3 things that surprised me in my first year of business
Although I freelanced all through college, it wasn’t until a year and a half after I graduated that I officially started my business (I was a little busy getting married and starting my first big girl job!). But when I finally launched, a few things definitely caught me by surprise.
Maybe you’re just starting to think about launching a new business. Or maybe you’ve been in business a while and can relate to some of my experiences. Either way, I hope my learnings inspire and motivate you to keep going!
01 // Business was SLOW the first 6 months & didn’t become consistent until after 1 year
I had some HIGH expectations when I started my business. Looking back, I crack up at how confident I was that my business would be an instant success. In college, clients tended to somehow just find me by word-of-mouth. So when I launched my website and social media accounts and began promoting myself, I just assumed I’d be inundated with work. But that definitely didn’t happen as planned!
My first 6 months I only had 3 or 4 clients. And during those 6 months, I did the most self-promotion I’ve ever done since. I wrote a weekly blog post that I sent out to a small list of email subscribers. I also spent about an hour and a half every week carefully crafting 4-6 social media posts. I promoted my website launch, took custom brand photos, and went to networking events.
Luckily that initial time investment paid off. Now one and a half years in, I’ve worked with 20+ clients, 6 of whom I work with on a monthly basis.
I honestly think this slow but steady growth pattern is pretty normal when starting a business. So if you’re in the same boat, keep going!
02 // Social media was the best form of advertising
More than in-person networking events & more than any paid form of advertising, social media has been the best way to get my name out there and attract my ideal clients. One of my biggest clients found me through a hashtag search on Instagram.
Although I haven’t spent a dime promoting my posts, I would highly recommend investing in a brand photoshoot. Having custom photos ensures your feed is unique, consistent, and reflects your brand values.
There’s a million blog posts out there about how to gain followers and attract business on social media, but my best advice would be to use attractive, consistent photos and write thoughtful, helpful captions (with hashtags).
The second best form of “advertising” has been simple word-of-mouth. Most of my work comes through referrals from other clients.
03 // I loved having a full-time job while launching my business
Let’s be honest, financial security is pretty dang important. And while “following your dreams” and "taking risks" pays off for some people, new businesses don't always work out the way you hoped. I am so glad that I still have a full-time job while I’m building my business. It’s taken so much pressure off. I don’t feel a desperate need to find clients to make ends meet. Instead, I can enjoy the work that comes my way and take things slow.
Working full-time and running my business has been a challenge. It’s meant working an 8-hour day on the computer in the office and then going home and staring at the computer for another couple hours after dinner. It’s meant spending weekends crafting social media posts & blog posts. It’s meant answering client emails on my lunch break.
Everyone’s situation is different and I definitely don’t believe in staying at a job you absolutely hate. But if you generally like your job, or in my case, really like your job, it’s a nice financial safety net that takes a lot of the stress away from trying to make ends meet.
Bottom line, there are so many unknowns when starting a business, but you can’t learn and grow if you never try! And even if your expectations don’t match reality, hang in there :)