Coming a little real with y’all here on the blog about business.  Want the big truth?  It’s hard being an entrepreneur.  There are so many things that I never knew before starting this business and things I am still learning each and every day.

Here are a few things nobody tells you before starting a business and what you can do about them.

1. It is okay to say NO.

Just because you are working for yourself it does not mean that you must work for everyone else too.  It is totally okay, and I even encourage you to say no to things that may seem like great opportunities.  Sometimes the missed good opportunities leave room for the best opportunities in the future.

2.  Hire a professional on the backend.

Understanding tax laws and code, contract labor laws, business ethics and practices…I could keep going, but these are extremely important facets in any business.  It is important to go ahead and a find an accountant or bookkeeper that can help you ensure you are doing the right things on the backend.  If you are unable to hire someone to do this I recommend getting involved with your local chamber of commerce and attending classes on quickbooks and business management. Oftentimes, you can meet new young business owners that you can connect with and that can also help you at a lower cost.

3.  Protect yourself.

In the creative world it is tough to see your work copied and replicated.  Have all of your employees and contract labor help understand that while you are passionate about seeing other creatives pursue their dreams, it is important that you are also protecting your business and the creative information you are teaching and providing.  I recommend having a non-compete agreement as well as non-disclosures for anyone you hire.  It is equally important to ensure your employees are not conveying private information on clients as well as trade secrets to the public.  A non-disclosure assists with this as well.

4.  Trade is sticky.

Trade can be a great way to connect with other business owners or individuals however, I recommend having the agreement in writing and the exact terms.  Never depend on word of mouth or a formal handshake for this.

5.  Implement business hours early on.

While I agree that there is no such thing as a 40 hour work week for entrepreneurs, I do think it is extremely vital to create boundaries in your business early on.  When I first started it was normal for you to see me taking calls at 9 and 10PM and working into the wee hours of the morning.  I was a fast moving freight train and I could not get the tracks down quick enough.  I learned that is definitely not healthy and oftentimes leads to a burnout where you feel overwhelmed, unproductive and unappreciated.  Let your clients know your boundaries up front in regards to working hours because if you do not respect your time how will anyone else, right?

6.  Invest in your business.

You can always learn something new. Branch out and attend workshops and conferences.  The money spent here can truly reinvent your outlook as well as your business internally and externally.  This is an area I am working on and wishing I would have pursued early on in my business.

7.  Start saving for retirement.

If IRA and 401k make your head spin with confusion, that’s okay.  But, do not let that deter you from going ahead and starting to save for your future.  I started placing money in right when I started and I know I will be grateful one day that I did.

8.  Grow an email list.

May sound silly, but what would you do if Facebook and Instagram decided to call it quits?  How would you reach your clients?  With the ever changing algorithm’s on social media platforms, it is important to go ahead and establish an email list and database where your followers can engage with you.  Remember, you do not own the followers on your instagram or Facebook but you do on your email list and I do not see email ever going away.

9.  Don’t take things personally.

Pretty self explanatory but a good reminder when something does not go the way we anticipate.  Know you will have those super tough clients or vendors but always handle them with grace and never let the negativity seep into your heart and well-being.  Keep your chin up and never let your business run you.  You run the business.

10.  If hiring friends, make sure to set clear goals and expectations on work ethics.

Establishing a handbook with guidelines on company goals, ethics, attire, social media, client relations, etc. is a great way to explain how your company operates when hiring.  While friends can be great assets on your team, remember that this is a job not a hobby.  Explaining that they must abide by company guidelines and expectations from the get go will help avoid certain conflicts that arise in the future that could affect not only your working relationship but friendship.