10 Things We Wish We knew Before... | Creative Ravens | Maryland Small Business Blog
10 Things We Wish We knew Before... | Creative Ravens | Maryland Small Business Blog
Today's post is a pretty personal one for us. Friends, we would like to talk to you about the 10 Things We Wish We knew Before Starting a Business.
Starting a business is a piece of cake (and for those who are already scoffing at that statement, please continue reading. Also, please realize that I'm being completely sincere when I say that). Establishing the business itself is the easiest part of being a business owner.
Let's paint a picture, shall we...
You fill out a few papers (or pay a company to fill out those few papers for you, which makes things even easier), pay a couple of fees, then you wait for your approval from the state you're located in. Maybe in that time you throw up a website and have a few business cards made up. Things really start to feel real once you have tangible items to show off to people. Then the glorious day comes when you're finally informed that your business is the real deal. You're ecstatic, and even the idea of paying taxes is a little exciting (and terrifying) to you in the beginning. So, you're a business owner! Now what? Below you'll find our comprehensive list of "Now Whats", "I Wish I Woulda Knowns", and "Whoops!".
1. The Paperwork Is The Easy Part
We're fully aware that usually, the words "paperwork" and "easy" are seldom in the same sentence, but when it comes to starting your own business, it really is that simple, especially if your business is an online entity like ours is. That said, there IS a lot of it. It's gonna sorta feel like you're signing your life away, and divulging a lot of personal information, but that's just to make sure your business is legit. If you're confident that you know what you're doing, you really can just fill it all out by yourself, but we highly suggest a company like IncFile. For a fee, they'll take all the guesswork out of it, compile everything together nice and neat, and you'll have your business ID number and everything. They even include an embossing stamp with your business logo! Super official!
2. Logistics Over Creation or Production
We don't know about you, but when we started our business, we thought that our days would be loaded with creating new things to share with the world! In our heads, we thought there would be beautiful images posted to social media every single day, new illustrations showcased in art shows each month, and lots and lots of shrink plastic pins to post online or sell at local events. The reality is that while we are able to create things, it isn't all the time. Most of our time as business owners is spent strategizing, developing marketing plans, and crunching numbers (booooo-ring). If you're thinking about starting a business, go into it with an understanding of the fact that business operations are just as (if not more) important than the product itself. It's totally crazy, but it's also totally true!
3. "Your Price Is Way Too High, You Need To Cut It!" (Don't Do It.)
This is probably one of the hardest lessons for new business owners to learn. You want to charge enough where you can sustain your business, but you don't want to scare people away with your prices. "Sticker Shock" is the term used for the negative reaction people have when you tell them the price of your products or services, and there's always going to be people who are solely looking for the lowest cost possible. Don't be that guy. Determining your prices relies heavily on your cost of doing business, as well as your cost of goods. They should also pay you a decent wage as a business owner, and while some may question why your prices are what they are, only you as a business owner will fully understand something like that. You also shouldn't compromise just to get people in the door, as it could (and most likely will) shoot you in the foot later. A good rule of thumb is if you're having a hard time getting people to be interested, you may need to find more unique ways of marketing your business. If you're on the opposite side of things, and you find yourself with a line of clients wrapping around the block, then you DEFINITELY need to raise those prices. That's the science of supply and demand.
4. Marketing Is Important
So many of us would love to be able to just do what we do and get paid for it, and the idea that we have to really sell ourselves to make that a reality doesn't really register. We get so caught up in creating awesome products! Then, maybe we'll share images of that product on Facebook or Instagram, and that's it. No other marketing took place, and the effort was limited to social media. That product post may have gotten a whopping 200 Likes, yet no one called. There's more to marketing than just sharing stuff on your wall.
5. SERIOUSLY... MARKETING IS REALLY, REALLY IMPORTANT
Why do you think that huge companies like Coca-Cola, Apple, and Verizon pay so much money for their advertising? It's because they KNOW the power of marketing, and they know that they'll have a solid return on investment in the long run! Granted, they're on a much larger scale than most of us (ok, all of us), but the same principal applies with us. If you're not creating your products, you NEED to be marketing yourself, and more importantly, marketing the right way. There's no point in wasting all your time and efforts building campaigns and going through the motions if it's not doing you any good. Researching marketing in general is a great idea, even for someone without a business, but for business owners both new and old, marketing is ESSENTIAL. It basically determines how serious you are about your business and separates a self-made career from a hobby or side hustle.
6. Social Media Is A Powerful Tool...If You Know How To Use It Properly
It's easy to be cocky about social media when you've got a large amount of friends, you always get likes or comments on your posts, and on the surface, it looks like you're an online social influencing star. The fact is, when you own your own business, your goal is to make sales, not just to get subscribers, likes, and follows. That fan base you've created has to convert to sales at some point, and if it's not doing so, it's likely you're utilizing your social media platforms the wrong way. Some social media sites, like Instagram and Twitter, are really just for creating engaging and inspiring content. No one is scrolling through these sites with the intention of buying something, so if you're trying to sell stuff on these platforms, the likelihood of success is minimal. Facebook (Mac Daddy of The Social Media Squad) is a little better since you can post ads that when clicked on, can send people to a landing page where they can buy something. Ultimately, Pinterest and LinkedIn (particularly Pinterest) are the best for making actual sales. This is because when people head to Pinterest and LinkedIn, they are there with a plan.
7. Not Every Idea Is A Good Idea
While attempting to market your business, you're gonna be throwing a lot of spaghetti noodles at the wall, and not all of them are gonna stick. It really is a trial and error type of thing. We've had our fair share of failed marketing ideas for 2 Odd Ravens, but the great thing about failing is that you now know what WON'T work, so you can scrap it and try something else. Creating an ad and placing it on Facebook might get you a few likes, but ultimately no conversions. That's okay! Revisit the ad, do your research and find where you could improve that ad, then recreate it, throw it back up there and let it ride for awhile. This is where having Google Analytics is handy, because you can get an exact idea of how many times someone clicked on that ad, and rework it based on that data. Even if you don't have access to Google Analytics, most web hosts and social media platforms have insight pages built into them, so you can grasp a pretty solid understanding of your audience and when they are most active.
8. Business Plans Evolve And Adapt Over Time (And So Should You)
When people refer to their business as "their baby", truer words really have never been spoken. Your business, just like a child, will grow and change over time as you learn more and gain more experience. Your plans for your business will also do some changing as well, and you'll need to mold with these changes. This may mean de-prioritizing certain aspects of it that you had previously been placing above everything else. That's part of the process, honestly. This is also why it's good to have a business plan typed up that you can revisit frequently. This way, you can change things to fit your ever-evolving business while still remaining on track. Don't be scared! Embrace the changes, and understand that they are a sign of growth!
9. Family And Friends Might Not Always See Your Vision (And That's Okay)
Years before the Internet became the main way to do just about everything, starting a business was seen as a very large, expensive, and risky endeavor that involved lawyers, building inspectors, and financial advisers. It wasn't meant for everyone to take on. Fast forward to today, and you can have your own business up and running in as little as a week, but there are still some people who believe it to be too risky, and not as guaranteed as simply working a regular full time job. While I'm not above looking to my family and friends for advice, if they do not own their own businesses, a lot of what they may advise you of will be biased. Your passion and your dreams may not coincide with the reality that they're living, so do not be surprised if they aren't exactly supportive all the time. Also, don't be surprised if people close to you can no longer afford your services as time goes on and you begin raising your prices.
Remember that your business is the combination of your dreams and your footwork. No one is going to believe in it more, or work harder to achieve success in it than you. Rest assured, when they see what you've built, the vision will become clear, and that's a perfect opportunity to educate them on what you've done and how they can do it too!
10. You Are Your Business' #1 Advocate
This one is probably pretty obvious, but it bears emphasis. No one is gonna fight harder for this thing than you, so be steadfast in your determination. Early days and late nights are ahead, my friend. Buy all the coffee, friend! Remember that we're up late right along with you, and we're loving every minute of it even on the most stressful days.
You've got to treat your business like your one true prized possession and be proud to be working for your company, even if you're just starting out. Furthermore, you need to have confidence in yourself, as well as your products. Your confidence, belief and dedication to your business will show when you talk to potential clients. When you're excited for your business and the idea of helping others, your clients will pick up on this and become excited about it as well. As long as you're creating a positive and memorable experience when you talk about your business, people WILL come and you WILL make sales (as long as you make sure to actually talk about your business). Ask questions about what they want and what they need, and then excitedly explain how your company can help them achieve those goals. After you've done business with them, make sure to ask if they know anyone else who could use your help. A satisfied client will ALWAYS refer you to someone else. Someone will reach out to you based on your previous client's raving review of your business and the cycle continues!
Do you own a business? What are some things you wish you had known prior to starting out? How has your business grown and evolved since it began? Let us know in the comments below!