Well, it’s been just over a year since my corporate layoff and making the decision to work for myself full time.
The past year has been filled with moments of excitement, apprehension, satisfaction, fear and all the other feelings you might associate with riding on a roller coaster with no seat belt. Sometimes it’s the most amazing feeling in the world and then all of a sudden, you’re upside down and hanging on for dear life.
And rather than ignoring the milestone of my first year in business, I thought now would be a good time to slow down and reflect on the journey over the twelve months. Hopefully, this will be useful to you if you’re also in that beginning phase of running your own business.
Okay, so big deal. I’ve been running my business full time for a year now. What’s so interesting about that, you might ask.
First off, I’ll tell you that it’s been harder than I thought it would be to start something from scratch. While I had already been blogging, podcasting, and even coaching before the end of my job, it’s been equally challenging and amazing over the past year.
But instead of sharing a long story of every little thing I’ve learned over the last year, I want to share something actionable, easy to understand, and hopefully useful, based on what I’ve learned.
So, be aware of these challenges you might face in your first year of starting and running a business:
1. Not being focused enough
One of the hardest lessons I’ve had to learn as a new solopreneur and business builder is finding focus in my day.
Starting out, I was all over the place. I was exploring every new idea that someone told me about. I felt like a kid visiting Disneyland for the first time. I wanted to go on all of the rides because they all seemed so exciting.
This was fun but not a viable long-term strategy.
There comes a time when you need to find focus. Rather than trying to implement approximately 3,048 ideas all at once, I was given the sage advice to focus on the shortest path to profits immediately. I started focusing my efforts on what I could deliver right now, which was coaching others on starting their side hustle and creating a roadmap for exiting their job.
The bottom line is that I stopped trying to do so many things at once and I started to focus on delivering value via one-on-one coaching. This was my easiest and clearest path to creating income right away.
You can read more details about how I structured this here.
2. Prioritizing the work that’s most important
While spending time with social media can be fun and engaging, its not always the best use of time for someone that’s in the early stages of building their business. I know it’s fun to spend an hour creating those inspirational little images and showing off your artistic flair. But I would argue that there’s a more optimal way to grow your business.
For example, there was a period of time where I was spending up to an hour day learning about the latest in Facebook advertising. Then I was like – wait a second! Does it really make sense to be learning about Facebook promotion when I don’t even have a product or program to promote?
And why am I spending time getting more ‘Likes?’ Really, Michael? How does that improve my coaching ability, generate income, or grow my email list?
A big shift has been learning how to prioritize my work. I focus on the tasks that will generate income + expand my reach first. Everything else comes after that.
3. Saying No
This was a biggie for me. This can be one of the most challenging aspects of getting a business off the ground.
Saying “no” to people is really hard. (Especially to people you really like.)
Saying “no” to work that someone else should really be doing is even harder (for me at least).
You have to learn to say “no” to projects and people that really don’t align with your business and the life that you ultimately want to live.
And even harder, sometimes you have to say “no” to things that you originally said “yes” to.
There have been numerous times over the past year where I literally could not say “no” and I should have. I felt guilty, mean, and like a complete jerk…even if I said “no” to something because I simply didn’t have time.
I’ve spent the last year battling the habit of always saying “yes.” What’s helped tremendously is getting really clear on what to say “yes” to.
I’ve often defaulted to the simple idea that something is either a resounding “Hell Yes” or it’s a “no.” As simple as that.
And I constantly remind myself that saying “no” does not mean that I’m a bad person. It simply means that I am consciously choosing where to spend my time and energy.
4. Trying to do everything myself
I never had a problem asking other co-workers for help when I worked in the corporate world. But working for myself, well that’s another story.
I’ve often said to others and myself, “It would take way too much time and effort to teach someone else how to do this as good as I can do it. So I might as well just do it myself.”
I’m still stuck in this trap of doing too many things myself. I know that I need to create the time and space to hire people to do the things that I’m not good at or don’t enjoy. I just haven’t done it yet and I know that I need to.
UPDATE: This past year I hired an amazing team to produce my podcast. This has given me back 6-8 hours a week back to focus on more productive work in my business. If you're interested in knowing who I use, just email me and I'm happy to share their contact info.
I still have a long list of all the tasks someone else could help me with but I keep resisting hiring outside help.
Yet I know that building a team of good people to help me run and improve my business is necessary. I know that it might take some time to set this up but I also know how much more productive I'll be in the long run when I LET others help me be more successful.
If you’re struggling with this too, my favorite resource on the subject is Laura Roeder’s talk at Pioneer Nation about how she added hours to her day by building a solid team.
You can watch this for free right here.
5. Not asking my clients for regular feedback
Somehow I fell into the comfortable groove of delivering my service and thinking this was good enough. While this worked to a large degree, I was failing to dig a little deeper into my client's needs and desires.
I fell into the trap of thinking I had the answers and best solutions without asking what else my clients and prospects wanted or needed.
Enter Shenee Howard and the 100 People Project.
I heard Shenee talk about how she used a simple system to reach out to 100 people and allow them to give her feedback on the things they were really wanting and needing. This allowed Shenee to completely rejuvenate her business and it formed the foundation for all the success she is having today.
I decided to apply this simple strategy to my business and it has allowed me to really focus on the areas that people are most interested in rather than guessing.
For more information on this process, you can listen to my podcast interview with Shenee here.
Tying it all together
Now, I’m sure that you’re noticing a lot of these challenges are high level, personal, mindset shift things. They’re not super strategic or tactical challenges.
And that’s exactly the point.
I’m finding that most of the things that got improved in the past year came as a result of facing my internal obstacles of feeling like enough, feeling worthy enough to take a stand and commit, not taking things personally, looking for help, and being humble enough ask others what they really need and want.
Learning from these challenges will continue to guide my decisions and help me steer my business in the right direction.
I sincerely hope that they help you do the same.
Question: If you’re in the initial stages of building a business, or thinking of starting one, which of the above challenges have you faced and what have you done to overcome them?