Tips for Entrepreneurs
Thanks to a random Tweet from Tory Burch I got wind that it’s Global Entrepreneurship Week. And hey, I am an entrepreneur, so I thought I would share my story and some tips from my experience:
I have worked “for myself” for a little over four years now. I say “for myself” because I don’t work for myself, I work for my clients…I just don’t work for a typical boss.
I am a PR consultant (I could write an entire post on what PR is, my mother still doesn’t quite understand) and specialize in certain areas, including hospitality, fashion, luxury lifestyle, entertainment and more. I used to work for a big PR agency in Los Angeles but left a year after I had my daughter because I wanted more flexibility. Little did I know at the time that it would lead me to so much more beyond just that…
So now I work from home, taking meetings and conference calls as I need to, and though I probably devote less physical hours to work than I used to, I actually feel more productive in this setting because there are few distractions and more incentive for me to drive results…ahem, because otherwise, I don’t get paid.
Here are just some of the things I have learned along the way:
1) Tell someone pushy in your life about your dreams – because you will need a push to get there. And it may be someone you don’t suspect. The friend who convinced me to take the leap was not a friend at the time but rather a fellow PR gal I met through a colleague when we were both in maternity classes at Cedars Sinai. She had been a freelancer for more than a decade and prompted me to make a move — and then helped me get my first few clients to ensure I would do it.
2) Have a plan. But be willing to rework it. When I started as a freelancer, my main area of focus was hotel PR. That’s what I had done and that’s what I knew. But when I opened the door – and my mind – to other industries I was passionate about, I managed to find new areas of focus and income that have been surprisingly great. That would have taken forever in a standard agency setting where they essentially keep you locked up in your area of specialty, but I was able to branch out on my own and do amazing things.
3) When one door closes…you know where this is going. Repeat it to yourself over and over. The very first client I signed on as a freelancer through my friend in #1 above fell through one week later. I panicked. But through the years I have come to realize that for every client whose budget gets cut or who chooses another contender (gasp!) or who never calls you back after the pitch, there is another one coming your way. And most of the time, they are better.
4) Admit when things aren’t working. I work very hard for my clients and myself but sometimes things aren’t a fit. A product I am pitching might get no bites, an event might not be working out the way you hoped, a client’s personality may be clashing a little too much with yours. Identify the problem, see if there is a way to fix it, and if not, walk away. The stress that comes from a problematic situation is much tougher on the psyche than the stress of walking away from it.
5) Be thankful for those that help you. And I don’t just mean those in executive positions. Interns, friends, your web designer, the guy at Kinko’s…it takes a village to be an entrepreneur and if you don’t hand out a thank you note or “nice work” email or holiday gift every once in a while, that support system you need so much may not be there some day.
6) Embrace the slow. For the first few years of working on my own, if I found myself with too much free time one afternoon or even one month, I freaked out. It felt like an omen, clearly my business was going to self-implode and I would never make any money again. But that didn’t happen and I eventually found a way to embrace the “quiet” periods and realize that they make up for the weeks where I work 70+ hours, nights, weekends and beyond. Now if I have a little downtime, I appreciate it, get a mani, and move on.
7) Be yourself. This sounds so cliché, but I started to realize early on that people I encountered in a business setting really appreciated my candor, opinion and personality much more than my Powerpoint skills and portfolio. If I don’t know the answer to something, I will tell you. And then bust my ass trying to find it. If I don’t like something a client is suggesting, I voice that opinion, along with the rationale. If I need to reschedule a meeting because my daughter has the flu, I tell my client and offer alternative options that will work. And on many occasions, they offer me homemade remedies in exchange…
8) Reward yourself. Listen, being your own boss is lovely, but it ain’t always easy. So when you’ve had a good meeting or a good day or a good quarter, acknowledge it. Buy yourself a little something, treat your team (if you have one) to lattes, post your latest accomplishment on Facebook. You need to call out your personal victories more than ever because there is no supervisor to do it for you.
9) Don’t underestimate yourself. Or your services. I have an hourly rate. And I stick to it. It might not be in your budget and we can discuss different options if the project is a good fit (i.e. less administrative reports, shorter list of targets, longer commitment with fewer hours, etc.) but I stick to it. If I start to cheapen my experience, ability and services, then I am inviting you to do the same.
10) Find a passion. And then realize it may not pay the bills. Everyone says the number one rule to entrepreneurship is passion. I tend to disagree. I like PR, I am good at PR, but am I PASSIONATE about PR? No. And most PR people aren’t, trust me. And that’s ok. I save my passions for my hobbies and focus on putting my experience, brainpower and skills to use at work instead. Trust me, it’s what my clients prefer – my passion for chocolate chip cookies and Yves Saint Laurent handbags won’t get them far 😉
*image via here*