Between freelancing and running Millo, I’ve been “in business” for over seven years now. I know that’s not much for some people, but for me, I feel pretty blessed to have reached lucky number 7.
Looking back on the last 7 years got me thinking: what business tips would I share with myself seven years ago if I had a time-machine?
I honestly believe if I had known these three things seven years ago, I could have avoided some serious heartbreak, frustration, or depression around building a business.
There’s so much more I’ll actually tell myself when time machines officially hit the market. But for now, here are 3 of my top business picks.
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Tell me what you would do for your business with a time machine by leaving a comment.
1. There are no shortcuts (except one).
Everyone is looking for a shortcut in business. How do I “hack” my SEO? How do I convince clients to call me? How do I charge more without making any improvements?
There are no real, lasting shortcuts. Except one.
Here’s the singular “shortcut” I have found to be successful over the years: connect with the right people and then work hard to help them succeed.
Zig Ziglar, famed author and motivational speaker put it best when he said:
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“You can have everything in life you want, if you will just help enough other people get what they want.”
You’ll be amazed at the kind of karma that will come back to you in business when you work hard to help others succeed at their goals.
Read more on helping your way to success:
- How I grow my business through networking (from a guy who hates “networking”)
- The golden networking tip most freelancers overlook
2. A portfolio is not a business.
Like most freelancers, what’s the first thing I did when I decided to start freelancing?
I built my portfolio.
And while this is a critical step, a portfolio is not a business model.
What I should have cared as much about as I did my portfolio was a business plan. How was I going to find clients? What kinds of margins did I need to make in order to freelance full-time? How would I ensure clients kept coming back?
Even if you’re not freelancing, this principle applies. A blog?…not a business. A YouTube channel?…not a business. An ebook?…still not a business.
If you want to jumpstart your efforts as a freelancer or entrepreneur, start with a real business plan.
Here are a few posts to get you started:
- 17 Tips for Effective Freelance Business Planning
- Take care of your design business, and it will take care of you
3. There’s a huge difference between a hobby and a business.
Here’s the biggest, most important difference between a business and a hobby: cashflow.
I know it sounds simple, but I’ve seen it over and over again: “entrepreneurs” who think they’re running a business when really they just have a very time-consuming hobby.
You might think that spending 20 hours a week on something makes it a business.
Or maybe because you spend money each month on your hobby, you’ve started thinking it’s a business.
But until you are cashflow positive, you don’t have a business on your hands, you have a hobby. And, yes, I feel this way about thousands of startups around the world who still aren’t cashflow positive. Some of these hobbies, when you think about it that way, are extremely expensive.
- How I took my design hobby to the next level and created a business
- The best business advice I ever received and what I did about it
- Why some freelance designers become rich while others don’t
Ok, back to the future
There you have it. Three critical pieces of advice I would give myself if I could travel back 7 years in a time machine. I’d love to hear what you would tell yourself and the genesis of your business-building journey.
Leave a comment and, together, let’s build a huge list of advice for our past selves.
That way, we’ll be ready when the first time machine is released to the general public. 🙂
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