What a ride 2015 has been! This time last year I was at a coffee plantation in Coorg, India, with no internet or power, spending my days hiking and making life-long friends. I had to climb up a goat hill to get enough signal to send ‘happy new year’ messages to my friends and family. In the first half of 2015, I travelled through India, Germany, Czech Republic, the Netherlands, Belgium, France, Spain, Italy, England and Australia.
Somewhere around Berlin, I got my creative mojo back, and decided to start planting the seeds for my own business.
I signed up for the Bright-Eyed and Blog Hearted course, started coaching with Vienda Maria, and began taking on a few freelance clients. The vision I had for my (nameless) business was vague… I thought I wanted to be a full-time illustrator. I wasn’t even advertising myself as a designer at that point - I was convinced I didn’t enjoy branding and would only do it as a stop-gap to pay the bills. The learning curve has been so steep it’s felt vertical at times. I thought I had an idea of how hard it would be to do my own thing…I didn’t. In the last seven months there have been multiple breakdowns, fist pumps, financial near-misses, and moments of heart-bursting gratitude.
Here are a few game changing lessons I've learned along the way:
1. Find your community.
When I started I didn’t know anyone else who was running their own business, or even successfully working as a freelance designer. I knew what I wanted was possible. The problem was that no idea of the practical steps I should take to move me in the direction of my dreams. Rachel MacDonald’s Bright-Eyed and Blog Hearted course had been on my radar for a while, but the timing had never seemed right. This year, ignoring the voice that told me I shouldn’t be spending money on a blogging course when I was backpacking and trying to stretch every dollar, I leapt in with both feet. BEST DECISION EVER.
I finally felt like I was part of a group of women who got it. Women who are chasing their dreams whole-heartedly, and have unwavering support and advice for each other. I was lucky enough to meet up with some of the other members in Paris, London, Brisbane and Byron Bay, and I’ve made lifelong friends. Not to mention how valuable the actual course content was in kickstarting my online presence.
Lesson: Find others that understand your dreams, and support the hell out of each other. A rising tide lifts all boats.
2. Lay the foundations.
Get clear on why you’re in business. What’s your vision, your big ‘why’? What are your values, and how do you embody those in your business? It’s easier to make decisions and set goals if you know where you’re going! The first couple of months, I definitely had a ‘go with the flow’ mentality, partly because I wasn’t really sure what I wanted yet. Once I started doing a mastermind course and really honed into how I wanted my business to feel, everything changed. I realised that when I did design work that aligned with my passions for wellness and positive change, I loved it! When I moved away from what I thought my business should look like, and started focussing on the impact I wanted to make and how I wanted to feel, things began to really flow.
Lesson: Get clear on your ‘why’, and the ‘how’ will reveal itself.
3. Act like you mean business.
For me, that meant hiring a book-keeper as soon as I got back to Auckland and went full time. I was terrified that I couldn’t afford it, but I knew from freelancing previously that doing my own books was a tedious and frustrating process. You’ve probably heard the phrase ‘stick to your zone of genius’ before, and it was so true for me in this case. The time and stress I save by having someone look after my accounts has been well worth it - having someone to answer all my questions has been priceless. Also, hiring someone to do my books properly was my way of saying to the universe ‘I’m in this for the long haul.’ For you, this might mean hiring a designer, social media expert or business coach.
Lesson: Invest in getting the important things right, from the beginning.
4. Educate yourself, intentionally.
You won’t know everything before you start, no matter how hard you try. It’s tempting to sign up for every course that sounds promising, but none of that matters if you don’t have the time to implement what you learn. Start where you’re at, pay attention to any knowledge gaps that arise, and choose programs based on what you specifically need to learn to take your business to the next level.
After a few months in the game, I realised I was lacking practical business know-how, so I signed up for the Owner’s Collective Mastermind. Twelve weeks of learning everything a passion-fuelled entrepreneur needs to know to get started. Financials, authentic sales skills, (non-traditional) business plans, PR, etc. The perfect balance of head and heart. Find a course that calls your name, and fills in the crucial gaps in your knowledge. And then actually commit to implementing it!
Lesson: Learn continuously, but be selective about what you commit to.
4. Have an accountability buddy.
An accountability buddy is a business peer who offers guidance and holds you accountable for your goals. This is something I only recently started, but it’s been so helpful. Ariadne is a life coach and yoga teacher who recently quit her job to run her own business full time. We’re more or less at the same stage in our biz lives, which is key in picking a partner. We’re facing similar challenges but we have different strengths and can offer each other a fresh perspective.
We have weekly Skype chats to set our intentions and goals for the coming week. The following week, we revisit those goals and talk about our wins and challenges, before setting new goals. I can’t over-emphasise how valuable it is to have someone who keeps you accountable, and is invested in helping you achieve your goals.
Lesson: Find an accountability buddy who can support you in reaching your goals, and hold you accountable when you don’t.
What has your biggest lesson from the year been, either in your business or personal life? Leave a comment and let me know. I'd love to hear from you.
See you in 2016!