Happy Independence Day America! I'm personally celebrating because I live in a nation of free thinking and versatile people. People that can choose to marry who we wish, when we wish, wearing what we wish. We also have the freedom to start our own businesses and follow any career path we desire. Three days ago was the one year anniversary for Your Last Hurrah. I have officially been a business owner for one year. It's a proud moment, and I've learned so much about standing on my own two feet. The independence I've found in doing things my own way has not come without a learning curve. It's funny that even when you take ownership over something, you still have to condition yourself to allow yourself to do it your own way. I believe the challenges I've experienced and lessons I've learned can help others. Whether you are planning a wedding, starting a business or just being an free thinker I'm hoping my experiences can help you.
10 THINGS I LEARNED WHILE BECOMING INDEPENDENT
1. Word of Mouth is better than Advertising.
This may be the exact opposite of what your instincts tell you, but believe me on this one. You think you have this great new product or service and obviously need everyone to hear about it. No. You actually have the first draft of something that needs to be honed and given lots of love. During that process I suggest working for free. Not for long but just enough to polish yourself and what you are selling. I planned and coordinated a wedding for free last year. It took a lot of time and effort. In return I gained experience, positive reviews, photos and the word of mouth buzz that validated me as a real Wedding Planner. Some of those reviews were put on Yelp, which landed me two of the wonderful paying customers I'm currently working with. When you organically let the word get out through Social Media, friends and family it gets to less people, but with more impact.
2. Not everyone will like you.
This is a hard concept to grasp no matter what business you're in. Over the last year I have met with two brides that I was sure loved me. I arrived early to show I was punctual and prepared. I wore casual dresses with heels to show I was professional but approachable. I had questionnaires, contracts and contact information neatly printed for them to review. I answered countless questions and even offered a price cutting deal. They did not hire me. I still don't know why. Maybe I had something stuck in my teeth, maybe they didn't like my company name, maybe they just thought I was annoying. Who knows? Not me. What I do know is the more effort I spend deciphering why I was not chosen, the less I have available to spend on the positive projects I have going on. Do your best, and if someone looks you over, it's their loss.
3. Your friends will have lots opinions.
Take what your friends think with a grain of salt. Everyone has an opinion on what kind of food, music, dress, etc. you should have at your wedding. Just like everyone has an opinion on what to name your business, how to design the website, how to spend your money, who to hire. They are (hopefully) doing it from a place of love, but at the end of the day it's yours. Your business, your wedding, your project, so don't feel the need to answer to anyone. Nod and smile, then do what you want!
4. The ones you love the most may not support you the most.
Do not be concerned if the people closest to you are hesitant to jump on board. I was originally offended, but realized after my boyfriend spent months urging me to slow down, spend less and build slow that he was right. I was so excited to have something of my own, I went a bit off the deep end. As I started gaining clients and earning back some of my initial investment I could see my family and friends start to take it more seriously. Don't get upset if they are not as zealous as you.
5. You will want to give up.
Four months after I completed my first wedding (which was the freebie I mentioned earlier), I wanted to give up. I had officially been a business owner for six months with no paying customers. I was starting to doubt myself and think I'd made a mistake. I didn't quit though. Instead I made a plan. I tackled Facebook with fun and interesting posts, attended a wedding expo with a co-worker and handed out business cards at local shops. I made a promise to do something positive toward my goal twice a week. It kept me task oriented and busy. All of a sudden I booked three weddings in a matter of a month. When it rains it pours. In the droughts, just keep trying.
6. Your job doesn't care.
In order to pay my bills and fund my business expenses I serve tables and bartend. It's not glamorous, but it's relatively steady money and pays my bills with some left over. I had this fairy tale thought in my head that when things began rolling they would work around a schedule of my choice and give me off the days I request because I had a business. Ha Ha Ha. I was wrong. They have a restaurant to run and don't care what my needs are. I have learned to juggle early mornings, late nights, taking wedding calls on my breaks and making it work. I'm not sharing this part of it for a pity party but more of a wake up call that flexibility is key.
7. You will compare yourself to everyone else.
I would find myself green with envy after seeing how many followers different blogs had, or weddings booked. People are different and accomplishments come in different packages. Concentrate on being the best you can be at this moment.
8. Learning is not done in a classroom.
When you own your own business, you learn things in the weirdest places. I have learned about licensing and the difference between sole proprietorship from an older gentleman at City Hall while waiting to file. I learned about makeup from a fabulous guy that owns a local clothing and accessories shop in my neighborhood. Everywhere I go I pick up a trick, a tip or an idea that molds me helps expand my imagination and broaden my experience. I have a mission to learn about all different faucets of my industry and just by getting out and talking to people it has opened my mind to creativity. I encourage you to do two things when starting a new project. The first is figuring out a leader in that industry and asking to take them to coffee. The random conversation may spark a great idea and get you going in the right direction. My second suggestion is heading to a dollar bookstore and spending $20 dollars. I did this when I first started and spent weeks reading and ogling pretty pictures of wedding related topics. It inspired me to start this blog.
9. No laptops in bed.
Your bed is for sleeping, cuddling and making love. That's it. Once you start bringing your work into your bed it creates competition for your attention and resentment to your new project.
10. You can do it.
Millions of people have started businesses, completed huge projects and planned glamorous events. Why can't I? Why can't you? We can. If you want to start something, I totally encourage you. The last year has evolved me in so many ways. I now appreciate small victories. I prepare and analyse situations closer because they are mine alone to take ownership over. I hope you have the chance to feel the same empowerment and accomplishment I have had the privilege to feel.
Sometimes when I'm serving people Ice Teas and Crab Legs, being a regular old server at a regular old restaurant I feel like I'm walking around with a really cool secret. A secret that I'm quietly, consistently and lovingly building a business that I'm incredibly proud of. I can't wait until next year, when I have even more knowledge and stories to share.
Please comment below with your personal experiences of triumph of being independent and share any tips that might be helpful for myself or others.