Signs You're Ready (or Not Ready) to Start A Business
I think trying to tell someone they should or not start a business is like telling someone they should or shouldn't get married. In the end, you're going to make the decision based on a gut feeling and that's the best you can do. No one can prepare you for just how difficult it can be but - if you're lucky- when you land that big client or see your brand name in the press for the first time, you'll experience that unequivocally high that only a small percentage of people (an even smaller percentage of women) get to experience in their life.
However, there were a few things I wish I knew before I started a business that I think can really help you decide if it's the right move for you at this moment or if the right moment might possibly be a little further in the future.
Save a little and then save some more.
I started this business with $0 in my bank account. I was living paycheck to paycheck, mostly because my spending habits were out of control (talk about champagne taste on a wine-in-a-box budget) but I knew I could be doing so much more than I was doing at my current job. I ended up borrowing money to get it fully off the ground and just this month we reached positive cash flow. Realistically- I wish I had started the company with more money invested. I finally have the website I want and am beginning to build a team of leaders that I want to invest in but I spent a lot of time teaching, hard-working, fresh-out-of-college kids to do work that they just weren't ready for. If you're starting out small, which most of you will be if you don't have a large VC behind you or stockholders, you really want to have the money to pay talented and industry-knowledgable employees. What they bring to the table is invaluable and what you can create as a team will be magical.
Be prepared to be poor for a while
Most companies don't see profits for 1-2 years. I am lucky in that we work in a service industry so we don't have inventory or a ton of overhead. My largest expense is employees, consultants, and freelancers. However, in the beginning, you might even have to shell out money to your clients. Giving away free work can be great for business but it can also make or break you. There's a really really really small sweet spot you'll have to find- it's the balance of free-work with actual paying clients to keep the lights on but see your brand grow at a healthy rate.
Get to the essentials first
If you want to be taken seriously in this competitive age you need these things:
- At least one medium-larger name client who you can promote your work from
- A kick-ass website (validity is key to landing large clients)
- A set price list (and be generous- you'll be surprised how quick the profits will eat away in a new business)
- No fear for approaching clients all the time- I still spent a lot of my week pitching- sometimes you get it, sometimes you don't but the more you pitch - the higher your conversion rate will be.
- Good photo content, just like a kick a$$ website, good photo assets are definitely worth it. In this age, you can get decent ones pretty cheap but more importantly, 10-15 good photos can get you a month of social and months of email and website. Good content can be repurposed indefinitely.
The legal stuff
If you aren't sure what articles of incorporation are- this section is for you. There is an incredibly daunting amount of legal work to starting a business. I graduated from business school and I STILL had trouble getting this done. I had a great lawyer (don't ever skimp on legal fees) but it was expensive and he's always up in our bid-diness. If you are thinking of venturing into marketing services like email campaign management or affiliate marketing, etc. THERE IS A LOT OF LAWS. I suggest you settle up on the couch one weekend with your laptop and some wine and start reading. everything from how people can sign up for a list of what words you need to use for promoted affiliate posts is pretty cut and dry but we always check with our lawyer on anything that seems unclear. (WHAT? THE GOVERNMENT, UNCLEAR? IMPOSSIBLE I KNOW LOL).
Big or small- you can't sweat it all
This is completely useless to tell you because you're going to freak out. A lot. you'll freak out about money, or wonder if you made a mistake, or feel like you aren't doing enough, question your leadership skills, have to fire clients, or if you really fucked up-possibly be fired by clients. ALL OF THE ABOVE WILL SUCK. You really have to try to remember - some things that are out of your control. The things that aren't able to be changed, you will have to learn to let go of, and the things that are will have a solution.
Find a hobby that doesn't have anything to do with your business
The largest mistake i made was making my company my whole life. Well, that and binge drinking (I'm a big believer in nothing wrong with a good time). Anything I was good at - design, marketing, affiliate, social media- I sold to clients and that took all my hobbies and made them work. Yes, my job is incredibly fun but once you do it for money, it's not a hobby anymore and it's another cog in the machine. Find a hobby that has ABSOLUTELY nothing to do with your company and there is no way you can sell it and do it as often as possible.
Be your own unicorn standard
A unicorn is a term in business to describe a one in a million idea (apple, facebook, if you're me- revolve.com- my forever obsession- aka just-take-all-my-money-now.com). If you want to work in an indie industry - invent your own idea of what a unicorn is. This may sound pessimistic but my agency helps small-medium brands so we will never sell a million dollar contract. It just isn't in the cards and it never will be- at least not for RR (HERE'S HOPING MY DOG BECOMES INSTA-FAMOUS SOON). That doesn't bother me because my intention when I started was to help brands who truly deserved it- we love working with ethical, clean, and cruelty-free brands and we make money but not much above cost. My unicorn standard was to create something that made a difference and caused a disruption in mainstream beauty and WE'RE DOING IT. If you close your eyes and you ask yourself "what's the one thing you want more than anything?" - that's your fucking unicorn so throw some glitter on that bitch and ride that rainbow!
Raw passion cures new-business blues
I've said it before and ill say it until I die. Don't start a business for fame, money, or success because you might never see any of those. I will never be the best marketer or the best designer. I am well-seasoned, well-researched, and well-educated with a little bit of talent sprinkled in there. I have met some really fucking talented people and some really shit people in marketing- both groups have happy and unhappy members. The difference? If you are willing to sit in a room with 20 people and teach what you do for 18 hours straight- you've got what it takes. If that sounds like a bad time for you- the industry you're thinking of breaking into might not be the one for you.