5 Lessons Learned After My First Year As Solopreneur
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While the family and I recover from getting back from our cross-country trip last night, please enjoy this contribution from my good blogging friend Shannon at Financially Blonde. If you’d like to contribute to Frugal Rules, please contact us.
For those of you who don’t know me, I am a 13-year financial services veteran (similar to John) who left a job as a financial advisor with a large wealth management company last year to start my own business focused on helping people in their 20s and 30s get financially fit.
I was compelled to leave my firm after dozens of meetings with people I lovingly termed “pro bonos” or those who did not have the minimum assets ($250,000) to work with a financial advisor. Because I did not look like the traditional advisor (i.e. 50-year-old white male) I had a number of people reach out directly to me for financial advice and guidance; and I made a habit of talking to each and every pro bono who wanted to talk to me.
Over time, I found that helping those without money meant more to me than assisting those with money, so I developed my new business model and plan around what I enjoyed doing. Initially I assumed I would seek investors and start the company up big time and grow from there; however, after lots of advice and counsel, I decided to “bootstrap” my company for the first year or two and then determine if I wanted to take on partners or not. On July 16, 2013, I officially quit my job and became a solopreneur.
Like most new business owners, I learned A LOT of lessons over this past year, and I wanted to share a few of them with you today.
Lesson # 1 – Owning Your Own Business is Frightening
Despite the fact that many days I put on the brave face for my family, friends and clients, I secretly feel like a crazy person huddled in the fetal position in the corner sucking my thumb. After a 13-year career of consistent and large paychecks, the inconsistency of owning your own business can certainly play games with your mind. I had numerous days over this first year where nothing seemed to be going right, and the scary thing about nothing going right is that it means no money is coming in.
About six months into my first year, after a crying fest in the shower where I feared that I let my whole family down, I had pep talk with my reflection in the bathroom mirror. I assured myself that I had never failed anything in my life and that this would not be the first time. I told my reflection to give myself a break and keep moving forward because I believe in my business. I highly recommend the self-pep-talk the next time you get frightened by owning your own business.
Lesson # 2 – You Will Question Your Decision Frequently
I can’t tell you how many nights I have laid in bed and asked myself “Why?” Fortunately for me, I believe in signs from the universe, and I typically would not have to wait long for answers to my questions. Each new client I helped, every new opportunity I found, and every new friend that came my way as a result of this business were answers to my questions. In fact, I am frequently overwhelmed by the answers I get from the universe.
When you work hard and do the right thing for other people, truly spectacular things will happen in your life, and I am definitely proof of that reality. Don’t be afraid to question yourself; the process will not only keep you on your toes, but it will provide answers, insight and unimaginable encouragement.
Lesson # 3 – Beware of the Sharks
When you own your own business, everyone wants something from you. Some people and companies are better at disguising it than others. As a woman business owner, I think one of the worst examples of sharks out there are women business owner organizations, in particular is the National Association of Professional Women. They all promise numerous networking opportunities and ways to grow your business, but all they really do is take your money and send you lots of worthless emails.
Other sharks you need to avoid are professionals who claim to be helpful, but are really just looking at you for a paycheck. When you have to do everything yourself, it is easy to assume that you should just outsource a number of tasks thinking that the money you spend will save you money down the road, but sometimes all you have to save yourself from a shark bite is expend a little bit more energy. For me, I utilized an attorney friend for a number of tasks that I assumed and he convinced me I needed. In hindsight, I could have used LegalZoom or found many of the answers I needed online.
Lesson # 4 – No Matter How Much You Plan – You Will Be Surprised
Like any responsible new business owner, I spent many hours and days researching and developing my business plan for my new company. I created spreadsheets, ran numbers and had everything figured out. Until I met my second client and she needed something I had not planned for.
Instead of letting the situation become a wall, I made it a hurdle and I simply found a solution and leaped over that hurdle. The fact is that no matter how much you plan as a business owner, you will encounter curve balls. You need to be flexible so that you can take advantage of those curve balls rather than striking out when life throws them your way.
Business ownership has led me into situations that were not part of my plan. I have been blogging for almost a year now and love it so much that I refer to myself as a “blogger.” I am releasing my first published book this month about financial fitness. I now write for AOL Jobs about women in finance, and I have formed a partnership with a website that I love, Money Saving Pro. If you asked me about these opportunities a year ago, I would have laughed in your face, and now I can’t imagine not taking advantage of them.
Lesson # 5 – Stay True to Yourself
At the end of the day, when you own your own business, you have to stay true to yourself. There will be sharks and there will be opportunities and the best way that you can manage them all is by following your heart and doing what makes sense to you. For me, my goal in life is to be a voice for financial health and education. Every decision I make supports this goal.
Whenever I get scared or I question myself or I get attacked by a shark or find some new challenge, I think of my goal as a business owner and if I am staying true to it and to myself, then I can not only sleep well at night, but I feel good looking at myself in the mirror the next morning. Never compromise who you are or who you want to be for someone else. Owning your company is stressful enough and when you change yourself, you will enjoy what you do even less.
Do you have your own company? What lessons have you learned as a solopreneur? If you are still working a day job, do you have dreams of starting your own company someday? If so, what’s holding you back?
Shannon McLay is a financial planner who left a “traditional” financial services firm to start her own company, NextGen Financial, to help clients in their 20s and 30s get financially fit. Through her blog, Financially Blonde, her book, Train Your Way to Financial Fitness, and her partnership with Money Saving Pro, Shannon is committed to making financial fitness fun, easy and accessible for others.
Photo courtesy of: Lwp Kommunikáció