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The first year as an online business owner can be rocky, especially if you’re like me with high expectations and unrealistic goals to accomplish. 

Starting a new business was exciting and terrifying. I had always told people I would never be a business owner, “it just isn’t me.” 

Now looking back a year later, I dread the idea of ever having to work for someone else. I love the freedom that entrepreneurship allows. Last year my boyfriend and I spent 3 months in Florida, and I even took my laptop to the beach to work!

Even with all of the positive aspects that come with owning a business, there are a few things that I wish I would have taken more seriously before jumping in. Hindsight is 20/20, and we all think that we won’t be in that situation if it was our business. 

Patience and Preparation are Key

When I put in my notice at my salaried job, my main goal was to have four clients locked down within 3 months. This was my sweet spot giving me just enough income to be comfortable.

I was positive and naive, all at the same time going into pitching, thinking, “I have a lot of skills, and I really want to help people, I will have no trouble finding the right clients.” Boy, was I wrong. If you’re like me, finding good clients is ESSENTIAL to the success of your business. I won’t work with just anyone but I didn’t realize just how patient I would have to be. 

If you’re also like me (slightly impulsive and action-oriented), I would recommend not quitting your day job out of the blue with zero savings. If you’re still working your 9-5, slow down, save 3-6 months’ worth of expenses to give you some time to build your business because it WILL take this long.

Which brings me to my next point.

Know Who Your Ideal Client Is

One of the critical things I built my entire business around was knowing my ideal client and exactly who I wanted to work with. Well, maybe not exactly, but I at least knew who I didn’t want to work with and could spot pretty quickly if someone would have been a bad fit. 

I could have quickly filled up my clientele within the first 3 months, but would I have been happy? Probably not. Would they have been long term clients? Probably not. My philosophy on choosing clients is as follows:

When you’re a subcontractor, you choose who you want to work with just as equally as your clients choose who they want to hire. Many service-based business owners forget that you’re in control of this piece as well. This isn’t a job interview. This is a client relationship, and it should work for both parties involved. If you’re bringing on a client solely for the paycheck, it will be a mistake.

A year later, I can confidently say I love working with all of my clients. I truly feel that because I have been so strict about who I work with, this is the reason why I have not lost any clients and why my role keeps evolving with all of my clients.

Your Hourly Rate is Not Up For Negotiation

I will preface this by saying, this may differ depending on what you offer to clients. However, as an online business owner offering digital marketing services to my clients, my hourly rate is not up for negotiation. Yours should not be either.

Hear me out.  

This is not a salaried W-2 job. The original purpose of subcontract work is as follows:

  • A contractor does not need or receive detailed instructions on how the work should be done. 
  • Contractors generally provide their own tools, equipment, and materials and can hire employees or subcontractors themselves.
  • Contractors are responsible for their own benefits and employment taxes.

You can read more about the differences between an employee and a contractor here

The point is to emphasize that certain functions need to be considered when deciding on your hourly wage (expertise, taxes, and equipment). 

If a client is nickel and diming you, they probably don’t understand the value provided and the difference between an employee and contractor anyways. If a lead tries to negotiate my rate at all, I typically refer them elsewhere, as this is one of my major red flags.

Know What You’re Good At

When I first started out, I went into discovery calls saying, “Im a Virtual Assistant, and I will do EVERYTHING.” I wasn’t lying. I really would have taken any task handed to me at the time. To be honest, it made me sound desperate and gave the impression that I wasn’t an expert in my field. 

I’ve changed the story a bit now and here is how it typically works:

My name is Whitney, and I am passionate about content marketing, from strategy to execution. My agency background allows me to amplify your brand voice through a better understanding of how it is affected by all of the digital marketing channels!. I love helping business owners learn more about how they can take control of the conversation and turn that into real conversions! Let’s get to know each other!

This says a few things:

  1. I’m an expert in content marketing. I want to help your business develop a brand voice that resonates with your audience.
  2. Although I don’t offer my other skills directly, I use that working knowledge to enhance the work I provide.

Ultimately, I usually start working with my clients in some leg of their content. Through strategy sessions on digital marketing and content management, it often turns into a much more significant role.

Want to know more about how I became an online business owner? Read my full story here.

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