Hindsight is always better than foresight. When you look back, there is always something you wish you knew beforehand, particularly before becoming an entrepreneur.
A little more than 2 years ago, I joined a good friend and a few other guys in the beginning stages of their startup.
My friend said, “Kenneth, you can email a business. And you can call a business. But wouldn’t it just make sense to be able to text a business? That’s what we’re trying to make happen.”
I was sold.
Shortly after, I joined Text Request and began life as an entrepreneur.
People tell you to fail fast and learn quickly when you’re an entrepreneur. But for whatever reason, they always leave out any practical steps that could actually help you.
It’s a shame, too, because there’s plenty of simple guidance that could save a lot of time, effort, heartache, and money.
Things To Know Before Becoming An Entrepreneur
Since starting at Text Request, I’ve also stumbled my way into turning a few other skills and opportunities into income.
I’m neither rich nor hugely successful by any means. But I’m far enough along to realize what would have been good to know in the beginning. And I want to share some of those little lessons with you.
1. You can’t do it alone.
As a fast learner, I like to think that I can always figure it out, whatever “it” is. Don’t try doing that.
There’s always someone older, better, and wiser within arms reach.
Just reach out!
Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Everyone’s connected within 6 degrees of separation, right?
If you don’t know anyone directly that you think could help you, I guarantee one of your contacts does. And I’m sure some of those people will be more than happy to talk with you.
One of the most painful things I’ve learned (and possibly that our whole team has learned) is that you can’t afford to be prideful. Everything will be better when you ask for help.
You might also need help actually developing your product or your website. I’ve become a big fan of Toptal, but don’t be afraid to reach out to a friend or to developers in your area.
2. Read everything.
There is so much learning to do! And the quicker you can tackle the learning curve for your industry, the better you’ll do.
I love books. They help me relax after a stressful day, and only the best of the best can get their work published. So I know I’m getting quality material.
That said, book publishers tend to have a much longer timeline (months or years) compared to online publishers (days or weeks). So it’s good to keep up with what’s happening online, too.
Obviously, what you should read depends on your niche. But the bottom line is that you need to learn as much as you can and stay up to date with your industry.
And reading is a heck of a lot cheaper than continually trying and failing.
3. Learn to stretch a budget to infinity and beyond.
I used to think that with enough money, you could do anything! Apparently, that’s foolish for several reasons.
Money has to come from somewhere, and you have to be able to turn what money you spend into more money.
I’ve gotten monumentally better at stretching a budget, but it’s something I wish I’d been way better at before we started spending anything.
GraphicSprings pulled a ton of resources, and showed that you can launch a business (See below infographic) with a budget of less than $700, including legal fees and everything!
In my experience, you can start a super simple business (like freelancing or an online store) for a couple hundred bucks. If it takes you more than $1,500, you’re doing it wrong.
After your business is up and running, it’s crucial that you track everything. Follow the data, and continually optimize your budget to get the most bang for your buck.
4. Look professional.
If you want people to take you seriously, you have to look the part.
That much we normally understand. It’s how to look the part that stumps us.
There are a few things that people really seem to care about. Most importantly is probably your website. It’s your virtual handshake and often your first impression.
Shopify is a great platform for e-commerce. I like Squarespace for general business or freelance work. (Squarespace also comes with a business Gmail account, which is another important aspect of looking the professional part.)
Well-designed business cards are another piece of the professional puzzle, assuming you’ll be meeting people for one reason or another.
You should also get a business phone line. You probably don’t want to use your personal cell phone, especially if there are multiple people working with you.
We use Grasshopper for one main line that forwards to the appropriate person/department as needed. We’ve been happy with it, but there are a handful of other cost-effective options, too.
If you need a customer relationship manager (CRM) or marketing automation tool, Highrise and Agile are good, inexpensive options.
5. It’s probably going to take more time than you want.
This didn’t hit home for me until the 1-year mark.
Being an entrepreneur is not a get rich quick scheme. Apparently, 7 years is the common time frame before a startup makes it big or sells out. Which isn’t encouraging, since 50% of startups don’t make it past year 4.
7 years is a long time!
And if you’re starting without funding, it could take you a while longer to build up capital just to get the gears turning. This all means that patience will become your best friend, and possibly your biggest challenge.
Bringing It Together
As you can see, there’s a lot I wish I knew before becoming an entrepreneur. There’s still a lot I wish I knew!
But if I were to go back and sit myself down, these 5 little lessons are what I would teach myself. I hope they can help you, too.
What lessons are you learning on your entrepreneurial journey? Share your experiences with me in the comments below!
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