Being an entrepreneur has its ups and its downs. The low when your proposals do not pass through or a client decides not to re-sign you. The high that you get when you finally sign a contract for a new project or when you win big for a client.
For me, last year was one of immense growth. I visited new countries, launched new projects, finished old ones, won clients, and lost clients. I recruited and trained a reliable, loyal team across six countries. Through my journey, I have learned several lessons which I hope will serve entrepreneurs — myself included — in 2019.
1) Build your support system and nurture it. The reality is some days you will feel like crying, some days you will feel like celebrating, and some days you will feel like quitting. Find people who help you keep your balance, give you honest feedback, and cheer you on. These can be friends, family, fellow entrepreneurs, teammates, neighbors, mentors, or mentees. No matter who they are, make sure to dedicate time to nurturing these relationships, and make sure they are mutually beneficial.
2) Know your value, and which projects are worth your time. This is one of the most difficult things I have faced as an emerging entrepreneur this year. As I am selling services, not products, it can very hard to put a price tag on my offerings. Many times instead of money, potential partners will offer you “a platform to sell yourself” or “connections” to new business. But at the end of the day, accessing these platforms may be positive, but will also require more work to close revenue-generating deals. This year, set your minimum rate and stick to it. Decide which platforms are really worth offering your precious skills — and have a clear idea as to what outcomes you wish to have.
3) Make a routine. Even if your schedule is often crazy, and you may have to jump on a plane or train with 24 hours’ notice, do your best to stick to a routine. Maybe that means having your cup of coffee while checking emails first thing each day, doing yoga, or taking a midday walk. When you are in your home base or abroad, find workspaces you can come back to that give you a sense of regularity. I recommend joining coworking spaces such as Impact Hub or using the Croissant app to find cool spaces in different cities across the world.
4) Business is business. Sometimes, friends or colleagues will come to you asking for help with something which will require your time, expertise, and resources. By nature, I am someone who cares about others and wants to see other people shine but this year I learned I simply cannot always give my time and energy away for free. Remember, your true friends will understand if you say no to their requests, and you can always try to help in other, less consuming ways. Furthermore, be bold in demanding what you deserve from your clients and partners. Asking for timely payments or resources to do your job is not being greedy — it’s business.
5) Unplug. This is the most difficult rule for me to follow, as I am someone who always wants to get rid those red notifications on my iPhone and always wants a clean inbox. Fact is, as an entrepreneur, your to-do list will never end, so sometimes you have to know when to stop checking and unplug. When you are with friends, be with friends. When you are exercising, put on a podcast and just listen. Do not work 24/7, because that is simply not sustainable.
6) Celebrate small wins and don’t sweat the failures. As entrepreneurs, we are visionaries. We see the big picture impact we could be having, and often feel frustrated we have not signed the multimillion dollar deal. We forget that entrepreneurship is a journey, a series of small wins and big failures we learn from that will lead us to the end goal. Along the journey, make sure to celebrate at every step, and give yourself the opportunity to learn and grow.
I encourage everyone to apply these lessons to your own careers and lives, set goals, and track your progress throughout the year. Change your mindset and remind yourself you are a trailblazer, a changemaker, and the only one with your unique experience. Use it to be the catalyst sparking the change you hope to see in the world.