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A Business Starter Kit

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If there's one thing I've learned over the past 6 months it's that most small business owners are super attached to how they do things within their business and will often argue to defend their habits, focus, spending, etc. EVEN IF THEY ARE NOT MAKING MONEY and EVEN IF THEY ARE SUPER DUPER STRESSED. At first I was confused by this, but I now realize it makes perfect sense. It's like how we defend our significant others to everyone around us if they dare criticize or make a suggestion. "I know he's cheated on me ten times, but I LOVE HIM AND WHAT DO YOU KNOW?!" That kind of thing.

In other words, we're so attached, so linked emotionally to our businesses that it's really tough for us to have perspective. We have to step back, admit that what we're doing may not be working the best way that it could, have humility to be a student, and then muster the courage to start making changes.

I've talked to multiple business owners who say they haven't made money (or very, very, little) in the past year, but then leave our meeting and keep doing things, more or less, the exact same way they always have. I've also had people tell me, "No, I don't think that's my focus. No, I don't think that makes sense for my business" the instant I suggest a shift and prior to them even pausing to think it through. It's like an auto-defense-mechanism that occurs and they're the ones who called me for help! In those moments, I sit back, take a breath, and remind myself that you can lead a horse to water, but...

So I do my best to inspire them to grow before leaving them to their own hearts. In the end, we all have to make the choices that work best for us and in the TIMING that works best for us. Sometimes we are just not ready yet.

But here's the thing: if you practice a few simple things, then you will see results. Yes, you have to roll up your sleeves and do the work every day (a magic fairy does not do it for you!). Yes, you are going to stumble at first (nothing is easy when you're new!). But it will be worth it. It will be SO worth it if you try. Let me show you how!

It's one thing to talk about this stuff, but it's another thing to actually do it, and I've actually done it. I would not tell you anything that I haven't learned myself through trial and error and speaking with business owners every single week. I started my business in December of 2017 as a side gig and resigned from my day job 3 months later because it was replacing my income. My first month as a full-time business owner I grossed more in that month than any other month of my career. My second month as a full-time business owner I grossed more than the first month. I need new goals now! And here's the thing: it wasn't hard. Truly. Yes; it's a lot of work, but I'm doing what I love and what I'm best at. It's work that I enjoy and you can have that too! Let's get you started...

#1 Don't spend money you don't have. I understand that there are a few exceptions to this rule where you need to invest up front in something that's essential to your business, but for the most part, I'm seeing way too many people putting thousands of dollars into businesses that haven't made thousands of dollars yet. Start small. Start where you are. Start cheap. Grow from there. As you make money, then you can invest that money back into the business (AFTER YOU PAY YOURSELF!).

#2 Pay yourself first. Pay your bills obvi, but pay 'yo damn self. You'll hear people say, "My business made $200,000 last year!" and you may think to yourself that THEY made $200,000. Not so. What a business brings in is not what the owner makes. Many business owners give themselves a super tiny salary and put the rest in their business bank accounts or re-invest it in the business. Others don't pay themselves at all. They work other jobs to pay the bills instead. I am a firm believer in paying yourself. Decide what you can live on. Set yourself up to receive that amount every two weeks and change it when you need to, but don't forfeit a paycheck when your business is profitable. You will grow to resent your business super fast and that's not good for anyone - not good for the business, not good for you, and not good for your customers who are relying on you to inspire them and help them grow. Sure, it may mean you have to hold off on various upgrades, products, or improvements, but you'll feel better investing in those things when you are being taken care of and spending the money you have.

#3 Get your branding in order. Yes, it will change over time. No, it will not be perfect. Do it anyway. Invest in a photoshoot so you have a bunch of professional images. Mix those in with some beautiful stock photos from Unsplash & upload VSCO cam & Word Swag or Over to your phone for fun quotes and easy photo editing on the fly. Choose a color and "feel" and don't allow anything on your profiles that doesn't pass the brand test you've created for yourself. Stuff that's not as high quality can be shared in your stories. A beautifully curated IG feed speaks volumes about your brand. In addition, turn all of your platforms into business feeds STAT (FB, IG, Pinterest, etc.) - SO MANY small businesses have cluttered social feeds that are not high quality and don't communicate a clear story. Don't be one of those. Stand above the rest by investing time into each of your platforms from the beginning. Also, do you use Planoly? It's a great way to save time by sitting down once a month, planning out your posts and then scheduling them so you don't have to think about it again.

#4 Don't hire help when you don't yet have enough work to do yourself. You may be laughing at the obviousness of this one, but you would be surprised how many people have barely started or are not yet making money and they have actual teams! There is a helluva lot that you can learn to do yourself and let me tell you: you're going to have to do it in the beginning. I know you aren't a marketing expert. I know you don't understand photography. I know you've never made a website or written a blog post. Guess what? We can all relate! The first website I ever created was my own. I put hours upon hours into teaching Squarespace to myself and then refining and re-inventing my site and the process will never be over. It's always a work in progress. Teach yourself what you can and practice, practice, practice. You can't afford help until you actually CAN afford help.

#5 Set up your business goals immediately for the year. Let's not get into 5 years from now. Let's look at August 1st, 2018-August 1st, 2019. What do you want to make? How are you going to make it? What are your products or services? How much will you charge so you can reach your goals AND work the amount of hours you want to work each week? Sit down with a google sheet or a piece of paper and put all of this down with the date at the top. Every move you make should be in alignment with these goals. It won't be perfect, but it will serve as your north star. I understand that it's "not all about money" but if you go into business with that as your mantra then you may very well manifest "not a lot of money". Do what you love and figure out how to make money doing it so you have the time and resources TO DO MORE OF WHAT YOU LOVE.

#6 Get a great website in order IMMEDIATELY after setting up your clear 1 year goals. You need an online home that you can create within and invite people to where they can learn all about you, browse what you have to offer, and even purchase right then and there! It's like an employee that's working for you 24/7 even when you're asleep. Don't wait on this. This is not a "maybe later" goal. This is a now goal. If you want your clients to take you seriously then you need a website.

#7 Start creating content. You're not a writer? That's ok! You can start exactly where you are. Start small. Write a great caption to an IG post 3x a week. Graduate to a small blog post once a week (just a few paragraphs). Work your way up, but don't stop. Create, create, create. Put it all in a google doc so you have stuff to pull out when you need to, but put your words, thoughts, and love out into the world every week consistently so that people get to know you and have the opportunity to connect with you by responding. You have to BUILD a following and you can't do that by sporadically popping your head into the social world. Also, this is not something you can source out in the beginning (or really ever). Yes, you can hire collaborators down the road, but no, you cannot do that now. We need YOUR VOICE. Your words. Your passion. Your stories. We need you. I'm going to write a blog post on writing soon, so stay tuned for that one. In a nutshell: don't overthink it. Just share from your heart and be vulnerable. Avoid, "Sunny day!" type captions and tell us how you're feeling today and why. Tell us what you're up to and with who. Tell us what scares you, what excites you, and what's worked for you. Share, share, share.

#8 Your thinking is likely the problem. If you aren't where you want to be right now (outside of situations that are truly out of your control and systems designed to keep you down) then it may be your thinking that's holding you back. If you have the resources you need but it's not adding up to the results that you want... it may be your thoughts. If you feel like you're doing "all of the right things" but also feel like you're "spinning your wheels" then it may be your thoughts. Good news? You can change your thoughts by trying new things and proving to yourself that other possibilities exist and sometimes actually work! It takes practice, but it starts with having an open mind and being flexible. There's a willingness you have to have to grow and get better... a willingness to put down your "knowing" and ask for help. I have podcasts that I listen to every day that help to shift my mindset and I have people who I talk to every week that encourage me to try new things. Read books, visit a business coach, go to yoga. Whatever it takes to keep an open and flexible mind.

I know you can do this. Roll up your sleeves and make it happen... one day at a time.

If you're interested in learning more about how to get started with your own business or how to take your existing business to the next level, then I'm your girl and The Upspeak Collective team is here to help. Reach out!

Meg

meganleewitt@gmail.com

Meg Witt