5 Things I've Learned In The First Year(ish) of Business
Well my golly miss molly, I seemed to have woken up the other morning and realized I’ve been doing this whole shebang for a little over a year and a half now. By shebang, I mean building and running Verb House, this here creative studio, in case you were really wondering. These past twelve plus months have been nothing short of incredible, challenging in the best way, soul awakening and really freaking fun.
I don’t want to forget a few of these things I’ve learned during this first year of entrepreneurship, so here are five of the most apparent lessons that keep on coming up, time and time again, for both you and me to learn from, partner.
Also, don’t mind the extra bit of Texas twang woven throughout this piece - I’m currently writing this however-high-in-the-sky-airplanes-go on the way to see some amazing client friends in Rhode Island and I must already be missing good ole Tejas. Cause you can take the girl outta Texas but you can’t take Texas outta the girl, you know? Alright alright alright, back to the matter at hand here:
STAY IN YOUR LANE
You’ve heard it at least one million times before but we’re going to make this the millionth and one time, okay? Comparison is the thief of joy. What a shocking revelation, I know. But it really is true, hence why it gets repeated an infinite number of times a day across this globe.
One of the most important lessons I’ve learned this year is that the key to success, by my standards (please have your own standards of success) is staying in my own lane. Not peeking over at the paper on my friends' desk, not turning around and seeing what my friend across the classroom is doing, and not hollering across the hallway to see what my other friend is doing.
When I stay in my own lane, my work becomes easier and more joyful and more fulfilling. The ideas flow and the doubt stays at bay (well I wouldn’t say totally at bay, but it stays more at bay than when I’m outta my lane). When I decide to look up and over my own work and instead at what everyone else is doing, it’s easy to get distracted. From everything. From the project at hand, from the clients I love, from my monthly, quarterly, yearly goals. Seriously, everything.
The comparison bug is nasty and if you don’t catch it pretty quickly, it can leave you laid out on the couch, tired and hacking up that green gunk from your chest (don’t act like you don’t know what I’m talking about). I’ve got a lot of stuff to do, a lot of stuff I want to do, and a lot of stuff to dream up, and comparing myself to others in my field, out of my field, and totally nowhere near my own field, is the biggest waste of time and energy sucker ever. I’m totally guilty of doing this, by the way, but I have to quickly remind myself of this: “stay in your own lane.” Heck, sometimes I have to repeat it to myself five times a day. That usually means I’m procrastinating and need to get off of Instagram and back to work.
So see, stay in your own lane. It works wonders every time, I promise.
Boundaries are never super fun, are they? Just like the boundary around the playground when you were little wasn’t very fun, but it was totally necessary so you didn’t run from the swings into the street, boundaries in business (and life) are quite the same.
They’re often difficult to construct, sometimes a little bit too late after you had to learn the hard way, and usually a little bit annoying and tempting to break once they’re in place. But just like our playground scenario, they can really save our business (and life) butts.
I learned from a not so pleasant experience years ago that before I took on any clients with Verb House, there needed to be some boundaries in place in order for us all to be happy, thriving, successful business owners at the end of each day. For me, I have boundaries around what I am and am not willing to do to help my clients grow their businesses (for example, there will be no bought followers (imagine my eye rolling here - and yes this is a parenthesis comment inside a parenthesis comment) on my end for any of my clients, there will be no cheap tactics to inflate egos. only real work that really works). There are boundaries around my time and when I will and will not respond to emails, phone calls, and texts. Just because these things exist in this modern age does not mean that we are, or should be, accessible 100% of the time. There are boundaries around payment terms and schedules. There are boundaries around language, beliefs, and the way in which the entire spectrum of this company runs. There are boundaries and they are beautiful.
I am a boundary loving business owner and I encourage all of my fellow biz owners to invest in their own boundaries as well. And don’t forget them! Reminding your own self of your boundaries & sticking to them is half the battle of setting said boundaries.
(don’t you think the word boundary is one of those words that sounds funny the more and more you say it? funny how that works, huh?)
THE PEOPLE ARE #1
I may work in my studio primarily alone each day, with just the company of two fluffy and adorable Goldendoodles to talk to, which you better believe I do, but every moment that I’m working is fueled by someone, if not numerous, people.
If you were to ask me my most favorite part of running Verb House, of this business, of why I do what I do, my answer would time and time again be because of the people. Some of the best parts of my days are talking to my clients (who I affectionally like to refer to as clientfriends, because to call them just ‘clients’ feels like I’m shortchanging them). I’ve developed some beautiful friendships and relationships with the majority of my clients and this is something that I value tremendously.
To trust another person with your business and with your goals and with your big wild and crazy dreams is no easy thing. It’s not something you decide as easy as “cheese or pepperoni?” (cheese, please. actually, let’s make it a margherita.) I know how freaking scary it can be, and there is no greater honor than walking alongside these business owners and helping them with their businesses. One time a client told me that it was like they got a business partner and not just a “marketing guru help girl” when it came to working with me, and that’s how I strive to be with each of my clients. It goes way beyond just digital marketing or creative strategy or photography or email newsletter campaigns.
I believe full heartedly in the work that my clients are all doing. I love their work. I love their passion. I love their ‘whys.’ I love small businesses. I believe they have the power and the potential to change neighborhoods, to change families, to change individuals, to change lives.
To be able to walk alongside my client friends in the way that I am able to is my most favorite thing ever.
So, the people are number one. Always.
THE WORK FEELS GOOD
You know when I feel most inspired? When I’m doing the work. When I’m in the (fun) trenches and cranking out the work. That feels good.
I think oftentimes we can psyche ourselves out with our never-ending to do lists, the pressures of running a business, of ensuring clients are happy and pleased, of whatever and yadayada and blahblah. And then it’s easy to get frozen by the overwhelm, by the work that seems to be growing with every email that lands in your inbox. It’s too easy to sit on that work and sit on it and sit on it and sit on it some more. Just thinking about it and letting it grow scary and big, instead of pulling up our big, business owning britches and getting down to work. But once we finally get over that little (okay, sometimes big) mental hurdle and decide no more overwhelm, it’s time to do the work, well that just feels good, doesn’t it? Heck yes, it feels good.
The work feels good. The work is good. Doing the work is the best. Do the work, peeps. Love the work.
FUN IS IMPORTANT
There is something that I think is vital to a good life: fun.
Pure, unabashed, fun. In life and in, yes, business. Definitely in business. Haven’t you ever heard that term “all business, no fun?” Or is it “all work and no play?” Well, whatever, you get my point. Fun is a requirement. It’s a necessity! What is life and what is business if there is no fun? Miserable, I tell ya.
I think there is a time for fun in every single business. I think ‘fun’ can mean a lot of different things to a lot of different people, but to me fun in my business looks like this:
First, realizing that this is digital marketing and creative work and it’s - gasp!- not life or death. Yes, there are clients that trust me with their entire businesses, dreams, lives, and livelihood and that I take very seriously. But this isn’t Nobel peace prize winning (well I mean shoot, I wouldn’t turn one of those things down) work and there is room for a bit of fun. With one client this looks like laughing hysterically as we do our monthly photoshoot together. With another client this looks like hilarious emails back and forth about everything under the sun from Tom Brady to how to make preparing dinner less annoying each night, all while in between planning and executing content. On one afternoon it may look like heading to the movies on my own - cause I can. Or meeting my fellow badass business friends to do our work together in a gorgeous hotel lobby - cause doesn’t that sound like FUN? It’s fun, trust me.
I don’t know what fun looks like to you. It may look like smoking a joint while you send emails. I mean I don’t mean to be a stickler here, but that doesn’t sound like fun to me. I wouldn't really recommend that. But hey, if it is to you and you can still be a professional, kick ass business owner with happy clients, then by all means, toke it up and email away. My point is, you gotta make fun happen in your business. Whatever, however, fun looks like to you. Especially if you plan on being around a while. And honey child, I plan on being around a long, long, long while.
This life IS fun. This business IS fun. Being an entrepreneur IS fun. I’m not taking myself too seriously to deny myself and my clients the FUN in all of this.
Bring on the fun.
So, for a little recap, class: Today's lesson consisted of staying in your own lane, boundaries, people are at the forefront of it all, the work is awesome, and fun is crucial. Kind of sounds like some Nobel prize-winning realizations, huh? Okay, maybe not quite, but hey ho - they're vital lessons I've learned during this last year and I hope you can connect with them as well, my fellow biz-owning-dream-chasing-peeps. Let me know what all you've learned throughout your business tenure in the comments below. Cause learning (and sharing) is fun, right?
Until next time,