Seven Lessons Learned from Starting My Own Company
It has been almost 18 months since I launched Bright Blue Consulting. There are oh-so-many stories I can share about new business "firsts" - the first client I met as Bright Blue, the first invoice I sent (and was paid!), the first time I sat at my desk and wondered what to do next...
Over the past few months, I have been approached by a few individuals who are thinking of doing the same thing - taking that leap off the corporate ledge and starting their own gig. I found myself offing the same advice to each them - which is usually my signal that I need to write this stuff down!
Lesson Learned #1: Create a Plan. Work the Plan. Edit the Plan. Keep Working the Plan. If you know me, then you know that I think you probably need a plan. Don't let this step overwhelm you. I launched my business using an adapted one-page business plan I learned a few years ago from a fellow consultant. The one-page plan forces you to take your idea and push it further by setting goals, strategies and metrics, all important elements that help you chart where you want to go and how you will get there. I suggest setting a three year plan and evaluating it quarterly.
Lesson Learned #2: As my friend Dick Nord told me one day: Don't let the highs be too high or the lows be too low." There will be days when you think that there is no way you can actually pull this off (Imposter Syndrome is real y'all). Then there will be the days you send out an invoice with a number higher than you thought you could actually bill. And there are a lot of days in between. You have to weather them all. So keep you head down, make some friends to help cheer you along and keep on going.
Lesson Learned #3: If you really hate a task that has to be done, figure out if you can outsource or limit your exposure time. Starting a business is hard. There will be highs and low (see Lesson Learned #2) and for tasks you hate, you will either stop doing them, avoid doing them until the last minute, or lose tons of precious self-employed energy getting them done - energy you need to be present with a client, write a blog or close a sale.
For example, I hate, hate, hate Quickbooks. (Ask my husband about the number of f*bombs that fell every time I had to open the damn website). It was so very painful until I discovered the magic of outsourcing. You can get creative: I have a friend that hates marketing and blogging. She found an intern that drafted the first round of copy so she spent her time just editing. If you can outsource the task, do it.
Lesson Learned #4: Friends are really, really important. See Lesson Learned #2. There are days when you are really, really not sure you can pull this off. Or you are just stuck on where to go next. Or you are unsure if you are making the best choices. Or you are lonely. When that time comes, phone a friend. I have some really talented friends that run their own businesses and they have been very generous with their time and advice. I truly believe people want to help - you just have to ask. (I reached out to one of my women empowerment "heroes" a few weeks ago and she generously chatted with me for an hour! You really never know until you ask!)
Lesson Learned #5: If you work from home, try to have a "real" home office (or designated space) and get out of it as often as you need to. Coworking spaces work for many, but for me, they did not quite fit my needs. It turns out, most of my clients want me to come to them. So, I work from a home office. I was lucky enough to have a spare room (who needs a formal dining room anyway?). I found it made a huge difference when I painted it and make it "feel" like a real office. And, people really do need people. So, try to find ways to leave your home, especially if you are extroverted or thrive on the energy of others.
Lesson Learned #6: Use technology to make your life easier. Check out Canva for your graphic design needs, social posts and email headers. Compare Buffer or Hootsuite to log and track your social media. Consider SquareSpace and Wix if you need a simple site (I use Wix, but I think SquareSpace may be better suited for creative types). Scared of doing your own site (it is important that it represent you well), there are companies now that will create a site for you at a reasonable price - especially if you use a template.
Lesson Learned #7: Even if you are billing well, have a plan for the ups and downs in income (aka don't spend it as soon as you make it or plan on the invoice that is "in the mail.") Large company can take up to 90 days to pay invoices and smaller companies can sometimes "lose" invoices. Either way, checks do not always show up when you want or expect them. You don't want to appear to be the desperate client (and hey - you don't really want to be desperate), so have a plan if you can.
It can be terrifying to make that first leap off the corporate ledge - but it may also be the smartest decision you ever make. Reach out if you want to chat more.
What is Bright Blue Consulting and what do I do? I help women professionals, their teams and the companies they work for overcome obstacles, seize opportunities and thrive! I would love to start a conversation about where you want to go and how you can get out of your own way to get there! Reach out and drop me an email. Let's chat!