A year ago I wrote this blog about the things I'd learned in my first year of business. Well this week heralds my second business anniversary. So I thought I'd share my learnings from year two. It could be summed up quite simply as -
Here are my learnings:
You have to be brave
In the last year I have launched a new service called Ignite, that took me into the world of design and website building, not my core skillset. I also launched an online course that dropped kicked me so far out of my comfort zone I could scarcely remember where I used to be. And I ran my first ever weekend-long retreat, something I had zero experience in doing. I spoke in front of 30 people. I raised my prices. I said no to clients I didn't want to work with.
All of these things took guts. But the old saying of you can't make an omelette unless you crack a few eggs is true. Doing new things is scary. Putting yourself out in front of others who may judge you is scary. Creating a product that you think will work but you won't really know until you try is scary. Raising your prices and saying no - both scary. In fact there is so much to be scared about it's a wonder any businesses ever thrive.
But I've learnt that you just have to try. If you fail, you've learnt something. And if you succeed, you've succeeded. So you can't ever really fail. You'll always get something out of it.
You have to believe in yourself
I have suffered from a lack of belief and low self-esteem for as long as I can remember. But this year, I decided to start off every day doing four things (as I wrote in this post). One day I literally sent myself a post card that said: I am enough. I stuck it on my office wall and every time one of those aforementioned scary things came up and the self doubt pixies starting pounding my brain, I'd say out loud: I am enough. And you know what? Gradually I started to believe it.
We all compare ourselves to others. It is exceptionally difficult not to. At my recent Campfire Retreat we all had to say one thing that was holding us back, and so many people around that campfire all said the same thing: We're not good enough.
Well sod that. We bloody well are. This has been a major turning point for me this year and while those pesky pixies still linger, I can ignore them more easily now.
You have to constantly learn
When you work in a big company, you get sent on all sorts of professional development courses. When you work on your own, you don't. It's up to you to keep on learning. Do you know what the best way to learn is? By doing.
This year I have learnt how to create a course from start to finish, including the complicated back end membership systems and payment thingies and building the website and how to market it using sales funnels and email automation. And that's just one new product of several I have created this year. To grow, you have to be willing to learn.
You have to outsource
Now I've just said you have to learn, but you also need to outsource. Sometimes other people are just better at stuff than you are. And if there is something that is going to take you weeks and weeks to do and not do well, then outsource it. This year I outsourced design, some website building, email automation & other tech bits to a VA, and my Facebook advertising. I can do all of these things - because I've learnt how. But I know that other people can do them better and I can learn from them as I go along, while freeing up my time.
You have to make connections
I don't really like networking, entering a room of people I don't know and trying to make conversation. But it is through networking that I met the person who helped me get my retreat off the ground. It helped me meet a designer who I could team up with on my Ignite package. And it's opened up a few speaking opportunities for me. I've also really worked hard at making connections with the press for my own business. As a result, I now have a lovely roster of press coverage and contacts I can turn to when I have a story.
Sure you can stay hiding away behind your screen, but I refer you to point one above. You have to be brave. Get yourself out there. Everyone else is feeling the same way. Just be yourself, be helpful rather than salesy and people will be drawn to you. You never know who you might meet and what direction it could take your business in.
You have to invest
When you first start out you try to spend as little money as possible a) because you don't have any and b) because what you're selling isn't proven yet so it's a bigger risk. But there will come a point where you need to invest, whether that's in outsourced help; paying for a course or training or coach of some kind; in a new website or Facebook advertising or whatever.
The old adage of 'you have to spend money to make money' is kinda true. You don't have to break the bank. But think carefully about the help you need and then invest in that. Keep an eye on your profitability but be prepared to make a loss or just break even at first. Remember, not everything you gain is monetary. Often it's the experience and learning that is where the real gain lies.
You have to keep refining your offer - but keep your brand story consistent
Two years in and I'm still reshaping what it is I actually offer. It is a work in progress. It probably always will be. But what has stayed true is my commitment to my brand story - the concept of the Campfire - the sense of adventure and freedom that comes with that. I'm getting clearer and clearer on my vision and purpose. It's evolving and stretching with me.
When Steve Jobs brought out the first iphone, do you think he decided not to because in the future there would be better versions? Nope. Same goes for your business. Just start. Refine and learn as you go. Tweak it. Sculpt it. Improve it. But do it.
You have to be true to you
It is so easy to get sucked into what everyone else is doing. In the online PR world, for example, almost all of my competitors are hugely feminine in their branding. Flat lay images and inspiring desk spaces with pretty flowers abound. But I'm not a pretty, pink, flowers and high heels person. I wear boots. And jeans and I like going outdoors and cutting to the chase. But the minute you try and copy someone else's style, you lose you. And YOU are what makes your business different and valuable. So figure out who you are and stick with that.
I'm sure there is a whole bunch more I have learnt this year but these are the things that came to mind first. All of them have stretched me. But the good thing about getting stretched (as my Yogabomb friend Lou will know), is you become more flexible, stronger, lean and supple. And that's the kind of business that succeeds.
Were these lessons helpful? What lessons have you learnt? Share them with me below or pop over to my Facebook page. And if you feel you need some help to get clear on where you want to take your business, do check out my new Clarity package, Copy & Canvas Package or try my new Campfire Marketing coach-sulting package.
Onwards! Here's to year 3.