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What I Learned After Year 1 As An Entrepreneur

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Making a living as an entrepreneur is not easy.

Despite working more than double the hours of a 9 to 5, I have no guaranteed income. I decide where I spend my limited time and face the consequences of what I neglect every day. And I’m always trying to balance my investment in the short-term and long-term.

Because too much energy into the short-term and I have no long-term online business. But too much attention on the long-term and I can’t provide for myself in the short-term. Tricky, right?

What I just listed describes the situations of entrepreneurs all across the country.

Though the last year on my own has been tough, and before you tell me to stop complaining, take this in: My first year as an entrepreneur has been the happiest time of my life!

It’s even better than I dreamed.

In business, you’re never “done” and it’s always been a do-or-die environment. These high-stakes are what I live for and bring out the best in me.

After year 1, I’m falling head over heels in love with the process. My business—giving value and motivating my community—has all of my attention. And I’m going to do whatever it takes to succeed in this entrepreneurial world.

There’s always something new to learn, limiting belief to overcome, and mountain to climb. So I’m forced to hustle and compete—aka my happy place.

With that said, I want to share some of the wealth I’ve learned in Year 1 with you.

For the entrepreneur reading this and the person who considers quitting their job (like this article suggests) and starting their own business, this is an open door into my past year and the top 5 most valuable lessons I’ve learned.

I hope you gain some insight from my thoughts.

5 Lessons After Year 1 Of Running My Business

1. Set the bar high.

There’s no point in setting an average or low bar. The world has enough average in it. And mediocre goals don’t inspire you or me to do our best effort.

So I had to set the bar high in every project I took on, because then it will have my full attention and I’ll give everything I got to reach it. That’s the magic in setting a big goal.

For my blog, I want to reach millions of people with the message that nothing is stopping you from being as successful as you want. Use smart strategy and work your butt off, and you’ll achieve.

For my books, I didn’t just want to become an author. I set the bar high to be an Amazon bestselling author so my message would reach more people.

For my course, I didn’t create a course to help 10 people get a great job. My desire is to help hundreds, and even thousands, find satisfaction in their career.

2. Break down your endgame into specific steps.

From the beginning, I wanted my voice and Take Your Success to serve millions of people on their individual journey to success. That’s my endgame—to make a difference.

But that’s impossibly vague to tackle head on because it’s the mission statement, not how to get there.

So I learned that every mission needs individual objectives. And the way I’m going to motivate and teach millions to take their success had to be broken down into specific steps.

By now, you’ve seen some of my objectives: create a successful blog, grow an email list, become a social media influencer, write quality books, start a YouTube channel, get promoted on other websites, and create an online course.

And I have other ideas and projects in the works to reach my ultimate goal of inspiring millions to do more, be more, and live better—including you.

3. Invest in your business.

While I still am smart with where I spend my money, I’m no longer scared to invest in my business.

For example, I just switched my email marketing company from a free one with limited capability to one with a monthly fee that gives me the upgraded features I need.  

About every month I’m paying freelancers to do design work because I see the value in hiring an expert who can do a better and quicker job than me fumbling around on Photoshop.

And I invested thousands of dollars into building my course Master The Resume. Which is nuts because I bet I would have been a nervous wreck throwing that much money into my course a year or two ago, or I wouldn’t have had the guts to invest at all.

4. Money follows attention.

Subconsciously I feel like I already knew this business truth. Though this year I truly understood the fundamentals of this concept and have organized my business to go after attention.

My main motivation to create my YouTube channel was to better connect with you (so you can see my face and hear my voice). But I also recognized that videos will bring more attention to my personal brand.

And going on live TV last month gave me some local Cincinnati attention, which proofed this money follows attention concept right. Because what do you know? The sales of How To College soared for a few days after that appearance.

It’s the same reason why Instagram and YouTube influencers can get $50,000 for a sponsored post or video. To drive the point home, this is exactly how the Kardashians built a billion dollar brand: They get more attention than just about everybody.

So this year I learned money follows attention, and I’ll never forget this concept.

5. Work harder than you think you can.

Back in college, I used to think I worked hard—which I did compared to the average student. But I work 100% harder now.

There are many nights where I’m exhausted at midnight, sometimes even at 10 PM, and I don’t think I have anything left in the tank. But I keep pushing two to three hours more because I know that’s what’s required to make significant progress. Most nights I get more done than I thought I could.

Going to be satisfied that I put in a solid day of work is such a great feeling. And my hard work the day before pays off the next morning when I’m just a little bit closer to my long-term goals.

Most recently, building my first online course is the hardest thing I’ve done. And I faced many setbacks along the way.

For example, I spent an entire day recording audio for the course and sent it to my audio guy. The next morning, I woke up to an email saying we can’t use anything I recorded yesterday because the audio is too loud. That pissed me off!

But I shook it off, and recorded again like nothing bad happened at all. That took hard mental work to let go of my mistake and focus on the task at hand. This is just one of the fires I put out during the course creation.

Overall, this past year has taught me that hard work is the bare minimum. I need to go above that if I want to reach my endgame.

Want To Start An Online Business?

It’s unbelievable to think that all of my past, present, and future entrepreneurial work—my blogs, three books, online course, social media advertising for clients, paid sponsorships, speaking, freelance work, and more—stemmed from starting this blog and getting my name out to the world.

That goes to show what a small seed can grow to when you plant it, give it sunlight, and water it.

It also highlights the power of the Internet and having your own website.

So are you interested in starting your own business?

I’d tell everyone who is that the first step is to get your own website. It’s a super low-risk move that can produce huge rewards.

Even if you don’t blog and just use your website as a landing page to pick up potential clients or customers information, you still need to have an online presence and central hub to direct traffic.

The website and hosting provider I recommend to get your website set up is Bluehost.

Click here to sign up for Bluehost for only $3.95 a month.

(Note: I am a Bluehost affiliate, meaning I receive commission when you sign up through my link. All hosting services have similar programs. I personally choose Bluehost because they offer a high-quality service and excellent customer support, which I believe in. If you use my link, thank you!)

Even though it’s not difficult, I created a video for you to ensure you get your website set up: How To Set Up A Blog.

And thanks for joining me this past year! I appreciate every ounce of support, whether you’re my best customer or never buy a single thing from me your entire life. I’m here to provide you value.

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5 Things Successful Freelancers Do At Networking Events

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As an independent contractor or self-employed freelancer, your level of success depends on your ability to create and sustain relationships. The number of clients you have, the stream of work you produce and the revenue you earn are all contingent on the scope of your business network.

The more dedicated and intentional you are about forming quality connections, the more professional growth, impact and advancement you’ll experience. “By growing your network, opportunities arise, business partners appear, connections are made and trust is garnered in the local community,” says Sharon Schweitzer, best-selling author and consultant.

And in the freelance and entrepreneur world, the service you’re promoting is ultimately yourself—which makes it even harder. If you’ve ever tried to write a personal bio, you know what I mean. Promoting yourself can be challenging, but successful business owners and freelancers know it’s necessary.

As you attend various networking events to grow your network of potential client and those who can support your efforts, keep these tips in mind.

Come Equipped with Business Cards

Every networking event is a chance to gain new clients. As such, you need to present the most professional version of yourself. That version doesn’t just dress well and act polite—that version of yourself always has business cards too. This gives everyone you meet something to remember you by, while showing that you take your work seriously.

Remember that the design of your cards should not only be polished, with readable text and all the right information. It should reflect your brand and personality as well. Check out these interesting business card ideas to find inspiration and a unique style that matches who you are and the work you do.

Pro tip: Find a way to make your business card actionable or helpful. For example, if you’re a personal trainer, you could include a workout on the back of your business card. Not only is this more memorable, but you’re already helping the person who you just met—and you haven’t even done anything yet.

Release Fear

For some people, attending a networking event is stressful. Not only do you have to talk to people you don’t know—but you have to show them that you’re successful and worth connecting with. This is where the fear of personal failure, which was the number one fear among 1,000 Americans polled, can slow you down.

Successful freelancers push this fear aside to present a confident, successful person. To release any personal fears holding you back, use these tips from The Muse:

  •   Choose “non-lame” events and stick with events you’re excited to attend
  •   Stop saying “networking,” which makes it feel intimidating
  •   Volunteer at the event instead of going as an attendee
  •   Research the roster ahead of time so you know who will be there
  •   Reward yourself afterward, I.E. “If I give away all my business cards, I’ll…”
  •   Have conversation starters prepared
  •   Approach people in pairs, which may feel less intimidating

Pro tip: Practice your power poses before going to a networking event to boost your confidence. Amy Cuddy, a social psychologist, suggests that standing in these power postures, and using similar body language, boosts your confidence, even when you don’t feel confident. Learn the different power poses in her Ted Talk.

Seek Contacts to Fulfill Specific Needs

One of the many advantages going to a networking event is that it attracts different people with varying degrees of experience, interest and expertise to one place. As a freelancer, this means there are chances to meet a wide variety of people who could help you, from developers for your website to potential business clients.

Successful freelancers define what they’re looking for before they step foot through the door. I.E. a mentor, client, partner, or even just a fellow creative to bounce ideas off. Keep these goals in mind as you build connections at the event and afterward. Global entrepreneur Ted Rollins suggests:

“As these relationships grow, consider how they fit into that burgeoning ‘why.’ Someone could be more valuable in expanding your business, while another person might serve you best in a mentorship role.”

Pro tip: Stay in touch with everyone, even if you don’t need their help right now. This is one of the best times to be in touch with someone because it gives you a chance to help them instead. When the time comes to reach out for a request, you’ve done the work to maintain that relationship over time.

Use the Skill of Active Listening

This interpersonal skill is highly regarded in professional settings because it shows other people that you want to form a reciprocal relationship instead of just a self-serving one. Mind Tools describes an active listener as someone who makes a “conscious effort to hear not only the words another person is saying but, more importantly, to understand the complete message being sent.”

To practice this at a networking event, approach people with an open stance, hold eye contact, remember to smile and use receptive body language—freshen up on receptive body language with this guide from Skills You Need.

Don’t forget to ask questions that start with “Who?” “What?” “How?” and “Why?” The more attentive you are toward someone, the more they’ll trust your motives.

Pro tip: Practice active listening in every area of your life—with your friends, your family and your spouse. Work toward being an active listener, even in the simplest of conversations, so it comes easier to you when it matters most, like when you’re meeting a potential investor or business partner.

Send a Follow-Up Message Promptly

Communication is critical to solidifying your new potential relationships and successful freelancers follow-up within 24 hours. When you do, express your gratitude for their assistance, offer any other relevant information that wasn’t shared in person, and reiterate what a pleasure it was to meet them.

Not only does prompt correspondence keep your name fresh in people’s minds, it establishes you as a genuine individual whom others feel secure doing business with. If the context is appropriate, you can even add personal touches like inquiring about a recent vacation they took or mentioning a common interest you share to express that you’re invested in them relationally.   

Feeling uninspired? Check out these follow-up email templates.

Pro tip: After following up via email, connect with anyone that stood out to you on LinkedIn. This is a second chance to remind them of who you are, and once connected, you can casually interact via “liking” posts and commenting. This ensures you stay top of mind and makes it even easier for them to reconnect with you at any point.

Step Into the Networking Arena

Learning how to network effectively is an asset you can take straight to the bank. Move outside your comfort zone, engage with other professionals, and use these pointers to maximize your efforts and form connections that will provide value for many years to come.

BIO: Jessica Thiefels has been writing for more than 10 years and is currently a full-time freelance writer and self-employed content marketing consultant. She’s been featured in Forbes and Business Insider and has written for Virgin, Glassdoor, Lifehack and more. Follow her on Twitter @Jlsander07 and connect LinkedIn.

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Entrepreneurship

2 Reasons Why Your Business Marketing Sucks

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How can your company explosively grow when your business sucks at marketing?

Referrals and word of mouth are great, but they can only go so far—and they’re usually slow coming if we’re being honest.

Sooner or later you know you’ll need to go on the offensive to market and advertise your brand instead of waiting and praying.

If you don’t, good luck winning market share, opening a new location, or building a bigger team. Your business growth simply taps out without marketing—it has no other choice.

Compare that to the business that has the advantage of turning on their marketing like a faucet where they can always get more customers anytime they want.

The ability to bring in new customers seemingly at will is not only a perk in itself, it also allows the business flexibility to raise prices, try different promotions, and get customer feedback to improve.

What’s the company I just described understand while the other one is going to struggle? It’s simple, one is not making the two mistakes that will kill your marketing and the other is.

Two Marketing Killers

It’s not that you’re just going to be average if you make the two marketing mistakes below.

Your company is going to fail from a marketing perspective and suffer the consequences down the road—one of them possibly being bankruptcy.

1) No money investment

First and foremost, your business has to put your money where your mouth is and pay to market or advertise your services. It costs money to get in front of new faces, but chalk that up as the cost of being in business.

Your business should be spending:

  • At the very least 3% of your company’s annual revenue on marketing
  • 7% to 10% of your company’s annual revenue on marketing
  • Ideally more than 10% to grow at a faster rate

Of course the final totals will be different for every industry—a software company should spend more of their annual budget on advertising than a restaurant should—but these are solid general guidelines.

What should you spend money on to bring in more customers? A well-designed website for one. Then Google pay-per-click ads or Facebook ads are the best bet for almost every business. Depending on the industry it may also make sense to invest in video projects, television ads, or radio ads.

And this doesn’t mean there aren’t free ways to build an audience.

Optimizing your website for keywords and SEO and adding email capture forms to your website can both return thousands of dollars of profits in a short time (among other free marketing ideas).

Once you commit to financially investing in your marketing and advertising, you’re not done yet.

2) No time investment

Not investing any strategic time into your marketing is the second killer mistake.

Because your business can toss as much money at a problem as you like. But if these funds are not strategically allocated in the right direction, then it will not deliver on expectations.

Your team or you may walk away at the end of the campaign and think, “Aha! I knew marketing and advertising doesn’t work!”, when really you didn’t execute to get the best ROI.

These are a few examples of what it means for a business owner to invest time into your company’s marketing:

  • Schedule a weekly meeting solely devoted to marketing
  • Delegate an individual or team to fix your current marketing weaknesses
  • Ask for a monthly report listing every marketing channel, dollars allocated to it, and the individual platform’s performance
  • Scope out your competition to “steal” their good ideas
  • Research successful advertising campaigns by innovative companies in other fields

What does no money and no time get you? No results, no business growth, and maybe you’re forced to close down shop if an Amazon-type company comes after you.

I want you to win, and win in style. The way you’re going to do that is by spending the money and time it takes to find marketing channels that produce real business results.

You can totally do this!

Related: 3 Top Selling Points For Social Media Marketing

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Entrepreneurship

How To Go From Wantrepreneur To Entrepreneur: 5 Step Process

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Maybe your view after Step 5 in this process?

Want to go from wantrepreneur to entrepreneur? You’ve got your work cut out for you. But it is by all means doable, and can happen quicker than you imagine.

First we have to single out the wantrepreneur fanboys who spend all their free time idolizing others but not putting in any work in to build something for themselves.

Let me ask you. Do any of these descriptions represent you?

  • You’ve seen almost every episode of Shark Tank
  • You’ve read hundreds of blog posts on entrepreneur.com
  • You’ve watched 25 Tony Robbins motivational YouTube videos
  • You’ve been listening to entrepreneur podcasts daily on your work commutes
  • You’ve consumed more TED Talks than you can give an accurate estimate
  • You’ve gone to 4 conferences for entrepreneurs in the last year

If any single one of these depicts you, you’re a hardcore wantrepreneur who is watching life go by from the sidelines.

And many of you not only consume every piece of content from your favorite entrepreneurs, but you have the audacity to criticize other entrepreneurs in the arena when you’re a bystander.

That’s just plain wrong! Read this for me.

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat. – Theodore Roosevelt

The point is, fulfillment comes from doing—even if you do fail, you’re better off. You won’t be satisfied spending all your time preparing or consuming knowledge like a machine but ending up with zero output.

Stop doing that. And start following the 5 steps below. If you stick to it, I guarantee you’ll be a successful entrepreneur with results to show for your labor.

5 Step Process To Entrepreneurship

1. Pick what you’re going to do.

You could say that this selection process is the most important step. Or I could argue that it’s not that important since your business and you as an entrepreneur are going to evolve a million times over the next few years.

For example, I’ve personally developed and changed titles multiple titles in just two and a half years. I started out as a blogger, then became an author, then a YouTuber, and now I own a digital marketing company.

The beauty of it is that I’ve taken lessons from each role and used them to excel in the next. And I’m sure I’ll have many new titles and responsibilities down the road as well.

Let’s go back to talking about you now.

Maybe you have some business idea in mind? If it’s work you’re truly passionate about, have the skills to be good at it, and would enjoy spending 80 hours a week doing, that’s probably your thing.

Don’t lose sight of the main qualifier, can you make money doing it? If you’re passionate and good at describing the shapes of clouds, no one is going to pay you for your ridiculous skill. 

You’ll win when you find something that will make you money on top of your passion. That’s an  unbeatable combination.

And if you have a lot of different passions, pick your favorite one right now and save the others for later. They’ll still be waiting for you if you decide to pick them up in the future.

The point is you’ll never know what’s right for you unless you experiment now by getting started. If you hate working on this type of business, then you’ll know really soon and can move on to something else.

But ideally you pick an industry you’re going to be in for the long haul since the less you start over the quicker you build momentum and profit.

2. Pursue it as a side hustle after work.

You’ve determined your entrepreneurial path, now all that’s left is the hard work.

Push it to the limit by squeezing all the extra time before work, during your lunch break, and after your day job and dinner to grow your business to the next level.

And if you work the third shift or late at night, work on your business before work. Hustle is the key to success in this industry.

Assuming you picked the right side hustle, this work is going to be fun amidst the challenge of growing a business from nothing to a success.

Your goal in this step is to confirm that people are willing to buy your services.

How do you do that? Start interviewing potential prospects as well as digging yourself to see if other people in your space are making money.

You’ll find key insights from these interviews that you’d find nowhere online. And you’ll see holes in your business plan that you can quickly fix.

The only warning is that you don’t spend too much time researching—that’s what wantrepreneurs excel at. It’s best to attempt selling and pick up data there than behind a computer reading article after article.

Plus, you can do all the customer interviews and market research possible. But you’ll never know if you’re onto something until you experiment to put yourself out there consistently and see if people are willing to pay for your product or services.

You get out the effort you put into your business, so hustle even when there’s no immediate return and you’re tired after a long work day at your day job.

Your future self will thank you for the effort.

3. Make enough money from your business to live on.

It’s not a good mindset to be an entrepreneur just for the money. Though the reality is that you do need to make money to support yourself and maybe a family.

If you can’t produce income it’s a red flag you’re just not that good, or selling an offering people don’t want or need.

Money represents value and oxygen for a business. A business without a steady stream of sales isn’t going to be in business for long.

So, how are you going to make some bank for your company?

Consider how you’re going to ramp up your marketing efforts. Are there free, organic options to meet new customers? Is paying for Google or Facebook ads the best option? Those are business decisions for you to decide.

Are you going to interview potential customers and see if it’s something they’d pay for before you create the service? Maybe you build a list of 50 people who pay you in advance before you do any work and confirm your service has some legs to it.

Quick business tip: Friendly people will say they’d buy it, but when you ask them for their money then they tightly hold onto their wallets. But only truly interested customers will dish out their money right away.

At this stage, your ultimate goal needs to be to make enough money to replace your job income so you can become a full-time entrepreneur.

P.S. If you’ve tried everything and still can’t make money, then odds are you need to watch this and go back to Step 1. Determine what you’re going to do—so you can find a better business idea people will actually pay you to do.

4. Leave your job to work on your business full time.

This is what separates the men and women hustlers from the boys and girls: leaving your job to work on your business full time. That’s what makes a true entrepreneur in my opinion.

Because how can your business thrive if the top man is sidetracked spending 45 hours a week at another gig?

Just imagine how much more could be done for your business if you were to invest 45 hours a week of your own time. That’s 2,340 extra hours a year to grow your business!

Now, is it easy to say goodbye to a fair company, nice co-workers, and a comfortable salaried job? No.

Is it worth it to fulfill your potential and give everything you’ve got to grow your business? I say, heck yes!

That’s what dreams are made of for pure entrepreneurs who love the hustle.

Plus, if you hate your job then this step is the easiest on this list, “See ya suckers, I’m on to better things. Oh yeah, I won’t be needing any referrals for a new job because I’m my own boss now.”

Be warned: The first week or two working 100% for yourself will feel strange. You’ll have unlimited freedom and your willpower will be tested to get the best performance out of yourself.

This takes an adjusting period. However, soon you and your business will be off to the races!

5. Scale your business to as big as you want it.

Since you’re making as much money as you need to on your business now, technically the process is complete once you leave your job.

Congrats, you’re officially an entrepreneur!

However, entrepreneurs are some of the most ambitious people I know. And many of them wouldn’t find it acceptable to just replace their full-time job income with their business income.

They want something more, bigger, and better. The only next logical step is to scale your business so that it doubles in impact. Maybe it triples it and eventually becomes 10 times greater (if that’s your goal).

Maybe you’re a lifestyle entrepreneur who says the whole reason I left my corporate job was to work less and have fun more time to enjoy myself or hang out with my family. To you, I say that’s an even better reason to grow your business since it will give you the cash to hire a virtual assistant, personal assistant, or team to get more done while you work less.

Once you scale the business to your desired growth, you have plenty of positive options down the road too.

For example, you could keep the business steady and take on no new clients, commit to growing the business past your comfort zone, or sell the business to do something (or nothing) else for the rest of your life.

Only in entrepreneurship do you have these kinds of career options so you may as well take advantage of them to maximize your happiness and freedom, right?

Scaling your business is the cherry on top during the process of hustling from wantrepreneur to entrepreneur.

Final Words

There is no perfect time to make the leap and quit your 9 to 5 job. No prophet is going to run into you on the street giving you the nod to do it. And no dream will give you the courage to enter the unknown and leave your comfort zone.

That’s all ridiculous. This isn’t the movies, it’s the real world.

You need to take control of your future by making the tough choice to pursue what you love doing.

There will be some bumps and bruises along the way, of course. You’ll often struggle in the beginning to create a service or product people are willing to pay for, market it, and keep clients happy.

But the secret is that the process is actually all of the fun. The reward is making progress and getting better—not retiring on a beach saying, “I’ve made it.” (Those lazy days in the sand will get boring quick, trust me.)

So go do your thing to go from wantrepreneur to official entrepreneur.

Take care of your business until your business one day takes care of you, your family, and freedom you desire for the rest of your life.

I’ll be practicing what I preach right alongside you.

Since no one is going to hand it to you—go take your success!

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