When I graduated from college, no one would hire me, so I decided to create my own job. It seemed like the perfect idea, right?
And it was! Although starting a business was probably the best decision I ever made, there are days things did not go so well! I "quit" or "fired myself" at least once a month when I first opened my piano studio. I have concluded that while it's great to be your own boss, it can be one of the most easy and difficult things to do!
With four years and over 5,000 piano and voice lessons under my belt, I no longer "quit" my job each week. Thankfully, I have a waiting list for people who would like to join my studio clientele. However, I can still remember the many days of working one day a week and praying for my phone to ring.
Starting a business is great, but if only I knew then what I know now! Things would be different...MUCH DIFFERENT!
While I am not a business guru, I was able to successfully launch a small business debt free.
Here are several "Things I Wish I Knew Before Starting A Business":
1. You can say "NO"!
I started my business from the ground up! I had no previous clients, so building clientele was a little hard to gauge in the beginning. When I first started my business, I accepted every single person because I felt like I couldn't turn down any business. I thought it was crazy to turn down any client, because that's basically turning down money. I accepted every single client that reached out to me! I catered to their schedules, and fortunately, I began to see a "profit", but my studio did not have stability! I was also always "overbooked" and I had no time to prepare for my clients or do anything! Because I remembered when I only had 2 clients per week, I thought I could not say no! Now that I have a more concrete schedule, I am able to say "NO" and not feel bad about it! In the end, my students are able to have a more refreshed teacher and music lesson!
2. Working For Yourself Means You Have a Very Flexible/Inflexible Schedule
For some reason, people think that because you work for yourself you have all the time in the world. Unfortunately, you really don't. Sometimes you really don't have time to take a 3-hour lunch break just because you work for yourself. Just because you don't have a boss on your back doesn't mean you can play around all day. In fact, self-employment may require you to work more than the average 9 to 5. For example, I normally accept clients from 12pm-7pm. During the time I accept my clients, I cannot focus on desk work, emails, phone calls, etc. So my desk work has to be done before the clients actually arrive. This means whatever I need to have for those clients has to be finished before they arrive as well. I don't work everyday, but even on my off days I often have to make "business related" decisions. I really wish I knew "working for yourself" means you are ALWAYS WORKING. MY SCHEDULE IS VERY FLEXIBLE, BUT INFLEXIBLE!
3. You May Not Get Paid
I've heard many people say when you start a business make sure you "pay yourself first." While this is true, there is a catch. Depending on what type of business you start, you should consider, what if you don't make a profit one week!? Things happen! Starting a "service oriented" business is not the same as being a multilevel marketing entrepreneur where you are guaranteed a check as long as you bring someone else along. When you start a business from the ground up, you can never be fully compensated for the countless hours and time you put into your business. In order to make sure you always get paid, your business structure and policies must be very solid. I really wish someone would have told me, in the beginning YOU MAY NOT GET PAID!
4. You Must Have A Set Work Schedule
Restated, people that are serious about self-employment are not sitting around the house all day doing nothing. Normally, when I am not busy working with my clients , I am busy being the secretary, treasurer, graphic designer, accountant, and sometimes even the janitor for my business. Because I meet with 30, sometimes 40 people every week, there is ALWAYS something to do. Having a strict schedule keeps me from over booking myself, and it helps me make sure I am able to serve my clients to the best of my ability. When I first started my business, I had many cancellations, and no call no shows. I was able to weed them out by requiring a credit card on file before I schedule an appointment. Some businesses even allow clients to make their own appointments, and it works very well! Unfortunately, that did not work for me either. Whatever you decide to do, you must have a set work schedule, and be held accountable for each hour of the day, because there is always work to do!
5. You Need a Target Audience
When I first started my business I think I was just glad to get anyone as a client. Now there are specific age groups I target. I also implemented a cognitive skills test for each age level to help define my target audience. Finding my niche market helped me to not waste time or money on senseless forms of advertising. Once I found out majority of my clients came from "Word of Mouth" advertising, I did not waste time or money having physical brochures printed. In fact, I haven't done a brochure since I first started. Most of my clients are very tech savvy, so I try to implement technology almost any chance I get. Recognizing your target audience will also make it very easy to grow your business and have much success in the beginning!
All in all, there is so much I've learned from being an entrepreneur. The best thing about starting a business is I get to do something I actually like to do! I will definitely have to share my other experiences in a part 2!
Phylicia Hollis is a professionally trained musician, singer, and educator. She is a highly sought after vocal coach that has worked in various capacities of the music and entertainment industry.