When I was 12, I started babysitting to earn pocket money. Babysitting didn’t pay particularly well, and I found myself working a lot of hours (I think my record month was 70 hours) but not really making a lot of money doing it. I also discovered I really not a fan of changing diapers and cleaning up other people’s messes. But job opportunities were pretty limited when I was 12, so I kept at it.
And then when I was 13, macramé pot hangers became popular and I discovered I was good at tying those knots. I bought a couple of pattern books and I started making macramé pot hangers, first for my mom and then for my grandma. And then friends of my mother started asking me if I could make one for them. Being a creative and enterprising adolescent, I quickly learned I could make money in this little venture and I became a teenage entrepreneur.
While my first business lasted only as long as the macramé trend, I was bitten by the entrepreneurial bug and there was no turning back. The next summer I turned my swimming skills into a business and became a private swim instructor, which turned out to be a fun and lucrative business in southern California. I taught swim lessons both in my parents’ backyard pool, and at the homes of customers all over town. Unlike my friends who were slaving away at minimum-wage fast-food jobs, I was outdoors all day enjoying the sunshine (and the only time in my life I’ve ever had a tan), making a much higher wage than my friends AND setting my own schedule, allowing for plenty of summer fun, a critical component of teenage life.
I dabbled in a number of other entrepreneurial ventures during those high school years, and also put the marketing skills I was learning to work on the inevitable school fundraisers. By college my aspirations grew and I started a photography business, which I still own today. When people ask me how I became a professional photographer I often tell them, only half jokingly, it was because I was too stupid to know how much work it was to own my own business.
As I built this business, and others, over the years, I have come to know how little I really knew going in to that first adult business. But I had a dream of being an entrepreneur, and I was not about to let a little thing like my lack of knowledge stop me. I’ve learned a few things since then, about life and especially about becoming an entrepreneur. If you dream of becoming an entrepreneur, there are a few things you need to think about and learn as you begin to pursue that dream.
Know what you want to do before you begin. What you start out doing may not be what you do down the road. While I started out as a professional photographer, and I still provide photography services, my business today has evolved and grown into something very different from that picture-taking college student. I am also a MUCH better photographer than I was 30-some years ago. There is nothing wrong with having big dreams of success in your business. In fact, I highly recommend it. But recognize you need to start where you are and you need to be clear about what you want to do now and what you want your business to look like now.
When you start your first business, you will be a beginner—both in the business world and in your industry, unless this is something you’ve done professionally before. Presumably you have the skills to get started. If you’re a photographer, you need to know how to create professional-quality photographs. If you’re a social media manager, you need to know how to use the social media networks in a professional manner. And so on.
You also need to recognize that you are on chapter one, and others in your niche may be on chapter four or chapter 20 or chapter 57. Resist the temptation to compare yourself to them and beat yourself up for only being on chapter one. They were once there too.
Get real about the amount of time, effort and money it will take to get your business up and running and to grow it. Do not short change yourself in determining these important costs of business by undercharging or underestimating the time you will need to be successful.
Before you hang out your shingle, especially if your business will involve any kind of in-person services, make sure you know the legalities of running your business. What are the business requirements of the place where you live or where you plan to conduct your business? Can you run a business from your home? Do you need permits, business licenses, or special accommodations? What insurance is required? (Hint: your home insurance may NOT cover business purposes. If you like owning your home, you’ll want to check this out.) The quickest way to torpedo your business—and your financial future—is to run your business afoul of the law. If you need help learning the legalities of running a business in your area, the SBA’s Small Business Development Center is an excellent resource for fledgling entrepreneurs.
You’ll build your business faster if you don’t try and do it all on your own. I wish someone had told me this when I was 19 and starting my photography business. There was so much I didn’t know, I didn’t even know I didn’t know it. There was no internet back then, so I had to figure it out on my own, along with the help of a class I had found in the back of a local photography magazine called “The Business of Wedding Photography.” That was the sum total of my early training, along with business books from the library. If I had known or had access to other help, I would have avoided many pitfalls and problems.
Find training. Get all the training you can that’s relevant to your business goals. Even more importantly, find a mentor who can help you develop the entrepreneurial mindset and who can help you understand what it takes to start and grow a business. I have been mentoring entrepreneurs and conducting home business and entrepreneur workshops for more than 25 years. Since I started my first business, I’ve lived in three states, necessitating setting up my business a number of times to comply with the requirements of each city. Over the last several years, the focus of my business has shifted from running a full-time photography studio to helping turn wanta-preneurs into successful entrepreneurs.
If you dream of being an entrepreneur, but aren’t quite sure how to bring this dream to life, I can help you. For a limited time, I am offering free, no-obligation mentoring sessions to answer your questions, help you break through your fears and limiting beliefs, and get your started on your entrepreneurial journey. If you want to take advantage of this limited time opportunity, leave me a comment below or message me through this link.
I look forward to helping you make your dream of being an entrepreneur come true.