Statistics say invariably that most new businesses close within two years of opening. I myself have seen many storefronts come and go in my hometown, on commercial strips where I worked before I opened my business, and on online retail spaces like Etsy.
Perhaps even more often, I’ve heard friends and peers say they plan to start charging for some product or service, only to hear a few months later that they’ve put their business idea on the backburner, usually mumbling a vague reason before changing the subject.
While business ownership may not be for everyone, and that’s perfectly fine, for some I wonder if perhaps the dream is there, but the confidence or direction simply isn’t.
Therefore, in honor of the 2-year anniversary of the moment I was fully committed to entrepreneurship, I’m sharing 5 of the best pieces of advice I’ve gotten in business. These tips kept me going when it felt like the odds were stacked against me, and provided a guiding light when my circumstances or just business ownership in general felt too big to take on. I hope you enjoy them!
#1: “Take imperfect action.”
I actually first heard this advice in the form of the expression, “Done is better than perfect,” and later in the form of the words, “Your 80% looks like 98% to everyone else.” No matter how you say it, the heart of the message here is that sometimes, you have to just let go of perfect, and be okay with “done.” There will always be a million ways to improve your logo, your website, and even your product; but if it gets the job done, ship it, because that’s the only way you’re going to make money.
#2: “Spend 50% of your time creating, and 50% connecting.”
This one is from Chris Guillebeau. He really drives home the point that 50% of your time as a freelancer, small business owner, or entrepreneur is just spent running a business. Whether that means answering emails, organizing receipts, unloading or packing shipments, planning social media content, putting out fires for clients, arguing with vendors, cleaning, or booking networking opportunities, in order to create cash flow you do have to stay organized and connect with people.
Actually, I really like this advice because it means I get to meet people in coffee shops and write it off! But seriously, because of this advice, I intentionally carve out time to reach out to new people, attend networking events, send follow-up emails (yes, they do result in paid work), and other opportunities, because the more people you know, the more money you can make.
#3: “Everyone has to borrow money at some point.”
I won’t reveal their names, but one prominent café owner and one radio personality both told me in a very short span of time that well into their respective businesses, they had to borrow money to make payroll for their staffs. One of them was rejected by their normal bank for a small loan to make payroll, and had to apply at outside banks until they got a yes; the other put payroll on his personal credit card.
I remembered these stories when I was threadbare in my own bank account, and though I had to swallow my pride to ask for help, it was made easier by the knowledge that I wasn’t alone. Borrowing money is the literal cost of keeping a business open.
#4: “Only share the kind of work you want to attract.”
My first website was pretty, but it was also filled with clutter. I actually think this is a necessary phase for young businesses to go through; it’s how you learn what sort of work you like and what your ideal clients want to buy from you.
However, over time, it also means changing what you show off, so that you only put out work that people are interested in seeing, and you don’t attract people who want the kind of work you cringe to do. Today I don’t show senior portraits, weddings, or even business photography I’ve done that doesn’t match my ideal client. This results in more of the opportunities I actually want, and it will work for you, too.
#5: “Your brain has to engage in play in order to perform at its best.”
If you haven’t read the book Essentialism by Greg McKeown, get yourself a copy! In this book, there are two chapters in particular, “Play” and “Sleep,” that will give you permission to do things you don’t realize you’re allowed to do: indulge in activities you actually enjoy, and rest.
The brain is a muscle, and like any other muscle it can get overworked. It’s also broken into different sections (or lobes) that specialize in different things. When you’ve overworked the problem-solving, “work” part of your brain, it stops performing optimally, resulting in mistakes, clumsiness, overwhelm, and anxiety.
When you give this part of your brain a break and participate in another activity, like a game, you use another part of your brain, relieving some of the tension in the part of your brain that has been overworked. This can both improve your ability to problem-solve, and it can improve your quality of sleep! Since sleep is also necessary for optimal brain function, carve out time for that, too.
While there are many components to running a business, I truly believe that the mental game is 90% of the battle. These 5 insights have helped keep me going, and I think without them I would have assumed I didn’t have what it takes, or I would have given into overwhelm.
What about you? Do any of these insights shift things for you and your mental game? What’s the best business advice you’ve gotten? I’d love to hear! Leave a comment below, and then come join the discussion over on Instagram, @alexisthegreek!