I never thought when I started my business that I’d still be working for myself (and still loving what I do). I’m so honored to work with amazing clients and challenging projects that make a difference in this world.
I’ve collected 9 tips from some of my hardest lessons – I’d love to hear from you if these resonated with you! Share your thoughts on the comments below.
1. Focus on your business, not someone else’s.
I spent too many years playing the comparison game – worrying that I would never be as successful or celebrated as others. Once I learned to let go of the jealousy (and in some cases collaborate) with my perceived competitors, the resentment and envy faded away. Triggered by certain people? Hide them from your feed and unsubscribe from their newsletters.
2. Working with friends? Treat them the same way you would regular clients.
This is one I learned the hard way more than once. Anytime I deviated from my process and wasn’t clear on how I worked (or what I charged) the working relationship got sticky and interfered with our friendship. Now if I work with friends, I’m super clear about procedures, deliverables and financial investment.
3. It’s ok to say no.
I know (especially when you’re starting out) that you want to say yes to everything. And often we’re told to start before you’re ready. But I’ve found that if something feels off in the initial call or it just feels like something I don’t really want to get into – I say no.
Now I know that space creates opportunities. In the last year I made the decision to not take on new clients. It can be scary to stop the flow of new projects (and guaranteed cash flow). But as a result, I had the space to create my own products and programs and collaborate with my long-term clients on some amazing projects (and I’m having my most profitable year yet – with less stress and more impact).
4. It’s ok to let go of clients.
Not every client is going to work out (and you might not be right for every client).
It hasn’t happened too often, but there have been a few cases where we just weren’t a good fit, I felt disrespected or we just never saw eye to eye. I always made sure to either see the project through or find an alternate solution. It’s not a failure – it’s an opportunity to refine your intake process and determine who you will (and won’t) work with.
5. Stick to your guns.
People hire you because you are the expert. And you have the right to say no to their requests (especially if they want you to copy someone else’s work or do anything you consider unethical). I can’t tell you how many times a potential client told me they wanted to copy either one of my own sites or someone else’s. That was an instant red flag that they weren’t a good fit for me.
6. Self-promotion isn’t evil.
We live (and often hide) behind computer screens. Most of us are super humble, introverted and don’t want to attract attention. But you are depriving the world by not sharing your gifts (and letting people know who is responsible for your work!) You can’t wait for people to just stumble upon you – share your work and your knowledge – and you will be rewarded.
7. You never never know where your next (or best client) will come from.
Your next client could come from the grocery store, a chance meeting or even a neighborhood party. My highest profile and revenue generating clients came from:
• A yoga workshop I attended 6 years ago (this one workshop is responsible for connecting me with over a dozen new clients)
• A referral from another designer I met at a business conference
• Two business coaches that continue to send referrals years after I worked with them
Takeaway? Get out of the house and really meet people!
Don’t rely just on people coming to you. Go out and make connections.
8. Deal with problems sooner rather than later.
We all make mistakes. There are gonna be rough days. Servers go down. Files get deleted. Schedules get pushed. Keep your client informed at all parts of the process – I find people can be pretty forgiving if you keep them up to date and outline your process for getting things back on track.
9. Continual education is your best investment.
I’m completely self-taught – but that doesn’t mean that I’ve stopped educating myself. I’ve invested thousands of dollars in coaches, courses, books and conferences. I devote several hours a week to researching new techniques, trends and software. And I set aside a hefty percentage of savings each year to attend conferences and invest in programs.