Confession: I am a serial entrepreneur. Yes, I worked off and on through my adult years as an RN in various emergency rooms and operating rooms, and yes, I loved nursing. But a typical shift in any job often proved cumbersome. As a mom, I wanted to be at home and offer my children an idyllic childhood. What to do, what to do…I decided to hire myself!
My trek through the no man’s land of self-employment began innocently enough. I published a nonprofit newsletter for three years, and grew it into a 30+ page monthly magazine. Becoming a graphic designer and publishing corporate newsletters and brochures proved to be just a step forward. Call me crazy, but I was hooked. I loved the challenge of taking on a new enterprise and building it into a growing concern. Through the years I had several businesses: I was a bead artist and sold handmade beads at trade shows nationwide; I became a travel agent; I became a MLM rep for a leading skincare company; I co-owned an expo company promoting crafters an other entrepreneurs. Now I am publishing books for teens. Along the way I learned a thing or two.
Ready to embark on this adventure of directing your own life? My number one tip is a simple one. Believe in the magic of the journey. Many a nurse when I worked part time in surgery would wistfully say, “It must be nice, traveling all over the country selling beads.” It was nice. But they never dared stepping out from the comfort of a 40 hour week into the uncertainties of adventure. You must believe in the magic of the journey. I worked hard at both nursing and building a bead business, often working much longer hours than any of my nursing buddies, and while they envied the glamour of my life, they never wanted to embrace the vagaries of life on the road.
Second, you must fuel your passion. Choose an endeavor you enjoy. You can’t sell hair extensions if you love short hair. I know. It sounds too mundane to warrant space on the page, but I see it over and over again: people selling themselves into a business for which there exists no spark of joie de vivre. The average client or customer has a built-in BS meter, and instinctively pulls away from a sales pitch. If you’re not in love with what you do, you’re embarking on a solo expedition, and it will prove lonely and disappointing in the long run.
Learn, learn, learn. My third tip exists as a maxim for all of life. Learn your craft. Learn the tax laws. Learn how to sell effectively, saying just a little while saying all the right things. Accept that a lifelong date with trends and new skill sets exist as a part of the journey, a place to hang your hat each night. If you don’t learn and adapt, your journey will be cut short.
My fourth tip either lights your eyes or causes you to cringe. Connect with people. This is an age of instant communication and social platforms transforming the way business is conducted. Brick and mortar businesses struggle to compete with online entities. Support groups, conferences, other entrepreneurs form a nest from which you draw ideas and leads. If you see yourself as an introvert, pull up your big girl panties and join in. If you see yourself as an extrovert, be careful about overwhelming others. Establish an online presence and form connections.
Tip #5: Read daily. Read classics. Read memoirs. Read nonfiction. Read great writers. Think about when you attended high school or college literature courses. You were assigned masters of their craft, and it sharpened your own communication. A steady diet of light reading as an adult dulls those instincts.
My next tip, number six, travels hand in hand with reading. Write daily. Keep a journal, write lists, work on your memoir, or just pen a missive to someone you know. Writing is a necessary complement in the process of growing your communication skills. Learn how to weed out the intransitive verbs, and insert words with a punch. Craft sentences an English teacher would want to read. Your verbal communication earns an overhaul in the process.
Last but not least: Grow your self-discipline. If you can’t make a list and force yourself to accomplish a day’s work, you cannot hire yourself and expect a living wage. Time management, organizing and prioritizing tasks, creating a product or offering a service all require putting the pedal to the medal. You have to make miles each day on this trip of a lifetime. Stay too long at an oasis along the way, and you’ll find yourself lost in a labyrinth of trying to catch up or rejuvenate your business. A strong work ethic is a hallmark of any entrepreneur.
If this resonates with you, share your experiences in the comments. If you want more encouragement, reach out. I freely admit I am old by some standards. My parent’s generation turned 70 and sat at home waiting to die. Instead, I’m starting yet another business and tickled pink to be on the road again. I absolutely love this journey of life, and expect my writing career to be more fun than a barrel of monkeys! Excuse the outdated pun. I’d love to share this journey with you.