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4 Things I Learned After My First Year as an Entrepreneur

4 Things I Learned After My First Year as an Entrepreneur
Image credit: Elliott Brown | Flickr

It’s been almost a year since I took the entrepreneurial leap and launched my executive coaching practice. I’m not going to lie, working for myself has been completely spoiling. Setting my own agenda, choosing the place and times to work, and determining the clients with whom I work (no social hand grenades) has been completely fulfilling.

I’m a big believer that in uncertainty lies opportunity. If the rules aren’t already written then write your own rule book, and if there is a book, make edits.

Related: Don't Let these 5 Illogical Thoughts Stop You From Starting a Business

Sharing lessons is important. After all, nobody learns from their successes or really even question why they won something, they just accept it. Here are four things to consider before taking your leap into the entrepreneurial unknown:

1. Marketing isn’t easy.

Not in terms of marketing your product but yourself (self-promotion). Now, I’m not blanketing all entrepreneurs by saying this because there are certainly people out there who believe the world revolves around them. However, for those who live in reality and “get it,” selling yourself (not that way) isn’t easy.

Here’s the secret to not sounding like a you-know-what: don’t talk about yourself. Instead, highlight what it is your product or service provides and let customers make the connection for how it benefits them. This is a subtle yet important difference. People want to know how they’ll benefit from buying what you’re selling, and yes, who you are is a large part of that.

Consumers buy from vendors they like, trust, and respect. They also buy products and services that benefit them so be sure to craft your marketing message that way.

2. A strategy is different from an objective.

I wrote in another column what a sound strategy looks like, and just the process of thinking strategically can be a challenge if you’re more inclined to the executor role. Think of it this way: an objective is where you want to end up -- it’s your destination. Strategy is how you get there.

Consider, for instance, a ladder -- the kind you lean up against the side of the house to clean out the debris in your home’s gutters. When you lean the ladder against the house, the goal is to climb to the top (and not fall off). The rungs provide the means by which you get there -- the daily behaviors that help you execute the strategy -- and the rails of the ladder set the direction for where those rungs lead (they can only go one way). If, once you get to the top of the ladder you find yourself on the wrong roof, you simply shift the ladder.

Related: Being Your Own Boss Is Great Except for the Hours

3. Focus on what you, and only you, can affect.

Entrepreneurship is an investment in yourself, your beliefs, convictions and definition of value. After all, if you don’t believe your new widget is valuable then you wouldn’t feel compelled to sell it, right?

As an entrepreneur, you should focus on your area(s) of expertise, on what only you can affect, and allocate other tasks to outside professionals. Virtual assistants are great for this as they provide the subject-matter expertise to work effectively and efficiently in their roles while allowing you to do the same.

4. Stay fit.

Anybody who says there’s no time in the day to exercise simply doesn’t place fitness as a priority. It’s that simple. Being an entrepreneur is no different. What prevents people from doing the hobbies they enjoy is fear. They worry that if they’re not working on something geared toward business then they’re not being productive, and this is anything but true.

We all need personal time, it’s how we decompress from the pressure of the day so we can return the next day and work optimally. Learn how to manage your fear of missing out (or FOMO) syndrome and watch your stress levels plummet.

It's not an easy decision, but holding your feet to the fire and placing yourself in an environment that demands success certainly narrows down your priorities of what's important and what isn't. It also wields greater fulfillment. Choose wisely.

Related: A 4-Step Checklist That Will Increase Your Chances of Starting a Successful Businesses