Exactly one year ago I quit my full time job and started my own drafting and design firm. After ten years of working for a few different great companies as a project manager and drafter, I decided that it was time to start my own business. This past year was full of challenges, but not once I regretted my decision.
During this time I’ve learned some valuable lessons that I want to share in this post. I’m writing this not as someone who has arrived and knows it all, but rather as a fellow designer on the journey of entrepreneurship.
Just Do It!
Not to sound like Shia LaBeouf, but JUST DO IT! There will never be a perfect time to make the jump into self-employment. We tend to overthink things. Sometimes you just have to go for it. Of course, I’m not talking about blindly quitting your job and hoping that somehow things will work out. They won’t! You have to have a plan in place, established connections and potential clients, but don’t wait for everything to be perfectly aligned.
Save, Save, Save…
Make sure you have some money saved! I’ve heard it somewhere that you should have at least three to nine months’ worth of expenses in your savings before making the jump. Believe me it’s true. When you are on your own and those paychecks don’t come on regular basis it will do two things to you. First, you will be glad that you saved up some money, if you did. Second, it will make you hustle to grow your business.
Being a solopreneur can get lonely. Sitting in front of the computer all day can get to you, even if you are an introvert like myself. Whether you like it or not, networking is extremely important. By networking, I mean connecting with other like minded people, especially other freelance drafters and designers. I never look at other designers as my competitors, but rather as someone I can network with. If you approach it with that mindset, it can lead to support, new leads and even joining forces to tackle bigger projects. You can read more on networking here.
Currently I’m committed to two mastermind groups and they benefit me greatly.
Never Stop Learning
I’m a firm believer in self-education. I think that once you stop learning, you stagnate as a person. This applies to every aspect of our lives, especially when it comes to business. Luckily, we live in an era of the internet, where learning is practically free and infinite. There are so many amazing resources online where you can improve your skills, even if you are an experienced designer and drafter.
I have put together a free toolbox with resources that I personally use on weekly basis to expand my knowledge on design, drafting and business. You can get your free copy of this eBook by subscribing to my blog below.
Prepare Not to be Understood
Sadly not everyone will support or approve of your decision, and that is ok! Not every person has that entrepreneurial bug in them. Some people will never understand it, but that shouldn’t stop you from following your dream!
Protect Your Work Space
If you work out of your house this is very important. You have to make clear boundaries as far as work hours, work space, schedule, etc. I wrote a lot on this specific topic in the two posts below.
You don’t want to skip on this one, believe me! Invest in a good external hard drive, cloud storage or whatever else you need to store your files. Last thing you want to happen is a deadline hanging over you with all files missing.
Learn to say NO
As you start your own business it’s so easy to jump on every opportunity and project that comes your way. It’s hard to say no as your are building your firm. Nonetheless, it’s important to keep the bigger picture and vision of your company in front of you. Is that the type of client you want to work with? Will that project undermine your integrity? Will taking on that project hinder your ability to take on future projects? These are the questions you must keep in mind as a visionary of your company.
Now that you don’t have to report to and impress “the boss”, it’s easy to stop caring and have a messy workstation, files saved in weird “temporary” folders on the computer (we all know that those “temporary” folders become permanent folders) and drawings scattered all over the place. For some it comes naturally, for others it’s a struggle, regardless staying organized is crucial to running a successful business. Keeping track of your business expenses, receipts, income, checks, files, etc., will help you in the long run and save you headache later.
Don’t Burn Bridges
When you are ready to venture on your own, as much as you may want to, don’t say something that you will regret later on. Burning bridges with your former boss and coworkers will not add any value to your business. Keeping healthy relationship with your former boss can actually help you grow your business through referrals and possible outsourcing opportunities.
Learn to Wear Multiple Hats
Owning your own firm means doing tasks that you never did before. At least in the beginning, you are the owner, accountant, marketer, drafter, designer and other positions you never even thought existed. Depending on your business growth and personal strengths, there will come a point when hiring or outsourcing some of these tasks will make more sense. Until then, get used to doing a lot of research.
I would love to hear your thoughts. Are you a freelancer? Do you own your own business? What lessons did you learn?