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5 Lessons I Learned After One Year As a Small Business Owner

new business owner

After years of ignoring the steady calling to venture into the world of entrepreneurship once and for all, I finally listened to my intuition and took the plunge in December 2022. 

Founding my LLC made me feel like I was on top of the world. All the little milestones that followed — actually doing business things, like working with clients, keeping track of expenses and developing a brand — kept my morale afloat. 

But then, as expected, everything that was shiny and new eventually settled. When the excitement started wearing off, I began questioning my actions. Could this business really work? What would happen if I fail? What if no one is interested in what I have to offer?

The doubts crept in. But I kept going. And after celebrating another recent milestone — one year of business — here are the biggest lessons I’ve learned that have helped me find success:

1. Remember You are Exactly Where You’re Supposed to Be

As a new business owner, it’s very easy to focus on how far ahead everyone else is. Or to feel like your industry is already saturated with other professionals who know more than you, have been in business longer than you, and have it all figured out.

Real talk: Everyone has flaws. Every business is run in its own way. How you show up in your business is unique to you, too. While it’s helpful to see what others are doing, remember to take the pointers and tactics that align with your business model — and leave the rest.

As you get into your business, you’ll find what works for you. In some ways, you may look and operate like your business-owning peers. In others, you won’t. And that is exactly the way it’s supposed to be. With time, you’ll get to all the places you look at in admiration today.

2. Have a Morning Routine

For most of my corporate career, I worked primarily in-office. That drastically changed when I became a full-time entrepreneur, which came with the flexibility of a more fluid work schedule. I found myself getting lax when I started my day. Sometimes I completed my workout first-thing, and other times I logged off midday to break a sweat. On days with no meetings, I didn’t put real pants on or clean myself up.

While the flexibility is a major perk of entrepreneurship, I quickly realized that part of being productive and present in my business was how I started each day. By having a routine, I found that when I sat down at my desk, I was energized, focused, and ready to dig in.

A few tips for establishing structure in the freedom of being a business owner:

  • A productive day starts the night before. Get to bed at a decent time and have a clear idea of what the next day will look like.
  • Wake up at the same time each day. 
  • Get ready as if you were going to work in-office, whatever that looks like for you.
  • Know what you’re going to eat. Working on an empty stomach or being unsure where lunch is coming from isn’t good for productivity. 

3. Stay the Course

Consistency leads to progress. Maybe you want to post on social media five times per week but can only realistically manage twice. Start there and stick with it until you hit your ideal cadence. Maybe you know you need better processes, but your spreadsheets work for now. Keep using them until you can upgrade. 

Each day, challenge yourself to do one thing that gets you closer to your goals. Just as the best things in life aren’t made overnight, don’t let perfection get in the way of progress. If you simply start and keep going, you’ll have made significant headway over the course of a year.

4. Find Your Support System

Entrepreneurship is lonely, especially at the beginning. Long hours, a lack of small-talk with co-workers, minimal positive reinforcement from colleagues, and being the one to make all the decisions can get isolating, fast. 

This is where your people come in. From trusted family and friends to fellow entrepreneurs you meet online or in local groups, having a go-to to pick you up when you’re down and to bounce ideas off of is tremendously valuable. 

5. Give Yourself Grace

As an entrepreneur, you wear all the hats. Marketer. Accountant. IT pro. Project manager. While this is often a necessity for business owners just starting out, it can often make each day feel as if you’re doing everything and nothing all at once. 

You won’t have all the answers. Most tasks will take longer than you anticipated. You’ll trip and stumble and get back up again.

The beauty of owning a business is that you’ll evolve. Start where you are now and know that it’s okay to not have all the answers. Your brand, your workflows, your offerings, your systems, and, most importantly, you, will get better with time. Don’t be so hard on yourself. 

I bet when you look back on your progress after one year, three years, or in 1o years, you’ll be pretty proud of all you accomplished.

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