Fri 15 Jan 2010
By Dan d’Man
(c) January 15, 2010
When I told friends and co-workers that I was starting my own business as a writer and communications consultant, I received all sorts of advice and insights.
Much of it was great and saved me a lot of headaches. Still, there were a few things I wish I would’ve known before taking the leap. Things like…
Doing books “by hand” just doesn’t add up
When I started my business, I didn’t take the time to set up an electronic accounting/invoicing system — something like Quicken. I remember thinking, “My business isn’t big enough to warrant something like that.”
Well, not long after, my business became too big to do my bookkeeping “by hand.” But then, I was too busy with work to take the time to set up an electronic system.
Do yourself a favor and take the time to set up your bookkeeping/invoicing system before you start your business.
You should treat your business like … a business
Successful businesspeople from all professions stress the importance of investing in your business. They recommend setting aside a certain percentage of your profits (10 percent is a frequent recommendation) for this purpose.
Whether it’s updating your Web site, attending educational conferences, refreshing your marketing materials — it is important to sharpen your skills and add tools to your business resources.
On paper, it’s an easy concept to grasp. In practice, it can sometimes be difficult to actually write out those checks.
I recommend setting up a separate bank account in which you can regularly deposit a percentage of your business income. Having it already set aside can make it a little easer — psychologically — to spend it for its intended purpose. (Note: I also recommend this model for your quarterly business taxes.)
Freedom is a relative term
When you’re a one-person company it’s rare that you ever feel totally free from work.
When I’m on vacation, I long for my corporate-employee days. It was so nice to be able to leave an out-of-office voicemail directing any immediate needs to another person in my department. That allowed me to truly unplug and enjoy my time away.
As the owner of a one-person business, I have no one I can direct calls to. It’s difficult to totally detach myself from “What if” scenarios. “What if my biggest client calls and has an urgent need? What if that company finally calls back and wants to bring me in on a project?”
And because nothing gets done while you’re gone, you do at least two weeks’ worth of work to prepare for a one-week absence. I have a real hard time telling my clients, “You know that really important project of yours? Yeah, just hang on and I’ll get right back on it when I return from Cabo.”
Running your own business isn’t impossible
Knowing — or at least assuming — this from the first day I started my business would’ve saved me a lot of stress and lost sleep.
I worried about getting clients, keeping clients, servicing clients, billing clients, bookkeeping, doing taxes, having enough work, having too little work, staying motivated and staying sane. You name it, I worried about it. While that’s my nature, it was magnified significantly when I started my business.
But then, slowly but surely, I realized that owning a business isn’t brain surgery. In fact, if you just work hard and follow your instincts, it’s really quite easy. It’s so easy, in fact, that I’m now writing an article about how to do it. (I gotta say, I didn’t see that coming.)
It’s also been the best business decision I’ve ever made. I’ve grown immensely as a person and as a professional and I shudder to think that I almost didn’t take the leap and give it a try.
Now that I’ve helped you avoid these four possible missteps, there’s really no excuse for you to not take the leap as well. If you’re relatively good at whatever it is you do and, most importantly, passionate about it, you can take any interest or skill and turn it into a business.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Dan d’Man (a.k.a. Dan Deuel) is principal of Deuel Communications, a writing and communications consulting firm. He is a frequent contributor to Tripping on the Ladder. He lives in Minneapolis/St. Paul with his wife and two young daughters.