The best thing I did in 2018 was ditch my job and become a full-time entrepreneur. It was one of the scariest and most transformative experiences of my life. I had a plan: to work for myself, rake in the money and help people along the way. In reality, I was not prepared for the growing pains that come with running your own business. Don’t get me wrong, it’s been amazing to learn how to become an entrepreneur. However, there were certainly things I wish I knew before taking the leap and starting a small online business while on the road. Here’s what I wish I knew.
1. Start with a Side Hustle, then Grow!
I made the fatal mistake of quitting my job before my side hustle became profitable. I had a lofty savings and thought I could survive off of what I put away while my business was taking off. WRONG. After traveling for 5 months in Europe and living off of my savings, I realized that businesses can take YEARS to take off. I didn’t have years worth of savings sitting in the bank. If I could do it all over again, I would have started my business as a side hustle and let it grow gradually before taking the leap and going full-time as an entrepreneur.
2. Find The Right Client - Narrow, Narrow, & Narrow Some More
All of my entrepreneur friends and mentors assured me that casting a wide net was the way to get my ideal client. I listened to them and ended up attracting customers that weren’t serious about my offerings or were a nightmare to work with. The truth is, I needed to find my ideal client and be as specific about that client as possible. For example, when I started my blog, Afro Feminista Vegan, I advertised plant-based lifestyle coaching to any and everyone. I didn’t get any bites. When I took a hard look at my branding, I realized that my original intention was to work with black women who are vegan or wish to become vegan. The name of my blog said it all. I decided to narrow it down and name my ideal client. Since I narrowed my focus and made it clear that my ideal client is a black woman interested in veganism, my business’ purpose has become much clearer to my customers and therefore, more profitable.
3. Money Makes Money
There’s an old saying, “money makes money”. Everyone knows that when you have money, you can make more money. When I first started my journey as an entrepreneur, I didn’t take this old proverb very seriously. I thought that I should make money as I go and then reinvest. What I should have done is used my savings as the investment tool and started my business on the right foot. Instead, I tried to cut corners and used what little money I had to invest into my business. If I had started with $1,000 more at the start of my business, I may have had further reach, better content, and a more professional online presence.
4. Don’t Start an LLC Until You Sell Something
In 2017, I started a cooperative housing business. I was so eager to get my business going, I decided to open an LLC as a way to legitimize my services. What a bad idea. That business was incredibly unsuccessful. I didn’t choose the right business partners and the clients I had hoped to serve did not want the services I was providing. In retrospect, I should have tested my product or service on my client before starting an LLC and flushing $150 down the toilet. The best thing to do is to start small, test your service with your ideal client and when money starts to come in, then get an LLC.
5. Be Your Own Biggest Fan
A wise mentor of mine once told me to be your own biggest fan. He advised me to believe wholeheartedly in my product or service, otherwise no one else will. Boy, was he right. When I first started Afro Feminista Vegan, I was offering services and products that I didn’t believe in. I didn’t think I was credible enough to offer certain kinds of services or that my ideal client would have found it valuable. I didn’t believe in myself and my business suffered. As my journey evolves, I’m learning more about what my ideal client wants, what would give me credibility in the eyes of my customers, and how I can best market my product to my audience. The more I research and refine my products and services, the more confident I get in sharing them with my clients. You have to be your own cheerleader in order for your customers to cheer for you too.
6. Make Sure the Price is Right
This is one that I’m still learning. The question remains: how do I price my work in a way that feels valuable to my client and I? At one point in my business, I was charging $15/month for something that was really worth $50/month. I had such a low price because I wanted to limit the barriers that prevent my customers from getting access to my services. This was a mistake. When the price is too low, customers don’t take your product seriously. When the price is right, there’s a psychological response in your client's mind that says, “this product or service is worth this price!” Conversely, I’ve charged thousands of dollars for something that was probably worth a few hundred dollars. Basic economics tells us there’s a special price that customers and vendors are willing to agree upon. Be sure to research your market thoroughly. Make sure the price is right and the right customer will fall into your hands.
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