A Few Tips for People Starting Their Own Business

christina-loprioreWhen I meet new people, they are often surprised to hear that I’m 30 years old and that I’ve owned a business for almost 10 years. To be honest, I’m a little surprised at myself sometimes when I say it aloud. I kind of just fell into my business and learned along the way. There were a lot of up and downs (and continue to be), and I was prepared for some and not so prepared for others. Here are some tips I wish I had been given when I started my business back in 2004.

 

Carve Out Some Time For Yourself Each Day

Owning your own business is extremely demanding on your time. For most of us, it’s a marathon, not a sprint. It’s crucial for you to have a little bit of time each day for yourself, to recharge.

I don’t mean time doing other chores at home like your dishes or laundry, but time to just sit and enjoy the moment.  I have three times of the day set aside for myself, where I stop

thinking about work and just force myself to exist in the present. First thing in the morning, I have my coffee and sit quietly on my porch or on my couch. Later on in the day, I take my dogs for a 30-60 minute walk. When I return home in the evening, I sit outside, light a candle, and relax.

Hiking in LA

 Surround Yourself with Like-Minded, Positive Individuals

People who work a typical 9-5 job will generally not be very understanding of what it is like to be self-employed. If your schedule is different, they will likely poke fun at you for “getting up late.” I’ve had people laugh at me and call me “lazy bones” and all sorts of names. They often don’t realize (or refuse to accept) that while there are days I have a lot of freedom, usually I work an insane schedule, where I am up until 3 or 4am.

The grass is always greener on the other side, but it is sure nice to make friends on your side of the fence. By meeting up with people who are in the same situation as you, or who understand what you are going through, you are able to share your experiences with someone who can be empathetic. Added bonus: bounce ideas off of each other (just be careful not to be too forthcoming with your ideas – you don’t want someone stealing them!)

Keep Organized Records

Spreadsheets and Quickbooks are your best friend. Use them. Keep records of all of your expenses, income, schedules, communications, and anything else that might help you to do your taxes and improve your business in the future. Part of owning a company is being able to analyze what you could be doing better, or what is working, and this helps greatly.  It also saves a lot of headaches when it comes time to pay Uncle Sam.

Stretch Once in a While

You probably spend or will spend a lot of time at the computer. Even though my main business is giving music lessons, about 1/2 of my day is spent at the computer, typing emails, updating our website and doing our accounting. Sitting in a chair is not good for  your health. Get up and stretch every once in a while. Give your eyes a break. Your back and head will thank you in the future.

Eat Healthy and Get Sleep

A few years ago, I became so consumed in building my brand, I slept extremely little and ate even less. I lost weight, I felt tired and stressed all the time. I actually ended up getting shingles a few years ago because I stressed myself out TOO much.

Don’t do this to yourself. Make yourself go to bed on time. Eat meals. Sleep and Nourishment are the two things your body NEEDS to function.

Your goals may seem further away than they really are.

Your goals may seem further away than they really are.

Learn to Ride the Waves and Maybe Try Something New

Don’t give up all hope if your business has a little downward turn. When this happens, it’s the best time to get a little creative with marketing, specials, or just evaluate your business as a whole. Compare your business to other businesses that are doing the same thing you are, and find ways to be innovative and different.

Just remember: it will get better. Unless you give up.

Separate Yourself From Negative Opinions and People

When I first mentioned I wanted to start my own  music lesson company, way back in 2004, I had a number of people tell me it was too hard and that I wouldn’t like it. I guess they didn’t know me very well.I went ahead and did it anyway and I love it.

I haven’t loved every moment of it. Recently, I confided in a close friend about how I have been stressed (having momentary difficulty riding my own wave). His suggestion was to just “get a corporate job” for a year. After thinking about that for a moment, I realized that I have very little desire to work in an office or have someone else be my boss ever again.

You have to be very self motivated to be self employed. It’s not a bad idea to get input from your friends and family, or from a business consultant; but you are ultimately the one who has to decide what will make you happy in life. Take the opinions of others with a grain of salt.

Set A Work Schedule

Piggybacking on the eating & sleeping thing – it helps a lot if you are able to set yourself a semi-regular schedule so you can plan some social activities around it. Of course sometimes there are going to be all-nighters pulled, but this should not be something that happens on a regular basis.

I finally set a schedule for myself where I make myself unavailable on weekends (except in emergencies) and it has done wonders for me. I work Monday through Friday from 9am-about 10pm (depending on my work load), and I do not check email or respond to phone calls on Saturdays or Sundays, generally. This is a fast track to sanity!!!

Put Your Work Away When You are Home

Unless there is a situation that is going to completely derail everything you have accomplished in life, stop working when your work hours are over. Have dinner. Watch TV. Read a book. Play with your kids or pets. Spend time with your significant other. You have a life outside of work. Work to live. Don’t live to work.

Make Time for a Hobby That is Not Related to Your Business

Having a hobby outside of your business is a great way to meet new people (and possibly make business connections!) and open up doors to becoming more creative.  It also kind of piggy backs on the idea of taking time to yourself. You could try a new sport, take an art class, volunteer in your community. While you are participating in your hobby, try not to think about work!

I personally love photography, animals and nature, so I take my camera out on hikes or to Fix Long Beach (where I started volunteering recently). It’s so much fun!

Take Holidays off and take Vacations Once in a While- Even if It’s just a “Staycation”

Again, this falls kind of under the “taking time for yourself” kind of thing. I made a huge mistake of working while on vacation a few years ago, and realized that was doing nothing but making life more stressful. Don’t take your laptop with you. Turn off your cell phone. Enjoy some time away from responsibility, even if it’s just at home or for only a few days. You’ll be refreshed when you come back, and ready to take on your work with a new vigor.

I got a little goofy with my instructors after our American themed recital last June. You have to have fun at work sometimes!

I got a little goofy with my instructors after our American themed recital last June.  Learn to allow yourself to laugh at work!

Don’t Take Things TOO Seriously

Obviously, you have to  work hard when you are self employed. That doesn’t mean you can’t have fun at work, even if for a few minutes. Laugh a little. Play pranks (but not on your clients!). Make jokes. Be friendly towards the people you work with, no matter how high stress your job is.

 

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