Okay, show of hands.
Who read Thursday’s 5 Harsh Realities of Making a Living Online on Copyblogger?
If you haven’t, you should: author Jon Morrow goes on the warpath against all those “gurus” who try to sell you on becoming an entrepreneurial millionaire in three easy steps. The post actually has less to do with making a living online and more to do with the fact that being an entrepreneur takes work.
A lot of work.
Anyway, the post got me thinking. The truth is, I learned a lot in my first six months as an entrepreneur that was never covered in any “how to run your own business” course or blog. Not by a long shot.
Here’s what they don’t tell you about starting your own business:
Hidden Truth #1: You Gotta Be Willing to Learn Scary Things
The chances are astronomically high that you don’t know everything about running your own business. In fact, if you’re anything like me, there are tons of areas where you’ll start out knowing practically nothing. Bookkeeping and taxes, for one. Website coding, for another.
You can’t afford to hire someone to do everything that you don’t know how to do, so you’re going to have to learn enough about them to get by. And not just the techie stuff, like how to set up a website. You also need to wrap your head around some big ideas, such as why you need a website, and how to market, and a basic understanding of how your finances work.
Bottom line: if you aren’t willing to explore and embrace new ideas, you won’t get far as an entrepreneur.
Hidden Truth #2: Know Thyself – Productively
Contrary to what Corporate America would have you think, not everyone is at their peak productivity between 9 am and 5 pm. As it turns out, when you remove those artificial barriers, everyone has their own rhythm to the day, and their own periods of peak productivity for different kinds of tasks.
For example, I rarely get any work done if I’m not at my computer by 10:00 am. I also know that if I have a big creative project (such as a blog post, client proposal, or tough website integration issue), I’m at my best first thing in my work day. Some people love to work intensively for two or three days, then take several days off. Others like to establish set routines, or work at night, or like to work alone or with a partner.
Bottom line: Expect to take a month or so to really figure out when you’re most productive overall, and when you’re most productive at specific tasks.
Hidden Truth #3: The weekends are still weekends to everyone else
This seems obvious, but let me assure you that it is not. Unless the vast majority of your friends are also entrepreneurs, you’ll still receive invitations to get together on the weekends for lunches or dinners, trips to the farmer’s market, or your friend’s son’s little league game.
None of which is bad, as long as you plan for it. There’s nothing worse than planning to spend a whole weekend working on your new e-book, only to feel awful because you have to refuse an invitation to dinner with your friends or family. This is especially true of spouses and children, who have probably waited all week to spend some quality time with you, only to find you holed up in your office all weekend.
Bottom line: When figuring out your work schedule, remember that your weekends are a hot commodity, and plan accordingly.
Hidden Truth #4: Be Confident & Consistent About Setting Boundaries
As a passionate entrepreneur, our business and personal lives are blurred together. It’s easy to get wrapped up in your email, your clients, or your projects and forget to take time to spend with your friends and family.
But that’s not what I mean when I talk about setting boundaries. As you work with clients, either in a service-based or product-based business, you’ll discover certain things that really set you off. Usually, these are little things, like a client who always talks your ear off about her dogs for 15 minutes, or the client who wants to text message you instead of calling or emailing.
Luckily, these are also easy things to prevent. When something sets you off, be quick to figure out what annoys you and how you can set a boundary or system in place so that it doesn’t happen in the future. Communicate that clearly to your clients, and be prepared to reinforce it if necessary.
Bottom line: Only you can set the clear boundaries that will keep your work life a happy place to be.
Hidden Truth #5: Fake It Till You Make It
This is, without a doubt, the best mantra for any entrepreneur or small business owner. In the course of building your business, you’ll run smack dab into your fears, doubts, and insecurities. You’ll want everything to be perfect, to nail down that last detail, to make one last revision. At some point, you have to say “it’s good enough,” and move on to the next task.
The same theory applies to marketing your new business, whether in person or online. Confidence is everything – the more you fake being super confident in yourself and your services, the more people will assume that you are a pro at everything you do.
Bottom line: expect to fake your way through your fears and insecurities. Over time, you’ll acquire knowledge and experience that will replace those pesky insecurities.
Forewarned is Forearmed
90% of small business owners will fail within three years. Those odds aren’t so surprising when you think about how many balls we have to juggle in the air just to make our businesses run.
So before you leave, take a moment to leave a comment below about your “no one ever told me” moment in your own business. “Forewarned is forearmed,” as my mother used to say!
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