October 29, 2015 Rodney Cowled

18 Things I Wish I Knew Before I Started a Business

 Do it they said. It’ll work, they said. Carpe Deim, they said…

One thing is for sure. The minute you tell close friends or family that you’re thinking of starting a business, they’re usually encouraging. Even other business owners urge you to take the leap. Everyone tells you the good, but no one gives you the real story. 

The Things I Wish I knew before I started a business.


1. Keep your Body Sharp (aka work out).

This is #1 for me because if I’m not healthy, I’m not at my best. If I’m not at my best, my business suffers. Late night Red Bull and chips might seem great at the time, but regular exercise, green smoothies and sleep equals productivity. 

2. It’s a Business, not a Hobby

Even if you’re starting freelancing as a side hustle, treat it like it’s your main deal. You are a business, act like one. Work regular hours. Work from an actual desk (not a bed or couch…it’s tempting I know) and if someone calls you at 3pm on a Wednesday to help them move house, tell them you’re working.

3. Be Your Own Brand

When you present yourself/your business as a brand, not only do you get to command much higher rates, you are respected and eliminate your competition. Have an actual website. Get a real email address. [email protected] doesn’t count, unless you really do work for Google.

4. Make it Personal, but don’t be a Pushover

This almost drowned my early banking career before it really got started, mainly because I’m a nice person. I learnt to speak my mind and not let clients troll over me. Be nice sure, but don’t feel like you always have to be the Nice Guy.

5. Still, be humble.

Not being a Pushover doesn’t meant you have to be an ass, arrogant or any of those things. Be truly humble. It’ll reward you.

6. Focus:

Focus should drive your brand. In regards to what you offer, what you stand for, the work you deliver, projects you’re currently working on, clients you are pursuing, focus, focus, focus. I see so many business owners go in a million directions and as a result spread themselves too thin and burn out resources. Doing one or two things well is better than doing 10 things poorly.

7. Admit you don’t know everything:

Although it’s good to have the problem-solving attitude, sometimes it just saves time by admitting you don’t know everything. You will be surprised your clients will actually appreciate (and trust you more) for this. It will also save you tons of time “researching”. There are experts out there who can help and some (like Fiverr) are very affordable.

8. Be thirsty for knowledge:

Constantly “sharpening” your brain with your industry trends, reading books, watching TED talks, reading blogs regularly, asking questions are all part of enhancing your knowledge and will set you on a path to be a specialist that you are.

9. Say NO:

Back to the focus point on #6, sometimes a client will make a request that’s out of your focus range- say NO. This is hard to do especially if you don’t have any projects/income flowing. Do it anyway. It’s a traaaaap 🙂

10. 80/20 client rule:

Don’t let a client control 80% of your income. Should they drop the project, it will sting! Balance. Also don’t let a client control 80% of your time. They might be the ‘squeaky wheel’ that doesn’t pay off.

11. Set work hours:

Set working hours and stick to them. Create a strong routine, It will help with your productivity. Sleep will make you a better business owner. As will actually putting in the hours it takes to be successful. Find your balance and take a break when you need one.

12. Get the right people on board:

After becoming your own boss, eventually you’ll reach the point where you have to be the boss of others. This is a real challenge. It helps to select the right team members. Most recruiters will tell you to fit for culture as much as you’re looking for skills. If you sense red flags early on in the relationship- deal with them early.

13. Your client/customer is your new boss:

You started your business because you wanted to be your own boss- that doesn’t entirely work that way. Your client is now your new boss. Luckily, you get to dictate the terms of your relationship- and unlike other boss-employee relationships, you can fire this “boss” if they start being too much.

14. Arm yourself with time-saving tools:

You quickly realize that you are the CEO, Business Manger, Project Manager, Accountant, Marketing Manager, Social Media Manager etc etc, today, there are tools for almost anything business related- take time to research and use them. Don’t be cheap either, pay for tools that will help you save time, it’s an investment worth protecting.

15. Take time off (real time off):

Shut down your engines, notify your clients well ahead of time, set your vacation email auto-responder and take real time off. You deserve it.

16. Get out & network:

It’s easy when you’re working online especially with the existence of social media to forget that real people exist lol, seriously get out and network, not only is this good for your business, it’s good for your soul. As humans we thrive from interactions. It could be as simple as working from a local cafe or co-working space. The energy of those around you may be just the buzz you need

17. Work with goals:

Set goals (big, scary, hairy, goals) achieve them then go on to the next one! It’s the only way to grow. It also boosts your confidence over time.

18. It’s going to be OK:

Sometimes in the frenzy of running your business, things get crazy and doubt creeps up. Seriously, it’s not the end of the world. In the end, things have a way of fixing themselves, as long as you do your part, it’s all going to be ok. The hard work pays off and even if this idea doesn’t end up being The One, those who stick around find ways to flex, adapt and change until they build the business that is.

Seriously…it’s going to be fine!