Long before I met Hubs I knew I was going to be successful. Of course I thought my success could come in the form of being an attorney or ambassador for the state department. Becoming a “dependent” was literally the opposite of my dreams. Like so many new Military spouses, I’ve had a hard time adjusting to my new status and label.
Destined to have my own successes, I decided to start my own business. When I figured out that that first business didn’t work for me, I started a second. Now I’m on my third, and this one is going a million times smoother and is already more successful than my last two combined. Here are the 10 things I learned starting three business and wish I knew before starting the first one.
10. Decide what you want out of the business
Why are you starting the business? If you don’t have a clear answer to that, don’t do anything else! Do you want to have “extra income” or is it more important to have your “own” identity? Having a clear idea of why you’re going through the stress and confusion of starting a business will get you through the tough times later.
9. Figure out what works for your life.
Are you going to PCS in the next two years? Is there a chance you will be sent overseas? Do you like to sleep in? Before doing a lot with local licenses, fees, and bakeries, think about how your life runs and who you are. In hind sight getting up at 3am to do deliveries of gourmet food ingredients to bakeries at wasn’t a good idea on any level for me. But that is how the industry works. Then I changed to Etsy only and ran into shipping problems when we moved from the lower 48 to Alaska.
I’ve put a lot of work into the two businesses that I’ve closed. I closed them not because they weren’t profitable, but because they didn’t work in my life. Thinking and figuring that out before starting the business would have saved time, money and heartache.
8. Research successful people.
Almost nothing is truly original. Not even this post! While all 10 of these are lessons I’ve learned from my first two businesses the idea of a “10 things I’ve learned from XYZ” post isn’t mine. But I see so many successful bloggers do them! Personally, I’ve found a lot of value in the ones I’ve read and will inspire others with my own. It is worth the time to use this idea and make my own.
Another thing I noticed about all the bloggers I liked (who were super successful) was they had all taken Elite Blogging Academy, were super active on Pinterest and give away a lot of freebies. These are all things I’m now working on.
Before starting a business, researching what the successful people in that industry would have been invaluable.
7. Things can be reused and changed.
One upside of this being my third business is having a few things in place. Once you get an EIN from the IRS (it’s the tax id for a personal business), It’s the one you have forever. Even having a completely new business, the EIN number stays with me.
When I paid for my GoDaddy website upfront for two years, they were able to refund it and use the credit towards this WordPress site that they host. They were awesomely helpful with changing my services with them and getting set up with something new.
What I wished I realized before starting my first business was to not stress! Things would be reusable and changeable if need be. Sometimes I felt that “this was it”. Lesson learned, nothing is permanent, reuse and change things as needed.
6. Start with the right products at the beginning.
You get what you pay for… you’ve heard that one before haven’t you? This is true for pants and shoes as it is for tech support, design work and email services.
A $5 logo design from scratch isn’t worth the hassle of getting it. You could start a website for $2.99 or whatever but I’ve learned the support (if you’re technology challenged like me) is so lacking I’ve given up in frustration.
It’s easier to just start with the right products in the beginning then fight with bad support and have things redone 10 times. These are the investments you are making in your business.
5. Reach out to your network (even if you don’t think you have one)
I’m a hardcore introvert, not quite a hermit but super close! Reaching out to ask for favors was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. When starting this blog (my third business) I knew I needed to understand where other milspouses were coming from.
Hopping onto survey monkey to make a 20+ question survey about personal finance made me break out in a cold sweat. Who would take the time to answer this? Wouldn’t people find it super personal to talk about? Who would I ask to take it?
However, I knew getting the information would mean the success or failure of this business. I took a deep breath, braced myself and shared the survey in my local MilSpouse Facebook group.
200+ responses later it hit me like a ton of bricks, I have a network! Me- the social hermit – never wants to bother anyone-assumes people will just say no- I have a network!
You have a network too, the same one as me: Military Spouses. Let’s face it, if you saw a post in a milspouse group asking: “how do I do a POA”, “can someone help me out by taking this survey” or “can I get a ride from DC to Boston” we would all try to help in some way if we could. We all want to help each other as much as we can because of the common crazy military life element. Use it (just don’t abuse it).
4. Build a network
Being that hardcore introvert I’m doing something that seems to come naturally to other spouses. I’m building a network. Slowly, but surely. Person by person I’m reaching out and helping other bloggers, milspouses and home business owners.
Because I’ve done this, I’m getting a network to help me. When I have questions on how to do something or need help with ideas, there are people I can reach out to for help.
With the first two businesses I didn’t do this, I didn’t know how and thought it would be so hard. But it’s not. Just help people where you can and ask for help when you need it right from the beginning.
3. Make an investment of time and money to take a course.
The hardest lesson I’ve ended up learning was about investing, (Funny being an investing geek).
For any business, you are making an investment of time and money. It could be a small financial investment like a domain name and website with GoDaddy, or a small time investment like a free Facebook page to do local dog walking. Either way you’re going to spend some time or money to get started.
Eventually, you will be spending time and money to build the business. The important part is figuring out what is more valuable to you, your time or your money.
You could probably learn EVERYTHING (about anything) you need to know on-line for free. But you are going to spend a LOT of time to find the relevant information. Imagine googling “work from home ideas for military spouses”, how much crap would come up? How much relevant helpful information would you find in the first hour of looking around?
You could also spend a lot of time by starting a business that don’t work for your lifestyle (I bet you guessed I’m talking about myself again!)
My gourmet extract business didn’t work because once I PCS’d, the cost of shipping both ingredients to me and finished products out went up too much. The fine art business I then started didn’t work because I’m located on an Alaskan island and selling prints on-line would be the only way to go, but prints of my landscapes goes against my beliefs as an artist.
The funny thing is that both of these lessons I could have learned if I had taken the Work From Anywhere Academy before starting the first business. Kayla Roof went over the issues of different types of business for military spouses that I spent two years and a bit of money to figure out myself.
So the big point here is that, YES courses are worth it. This time I’m taking three. A business course for Military Spouses (WFABA) a writing course (Sticky Blogging) and a blogging business course (EBA). If you wonder if they are worth it, think of it this way: You are reading this, aren’t you? And you’ve never heard of my other two businesses!
2. Learn how to fish
Remember that old saying? This is the second most important thing before starting a business. If you pay someone else to do every design tweak on a logo, its going to end up costing you a lot of money and so much time waiting.
Learn how to fish: learn how to use wordpress, learn how to use canva, and how to embed a e-mail opt-in. The benefits here are two fold. You will save money, but you will also build your confidence. This is no different then learning how to change the oil in your car or do a POA, your intimidated and never thought you could do it. But you did! You can do all this scary tech stuff to. (It just takes time!)
1. Do what you are passion is not what you are good at.
Surprisingly this is the most important thing. What are you passionate about? What do you find exciting? Even if your not good at it, that is what you should base your business around.
I am good at cooking and painting. But that was just the problem, it came natural to me. It made perfect sense to me. In turn, I had a hard time writing about it. Nothing seemed new or exciting to me with food or art. I can, of course, get better and learn a new trick or two. Any passion I have for these things is in a hobby way.
Finance, Investments and building wealth? I am obsessed. There is always something new to read about and ideas to mull over. Finance is ever changing and misunderstood. I’m so excited to share knowledge because I had to work hard to learn it.
It’s this passion to keep getting better and learning more that will make this business sustainable for the long hull. Build your business around your passion and it will never feel like work.
And isn’t that the whole point of working from home!