A ramble post around the things no one told me before starting a business.
WHAT YOU THINK ARE YOUR ESSENTIALS VS. WHAT ACTUALLY ARE
Often when starting your own personal business, you can get caught up in thinking of all the things you think you need. Things like 'I need the best packaging', 'I need a new printer/computer set up' when really those expectations when you are just starting out might be unrealistic and stop you from starting at all.
A lot of people starting out think they need thank you cards, stickers, letterheads, expensive designed websites but you really should be thinking about the basic essentials. You should spend your time/money on your logo to start with as that will stay with you. But invest in your business rather than the extra stuff that of course is nice to look at but essentially doesn't 'make' your business.
If you need a website, use an easy to build-yourself system like Squarespace. It has modern templates that are quite easy to customise yourself, especially if you are willing to put the time in to google it.
Instead of designing custom packaging, think of a way that you can create the same feel with inexpensive alternatives like just ordering custom stickers and pair it back with simple white packaging and nice tissue paper.
What actually is essential to starting a business is the foundations. Things like the financial set up, the business registration, tax, how you will make money, what are your business values.
Focus on the essentials and along the way as your business grows it will become clear what you need to invest in and what you don't.
I am only going to discuss this in regards to Australia because that is the extent of my experience.
As much as you may get excited at the end of the month by seeing you have earned X amount, unfortunately that isn't all yours. It is good to start with a good relationship with tax. Don't get fooled into thinking all of that money is yours and spend it accordingly because it will haunt you, and then come knocking.
In Australia if you earn over $75,000 a year you must register and pay GST. GST is a 10% on goods and services. Find out more.
So that X amount MINUS Income tax MINUS gst is your final income.. Less exciting now right?
Please note I am not a financial advisor or accountant so if you are having trouble, seek advice one of those professions.
HOW TO BE FINANCIALLY STABLE WHEN YOUR INCOME ISN'T?
First thing is to know your money. Ignorance is never bliss, especially when it comes to finances.
Once you have 3-6 months under your belt you will really start to get to know your income. If your income is unstable (like most freelancers) you can't think about it weekly. Some weeks you may make nothing, so you can't live week to week. Looking at things monthly you can get a better understanding of your income.
I personally try work my finances a month in advance. For example at the start of a new month, I will look at the previous months paid invoices then minus expenses (receipts) then minus GST (10%) then minus income tax. After you feel deflated after all those minuses then you are left with what money is actually yours. I put all government money into a separate account ready for tax time, then the rest I divide into how many Sundays are in a month. Then I know each week on Sunday I will pay myself. Now each month is different but it gives me stability knowing that this month's bills have already been accounted for and I am not living pay check to pay check.
HOW ARE YOU GOING TO MAKE MONEY
I am always fascinated by how people make money. As a small business I know how difficult it can be to actually make it financially viable.
This is something you should be thinking about from day one. If you are a freelancer who predominately creates branding or logos, how many of those projects do you need a month to make X amount to start. Is that viable? Do you think you could have enough clients to be working full-time for yourself?
Is there a way to make passive income through a product while your main focus is your service? This has been essential for me working full time for myself. My type of client usually has 30-90 day pay cycles which means I am often left months without payment for completed work. Without the support of my online store customers my income would lack stability.
What are your costs vs. what can you charge? Is it the case that you should try sell large volumes at smaller margins or vice versa? Does that in turn suit your customer?
All things to think about.
IT TAKES TIME
Don't expect anything to happen over night, or over months for that matter. Things take time, things don't work out the way you thought they would in your head. Remember that all you can control is the work that you put in, you can't control the quantity of fruits of your labour.
Remember that anyone that's business you look up to has been in it a lot longer and has gone through the same shit that you are now.
WELCOME TO BEING YOUR OWN ACCOUNTANT, MARKETING TEAM AND HR.
LEARN AS YOU GO
You really have to put the time and energy into making your business what you want it to be. No one is going to hold your hand in this (unless you have a business partner, they might hold it). If you want to figure out how to improve your website, research it. If you want to know how to improve your financial set up, google it.
You don't need a mentor or contacts to start. You need the motivation to learn without someone telling you to. For the first few years of my business, I did all my own taxes and finances. I did not do a finance or business degree, none of my family were accountants. I just researched through terrible government websites what I needed to pay and how BAS statements work and taught myself.
I know this all might seem overwhelming and a lot to think about but it is so important to get certain practices like your finances right from the start. You learn as you go and you can always google something if you don't know. I started my own business without thinking a lot through and learnt as I went, always willing to ask google for help and grow as I made mistakes. I hate to sound corny but if I can do it without any contacts or financial help then you can too.
Hope this helps and as always, I would really love to hear some of your thoughts below.