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I Wish I Knew These Four Things Before Starting My Own Business Starting a business is hard work to say the least. These are four lessons I wish someone had shared with me before going solo, so I'm here to share them with you.

By Amy M Chambers Edited by Kara McIntyre

Key Takeaways

  • Self-discipline is harder than you think.
  • Pick the right clients and partners.
  • It can get lonely sometimes; find ways to add human interaction into your day.
  • Building a network of your peers is imperative.

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

No matter how gifted or driven you are, starting a business is hard, taxing work. In 2021, I left my 21-year career in finance and became a success coach, leadership consultant and author. I'd heard the statistic that 90% of all small businesses fail, but I thought starting my business would somehow be miraculously easy — it wasn't. Here are four things I've since learned.

1. Self-discipline is harder than you think

Owning a business means you're the boss. There are no assignments to turn in and no deadlines to meet. No one writes a performance review for you. However, this can be very difficult for some — and I had to learn this unexpected lesson the hard way.

From the author: Become Unrecognizable By the End of Summer With These 6 Habits

I've always been highly organized and structured. For the last decade of my professional career, everything I did was scheduled and calendared in advance. Things were different when I struck out on my own. Conference calls and meetings weren't on a recurring cadence, and that caused big gaps in my calendar. At first, it was hard to get in a rhythm. I began noticing I wasn't leveraging my time well. I was sleeping in. If I said I'd check email for 10 minutes, it often turned into an hour. I realized I was allowing myself to become distracted throughout the day because my day wasn't full of all the same hard stops that had previously existed.

I begin setting a schedule for myself. The only way I was able to write two books in my first two years was by scheduling time to write. At the start of each week, I write down the week's most important priorities and set goals for myself. I list what actions I'll need to take to achieve those goals. I schedule them on my calendar. Then, I stick to it. This takes willpower, but if you don't do it, you'll find yourself wasting time.

What gets measured gets done, so I also set goals and KPIs for myself. It's easy to lose motivation when you're not graded against a scoreboard — so I created my own. I set goals for how many hours, pages or words I'd write each week. I set goals for how many people I'd respond to and how many prospective calls I'd make. When my books hit the market, I tracked sales, revenue and income. On social media platforms, I set some KPIs for my engagement rates. Figuring out what metrics you're going to watch is critical for success.

Related: 10 Things I've Learned In 10 Years of Running My Own Business

2. Pick the right clients and partners

Not everyone is going to be a fit for your services and products, and you're not going to be a fit for everyone else's needs, either. One mistake I made in my first year was taking on anyone who would have me as a client or a partner. I've since parted ways with my business coach, two vendors and two clients. People who suck your energy or drain your time with nonsense shouldn't be on your calendar.

In the case of my "fired" clients, they resisted all my suggestions and were hesitant to take my advice. I eventually realized neither of us was getting much from the relationship. It feels good to hold space on my calendar for only those who are aligned in their thinking and want to achieve great things. Initially, because I was just starting out, I was afraid to let go of the income. If someone was willing to pay me, I was willing to take their money. That isn't the case anymore. Great businesses only work with great clients.

When it comes to vendors, I now shop around. Early on, I hired the first coach, web designer and publishing team I found. Some of those decisions were mistakes. I've since decided to broaden my search process when hunting for the right vendor. I do my homework and ask for referrals. In other cases, I like to see examples of prior work. When vendors can't produce that (or seem annoyed that I'm even asking), I know I'm not dealing with the right partner.

3. It can get lonely sometimes; find ways to add human interaction into your day

Before going solo, I was always part of a team. During most of my career, I interacted with a few hundred people at work. That all changed when I became a private coach and consultant — suddenly, it was just me. When you're an employee, you're often constantly involved in conversations with others. When I went independent, there were several hours a day I wasn't. Right away, I felt a twinge of loneliness. I didn't have an endless reserve of people with whom I could share ideas.

I now make a point to schedule lunch with clients, prospective clients or colleagues a couple of times a week. I also have found great joy in sharing what I call "Transformation Tuesday" videos with my network and regularly engaging on a few social media platforms with like-minded people. When I'm sharing videos and articles on leadership or mindset, it puts me into conversations with others about things that are important to me. That helps me overcome these solitary feelings. If your job is primarily done solo and you're feeling a bit lonely, find ways to connect with others regularly.

Related: I Started My Business In My Mom's Basement at the Age of 17. Here are 5 Rules I Wish I Had Known, But Had to Learn the Hard Way

4. Building a network of your peers is imperative

Initially, I was hesitant to meet other authors and coaches. To some degree, I saw them as competition. I've since had a complete change of heart. Last year, I was introduced to another coach who does exactly what I do. When we met, we'd both published our first books. Since then, we've written the forewords for each other's second books! It's been an honor and a joy to support each other like that. For my third book, I want to work with a publisher. I recently joined a group of authors, agents and publishers and went to one of their events. I couldn't believe the camaraderie and value I found there. I met other authors who are facing (but overcoming) the same challenges I face. I also met a plethora of agents and publishers who might help me. There's power in numbers. We are stronger together. Networking with others who are doing exactly what you're doing (and doing it well) can only help you, not hinder you.

I wish I'd known these four things on my first day as an entrepreneur, but I'm also grateful I know them now. Implementing them will only make you and your business stronger; I guarantee it.

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Amy M Chambers

Entrepreneur Leadership Network® Contributor

Executive Coach, Life Coach, and #1 International Bestselling Author

Amy Chambers spent 21 years in financial services and has 15 years of experience in leadership, leading over 500 people to success. She's the author of the #1 international bestselling book, The 7 V.I.R.T.U.E.S. of Exceptional Leaders. She completed her undergrad at Notre Dame and her MBA at USC.

Want to be an Entrepreneur Leadership Network contributor? Apply now to join.

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