Small Business Starts I Didn't Know

I didn't know much about starting a small business, because freelancing was just 'something temporary' that I would use to land a full-time writing job, I said to myself. Funny.

The more I know, the more I realize I don't actually know. Humbling. And also occasionally humiliating.

So...months of freelancing turned into a year which turned into a "I'll just start my own business" kind of thing which is how I've come to write about the things I learned the hard way. 

I could probably answer a heck of a lot more questions now vs. a year ago, which might count for something, so here are some major things I didn't know when I started this adventure (and fell flat on my face a couple of those times being two hours previous to writing this post).


1. Be careful who you trust.

This is the lesson I have learned over and over and over again. It's really kind of heart-breaking -especially in such a raw and budding stage of building a tiny business. Some people aren't going to treat you right, and it's hard to tell who those people are.

I haven't figured out how to weed out the users but I have figured out how to guard myself.

One thing I do to protect myself is have a contract AND a good-faith deposit sent to me BEFORE I begin any work whatsoever. I can't tell you how many times I've been burned, thinking that a certain client will pay my invoice for $200 and then never pays a dime. A couple people ruin it for everyone, that's how it goes. This leads me to my second point, which should probably be a sub-point.


2. Contract first, work second.

Do not put a minute of work in until you have a signed copy of the contract and a security deposit in your hand. It establishes a boundary for you and the client; you're both serious about the work to be executed. My security deposit for any type of work -writing, editing, photography, website design, etc., is $75. I've chosen this amount because it gives both the client and myself a measurable amount of time to accomplish beginning stages of work.

When you start off a client relationship, it's important to let them know that you're committed as well and that you won't start the work until you've been paid that deposit. It is VERY important because it secures that certain amount of time (3-5 hours as an example) for you to show them your skills, pace, and accomplishments.

Clear as mud? Don't sell yourself short. Don't do the work with the faith that they'll pay later. That's malpractice in the world of business. 



3. Keep track of what you spend for your business.

Seeeeeems like a no-brainer but guess what?! It's pretty difficult to do if you have no previous experience of what's included and what's not. Recently, I've downloaded the Mile IQ app to track my trips. But I honestly might resort to a good old-fashioned pen and pad to track my mileage, fuel and tune-ups. I admit: I know very little about tax write-offs, but I'm trying to gather as much information as I can. (And mileage is only one way to "keep track" of your business, just to be clear!)

One thing I was recently told to do is to print off all credit card and debit card history and highlight what was business-related and what was personal. The catch: it's pretty challenging to remember if the three tubes of deodorant and mosquito repellent you purchased were because it was July or because you were doing an all-day outdoor wedding photo shoot at a mosquito farm. Okay, that's not a real example, but you get what I'm saying. The sooner you keep track, the easier it is along the way and the less stressed you'll be in April.


4. Save.

How many of us have been told this all our lives? "I'd have a million dollars if I would've saved a hundred or two every paycheck when I was your age." Yeah, yeah. But for real, listen. There's nothing worse than coming up short.

Short on a payment. Having your card declined. Having every card you own declined. Having the financially shocking moment of an empty savings account. -It's one of the most awful feelings. Unfortunately, I've been here. And still find the game of money a really tough one to play. But the more you learn the hard way, the more you grow. #keepingthatsilverliningalive

In short, running out of money is one of the most defeating moments to experience -especially if it happens in public, around people you know. And it hurts even worse if you're trying to start a business. When you're thirsty for money, you'll do ANY job...which can deflate your passion. You'll be a slave to the kind of people who expect you to do everything for next-to-nothing...which is the second-worst feeling next to being broke. Believe me.


5. Don't Apologize.

Yeah, I need to write this one on my mirror. I over-apologize during moments that don't warrant a "sorry." Everyone knows someone that says "sorry" too much. Welp, that's me. It's generally annoying and is a huge indicator of lack of confidence in business. I have apologized for price, for small mistakes, for not knowing something, for sending an invoice, for calling, for talking, for being.

It's a disease of the heart to feel sorry not only for who you are but who you're being, what you're doing, where you'd like to go. And I'm working on this, because I'm not sorry. But I don't want you to be sorry, either. If you're starting out in a new business or if you're just someone who throws around "sorry" like confetti, then find a new word. Don't let apologies replace confidence, belief, faith in yourself. Hard, but I know you (we) can stop using that word inappropriately. Let's only be sorry when we it's a sincere gesture.


There are so many things I've learned the past year doing business as a freelancer, but I have SO many more things to learn. What have you learned in your line of work? What can you pass on to others that could help them or encourage them to have courage? Share your thoughts. 


FreelancingMeagan Young