Dear Early Entrepreneur,
This is not a post that will give you six easy steps to business success. It will not provide four tips to pricing yourself properly or offer three ways to cope with difficult clients.
This, fellow entrepreneurs, is a post simply meant to relate.
Regardless of how you became a first-time entrepreneur, the early reality is the same. Solos with integrity, passion, and talent are the ones who hover in the shadows afraid to pronounce themselves as experts while the frauds with the opposite are charging insane rates and delivering crap.
What the hell?
You want to put yourself out there at the same high price — one you deserve — but you know you’re still learning and it makes you uncomfortable. The last thing you want to do is make a promise to a client who takes a chance on you and fail miserably. It’s a phobia of yours, actually.
Well, friend, I’m here to tell you that it gets better. Unfortunately, the feelings of inadequacy are growing pains of the truly successful. Why? Because the truly successful know what they don’t know. The truly successful are always learning, growing, and failing forward.
Early days are going to suck, I’m not going to lie. You’ll take on clients you’d like to strangle because they treat you like they’re doing you a favor for working with you … even though they sought you out. As much as those situations are awful, they will teach you how to negotiate, stand up for yourself, and price yourself.
Your talent will rise to the surface in your eyes and your doubt will melt away. When you walk away from those PITA clients, you’ll do so with renewed confidence and understanding that you truly have something to offer as an expert in your industry.
Each difficult circumstance will grow your business IQ. One day, you’ll find yourself speaking with authority to a prospective client and wonder where this new person came from. You’ll look back and see that this person emerged from the dues you paid selling yourself short.
This representative will have risen out of the ashes of feeling bad for quoting a high price only to quote a low one and grow resentful of the client for paying pennies.
I’m here to tell you that you’ll figure out what you should sell. Right now, you want to offer everything. You want to say ‘yes’ to anyone willing to pay for your services. That happens in the beginning, but it gets better. As you work with more and more clients (and you will because you’re good), you’ll recognize what you bring to the table that no one else does. You’ll start to sell yourself as a premium product because you are one.
The early days of being an entrepreneur aren’t glamorous. You’ll want to work 9–5 because you feel like you’re supposed to, so you’ll hit F5 on your favorite job board ad nauseum hoping to find your perfect fit. You’ll analyze and over-analyze potential projects as though you’re dating, trying to fit a square peg into a round hole because you’re desperate.
You’ll look at the rates you’re charging compared to the amount of time you have and recognize that it doesn’t add up to paying your bills. How will you ever make it work? The answer, friend, is that you’ll see what you’re worth and you will adjust.
Once you come out the other side, you’ll be in the exclusive club of business people who did what they had to do to truly make it. You’ll see you didn’t cut corners, cheat the system, or lie about your skills. Yes, you will have embarrassed yourself, cursed yourself, and cried for yourself. But you will have learned.
It’s all worth it.
In the end, it’s all worth it.
If you’re in the dark and despair of early entrepreneurism, chin up. Know you’re on you’re way and that it gets better. Lean on your support system, ingest wisdom, and drink lots of wine. Once it’s all over, you’ll have a sense of pride you didn’t think possible because you had the balls to do what so many others can’t. You will have put yourself on the line … and you will have won.