Each year, I learn something new about being a business owner, and 2014 is no different. The lessons this year are both big and small, but no matter the size, I'm very grateful for all that I've learned and continue to learn as an entrepreneur.
When it comes to lessons learned in 2014, here's what's trending on my list:
1. Collaborate, collaborate, collaborate
Collaborations are great options, especially if you are a solopreneur. A couple of years ago, it was clear that having a business partner was not the best option for me. The decision to be a solopreneur was an easy one since I realize that collaborating with individuals was another viable option. All you have to do is ask.
When you find the right person to work on a project with, it can be beneficial to both of you. Collaborations allow you to work with someone on an as-needed basis. You can create a project contract with agreed terms and move forward from there. Once the contract is signed, this allows both parties to work together for a limited amount of time.
If the business arrangement is a good one, you will work together again. If the business arrangement doesn't work out, then, hopefully, you can finish the project together and never have to see each other again.
It is probably a good idea to have release windows in longer contracts so that if the working arrangement is difficult, there is an opportunity to end the relationship sooner rather than later.
2. Money isn't everything
Yes, I said it! Money is important and we should all get paid for our services, time and talent. However, sometimes you have to look at the bigger picture. If a client cannot meet your dollar amount right now and the project has the potential to be profitable down the road, it's smarter to take a chance and lose a few dollars up front.
Your goal should be to get your foot in the door, show the client what you can do, and hopefully impress the hell out of them. If all goes well, they'll want more and come back to you for it. When they have time to plan a better budget, you may be called in to be a part of the team and then negotiate a better fee. It's a gamble that could land you a jackpot.
3. Know your worth
I realize I just told you that money isn't everything, but you should know your worth. When it comes to negotiating your fee, it's important to settle on an amount that you can live with now and moving forward. Once you set a rate, it's difficult to go back to a client and ask for more.
I once went in for a production project and negotiated a rate. When I returned for an encore performance, the rate was lower. I declined the offer and walked away. I was later called back for another project and given the original rate. The negotiator later told me she was impressed that I knew my worth and held out for it.
Not everyone can decline an offer, but if you can, do it. Before you set a rate, determine what the project requires in time and skills, and, most importantly, what dollar amount makes you happy. If it makes you happy and the client will pay, then go for it.
4. Value your time
With only 24 hours in the day, an entrepreneur is quickly going to realize that there's just never enough time to get everything done.
For businesses using social networks such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, it's easy to get lost in cyberspace and spend hours on the computer. Be aware of your time and your schedule. Invest in a stopwatch or timer. It will allow you to monitor yourself.
Dedicate time to your social media -- either an hour or two in the morning or evening. Get organized. Create a written to-do list where you check off each item as it is completed. The tangible act of crossing off a completed task is a sign of accomplishment.
Also, be mindful of how much time you spend talking to or catching up with friends. It's easy to get distracted when you haven't seen a friend in a long time or she is sharing good gossip. Say no to gossip and concentrate on completing a to-do list.
5. Make a little "me" time
As an entrepreneur, it is easy to feel as though you have to do everything right away and yesterday. That is not the case. It is important to make quiet time for yourself to clear your head and regroup daily. Spend an hour or two exercising, take a walk or meditate -- all good ways to rejuvenate your mind and your body. I get some of my best ideas during my early morning bike ride, and I definitely write better after practicing yoga.
Fuel your body by eating at least three to five healthy, small meals throughout the day. Finally, know when to shut down. A good night's sleep -- six to eight hours is recommended -- is the best way to rest up so you can do it all again tomorrow.
What lessons did you learn this year? Let us know in the comments section below.