I’ve mentioned before the value of networking with other owners of burgeoning businesses (but not necessarily in your field, as Anne and I continue to prove). This means having a sounding board for new ideas, learning of their successes, discussing issues that raise big ol’ question marks in your mind, and generally being able to share concerns and excitement.
But it also means networking with the big guys – people in your industry who you admire; people who are your competition; people who are experts in fields other than yours but who can help you progress. I’m fortunate to have started with Anne and to have met one or two folks in Cornwall who I either admire or hope to learn from (or both), but I’m still working up the courage to involve myself in much conversation with some of the local pros. Let’s face it; sometimes it’s just a little scary. 🙂 So, in the meantime, I aim to learn more.
Whether you’re self-taught or professionally educated, the learning curve should never end. Sometimes that means reading up on a topic within your field, sometimes it means investing in yourself and taking courses. My sister, a registered massage therapist, is highly trained in her field (and happens to be able to make my knees buckle with one strategically placed palm), yet her profession requires her to complete a minimum number of hours of extra training per year to maintain the qualification. Why should you or I be any different?
If the idea of going back to a classroom is enough to make you run in the opposite direction, involve yourself in a project that is just for personal interest, not professional gain; invest the time so you can challenge yourself to learn something new. You’ll likely find that personal and professional gain end up being two ends of the same thread. After all, its widely acknowledged that people who do what interests them tend to spread enthusiasm for their projects and find themselves being known as specialists in their fields – as long as they have learned enough to be credible.
‘Business plan.’ Two words with the power to make some people shudder. Yet, planning is essential to long-term success. Harvey Mackay famously said “If you fail to plan, then you plan to fail.” When I was forming the idea for a studio and testing out its viability, I found a great ‘cost of doing business’ calculator. I used it to put together a rough income/expenses projection for the next few years. But then it goes back to learning. Coming up with a completely realistic plan was difficult until I had tested out my market and investigated advertising options. For example, I didn’t originally plan to have a gallery show when I moved home. Not a cheap marketing tool by any means, since I had to invest in enough prints and frames to make an eye-catching display, but the vernissage alone was worth it. I made some contacts and got more sales than I’d expected – win! From there, I had to keep up the momentum and start solidifying my plan: How many clients do I want to see this year? This month? How long am I willing to wait for clients to knock on my door before I start taking action to go find them myself? How am I going to get word of mouth advertising? What income streams do I want to focus on in year 1? year2? year 3? How will I make this a reality?
I won’t be the first to say that starting a business on your own is demanding, tiring, and more than a little scary, but the rewards are worth it.