5 female entrepreneurs on surviving the first year in business
Following your dreams isn’t always going to be easy. When starting a business, there will be times when you are a long way out of your comfort zone and areas of expertise. The first year in business can be difficult as you juggle the many hats of a startup, potentially before even making a profit.
Luckily for new business owners, there is a lot of help at hand to guide you through these first vital months. From the reality of being your own boss to purposeful goal setting, tapping into the knowledge of existing entrepreneurs will supply you with the insight of businesses further down the line and could save you time or costly mistakes.
In this article, five female entrepreneurs share their greatest advice for not only surviving the first year, but how to create a thriving business.
Tips on how to thrive in your first year in business
1. Share your passion
Make sure your business is something you’re really passionate about – it means you’ll be motivated to do the less exciting stuff, to keep going when times get tough and to put in serious hours of hard work in unsociable hours – especially important if you’re still working full time while growing your business. (Cue mammoth weekend sessions from brainstorming when you should be lying in and updating your website when you should be out partying).
Passion not only helps you get the work behind the scenes done, it’s also your best selling tool.
I’m by no means a polished speaker but people tell me that as soon as I talk about the women-only group tours I run, ‘they just know it’s going to be amazing’ because my passion for everything is so obvious. You can’t fake that; if you’re not mad about what you’re offering then why should others be?
People buy from people and it’s more about engagement, personal stories and connecting with brands emotionally than ever before. YOU are the most personal thing about your brand, so open up, be REAL, share your passion with the world and don’t be afraid to share a little vulnerability and ‘human-ness’. It helps others to connect with you and emotional connections to create trust, loyalty and even better, champions for your brand.
Oh, and spending time in exotic places is a very effective way to manage stress too!
2. Structure your day and create your routines
The first days and weeks of going self employed can feel incredibly daunting. Your empty-ish calendar feels like it’s going to swallow you up. You can’t stop checking your inbox for the enquiries that may or may not be there and well meaning friends and family never stop asking how it feels to not be working anymore — despite your best efforts to explain you are in fact working, and harder than you ever have before.
To stop overwhelm in its tracks, one of the things I have found incredibly useful is to put structure and mindfulness in my day. I find I have the best outlook and results in a day when I start with gratitude. So before the chaos of breakfast, packed lunch prep, uniform hide and seek (because where do all the jumpers go?!), finding guitars, tennis racquets, PE kits, etc., which is the daily war of getting the kids ready for school and out the door – I build 20 minutes of affirmation and gratitude into my day.
Once children are delivered to their respective places of learning I open my diary. I write down 3 things I will achieve today and 3 things I would like to start working on. This forces me to be realistic with my limitations of timing and resources and helps me break down big goals into manageable pieces.
I also highly recommend trying to stick to a bedtime and meditation routine on an evening. I’m a night owl who struggles to switch off, but when I’ve done this consistently, the change in my productivity and mental outlook is immense.
Self care needn’t be a full day at the spa, so finding ways to integrate a few minutes of looking after yourself as the driving force behind your business is a worthy investment.
3. Network, network, network and then network some more…
A great way to create awareness and is pretty much free but you do need to invest time and energy.
Learn how to network. It’s not just having a chat. Practise talking succinctly about what you offer in an engaging way. Basically, what’s your story and why should people be interested?
Get yourself out there. You need to get stuck in and join online forums, social media groups, local networking groups and attend relevant events etc. Also, don’t forget to make sure that your friends and contacts from over the years are updated on what you’re up to.
Be strategic. Networking brings you into contact with a whole range of people. It’s important to identify who can help you and how. Networking will bring you influencers, referrers and customers – they are quite different relationships. For example, Referrers can be casual, but you may want to set up something more formal which is mutually beneficial, or the referrers get an incentive /kick back.
Some basics to remember whilst on your networking adventures:
- Be open minded. You never know where a conversation will take you, who you’ll meet, who is listening or what you’ll learn from the interaction
- Go hunting. Track down every possible opportunity. You’ll need to chalk some up to experience but some will be fruitful
- Finally, but very important – ALWAYS carry business cards
- Oh, and finally, finally, make sure that your business cards contain all your touch points including email, phone, website and social media addresses.
4. Learn to embrace mistakes
If you have an idea, run with it, see what happens and where it takes you and don’t worry too much about the how – you can work all that out as you go.
If you overthink and wait until everything is perfect and every single duck is in a row, you’ll never get your business off the ground. It will never be as perfect as it is right at that moment when there is fire in your belly, when you’re on a wing and a prayer and you’ve got an idea you’re so invested in that you can’t sleep at night.
I think some people are so scared of failing that it cripples them. I’ve failed in both life and in business and it used to really bother me that people might think less of me, but you have to try and you have to fail otherwise you never find your own version of success, your levels of resilience and what you’re made of. You have nothing to lose and everything to learn.
Previous failures, how I let those failures affect me in the past and the tools I used to turn my mindset around are basically what led to Orange & Grey.
5. Be proud of the small steps you take
The first 12 months in any business is inevitably going to evoke a multitude of feelings – excitement, enthusiasm, exhilaration, anticipation, pride. Followed by fear, anxiety, doubt, worry, then back to optimism and confidence again. Feelings of being an imposter (Who do I think I am? I feel like a fake! People will realise I’m not the real deal!) – the list goes on.
It’s a roller coaster of emotions that will last way beyond the first year as your business evolves, and also as you learn, grow and change. These feelings aside, I’d ask you to firstly recognise and then allow yourself to be proud of, all the progress you’ve made (even the progress that no-one else sees).
Don’t be afraid to pat yourself on the back sometimes, especially if nobody else is doing it for you! Deciding to branch out on your own in the first place is an achievement that required courage, skill and strength – don’t ever underestimate what a huge feat that is!
Don’t just be proud of the big wins or the significant achievements – be proud of the small steps you’ve taken along the way. The boring bits, the mundane, the minutiae in everyday life, the struggles, the setbacks, the disappointments, the days you felt like you couldn’t push forwards anymore.
Be proud of those moments too, because they’re the chapters that make you the Warrior that you are!
Just ask: how did you do it?
My key takeaway from celebrating a year as a self-employed business owner is that your support network is greater than you realise. If you’re going through a difficult time, turn to someone you admire and ask: any tips on how to survive your first year in business?
The five fantastic women featured in this article represent a variety of backgrounds, industries and interests, but they are all united by two things: their passion for what they do and their desire to help other people.
Working for yourself can feel isolating at times, so it is important to remember that you are not alone. Either online or in your local area there will be business owners who are juggling, struggling, winning and losing – just like you.
Which of these can you relate to?
What tips do you have for someone who has just started their business? Please do join in the conversation by leaving a comment or sharing.
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