If you had asked me a year ago what it was like to own my own business, my description would have been very different from how I would describe it today. I would have told you all of the ins and outs of setting up the business, creating a website, hiring a graphic artist to design my logo, and nailing down who my target market was. I have discovered that when you own your own business, the learning never stops. It seems as though the more I learn, the less I know. But the more I learn about my business, the more I learn about myself. As a business owner, I often find myself coming back to the question, “why?” When you first start your business, it’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of the new challenge. I found myself working around the clock. My mind was constantly thinking of new ideas, new strategies. Let me tell you what I have learned over the last year about starting my own business.
My “Why.” I have been blessed with a discerning eye. Typos and spelling errors tend to jump out at me. And when I noticed these errors on a business or doctor’s website, my trust in them immediately went down. I thought of them as less credible. The unfortunate truth is that these mistakes are becoming far too common. Are people not seeing them? Or do they simply not care? I made it my mission to help companies and sole proprietors fix these errors. I knew, as I know with even more conviction today, that correcting typos before the client sees them has an incredible impact. Businesses shouldn’t risk losing a customer based on typos on their website or marketing material. That’s my “why.” I want to have an impact on businesses. I want to help them be their best.
What have I learned in the last year? Excellent customer service can set you apart from everyone else. In fact, most people expect it these days. I know that I compete with computer programs that claim to edit your documents for spelling and grammar. But a computer program can’t write in your desired tone. A computer program can’t make suggestions based on your target audience. A computer program can’t build a lasting relationship with its clients. I can. And I have.
Smile when you’re on the phone. Even if you’re having a rough day, you’re exhausted, or even unsure of what the conversation will lead to, smile. Trust me, the person on the other end can hear it. In fact, make sure you are smiling when you record your outgoing voicemail message. Make a positive impression.
Do it scared. I learned this from Christy Wright’s Business Boutique. Be confident in your abilities and skills. I tell my children that when they find themselves in a nervous situation, be brave. Even if they don’t feel brave, fake it. If you wait until you’re ready, you’ll never jump. Do you want to know a little secret? You can often fake being brave, and your mind will start to believe you. And then the possibilities are endless. Do it scared.
You won’t jive with every customer, and that’s okay. I had a new client complain that his marketing director didn’t like my writing. He went on to tell me in several paragraphs why he didn’t like it. Talk about a stab to the heart. After I got through the emotions, I took a step back and thought about this. All of my other clients were very pleased with my work. In fact, each of my clients has come to me with repeat business. I decided that as much as I would like to have another client, it wasn’t worth trying to force the relationship. The marketing director would never be happy with my work, and I would be under constant stress trying to meet his expectations. I picked up the phone and explained why we needed to cut ties. That was not an easy conversation to have. I did it scared.
Set realistic boundaries for yourself. You could literally work on or in your business 24/7. And when you work from home, like I do, work tends to follow you everywhere. Know when to close the laptop. Know that it’s okay to tell a client “no.” Be there for your family. Be there physically, and be there emotionally. Be present.
Be yourself. I have struggled with this a little bit. In my mind, I think that most people envision an editor older, hair up in a tight bun, glasses down on the end of her nose, and in a high-collared button-up blouse. I am none of those. Well, I do wear glasses when my contacts come out at night. But they aren’t at the end of my nose. As I have worked on establishing and perfecting my social media presence, I have had to fight with the thoughts of what people expect versus reality. Reality is that I am athletic, determined, an extroverted-introvert (there is such a thing), lover of nature, a mother and wife juggling more than you can imagine, and someone who loves a good laugh. You see, that doesn’t really sound like your typical editor. But I have decided to stick with reality and portray exactly who I am. I firmly believe that God has given me gifts and talents that only I can use in a particular way. They make up who I am. And there is only one me. Just because my hair isn’t up in a tight bun doesn’t mean I can’t compete with the best of ‘em.
Follow up with your clients on a regular basis. Nobody likes to be forgotten. If I find an article that I think a client would find interesting, I send it to them. If I see something on social media that I think would work for their business, I share it. I always send a thank you note after working on a large project with a client. This goes back to the excellent customer service. Remember your clients.
Don’t be afraid to say “no” to something out of your scope. When you are starting out, it’s hard to say “no” to potential clients. You are hungry for any sort of business. But don’t get caught in this trap. If the project is out of your scope, it won’t be good for either party. I had a client ask me to edit her 200 page family genealogy book. I was eager for the job and figured if I could edit five pages per night, I could get this done in a reasonable amount of time. Boy was I wrong. I learned that I am not a book editor. I swallowed my pride and decided that I would never accept a job like that in the future.
Never stop learning. My nightstand is piled high of marketing and business strategy books. My phone is full of podcasts that I subscribe to (I have my favorites). And I belong to a group of female entrepreneurs that meets monthly to talk strategy. You will never know it all. I believe you can learn something from every person you meet. Never stop learning.
Never stop networking. I taught a business workshop this year, and one of the key elements we worked on was developing your elevator pitch. You should have your elevator pitch memorized to the point that you can tailor it to any conversation you are having, with any person you meet. Be confident and be proud of the service you offer. After all, you are solving a problem.
Leave space for inspiration and creativity. For me this means getting outside. Running. Training for a race. This means turning off the podcast when I’m at the gym. This means taking the earbuds out to listen, really listen. This means reading a book for fun. I learned the hard way that when you dive too deep into the working and learning that there’s no longer space for creativity and inspiration. And these things are a requirement for owning a business. Stop and listen. You’ll be surprised at what you hear.
Get enough sleep. The amount of sleep is different for everyone. I am a nine hour person. I know, that probably seems absurd. But if I want a clear mind, I have to have my sleep. When I started my business, I was depriving myself of sleep. I felt like there weren’t enough hours in the day. I still feel like that, but I’ve learned that I can’t sacrifice sleep. With more sleep, I am actually able to accomplish more during the day. My mind is sharp. Get your sleep.
When you ask me a year from now what it’s like owning a business, it will probably look very different from today. I hope it does. I hope I continue to learn, change, and develop. I hope that I always remember my “why.” Because, after all, that’s why I started Erin’s Edits in the first place.
I'm Erin! I'm an MBA graduate with nearly 20 years of experience in career coaching, HR, small business management, and academia. I am an author, wife, mother, marathon runner, tri-athlete, and lover of the outdoors.