business and I’m looking forward to the next 12 months and the surprises it will bring.
What surprises did you have in your first year of business? Were they a positive experience for you?