What I Wish I Knew About Starting a Business

starting-a-business

Whether you want to launch the next Google or simply take your freelance career full-time, starting a business will probably be one of the hardest things you ever do. Luckily, if you do it right, it will also be one of the most rewarding.

With more than 543,000 new businesses starting every month, there are plenty of people who have gone through the struggle and can shed light on the path ahead.

More than 50 entrepreneurs, freelancers, and other business owners shared the biggest challenges they faced when starting a business; below are the five lessons they wish they hadn’t learned the hard way.

Lesson 1: It Will Cost More Than You Think

“When you have a nine to five job, you take for granted how little money you spend during the work week,” said Jason Parks, founder of The Media Captain. “Once I went out on my own to meet clients for lunch, to send thank you cards, to fill up the gas tank — all of the expenses of running my own business were a real eye opener.”

Parks explained that while his finances have been impacted positively by starting his own business, it definitely wasn’t always the case. “If I could give my past self some advice, I would say to be aware of the expenses of running your own business and make sure you are on a lean budget when you start,” he admitted.

Lesson 2: Be Prepared to Sell Yourself

Colin Drake, a CFP who left a lucrative and comfortable job as a financial planner to start
his own wealth management business, had no idea how much he’d have to market his service to get paying clients.

“While you can be totally excellent at your craft, the true skill set you most need when you start your own business is marketing skills,” Drake said. “Until you have people sitting in front of you for whom you can deliver your skill set, that expertise is of little use.”

Lesson 3: There Are No Vacation Days

In the first year of running Crown & Caliber, Hamilton Powell regularly worked 100- hour weeks. “The huge opportunity cost of spending time away from friends and family is something I didn’t quite understand at first,” he said.

Powell said that when you run your own business, you never stop thinking about it. “Va-cations, time off, weekends — you never stop,” he confessed, adding, “I ended up having to put a notepad and pen next to my bed so I could capture thoughts that were keeping me up.”

“Many people start a business because they want to have more control over their time. Don’t be delusional — nothing could be further from the truth.”

Lesson 4: You Will Need Help — Hire Good People

“I opened my first fitness studio at the age of 23,” said Sarah Jacoby, owner of Studio 9. “For the first year, I taught every class myself.”

Within three years, Jacoby expanded her small, one room studio to three, separate large studios. Today she runs a strong business with no debt and a healthy following. But that doesn’t mean she wouldn’t do things differently if given the chance.

“I would have loved if someone had sat me down and said ‘OK, additional employees and instructors are going to be necessary one day, but they will be the most difficult aspect of your business. Find great employees, pay them well and keep them happy.’”

Lesson 5: Don’t Be Afraid to Fail

Aaron Lin founded ZOOM Articles after months of obsessing over the idea of starting his own business — and the possibility of failing at it. “I wish that I would’ve known to not scare so easy,” said Lin.

That fear was only stunting his future success. “After months of procrastinating, I set my-self a strict deadline and kept reminding myself about all of the opportunities I was missing if I kept this up … being afraid in the first place was one of my biggest regrets, primarily be-cause I could’ve gotten a few extra months of exposure and experience.”
That doesn’t mean things were easy for Lin as he worked to ramp up his business. “When I was just starting out, there were days that all I could afford to eat for a whole week was a loaf of plain bread, some chopped up lettuce, and a few slices of processed cheese — the ones that resemble plastic,” he said. “It wasn’t easy, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

The first year of a business is often the most critical factor in whether the business succeeds or fails. Check out the infographic, “The 5 Mistakes Entrepreneurs Make in the First Year” to learn from others before you begin.