So you have a skill or a product, you're ready to start putting it out there into the world - that's fucking awesome! Yay for you!
Honestly, I can't give you a blow by blow on exactly what you need to be doing right now, I'm not gonna give you a 5 step plan to business success (what does that even look like, different for everyone right?!)
But I can tell you a few things NOT to do, so maybe you can avoid making a few of the mistakes I made when I first ventured into this crazy world freelancing and small business-ing. So in no particular order...
1. NOT SAYING 'NO' ENOUGH
This is a biggie for me. When you first start a small biz, or freelancing, there's this mega unspoken pressure that if you don't say YES (lets be real, it's more like 'yes AND I'll have it done yesterday' because we're all so eager to make a good impression) to every single thing that comes your way that somehow you're going to miss out on your 'big break'.
It's just not true.
Mostly, saying yes to everything means you spread yourself so thinly that it actually takes longer to get good at what you're doing and find your niche, because you're more focused on getting as many projects under your belt as possible than actually how good they are.
So trust your gut, and say no to things, projects and people that don't feel right. There's absolutely no shame in telling a prospective client that you don't feel you'd be a good fit or that you don't have time at the moment but you can schedule them in at a later date!
2. WORKING FOR 'EXPOSURE'
STOP. WORKING. FOR. FREE.
I was going to leave it at that, but hear me out. No matter how inexperienced you are, you deserve to be compensated for your time and materials if someone has chosen you to work for them or a product you designed or made. Of course as time goes on you absolutely can increase your pricing but its hard to climb from zero!
The other thing to consider, if a lot of us are working for free on the regular, that overall it devalues the creative arts as a whole, therefore making it harder for your peers to get paid too. So by agreeing to working for free it also makes it harder for others to get paid too!
Also ALSO, if a big company runs a 'competition' where they get designers to send in ideas. This is still spec (speculative) work and is BAD. Don't do it. I will likely do a more in depth blog about this at a later date!
(There's only one exception to this that I genuinely find works, which is skill swapping. But really, it only works if the person you're doing the exchange with actually has something you want or need to an equal value. You also need to be able to trust this person, that parts like, super important. But this can work for sure, just get some advice before going ahead!)
3. BEING YOUR OWN BIGGEST FAN
Go about every day assuming there might be an opportunity for you! If you're working your 9-5, in the pub or even in the online sphere, keep your ears and eyes peeled for opportunity in all it's forms.
Don't be afraid to put yourself forward if you hear a random stranger mentions something to do with wax melts that you just started making, or needing a new logo for their start-up or whatever your new hustle is!
Don't hold back from introducing yourself, telling someone about your business. Whilst I don't believe in saying yes to absolutely everything that comes your way, I also don't think you should say no to creating those opportunities yourself!
Be your own cheer squad, agent, promo team - you get the idea! Tell anyone that will listen, even in this digital age there is POWER in word of mouth!
4. NOT ACTUALLY TAKING BREAKS
For most of us, this journey starts on the side of something else - for me it's balloons, and I absolutely love my crazy job.
But that means you HAVE to carve out time for yourself and set realistic goals, no you're probably not going to be turning a huge profit in your first year or two if you're doing it part time. It's a slow journey when you only have 15 hours a week to work on it!
So pace yourself, allow a day or few evenings a week for yourself and know that it will take time to get to where you see yourself.
God! AND the worst part is that if you set these huge goals that take up ALL of your spare time you're going to end up not doing them all anyway because you're too tired and then you get mad at yourself for not doing them (still guilty of this one!!). I call it the small-biz shame spiral. And it's double sucky when combined with social media and you see all your competitors appearing to be able to do it all (they can't by the way, no one can, social media is an illusion and we all know that now, but its still easy to slip into a bad case of comparisionitis!)
5. BEING AUTHENTICALLY YOU
This ones a little harder to enforce, I suppose because as people we are always developing and changing and when your business is so intrinsically linked to YOU, this means it may change with you.
But there's nothing worse than feeling all square peg, round hole about your own business. Whatever your doing, you need to love it, it needs to fulfil some part(s) of you and feel like it aligns with your beliefs and lifestyle. This is especially true if it's something you're doing in your spare time, if you're making sacrifices to do it, it should feel right!
But sometimes as these things change, your biz might have to as well. It's okay if your niche pivots over time with you as you, and the world around you changes and has different needs!
Hopefully my little blog listicle has helped you in some way as you start your journey! I'm not an expert, but I've learned a thing or two over the last few years and these are just a few things I wish I had an older freelancing auntie to tell me at the time!
More From the OB Gang:
@oldcrowco says 'Remember to be clear on how many revisions your fee covers' - this is mainly for designers, but in general always make sure your contracts are super clear, and you take a deposit up front for services!
@cotswold_lioness says 'Schedule an entire day per month for YOU!' - Yes! I personally like to do a half day a week or so but either way, you NEED time to yourself and to recharge to be able to give your small biz or freelance work 100%.