Bruised Knees: What I Learned Starting a Business Right Out of College
I've always known I was going to be an entrepreneur in some regard.
My entrepreneurial endeavors started early in my childhood when I decided to offer my exceptional, or so I thought, gift wrapping services to my surrounding neighborhood. Although I've since traded my elf suit for sweats and a laptop, my entrepreneurial spirit still burns bright.
After completing college a semester early, I made the decision to leap into entrepreneurship.
Almost a year later, I am happy to say I made it (knock on wood)!
Entrepreneurship is a form of self punishment that few dare to engage in. I can't blame them! Although I have emerged fairly victorious, I haven't emerged without skinning my knee a few times. Scarred, but successful.
Here is what I learned starting a business right out of college.
1. Systems are essential
If there is one thing I will never doubt, it is my creativity. I am a creative through and through, and somehow expected my creativity to keep my business afloat.
A system of organization is essential. From on-boarding new clients to payment procedures, find or create a system and stick with it.
2. They don't want you to know your value...
As a new entrepreneur, especially one right out of college, I was told several times (by people who were attracted to me and my work) I charge too much for my experience, or lack there of. This led me to undercharge and believe my work wasn't good enough instead of understanding I can't be everything to everybody and catering to the target market that understood and was willing to pay me what I was worth.
Much of my clientele has come from word of mouth, which assures me I am putting out quality work time and time again. After short-selling myself for the sake of new business, I had to understand the value I was bringing to my clients, and began charging accordingly.
It was really helpful for me to look at what my direct competition was charging, and adjust from there.
3. You're going to miss out
I knew entrepreneurship was hard and would come with sacrifice, but I could never have imagined just how much. Over the past year I've had to grow comfortable with sacrificing sleep, friends, free time, and personal wants...JUST TO NAME A FEW.
As a twenty-something, recent grad this is very hard. Your 20s are supposed to be full of living and experiences and splurging here and there because you have no real responsibilities other than work and finally have an income to afford experiences on your own dime.
I am constantly reminding myself that "you do what you NEED to do now, so you can do what you WANT to do later."
To pivot is to "change direction quickly but stay grounded in what you've learned."
Entrepreneurship is a series of unexpected occurrences and price tags, and learning how to CALMLY pivot has been key.
5. Growth Takes Time
When I initially graduated, I was under the impression that my parents would still assist in providing my daily necessities such as rent, gas, utilities, etc. until I was set to walk the upcoming May. I anticipated the next 5 months would give me adequate time to position myself and my business and begin bringing in the kind of income I desired. Unbeknownst to me, the well known as my parents dried up when my final semester grades were entered AND I grossly underestimated the time it would take to solidify my business.
I was under the impression that if I could fully dedicate myself to my venture, the growth curve would shoot up. I was mistaken. Almost a year into this entrepreneurship game, I have definitely witnessed growth, (more towards the latter than the previous three quarters) but it took time and there was nothing I could do to speed up the process.
6. You'll Never Have Enough Money
More than I underestimated how much time it would take to scale my business, I gravely underestimated the amount of money I would need to operate a company AND SURVIVE (you're not quite LIVING off pb&j and ramen noodles).
Even months I believed I had properly budgeted, I was somehow met with unexpected costs that I was just not prepared for.
I now know to over prepare for money to run out.
If you're considering making the jump into entrepreneurship or just getting started, I commend you. Within entrepreneurship, I have found purpose and in many ways PEACE.
Push through it, you will come out victorious. Worst case scenario: YOU FAIL and have to get a job. But, there is knowledge in failure. Best case scenario: You reach whatever you define as success.