13 things I’ve learnt in my first few weeks of entrepreneurship.

entrepreneurship, tips to survive entrepreneurship

I was content working in corporate for so long, I loved the security it brought and I felt settled. Until I just couldn’t justify the professional output vs. personal gain. I needed to be my own person again, sign myself up for something more challenging, reinvigorate my energies. And so I started my own consultancy and called myself an entrepreneur.

There are so many pros to working for myself. PJs all day long, skype calls instead of meetings in Sandton, not having to deal with office politics, decorating my office all pink without consulting anyone else, burning beautiful smelling candles that won’t annoy anyone else, listening to whatever radio station I choose. Playing the Biebs on full volume as much as I want and desk dancing without any judgement. Sitting barefoot. Not putting on makeup unless a meeting is imminent. Taking meetings I want to take, declining those I don’t. Generally only dealing with humans of my choosing – that’s probably the biggest perk. And of course, being at home in the late afternoons to watch as my 9-month-old son comes home from school and paints the floor with a piece of droë wors.

I feel free, as if I’ve been let out of a confined space that I didn’t know bothered me until I was in the open air. It’s a wonderful thing not waking up and dreading the day’s long hours ahead because it really just means so much more to me now. Suddenly I’m doing this for ME. Not for a boss or client or company, for me.

But, I’ve also had to learn all things businessy pretty fast, and they weren’t all perks. Here are some examples.

1. Get an office.

For the first month of self-employment, Joburg was suffering one of the worst droughts and heatwaves in decades. We have an aircon in our main bedroom, so that’s where I stayed. Day in and day out, I’d sit on the bed propped up with pillows and a makeshift laptop stand. And TV and a media player and DStv and Netflix, all of which was a huge distraction without me realising. I thought I was being productive, until I moved into my new office, then I knew I was being productive.

2. Create a rate card. Stick to it.

Not even for public distribution, more so for your own reference. It helps when costing for people you think might not be able to afford you – the temptation to go in lower is so strong. The rate card (with a reminder of why you’ve charged a specific amount for specific things) will help keep you honest with yourself and why you need to charge your rates. They’re fair.

3. Time is money.

Money pays for the milk and bread, exposure does not. People who expect your work to benefit their work, for free, are not cool people. Even when they say it’ll get you exposure. Exposure = bullshit (screw you, pay me money).

4. Family / friend / friend of family rates shouldn’t exist.

Firstly, just because they know you is not a good enough reason to not pay your worth. Secondly, they’re usually the most admin.

5. Don’t give away IP verbally or otherwise.

Seriously. Just don’t do it.

6. Charge upfront, or at least half your fee.

I’ve done a whole month’s content planning, submitted it to client, and then had to nag them for weeks to pay for it, despite originally stating payment was due up front. In future – no money, no output.

7. Don’t say yes to every single meeting.

It’s ok to ask what the agenda will be when you’re called to meetings that could potentially waste your time. I haven’t wasted too much time on this yet, but I know other entrepreneurs have and so I chose to learn from their mistakes.

8. Don’t rely on potential business that might happen.

Focus on business happening right now. And also, don’t get complacent with current business, things could change at any time. Always have a pipeline of incoming work.

9. Believe in yourself. Also, invest in roller coaster skills.

And don’t sell yourself short. This is probably the hardest thing for me. I am plagued with self-doubt some days, and then the next I’m convinced I walk on water. You’re capable, competent and have a reputation for good work, surely – or why else would you be doing this? One day I will get a new client and I’ll think I’m shit hot. The next day my one reliable client that I thought was super secure pull out of the retainer.

10. Prepare for being productive.

You will be more productive, while simultaneously away from your desk, than ever before. Suddenly, Facebook browsing for personal reasons becomes time wastage, and it actually matters. More so than ever before – because now it’s your very own time that could be used bringing in money somewhere else. I never cared before about how much social media browsing I did because it was “keeping up to date with what’s happening in social media, my job”. Actually, it was just an excuse to WAB*. And now that costs me money, so I’m stopping.

11. Suddenly, meetings mean so much more to you.

Yes, it’s that whole time=money thing again, yes, but also: hope. Every meeting holds hope and potential, making things much more meaningful.

12. When signing on a new client, sign a contract.

Even if it’s just a temporary, short term contract. Cover your bases. Make sure you include a notice period for both parties. Don’t be naive. Even the best clients can be unreliable, on purpose or not.

13. Try not take things personally.

Umm. I’m still working on this one.


*Work Avoidance Behaviour


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