7 Lessons I Learned from One Amazing Year in Business
Exactly one year ago, I decided to start telling people on Instagram that I had a new business. That same day, I had my first call with a potential client (just casually like: oh, sure lemme check my schedule... are you free to chat like NOW?), and it started the wave of madness that propelled my business into what it is today.
To be completely honest, ONE YEAR has felt like three years, squished into a really tiny space.
Have you ever ridden inside of the St. Louis Arch? Kinda like that. Or like the winding stairways of the Duomo in Florence: you’re getting dizzy, climbing, out of breath, but the space is too small to stop and take a break, so you keep going.
While I’m SUPER grateful for the amount of growth that’s happened (hello, God, I see you there), I’ve learned so many lessons along the way that have shaped my business to look entirely different today than it did one year ago.
Today I want to share these lessons with you in the hope that, wherever you are in your business, it will inspire you to move forward with the faith that you are exactly where you need to be, and nothing is holding you back from where you want to go.
I mean, if I can do it, YOU DEFINITELY CAN. Let’s get into it!
7 Lessons from My First Year in Business
The smallest niche is YOU.
Everyone always says “the riches are in the niches.” As a copywriter, I totally agree. If you don’t get specific, you won’t know exactly who you’re speaking to, and that makes for a buncha RANDOM copy instead of copy that actually converts. But, you guys: at the beginning of my biz, that phrase constantly made me come to a full stop. It hung me up. Was I specific enough? Did I choose the right niche? Is the competition too stiff in this corner of the copy world? Instead, focus on this: that passion God placed in you? It’s not an accident. Anyone can do what you do, no matter your niche, but nobody can do it like you can.
So, if the whole “niche” thing’s got ya down, start with these questions instead:
What do my clients/customers (or friends/family) rave about? What do they say is different about working with me? What am I obsessed with? How can other people relate with that? What would it look like to show up, fully as myself today? How cool would it be for people to pay me for being me?
It’s never too early to invest in education.
Oh LAWD, the education world. People have some opinions on this, lemme tell ya.
Here’s what I know: there is education out there for you that will move you forward, you just have to get clarity on what’s right for you.
Think about this: will this make me better at what I’m doing now, or will this propel me somewhere I couldn’t get on my own? Do I admire this educator? Like, their business, how they run it, how they run their life? Is this educator going to encourage me where I am or challenge me to do things differently?
There’s no right or wrong answer to these questions, but if you think deeply about each one, you’ll be able to better discern which opportunities are right for you right now.
You might be saying, “Jess, I can’t afford that!” To me, when someone says “I can’t afford it” that really means “I can afford to not reach that result.” It means the outcome is not important to you (in relation to everything else you’ve prioritized), or you don’t actually believe you can get there. What will it cost you not to do it? A whole year of staying stagnant? Spinning your wheels trying to figure out a path when someone’s already mapped it out for you?
My friends Pete and Jordan have an awesome blog post on why you should invest in education. It includes helpful tips for every level of business, so check it out!
The worst business idea is the one you say nothing about.
Words matter, but mostly because the right words, the ones that give you confidence and clarity, actually get you talking.
Find the words that give you the courage and tools to be consistent, then run with them.
If you find yourself still reluctant, study your mindset and re-evaluate your message. There’s plenty of room for multiple ideas, approaches, leaders, but nobody can get behind you to be your tribe and your champion if you stay silent out of fear or confusion.
Hire someone… yesterday.
There is someone out there who can care about your business and your people as much as you. Not everyone in the world wants to be a CEO, and it’s your job to find the people who get FIRED UP about what bogs you down. When you find them LOCK ‘EM UP.
Okay, just kidding, but keep them around and treat them well. They will help you take your business even further than you could ever do on your own.
Community is everything.
I’m not talking about that kind of *airquotes* community that really only wants something from each other. I’m talking cry-on-Marco-Polo-with-no-makeup kind of community. I’m talking about finding the people who can see your mess and encourage you to move forward in the very same breath. How do you find this community?
Well, honest answer: I’m still working on it. But, so far, for me it looks like giving what I want to receive. I have to be the friend I want to see in the world before I can ever find those people. It doesn’t happen instantly, but it does happen.
It’s also important to know that all friendships and community won’t look identical.
As my friend Brianne says, “Relationships are people-growing machines.”
Use that filter to make sure your friendships are serving their purpose - AND to make sure you’re serving your purpose in your friendships. If you try to do this whole business thing WITHOUT community, you’ll end up crying on the floor after a coaching call for 4 hours with only your dog licking up your puddle of tears, because they’re salty. Not that I’m speaking from experience, or anything.
Be a student of questions.
In the creative entrepreneur industry, sometimes we work so hard to prove ourselves as “experts” that we forget the secret to everything is in the questions our tribe members are asking. Who cares how to manage Tailwind Tribes if your people are asking how to start a Pinterest business account?
Truly listen to what your people are asking.
WRITE THE QUESTIONS DOWN.
Then ask yourself some questions about those questions.
What does this question reveal about my audience? Where are they now? Where do they want to be? Does this question reveal a lack of skill, knowledge, or a lack of confidence to overcome an obstacle? Keep a log of these questions and pull directly from them for content. Good luck ever making the excuse “I don’t know what my audience wants to hea” again.
Some bonus lessons:
I don’t know who needs to hear this, but...
Activate “unsend” feature in gmail, NOW. You have 30 seconds to reverse your epic fails and accidental sends. You’re welcome.
Choose a task management system, and stick with it. There will be a different one people swear by, there will be a course to master it, there will be a way to migrate everything over in two-shakes-of-a-lamb’s-tail, but your business will thrive when you choose what works and stick with it. Don’t waste your time trying to find the unicorn of tools. YOU ARE YOUR OWN UNICORN. Ability to take action matters more than any tool you can find. Trust me.
Don’t try to start a YouTube channel during literally your busiest week in your business (ever). Not that I’ve ever done that (ummmm….). If you do, it may look ambitious, but it’s safe to say you’re hiding from something. On that same note, keep an eye out for procrastination and desperation. If you follow it, you can likely find your fear. The sooner you find it, the sooner you accept it and can move forward together.
Action Step: Make note of a big dream. Write it down. Then, take that momentum of courage and send it to me or tag me (@jessjordana) on Instagram!