Five years ago, I said goodbye to my traditional corporate job and began my own digital marketing business helping small business owners and entrepreneurs with their online digital presence. I can’t believe it’s only been five years…I can barely remember what life was like before I took the leap. The road to entrepreneurship was filled with highs, lows, and innumerable lessons. The challenges I’ve faced, while difficult at times to overcome, helped me become the successful entrepreneur and businesswoman I am today. I’m privileged to share the top 5 things I’ve learned as an entrepreneur; my hope is that by sharing my experiences, I can inspire the next generation of entrepreneurs to take the leap, face the risks, and dive headfirst into their passions.
#1: Know Your Worth
What should I charge? Are my fees too much? Are they too little? Should I give away services or products to build my portfolio? Every entrepreneur struggles with questions like these at some point in their journey. There’s a barely-talked-about gray area between doing what you love and getting paid to do what you love. Too often I found my passion for my work and dedication to my clients eclipsing my own well-being. Is the reward of doing what we love enough to justify the time, money, and energy we sacrifice for a job well done?
No. Your talents, time, and energy deserve compensation. You have skills – skills people are willing to (and will!) pay for. You deserve to be paid for your work – even (and especially) if you’re a new entrepreneur.
Conquer the pricing hurdle with some strategic sleuthing. Market research is an entrepreneur’s best friend. Your customers are price shopping, and you should too. Start with a simple Google search.
- Who are your main competitors? Keep your location (if relevant) and target market in mind
- What are your competitors charging for similar services or products?
- What makes your services unique? Are they unique enough to charge more than your competitors, or would a slightly-lower price strategy help you stand apart?
- Do your competitors offer additional packages or options?
- Friends with anyone in the industry? Ask their opinion!
Once you’ve done your market research, it’s time to add up your entrepreneurial costs and ensure your proposed pricing strategy is profitable. Consider all potential costs, including:
- Facilities, utilities, supplies, company vehicles, and/or travel expenses
- Digital marketing (you have a digital marketing budget, right?)
- Insurance and business protection (more on this later)
- Employees, seasonal help, employee benefits, and payroll
- Administrative costs for things like your website, accountant, payment processor, etc
Now that you’ve proven your worth, you’re ready to confidently ask for the compensation you deserve. Too often I see new entrepreneurs giving away their services or products in exchange for “exposure” or because they aren’t confident asking for compensation as newbies. Don’t do this. Not only are you disrespecting yourself and your business, but you’re also dragging down other businesses in your industry. Nobody wants to pay for services they can get from the new entrepreneur down the street for free.
If you simply must charge less than the industry standard, consider bartering. My very first website client was Brewery 4Two4 in Holland, Michigan. They planned to launch their new brewery at the same time I planned to launch my business, so we made a deal. Now I have a lifetime mug club membership and am treated to free beers when I visit. Don’t be afraid to get creative with your pricing and be honest with your needs as an entrepreneurial business owner. It pays to recognize your worth!
#2: Protect Yourself
I’m not an attorney and I don’t want to dive too deeply into specifics here as every industry is different. Protecting yourself is a priority when you’re a new entrepreneur. Every new business carries risk. Be smart about separating your business from your personal life and stay dedicated to protecting your personal assets in case things don’t work out the way you planned. The only thing worse than losing your startup company is losing your home, car, and savings account along with it.
Every entrepreneur should at minimum consider:
- Creating and registering your business as a separate entity, whether as an LLC, S-Corp, or 501(3)(c)
- Opening a separate business bank account to keep your personal and business funds separate
- Understanding local, state, and federal tax laws and obligations for your business
- Understanding local, state, and federal employment laws and obligations for your business
- Hiring a certified accountant and attorney to assist with bookkeeping, taxes, contracts, and terms and conditions documents
#3: Spend Money to Make Money
I know, I know. You’re not even making money yet and I’m telling you to spend, spend, spend. Try not to think of it as spending…think of it as investing. One of the biggest roadblocks most entrepreneurs face is the inevitable truth that new businesses require capital and investments to get the ball rolling. Yes, I could’ve tried bootstrapping GreenCup Digital from the ground up to save money, but doing so would’ve delayed my profitability and kept me from focusing on the parts of my business I really enjoyed the most. I wanted to take the shortest path to success, so I carved out a personal investment in my business and made some strategic spending decisions.
- Team of Business Professionals – I already mentioned how important it is to hire an accountant and attorney to keep yourself protected. If your budget allows, consider adding a virtual assistant or right-hand assistant manager to diversify your perspective and stimulate growth.
- Digital Marketing and Personal Branding – Logos, websites, social media, content, and search engine optimization (SEO) are critical in today’s digital world. You want your business to stand out against the competition and reflect the unique skills and products you have to offer your target customer base.
- Software and Systemization – The last thing you as an entrepreneur should be doing is tracking down paper receipts for your accountant or scrambling to onboard a new employee. Stay professional and focused by investing in software and systems that make your business processes easier and more efficient.
- Continuing Education – Staying current in your industry is key to staying competitive. Balance seminars and trade shows with free educational resources and always remember to stay creative and stay curious!
#4: Find a Network of Like-Minded Entrepreneurs
When I first started my journey as an entrepreneur, I was lucky enough to find a peer group of like-minded entrepreneurs who shared my passion for growth and small business startups. It didn’t matter what industry they were in, just having a network of other entrepreneurs to connect with made a huge difference in my confidence, decisions, and plans for the future. We leaned on one another and bounced ideas back and forth. The group introduced me to my business attorney, estate attorney, real estate agent, financial advisor, and commercial insurance agent. We referred clients and generated leads for one another. Plus we practiced presenting in front of one another, which boosted my public speaking confidence tremendously!
Struggling to find your ideal entrepreneur networking group? Try:
- Joining Facebook groups – I am a member of Local First, GRBossBabes, and Social Media Manager School
- Checking out MeetUp or LinkedIn for leaders in your field
- Reaching out to your local Chamber of Commerce or Rotary Club
- Connecting with a mentor and offering to shadow or help out in exchange for their time
#5: Enjoy Yourself!
One of our core values here at GreenCup Digital is – KEEP LAUGHING! Have fun with what you do, and don’t take it too seriously. Surround yourself with good people, work with good clients, and love what you do…because otherwise, what’s the point? The freedom to forge your own future, take joy and pride in your work, and choose your coworkers and clients is what being an entrepreneur is all about! Your happiness is one of the most important and vital indicators of success when you work for yourself. Unsure how to cut out the aspects of your business that don’t make you happy?
- The “Carrot’ Perspective – Keep the end goal in mind. Ensure your business plan includes 1, 5, and 10-year stretch goals. Refer to those goals often, especially when faced with setbacks and challenges.
- Crucial Conversations – Read up on how to navigate tough dialogue or conflict between employees or clients.
- Say No With Confidence – Learn to trust your intuition and walk away from problem clients or customers who don’t respect your time. Your business depends on your ability to make tough choices and defend your values. Your peace is worth fighting for!
- Take a Break – Entrepreneurs everywhere struggle with letting go. Running a small business is exceptionally challenging and if you don’t take a break every now and then, your brain or body will give out. Schedule regular time off – no exceptions!
- Hire the Right Help – The best thing you can do for your business is admit your personal limitations. If you loathe scheduling social media content, find room in your budget for a social media manager. A good team makes all the difference.
I’m overwhelmingly humbled by my success as an entrepreneur and appreciative of every lesson learned and obstacle overcome. My passion for helping small businesses transformed my life in more ways than one, and my dedication to growth earned me the accomplishments, clients, and amazing team of professionals we have here at GreenCup Digital. If you’re an entrepreneur looking for a digital marketing partner, consider reaching out to GreenCup Digital here. We specialize in handling your digital marketing so you can focus on the parts of entrepreneurship you enjoy the most. Take a page from my entrepreneur book of tips and tricks – hire the right help…and watch your business soar.