Three years ago I hit publish on my first Instagram post promoting my services as a content strategist.
So much has happened and changed since then. Honestly, I can’t believe it’s been three years. Sitting here and typing that out makes it feel like an absolute eternity, yet it also feels like it was just yesterday.
To celebrate this accomplishment, I wanted to reflect on all the things I’ve learned in my time as an entrepreneur, the good, the bad, the funny, and the red flags.
And because three is one of my favorite numbers (followed by 13), I’m breaking up these lessons into groups of three, with one final thing I would tell anyone thinking of starting a business.
Ready? Let’s go!
Lessons I Learned After Three Years in Business
3 Mistakes I Made as a Beginner Business Owner
Let’s get one thing straight – the business owner journey isn’t all sunshine and rainbows. I’ve made my fair share of mistakes, and I’m sure I’ll make more in the future. I’m all about being transparent about my experiences, which starts with exposing three mistakes/things I wish I’d done differently when I started my business.
- I had no clue what service I was offering and for what price
One of the clearest memories from the beginning of my business was setting an alarm an hour before my first discovery call so I could research pricing for Pinterest services and create my first “package”. Talk about winging it! Related, but slightly separate: it took me wayyyyy too long to get my systems and processes truly established.
- Taking on too many or the wrong clients
Intuition is a powerful beast, and it’s important to not ignore those red flags. For the first two years of my business, I was desperate to establish myself, which got me in some sticky situations. I’ve overcommitted, or taken on clients I knew probably wouldn’t work out. And although I’ve definitely learned from this mistake, it’s one I sometimes wish I hadn’t made.
- Not communicating enough
Trust me, as someone who prides themself on their communication skills, this is a tough one to admit. Particularly when it came to client relationships, I was afraid of rejection, criticism, and “saying the wrong thing,” so I often erred on the quieter side; often to my detriment. Now, even though my client relationships are still very hands off, I make sure to overcommunicate plans, processes, and strategy as much as possible, so everyone’s on the same page.
3 Things I Did Right in My Business
As much as I prioritize transparency, I also want to take a moment to celebrate! Of all the things that have kept me in business for the past three years, here are the three I think are the most important:
- I never gave up
Historically, I’m great at starting projects, but not so great at maintaining or finishing them. This business is probably one of the only things I’ve voluntarily chosen to try and STUCK WITH. Whether you want to call it consistency or showing up, I did it. I said, “we’re doing this and we’re not going to stop.” That’s the mentality that’s kept me going for 3 years.
- I was unerringly myself
The first time I ever recorded an Instagram story, I was wearing a t-shirt and had my greasy hair up in a ponytail. It wasn’t a “look good, feel good” moment, but I did it. From that moment on, I’ve committed to being 100% me in the way I show up online and interact with clients and friends. Beneath any sort of intentional marketing strategy, I think putting my personality front and center is what has made growing this business such an enjoyable process.
- I didn’t get bogged down by “business building”
Ideal client work? We don’t know her. Logo and web design? Nah. Okay, to be fair, I did have some of those things in some shape or form, but I definitely didn’t build my business with solid foundations or following any sort of best practices. While I might not recommend you follow in my footsteps exactly, I think there is something to be said for just going for it. The things you think matter are probably a lot less important than you think.
I didn’t have a fully fleshed out ideal client avatar, I didn’t even attempt to create a logo, and my website hadn’t been touched since I was a college student trying to get publishing jobs. I picked a color palette on coolors.co, chose my fonts in Canva and said GO.
(Fun fact: my original color palette is still the same as it was 3 years ago.)
In my opinion, spending a lot of time or money – eeek!! – on the bones of your own business at the beginning isn’t worth it. So much changes in the first year or two that you’ll probably have to end up redoing some of it, and it’s just an excuse to put off doing the actual work.
3 Things I Would Go Back and Tell Myself
- Not everything has to be strategic
You and I both know by now that I’m a “messy marketer.” I can’t follow a strategy for my own content to save my life. The second I’m given a plan, I want to throw it out the window. There is incredible value in having a solid strategy, but if it’s getting in your way, just go with the flow, instead!
- It won’t always be like this
Whether it’s a slow period or a busy one, there are seasons in life and in business. Find joy in where you’re at now and know that it won’t last forever.
- Reach out
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, my life and business changed when I started building a community of business owner friends. I wish I’d reached out sooner, to ask for help, to share a compliment, whatever. Borrowing from my friend and client Sara, if you think something nice about someone, TELL THEM. Be the reach-out friend.
3 Things I Couldn’t Run My Business Without
There are a lot of different tools that make it massively easier to run my business, but for the sake of keeping this section short (and maintaining my 3’s theme), I’m just sharing the top 3 tools and resources I use in my Pinterest marketing business.
I’ve been a Honeybook stan since the beginning, and it just keeps getting better. If you’re running a service-based business, you need a way to send contracts, request payments, book meetings, etc. Honeybook is all that and more. I also love how seamless I can make it for my clients!
This is a more recent addition to my business (remember when I said my systems were a mess at the beginning…) but it’s soooo good. Honestly, I don’t care what project management tool you use, but pick one and actually use it. I know, everyone says it. They’re right. Especially if you have ADHD like I do, having one central source of truth is incredibly valuable. I put everything in there, from client processes and my Instagram content to emails I need to respond to.
- Canva Pro
Yawn. Boring. Everyone says this. YEAH BECAUSE IT’S TRUE. I have so many tools and programs I use in my business, but this was one of the absolute first I invested in because it was just a no-brainer. I use Canva for absolutely everything, and I would 100% be lost without it.
1 Thing I Would Tell Anyone Thinking of Starting a Business
If you’re on the fence about whether or not you want to start a business, here’s the one thing I want to tell you:
- “But what if I fail?” Oh well, at least you tried.
- “What if I find out I don’t like it?” You found out, and now you can go back to corporate or try something else.
- “I’m scared I won’t make enough money.” You don’t have to go all-in right away, safety nets are valid.
- “I don’t know what I’m doing.” None of us do at the beginning. I promise you’ll figure it out.
- “I don’t want my friends and family to make fun of me.” Fuck ‘em. Or block them. Or both.
Trust me when I say that no matter what the outcome of your business journey, trying is what matters. You will learn something from the experience. I know I have.
One last thing before I leave you…
Thank you. I wouldn’t be here, celebrating 3 years in business, if it weren’t for you. Whether you’re a client, a friend, or a lurker, every bit of interaction and support means the world to me.
Love ya <3