In October of last year, I celebrated a major milestone — my first year in business.
One year from the time I pushed past my fear, stopped questioning my abilities, quit my job, and started my own business.
Oddly though, when that one year anniversary hit, it didn’t feel that much like a milestone.
Like many things I experienced during my first year of business, that day wasn’t at all how I imagined it, and it reminded me of the other surprising realizations I had during my first year of business.
Working for myself quickly felt more normal than working for an employer
I thought the one-year anniversary of working for myself would feel incredibly special. I thought it would be a day to get a cake, blow out the candles, pat myself on the back, and seek praise for my accomplishment.
But that day almost came and went without me even realizing it. Like most days, my anniversary felt like any other normal work day.
When I started working for myself, the notion that I was on my own was constantly in my head. A little lurking nag was always reminding me — this is it. You are responsible. You better do this right. This is a risk. No one is here but you.
But after a few months, that feeling shrunk. It dissipated and eventually vanished.
Once I set a schedule, got into a routine, and started the real work, I was not only no longer scared or nervously conscious of being on my own. I was completely relieved that I was.
Beginning to work for myself was as scary as I thought, but that feeling vanished more quickly than I imaged it would. It didn’t take long for me to feel comfortable, secure, and happy in my new set up.
So, when my one year anniversary hit, I didn’t feel like I needed to celebrate with a breath of relief. It just felt like another day that I was happy to be at a job that I love.
I didn’t want to be service-based forever
When I started Simply Stated Media, I was extremely clear about what I was selling — website development, digital marketing management, and content creation to small businesses.
I filled my client roster with individuals who needed those specific services, and for the first half of the year, I spent my days doing the work I had set out to do.
But then I had a powerful realization — I didn’t want to do this forever.
It was a pretty conflicting thought. How could I be tired of the business I’d just spent so much effort starting?
It took some contemplation, but I eventually realized that this thought wasn’t completely absurd. It made a lot of sense and was something many business owners go through.
I may have started my business with clear goals, but those goals were going to change.
Change is vital to growing and building a business that will evolve with me as a person. I may have started out thinking I wanted to help my clients through service-based products, but now I realize the other ways (through ecourses and coaching) that I can better serve my clients while doing more of what I love.
Investing in myself in my first year in business wasn’t a luxury, it was a necessity
I was scrappy when I launched my business. I didn’t spend money unless I had to, and I made do with what I had.
But there was one area I was okay with spending money — continuing education.
I invested in myself, purchased a few online courses, and attended two conferences because I thought it could be helpful. But what I didn’t realize was that these investments would actually be essential to getting through my first year in business.
While I did put a value on business and personal development, I didn’t place a high enough value on it.
Spending money in the first stages of business is difficult. With little income, courses, conferences, and coaching can feel like unnecessary expenses. But I’m so glad I didn’t listen to that nagging feeling that said, “This isn’t going to be worth it. It’s too much money.”
The money I spent on the skills I learned, the people I met, and the experience I had certainly paid off during my first year in business. My business likely would not be where it is today without them.
My personal brand mattered more than my business brand
When I launched my business, there was little mention of me on the website or in my marketing promotions. I didn’t want or feel that I need to be a part of the messaging. I thought I was an insignificant part of the business brand and that Simply Stated Media was the only name that mattered.
But I later realized that my personal brand was what was driving my business, and I was doing myself a disservice by not promoting it.
Almost all of my clients decided to work with me because of my personal achievements, recommendations, and portfolio. They weren’t signing up to work with my brand, they were signing up to work with me.
The personal brand that I spent years building (prior to my business) was one of the most valuable pieces of my business.
My digital presence helped me find new clients and establish the trust they needed to work with me. So now, I realize how valuable my personal brand is. I weave it into all elements of Simply Stated Media and leverage it every chance I get.
Starting my business and making it through my first year in business may not have felt like a big accomplishment at the time. But as I look back, it does feel good to remember where I started and see how much I’ve grown and learned in my first year.
I loved my first year in business — the highs and the lows. Launching Simply Stated Media has been one of the best decisions I’ve ever made, and I can’t wait to see what I discover in year two!
6 thoughts on “4 Surprising Realizations I Had During My First Year in Business”
I started my own business over 20 years ago but I can still remember how scared I was and how strange it was to start with. But I am now sure that (apart from getting married and having my son) it was the best thing I ever did. I shudder to think of being an employee now.
And you are totally right, you DO have to change. The business plan I drew up in those months before I started bears no relationship whatsoever to what I do now.
There have also been many changes through taking advantage of new technology. Many things I do now were just not possible back in the 1990’s. But I would say that one of the main reasons for my (modest) success is learning and keeping up to date and moving with the times. Yes, training is ESSENTIAL
It is very exciting running your own business – you have total control and can do what you like ( provided you have customers who want whatever-it is). Some people find that scary – I find it exhilarating.
So if you are at the start of your journey as a self-employed entrepreneur – good luck! If you adapt and move with the times it’ll be great! But if you just stick to that one idea – you may have problems.
Thanks for sharing your story Tessa! I know there is a saying in the start up community “Innovate or die,” and I think it rings true here too. We have to continually evolve to keep up with changing times.
I’ve changed my business a lot this year and I can’t wait to see what it looks like when I find myself in your position, after 20 years in business!
Congrats on your success and thanks again for sharing. Maybe you should write “Surprising Realizations I Had During My 20th Year in Business.” 🙂
I think the thought of the leap from full time employee to uncertain pay business owner is the hardest hurdle to get over. For me, once the decision was made the rest followed. Like you, 12 months sped by and was just another day. I worked hard, was on the road a lot, responded to every request and took a wide range of projects on, all built on personal brand relationships.
During the past 10+ years the business has changed and evolved from a sole trader to now a partnership. The first anniversary of the formal partnership passed by in a haze as we have been busier than ever.
Everything you found in your first year resonates:
1. Personal branding is important – so important that both my business partner and I have maintained our individual business names and websites and use these to feed back to the new business (still more work for us to do in that area)
2. Education – we try to attend training and seminar where we can block them in, not only are they a good learning experience, they also allow us to network with others in our market,
3. Be open to change, as we have matured as a business we find that we have become even more niche focussed, we are now working in a niche of a niche market and have had to expand our workforce (workforce – that is something I never expected to say) to meet demand, we don’t want to be doing the work forever either, there needs to be someone else to pick up the baton, also eTraining and web-based resources on the radar.
Thanks for backing me up on this one Carrie! 🙂
It makes me feel good to hear the things I learned in my first year parallel with what you have found to be effective during your years in business.
Hopefully hearing it from the both of us will help inspire others to get out there, take the leap, push their personal brand, keep investing in themselves, and welcome change!
I’m happy to hear things are going so well for you and your business too!
Really good lessons. When we started our startup it was exciting and terrifying the first year. I had to keep telling myself that the alternative was to go back and use my finance degree. Not an option! Really good blog you have here. I learned a lot!
Thanks for the comment Bobby. I totally agree that the first year is the hardest because it is the year that you have to get your mind right. That’s the hardest part. But once you get over that fear, things start to get a lot easier and you can really dig into the work!
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