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3 Critical business tips I would share with ‘7-years-ago’ me if I had a time machine

Table of ContentsUpdated Apr 01, 2015

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.

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:

“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:

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:

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.

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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Written by Preston Lee

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Preston Lee is the founder of Millo where he and his team have been helping freelancers thrive for over a decade. His advice has been featured by Entrepreneur, Inc, Forbes, Adobe, and many more.

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  1. Nikon Nik says:

    Many many thanks for sharing with us the great tips. The Nice and very useful article you posted. Thanks for sharing such an informative article with us.

  2. Jenny Goring says:

    I’m in the early stages of creating a business and I really appreciate your insights. Thanks for sharing!

  3. I would think about redoing the title, it makes no sense and tells me the article is probably not going to either…

    1. Preston D Lee says:

      Kevin, thanks for the feedback. I totally understand. Time travel gets complicated. 😉

  4. Jerome tanibata says:

    Great article, Preston. There’s one thing I would tell my younger self — Don’t try to do everything yourself. Find the right people to work with collaborate.

    1. Preston D Lee says:

      Totally agree. In fact, next week, we’re rolling out an article about outsourcing tasks you can’t or don’t want to do yourself. Stay tuned. 🙂 Thanks for sharing!

      1. Jerome tanibata says:

        Awesome! I’ll be keeping an eye out for that one!

    2. I also agree. one person can work maximum 24 hrs a day with all efforts but if I have 3 efficient people work can be done 24X3 hrs a day. Which means more flow in work with more efficiency and more varieties.

  5. Nelson Bates says:

    I really like the “no short-cuts” part. That’s the truth.

    I would tell myself, ..slow and steady for two years, (at least). That’s the minimum time to work on a business before you’ll know where to take it.

    1. Preston D Lee says:

      I agree with that, Nelson. But spend those two years wisely or you’ll find yourself with an expensive hobby at the end. 🙂

  6. Jason Vassallo says:

    FANTASTIC Insights Preston Thank you for the amazing info!

    1. Preston D Lee says:

      Glad you enjoyed it, Jason. Cheers.

  7. I would have told myself”never stop creating work–no matter what was going on”. i still have so much left undrawn that I am not sure if I have enough time left to get it all out. This is why I intend to get it all out of my system within the time I have.

    1. Preston D Lee says:

      It’s so true, Dillard. I totally agree. Sometimes we get so busy building our business, we stop creating. I know I’m guilty of it too. Thanks for sharing.

  8. A sub-conscious mind-set has been drummed into my head from my dad who was in retail.

    Under-promise and owner-deliver.

    1. Preston D Lee says:

      So true. Thanks, Vana!