Being a sole trader is hard work. Damned hard work. And there’s a big difference between freelancing and running a small business. You’re forever learning and evolving. Sometimes the lessons ain’t easy and you wonder how you’ll cope, but as the saying goes: “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear”. Well, my teachers (there were a few) appeared this year. Here are 5 business lessons I’ve learned.
- Get some rock solid terms and conditions. I’m pretty sure it’s happened to every small business owner: the client who seems to think your services are gratis. I mean, really? How would you like it if I took your products and didn’t pay? It’s disrespectful and it’s baaad karma, man! So, after experiencing a few of these this year, I’m investing in proper, legally drafted T&Cs and emblazoning them on my website and in my communications. It’s been on the To Do list for a while, but well, experience is a great teacher, eh?
- Networking can be enjoyable. As an out-and-proud introvert, I’ve typically shied away from networking events. But this year, I made a real effort to get out more and talk to people. I still don’t find it easy, but it’s starting to pay off. I’ve made some wonderful connections, and won some lovely new clients as well.
- Ask for support. Working as a sole trader gets lonely, and it gets overwhelming. Doing it all yourself is exhausting. So, while I won’t be outsourcing too much just yet (aside from finance and legal stuff), I’ve learned to speak up in my circle of peers when I need help. I participate in a number of really supportive business groups and I’ve grown so much thanks to the friendships and connections I’ve made.
- Trust my instincts and decisions. I knew I shouldn’t have worked with one of said non-paying clients from point 1. I’d worked with them before and they were a nightmare (although they paid the first time). I should have just said “no” this time. My instincts are pretty sharp in my non-working life, so why shouldn’t I trust them in my business? Lesson learned.
- Market my own way. There are so many trends in marketing: the opt-in lead magnet, the web video, blogs, podcasts… and let’s not forget social media and good ole email newsletters. Sure, these avenues have proven success of varying degrees – but what if the shoe don’t fit? Finding the marketing methods that best fit me, and my business, are more important than doing something just because everyone else is.
So thanks 2015 for the business improvement lessons you’ve brought. You’ve made me a stronger person ready to get fierce, feisty – and successful – in 2016!
You heard it here first.
What business lessons have you learned this year?