It’s no secret that being an entrepreneur is risky and challenging, and at times a real gamble. This year I learned a lot of valuable lessons about running my blog and graphic design businesses. I hope some of you budding entrepreneurs will find it useful to apply some of these lessons to your own ventures. Learning the hard way is unfortunate, and I wish I had had someone who could have given me some of these warnings.
1. Do not be quick to trust.
This may sound harsh and callous, but when it comes to business, you need to do whatever you can to protect yourself. People are cruel when it comes to money, and many will not hesitate to step on you if they think it will help get them ahead. You may remember the story of how I had to take Kier Mellour to court after she refused to pay me for several months of photography services (read about it here). Sadly that was not the first nor the last time I have had a client fail to pay me. I have learned that working for deferred payment is NEVER EVER acceptable. Even when you think you can trust your client, if they cannot pay you immediately, skip the job. It shows a lack of respect for value of your work, and it leaves them with a huge opportunity to scam you. Having an iron-clad contract for every single client is very important as well, as it may encourage more of them to play by the rules. It will also protect you if you ever need to sue a client like I did. Unfortunately, as I discussed in my post about Kier, even when you win in small claims court, there is absolutely no way to ensure that you actually receive your settlement afterwards. That brings me back to my original point, which is to not trust easily. If you do not give clients any opportunity to take advantage of you, then it cannot happen.
2. You have to spend money to make money.
Over and over again I see start-ups trying to make it big but are not willing to invest any money in their vision. Every business needs a logo, branding, a website, social media, marketing, and much more. Business owners often try to skimp on these areas or try to do it on their own even when it is not their area of expertise. Be real with yourself–If you are not a graphic designer, don’t try to design your own logo. If you do not know how how to code, don’t try to build your own website. Do not undervalue having your branding and marketing done absolutely perfectly, even though it means you will doubtlessly need to spend some money on it. I just invested a couple thousand dollars on advertising for my design business and it is already paying off. It can be really scary spending money on building your business, but it is absolutely necessary.
3. Follow your gut.
In the last year, I experimented with working for other designers on four different occasions. Each time I figured that it would be nice to have consistent pay, plus I could learn, build my portfolio, and make connections in the industry. The first person had me doing grunt work for $15/hour and never allowed me to actually design. The second person had me simply rendering her ideas, and I was not allowed to design or use anything in my portfolio. The third person actually allowed me to design but withheld payment for weeks and weeks. The last person and I agreed on a nice hourly wage, but when it came time for me to design, she tried to bargain me down to about half of that wage and would not allow me to put anything in my portfolio. All of these employers reinforced the same lesson, and that is to follow my gut. Even though the lure of consistent work was strong, I knew down deep that none of these jobs were actually good for my goals and my vision. I really needed to be working for myself and not helping someone else build their company. In your life, this concept may look entirely different. Perhaps you hate your full time job and it is getting in the way of monetizing your blog. Maybe you love your career as a hairdresser but the salon that you work at does not allow for you to grow. The idea is the same though: follow your gut so you can chase your dream.
What are some of the struggles you have had and lessons you have learned with running your blog/business?
Skirt and top: Max & Co. (from Italy)
Bag: Vintage Chanel