5 Lessons I Learned After 5 Years in Business
Photo Credit: Mikhail Nilov/Pexels
In September 2016, I left my 9-to-5 job to start my own digital content business. The statement “Time flies when you're having fun” is so underrated because I'm having a hard time believing it's already been five years since I made this faithful leap into self-employment.
While I enjoy entrepreneurship, it has been nothing short of hard work and consistency throughout this entire journey. Each day is filled with countless valuable lessons. If I had to narrow it down to five key things I learned as a female business owner in five years, it would be these:
1. Focus on Serving Others
Starting a content writing business was not a surprise to most of my friends and family. I went to school for journalism and my parents know that I've always loved to write. However, I only seriously decided to start my online business after I figured out how I could use my writing to help other people.
Digital content is so important these days as it helps get information out to the masses, contributes to marketing efforts, and more. With any business, it's important to realize that it's not all about you and your talents.
You need to become crystal clear on who you want to serve and how you can help them. For me, this meant niching down with my services and ideal clients so I could make sure I made a difference in the lives of the people I work with, as well as those who would read my stories.
2. Be Open to Learning, Testing, and Trying New Things
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, at least 20% of new businesses fail during the first two years of being open. An overwhelming 45% of businesses fail during the first five years. The odds just keep getting worse as time goes on.
I feel privileged to have been involved in a great online community, so I was able to start my business alongside a lot of other awesome people who understand what I do. Over the years, I've seen some businesses come and go. But what's most interesting to me is among the ones that are still going strong, their business looks very different from what it was during the first year.
It's so important to be open to learning, testing, changing, and pivoting when you have a business. Your Year 5 is not going to look like Year 1 or 2 — and that's okay.
In my case, the digital content industry has changed quite a bit in the past few years. I needed to be able to adapt to the times and also be up for testing new strategies and tactics. I've experienced some failures over the years, but it's truly just a lesson learned so I can be wiser in the future.
3. Have a Solid Support System
I started my online business as a solopreneur, which means I didn't have any team members or employees. This kept costs down in the beginning so I could cash-flow everything, but it also made me feel unofficial.
The most well-kept secret among entrepreneurs is that we all experience impostor syndrome. Many of us are challenged each day with the idea that we aren't good enough or don't have what it takes. Over time, confidence builds, but it's an ongoing process.
I probably would not have made it to five years if it weren't for the support of my friends and family. When I told my mom and husband I wanted to leave my 9-to-5 job to go full time with my business, they were both super supportive.
My online community of other content creators were and are still a solid support system for me. Having this support puts things into perspective and helps me realize that I'm doing a great job (even if things don't seem that way in the moment) and everything is going to work out.
4. Ask for Help
No matter how self-made someone might appear, no one ever does it entirely alone. Over the years, I've struggled with wanting to control every aspect of my business. This was exhausting and unsustainable.
It was important to learn that everyone needs help. So I took the time to create systems for my processes and hire people who were skilled and just as passionate as I am about being successful in this business.
Starting slow is key. You can begin by taking one task that you'd rather not do and outsource it to someone else. This will free up more time for other important areas of the business.
5. Be in It for the Long Haul
When you have a creative business, your work is usually never done. I always have a ton of ideas and future plans, which can make things really overwhelming. It's crucial to realize that you need to be in it for the long haul and give yourself breaks and time to process everything.
Also, there can be this lingering sense of unfulfillment if you don't stop to smell the roses and acknowledge your progress. A year or two ago, I would have probably been thinking about what the next five years would look like for my business.
Today, however, I'm being intentional with stopping to truly appreciate and acknowledge where I'm am. If you have the mindset of an entrepreneur, don't fall for the bait and define your success based on factors like income and notoriety. Realize that this is a long-term journey and stop to celebrate your milestones along the way.