My first client paid me 15€/hr.
I wasn’t upset – I was ecstatic.
After 6 years spent learning the ins and outs of corporate life, I decided it’s time to stray away from the path.
What I had was amazing, but it was predictable.
So I broke out of the corporate shell. I started out as an automation geek and now I help businesses of all sizes maximize their revenue potential. I talk more about this on my blog: MAN Digital.
What helped me to succeed?
Here are 7 things I learned along the way:
1. Who You Surround Yourself With Matters – A LOT
Jim Rohn famously said that:
e’re the average of the five people we spend the most time with.
Running a one-person business is a myth.
For long-term success, you need people. I realized that the hard way after my first startup failed because I didn’t know how to pool my resources.
You need to surround yourself with mentors, family, and colleagues that challenge you and make you better. Don’t be surprised if your friends don’t get as excited as you do when you talk about “growth hacking”. Find those who share your vision and align with your values.
2. Your Team Should Be Smarter Than You Are
If you’re always the smartest person in the room, you’re only hurting yourself. You need to bring in people who are exponentially better than you in different ways.
Being your own boss still means you’re someone’s boss. Remember that.
3. Your First Customer Can Make or Break You
Your first client should be treated like royalty.
And all your next clients should be treated like your first client.
Establishing a customer base is huge in the beginning. And those first few user reviews can pull the plug on your startup or skyrocket its growth.
I got a first excellent referral and that led me to work with over 30 clients who all helped my agency thrive. And they’ve become like a second family to me.
So when it comes to your first customers, make sure you focus on engagement and quality over revenue.
4. The key to Networking Is Quality Over Quantity
Everyone knows networking is king, but few people know how to do it right.
You’re not playing a popularity contest here – making connections is good, but what’s really important is meeting the right people.
I mentored at Google Launchpad, Hubraum, and Techcelerator. Without these experiences and the partners they put me in touch with, I’d probably still be struggling to get my business off the ground.
Leaving that little corporate cubicle is the first step, but you need the right people if you don’t plan on returning there anytime soon.
5. Value First, Money Second
I knew that I couldn’t bring the value I wanted with my old job.
When I started out my business, I didn’t want to exploit an audience for profit. I wanted to provide value. And I knew that the money would come as a result.
But even when I barely had enough to pay for my rent in Krakow, 15€/hr still made me happier and more motivated than a fat corporate paycheck ever could. Because it opened the door to countless possibilities that were now within my reach.
6. You’ll Need to Sacrifice More Than You Did at Your 9-to-5 Job
A lot of people go into business thinking they’ll work less and have more free time on their hands.
The truth is, to even stand a chance at staying competitive, you’ll need to sacrifice a lot – including your personal life.
There are great rewards ahead if you take the plunge, but you need to be willing to learn far more and actually put in more work than you did at your former 9-to-5 job.
7. You Need to Take Care of Your Mental Health
That being said, entrepreneur burnout is real. You need mental healing if you don’t want to crash and burn from stress. For me, what worked was salsa, travel, and partnership.
It’s always healthy to shift your focus away from the grind from time to time.
But enough about me. What have you learned the hard way about running your own business?
What would you tell someone who’s new to the game?