A lot of you know my story. I was a first year teacher 5 years ago when the economy went south and all of the new teachers were let go. My wife and I had a baby at home and it was important to us that one of us be home with the baby (and the 4 year old), so my wife went back to work full time and I was about to become a stay at home dad.
I love my boys, but it was driving me crazy not having anything “productive” to do so I started looking for ways that I could earn an income from home. I started selling things online and made some money, but the most important thing that I was doing was learning. I learned all about designing websites and WordPress. I learned about social media marketing. I learned about search engine optimization. If there was a class that I could take or a blog that I could read on anything internet marketing related, I took advantage of it. I was like a sponge.
I ended up with a couple of clients almost by accident, so I decided that I would turn my little hobby into a business. Of course, as this was my first time starting a business, I made some mistakes along the way. Here are some of the mistakes that I made and I hope that you are able to learn from them.
1. Be Careful What You Name Yourself
A business name is a pretty big deal. There is the logo, the branding, the domain name, just to name a few of the things that need to go into picking your business name. Unfortunately, when I was choosing a name for my business it was way back when I was selling stuff online and nobody saw my business name. I only really needed it to file some paperwork and get a business bank account for tax reasons.
I didn’t spend much time coming up with a name and ended up choosing the horrible Square One Web Solutions. Bad for several reasons – it gives no idea what I did, it was hard to say, it was long – the worst reason was that there were several other Square One Web Solutions out there. Picking a domain name was a bit of a nightmare, and I ended up with sq1websolutions.com. Try telling that to someone over the phone a few times and you will see why this was such a bad domain name!
When we chose the name Two Cans Media, it was after a massive search for easy domain names. It cost a bit to buy a premium domain, but it is so much easier to tell people what my domain name is, and I just really like the name and the image that it entails. When my wife saw the domain and told me the idea for the name, I was hooked. It was a couple weeklong process, but it was definitely worth the effort. And if you can spare yourself the pain in the butt of changing your business name (and domain, and email address, and bank account, and incorporating, etc.) you will be happy that you did.
Lesson: Take your time, choose your name wisely, and look for a domain name before you make your choice.
2. Don’t wait for customers to come to you.
This one was tough for me. I’m an introvert and sales is not my favorite thing to do. And as I said above, I kind of fell into my first couple of clients, so I thought it was going to be super easy to get more clients. Wrong about that one. It took months of frustration and dejection before I finally got off of my butt and started doing something about it. For me, this was a bit out of my comfort zone, but I joined a networking group called BNI. When I look back, this was when I started taking my business seriously, and this is where I would say that my hobby actually became a business.
Besides the referrals that came in through the networking group, I also started to build a network of other business professionals that I knew and trusted. I now know and have a relationship with a great CPA, a very intimidating business lawyer, a benefits broker, a financial planner, a printer, and an IT provider. Now, not only do we refer business back and forth, but when I have a question about my business, I have someone I trust that I can ask. Having this network has been a huge blessing for me in my business as I incorporated, did business taxes for the first time, set up my networking, etc.
Lesson: Get out there and get to know other professionals and build a network of people you know and trust.
3. Balance your time
As a business owner, it is all too easy to spend too much time working on your business. I struggled with this early and I thought my wife was going to kill me. We have managed to get a much better balance now, after many conversations along the way.
Some of the things that have helped me to get to this balance (I work from home, so if you work out of the home, this may not be as helpful for you) was thinking about how I could get the most bang for my buck with my time. Up until this year, I had my son at home with me most of the time. We had turned a bedroom of our house into an office for me to use to do my work in. However, I found that I was not able to get very much done in my office when it was just my son and me at home.
I decided to move my computer (it’s a laptop, so it was an easy move) out to the dining room table to do most of my work. That way when my son was watching a television show I could get 30 minutes of work done without leaving him to get into whatever kinds of mischief that he wanted to get into. It also meant that I was able to take care of short tasks without leaving my son alone. I had to get very good at time management and I had to be very productive in short periods of time, but I made it work for my business and my family.
Lesson: You need to figure out what will work best for your business and your family – remember it is your family that you are working for.