Eight Things I’ve Learned

Today is 8-8-08. Yes, I know you’ve probably seen that written a bunch already today, but I couldn’t resist the chance to take this opportunity to highlight some of the things I’ve learned over the past year and four months I’ve been in business for myself.

So, in honor of 8-8-08, here are the top EIGHT things I’ve learned this year:

8. I’m the boss….but I’m also the janitor, secretary, accountant, administrative assistant. I LOVE being my own boss, but it took a little bit of time to get used to juggling all of the other responsibilites that come along with running a business.

7. Stick to a schedule. Having a flexible schedule can take some getting used to, especially if you’re used to working in a strutured office environment. I found I’m my most productive when I get up, dress as if I were going into an office (at least a casual one!) and work a set amount of hours. This way, I don’t end up spending all of my free time trying to play catch up on e-mails, phone, etc. This may not be how everyone does it, but I’ve found having a structured schedule helps me be more productive.

6. No man is an island. Working for yourself is empowering, but can be lonely at times. I try to make sure I meet people for lunch or coffee regularly, go to clients’ offices for visits, etc. just so I can keep some contact with the three dimensional world.

5. Find a mentor…or two, or three. I’ve been fortunate enough to meet people like Kim, as well as other independent practitioners who I continue to learn from and be inspired by every day. These people help remind me why I went out on my own in the first place. It’s important to surround yourself with people who motivate you, not drag you down. Negative energy sucks.

4. Trust your gut. This is a big one – I almost saved it until #1. One of the most important things I’ve learned this year is to ALWAYS TRUST YOUR GUT INSTINCT. Mine’s never failed me. A couple of times this past year, I’ve gone against that instinct, whether it was taking on a client I KNEW would be bad news (they were), or not educating myself on certain business aspects. Every time, I’m quickly reminded that if I’d just listended to my gut, I never would’ve landed in the proverbial pile of poo. On the flip side, I’ve learned from each and every one of my mistakes, and will continue to make many more. But I hope I’ll be nice to my gut and give her the benefit of the doubt.

3. Educate yourself. When you work for yourself, no one’s telling you to attend this conference or that, or to keep up with new trends. You constantly need to educate yourself to keep yourself at the top of your game. Learning never ends.

2. Give back. I promised myself when I went out on my own, that if I was fortunate enough to generate a profitable business, I would make sure I gave back to my community. I try to take on pro bono projects where I think my expertise can make a difference.

1. Run your own race. Kim talked about this earlier this week, but it’s the number one thing I’ve learned this past year. It’s easy to go to meetings or conferences and be dazzled by the idea of money and growing a huge empire. As long as that’s what you want. But I continually remind myself of why I got into this business, and not to be pressured by other people’s business models. Everyone runs their business their own way, and I’m lucky enough to be able to run mine the way I want.

I’ve learned more in the past year of running a business than I’ve probably learned in my entire career. I hope I’m fortunate enough to keep doing things my way, working with clients I believe in and give back to my community.

What eight things have you learned this year?

And a big shout out to Kim – I couldn’t have survived this past year if I weren’t for you and your support. Here’s to another successful year for both of us!

Oh, and don’t forget, the Olympic Opening Ceremonies are tonight. Take some time to get engaged in this world event and cheer on whatever team you support. For me, GO TEAM USA!!

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