12 lessons on surviving your first year in business

starting your own business

Surviving your first year in business takes discipline and determination — and no small amount of grit.

It’s just under eighteen months since I started my business, and this freshman year has involved a whole lot of wild highs, sleepless nights, baptisms by fire, intense satisfaction, and some crazy lows as well. Today I wanted to share with you 12 things I’ve learned along the way…

1. Running a business makes your shit come up.

Whoever said that starting your own business was the height of personal development was not wrong. Whatever issues you have – time management, boundary setting, self-worth, procrastination, managing money, the whole shebang – they WILL come up. And then some.

2. You cannot do it alone, Part #1

You need FRIENDS! Peeps who get the ‘working for yourself’ thing. Although my ‘old’ (read: pre-biz) friends have been super supportive and understanding, I have found so much love and grace in the hearts of other online-biz-friends who truly get what it’s like to be your own boss, to have to be creative at a high level day-in day-out, and who know what it’s like to toil away in your pyjamas for days on end without social contact. Some of the amazing women that I’ve connected with have become true friends, and I am grateful everyday for their soulful support, endless understanding, and hilarious text messages.

3. You cannot do it all alone, Part #2

You need actual, professional SUPPORT! I was late to the game on this one, but HOLY SHIZBALLS has it made a difference. I now have an amazing designer and a wonderful developer on my team. On my wish list moving forwards is a business strategist, a bookkeeper and a VA. (Universe, feel free to work your magic!)

 4. You need to look after yourself.

I’m not proud to say it, but there have been times in this past year where I barely had time to shower, let alone exercise or make a quinoa-and-kale salad. For the past six years, exercise has been my absolutely non-negotiable – I did it EVERY DAY, without fail. This year, that’s all gone out the window. I’m slowly getting back on track and reintegrating exercise and clean eating back into my daily routines – and feeling WAY better because of it – but dayumn, was this a shitty lesson to learn: I got sick, picked up a few extra kilos, and generally felt a whole lot of blah.

no time to eat

 5. Your energy is your most important resource.

This has been the biggest lesson I’ve had to learn (and learn. And re-learn…). Never before have I had to funnel so much energy into something for such an extended time, without reprieve. And to be honest, I friggen paid for it. For a couple of months earlier this year, I was not taking any time off from work, in order to meet all my deadlines. I met every single one, but… I was not a nice person to be around. In fact, I was exhausted, teary, and creatively tapped out. And as you can imagine, a total joy to live with. (Yep, my boyfriend is a lucky man!)

 6. You need time off.

This is related to the above, and is another thing that I have NOT done very well. I’m slowly putting systems into place to ensure that I do make time for me to get away from the computer. This isn’t just for my energy levels (although that’s a major reason) but also because I simply do better work when I’ve had time away to think/play/do nothing.

take time off

 7. You have to set your own boundaries.

No one else is going to do it for you. And as much as you LOVE the peeps that you’re working with, ultimately, everyone’s priority is their own biz and creative spirit. Which means: you have to be the stand-up guardian of your own interests. And you have to start getting really good at saying no to people.

 8. You have to get good at guarding your time.

To friends and family, it can seem like you’re always available – the gal they can ring anytime, have coffee with at a minute’s notice, or who’s just generally on call at any hour of the day. Not true. Yes, my schedule is flexible. Yes, I can take an extra long lunch date if I want to. But I still have to get my work done, and a random morning off means that I have to get that day’s work done at night-time or squeeze it into a weekend. These days, I don’t answer my phone during my self-designated ‘work hours’ (unless I genuinely feel like a break and a chit chat). And I’m upfront (and unapologetic) about my priorities and commitments.

surviving the first year of your business

 9. You have to get really good at self-discipline.

Turning up to your desk every single morning when you’re the only one who knows if you’re there or not takes a kind of inner fortitude I’ve never had to exercise before. When you’re writing your 576th blog post, or working with your hundredth client, you have to get really friggen good at overcoming resistance and getting your work done, no matter what you feel like doing.

 10. You have to work freaking hard.

The internet abounds with shiny-haired beauties saying they work three hours a day and rake in 6-figures. To that, I say hooey. When you start your own business, you have to be prepared to work ridiculous hours to get things going. (And PS – the amazingly successful peeps I’ve had the privilege of working with will back this up – they fricking put in.) DO NOT feel like a failure because you’re working your ass off.

 11. When the time is right, you have to invest in your business.

I started out doing EVERYTHING myself – I built my own site, designed my own stuff, did every single nitty-gritty thing by myself. And to be honest, if I had my time over, I’d do the exact same thing – I think hammering out the nuts and bolts by yourself helps you hone your skills, figure out your business direction, and develop your vision.

That said, as soon as I was clear on where I was going (and I firmly believe this is something you can only figure out when you’re knee-deep in your business, not at the drawing-board-beginning stages) and had steady funds coming in, getting pro help was TOP of my list. Sinking a hefty chunk of moolah into my biz – design and development, computers and software, resources and education – has already paid off ten-fold.

12. You have to start before you are ready, and before things are perfect.

I launched my first website – in all its homemade glory – when I knew it wasn’t perfect. But on the back of that hand-crafted pastel-heavy atrocity creation, I built a full client roster, got myself a waiting list and earned a bunch of moolah. If I had waited until it WAS perfect, I would have postponed launching for months as I figured all my shit out. I see way too many clients and online friends waiting until every single thing is nutted out and figured out before they launch their big biz dream. My big lesson? Enter the fray. Feel your way. Figure it out as you go.

Do you have anything to add to this list, honeybee? Let ‘er rip in the comments below!



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5 Responses to “12 lessons on surviving your first year in business”

  1. Sarah

    Hi Jess,
    Your website is excellent, so helpful and interesting. I look forward to following your posts and newsletters!

    • Jess

      Thank you Sar! That’s so lovely to hear. Thank you so much for swinging by! xx