We’ve all heard it before, maybe even said it, “If I knew then what I know now…” I started down the entrepreneurial path in November of 2011. That’s almost eight years! It’s crazy to think I’ve been running my own business for that long.
Every once in a while, something happens in my business life that I think, wow, I wish I did this, or had that when I started out. So it got me to thinking, what I’d do differently if I started over?
I’d niche right away
I spent a lot of time trying to please everyone. I worked with photographers, yogis, therapists, fashion retail, wedding pros, travel and hotelier businesses, natural product companies… you get the point. I’ve worked with some amazing clients, but they’re kinda all over the place.
Every time I had a bad project experience, or the design didn’t end up the way I hoped, I would sit down and list all my favourite clients and what I loved about working with them. It took me years to figure out the problem wasn’t the client, but the industry. It’s kinda hard having a magical design experience when you’re not really into what your client is selling. I’m looking at you weird corporate wine label.
This year I finally niched down. I decided that in order to maintain my passion in this industry, I needed to work with clients that do the things I’m passionate about. This was hard, because if you follow me on Instagram you know Im interested in #allthethings.
But the health and wellness realm is where I spend a majority of my personal time. From making sauerkraut for gut health, to focusing on life-work boundaries for mental and physical wellbeing. Even DIYing face oils to for a more natural (and inexpensive) skin care routine.
I’ve decided to put my focus on helping those that help others find balance in their lives. And now I’m finally on the right track to serve those helping others.
I’d find a support system
A couple years ago, something kinda amazing happened. Back before IG algorithms took over our night terrors, I was in an Instagram pod. It fizzled out, mostly because there were really only two of us participating. So I reached out and asked if she wanted to start up a v2.0. Sadly she said she was already in two, and couldn’t take on a third.
Then something magical happened that has made the biggest impact on my business. I was invited into what is now our #creativeclique. A group of 10 fellow female designers that showed me that community over competition does actually exist. That there is room for everyone to grow and succeed. And we can share our tools, skills, knowledge and a few late wine nights with A LOT of laughs along the way.
I am grateful for these ladies everyday! And I often remark to my husband how much I wish I had them when I was starting out.
What a difference it would have made to reach out and create a support system. To have a support system that could lift me up when I was down, and to celebrate the little (and big) wins along the way.
Because if you’ve been at this a while, you know that being an entrepreneur can be a very lonely path.
I’d unfollow every other designer out there
Imposter syndrome is real ya’ll, and it’s something I’ve struggled with for years. Even though I know that online life and real life are two very different worlds, it’s easy to start comparing yourself to the talent and success of others.
The comparison game only dilutes your true, authentic self. And muffles the unique voice we all have inside of us
So a couple years ago, I went through my Instagram and unfollowed every account that made me feel bad. Anyone I compared my work with. Anyone I felt jealous of their life or talent or follower count.
It was a huge relief, and something I still do every six months or so. I do follow some designers now. But only the ones that I have built relationships with, or feel a connection to their work with no comparison game involved.
I would have asked for help instead of trying to DIY everything
I am a thrifty person, and can sniff a deal out anywhere without trying. When I was little, my dad would take me to flea markets and I learned the art of the haggle. One time I wanted a crimper, yeah 80s style. It was $10, he gave me $5. I came back with the crimper and a t-shirt. Yeah like that.
That mindset of figuring everything out for myself to save a dime continued into my adulthood. I would Google for hours, trying to figure out how to market, write copy, take product photos, everything on my own. The problem was that I was wasting money by wasting time. And I was putting the intention out there that my business was not worth the investment.
I’ve learned now that I am worth the investment, and it always pays for itself if you put the effort into the work. Next year I plan on upping my game and hiring a business coach. I highly recommend spending the money, Paypal finance that shit if you need to.
I would have made more time for personal projects to craft my own style
I’m a proud self taught designer. My education is in print arts, so I didn’t get the formal education in graphic design. While I wasting all that time trying to figure out how to run my business, I could have been spending time doing what I actually love about it. Designing. Creating “spec” work, aka faux brands, that allow me to explore creative styles without the worry of pleasing a client on the other end.
It is now something I try to carve out time for every couple of months. Wether it is a full brand design, or just a logo. I like to play with different dream businesses and see what comes out of it. It’s a great practice that has given me more confidence in my skill. Bonus, it helps expand my portfolio, which helps potential clients see what I’m capable of.
Taken the time to automate repetitive tasks
Like I said before, I’ve been at this for almost eight years! Over that time, I have seen what does (and what doesn’t) work. I have created systems, questionnaires, templates, canned emails, etc. And rewritten all of them probably 20+ times. But I was still doing everything manually. I can easily spend four hours on a project proposal after a consult call.
That’s a lot of time that if they don’t book, I’ve basically worked half the day for free. Last month, I finally took the time (trust it’s been on the to-do list for years) to automate workflows through my favourite project manager, Dubsado.
This has taken a lot of stress off my plate. I can go on a long weekend, and not worry about if someone contacted me and I won’t be able to respond for three days. Everything ready to go, which means more time spent on my clients, and less time wondering what I did all day.
I would have stayed consistent with blogging
I recently moved over from Squarespace to Showit. That meant moving my blog posts over to WordPress. I decided to do this manually because there was some stuff I didn’t want moved over, and I wanted to take the time to update some of the content.
As I was reading posts from 2015, I though, “hey, these aren’t too bad!” Now that I’ve niched, I know the importance of posting content for health and wellness entrepreneurs, because I feel it is a very underserved community that I want to help.
So my Q3 goals are to get consistent with blogging again. I probably have over a years worth of content ideas just sitting in my Evernote folder. More blog posts mean more traffic, and more traffic means I can have a greater impact on my clients.
I would have made more time for self care
When I first started out, I would stay up until 3-4am, sleep in unit 10, and not change my clothes for a couple of days between. I was a mess, with no real routine or structure to my life or my business. I didn’t take breaks, I would skip walks with my dog if I was in the “zone”. And honestly, I just wasn’t taking care of myself.
When I first left my 9-5, I thought, great, now I’ll have all this free time to workout and take care of myself.
If I’ve learned anything, it’s that it’s easy to look busy without actually getting anything done.
Since I started my morning routine of my daily tarot pull and journaling, I have so much more structure to my day. I know exactly what needs to be done. I set the intention for the day, and I know what to focus on (and sometimes what to watch out for, like mindset or time sucks.)
My routine can take an hour, sometimes three. But I take that time without social media, without any negative stress or emotions. It has been a game changer, and something I definitely wish I had started from day one.
Focused on one goal at a time
As business owners, we wear all the hats. So it’s easy to get wrapped up in a bunch of goals at once. Improve my IG feed, update my website (again) , update my portfolio. Oh, and I need new copy, gotta rewrite my welcome packet, get branded photos taken, SEO, so many things.
The problem I’ve found is when you’re dividing your effort between let’s say five things, you’re putting in less than 20% to each goal. No wonder nothing ever gets done. It just stays on the never ending to-do list.
I started creating quarterly and monthly goals. The quarterly goals are the big picture outcomes. And monthly goals break them down even further into more manageable chunks.
When you focus on one thing at a time, you will be more successful because that task is getting 100% of your attention.
Don’t believe me? Think about all the business goals you’re working on right now. Then tell me how long you’ve been working on them. And how close are you to calling a successful completion?
So there you go. I know I have more, but these are the top things I come back to again and again when I think, man, if only I knew then what I know now.
Got any other tips or insights you’d like to share? I’d love to hear them. Drop them in the comments below.
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