I’d always wanted to be a freelancer, but I had to wait years while I got my finances straight. I realized later I could have been doing a ton to get ready for my business while my cash settled. Because it takes more than just money to run a business.
If you’re like the many folks who are still saving your money, there’s still plenty you can be doing now to make your business thrive. Here are five skills I’d wish I’d honed before I started my business.
1. Time Management
It should come as no surprise to you that once you start a business, you will have very little time for anything else, particularly at first. Something few people know is that often the business of your business takes up a lot more of your time than creating the products or services you provide.
And if you’re anything like me, you will want to get every detail right, which means you’ll probably spend way too much time on way too many things, leaving you little time for friends, family or even lunch. What’s a girl to do?
Start practicing your time management skills now. Set timers for tasks. Put your appointments on a calendar. Research and find the systems that work for you and put them into effect now. That way, when you’re meeting with graphic designers, interviewing prospective employees and reviewing lease contracts, you’ll still be setting aside time for haircuts, grocery shopping and getting your actual work done.
You’ve got an afternoon blessedly free, and you’ve planned to spend it being creative — coming up with your next big product or project. But come 6:30 p.m. you haven’t done much besides answer your emails, check Facebook and clean your fridge (which, to be fair, needed to be done).
The problem is, if you set aside time to do one thing, you probably had a pretty good reason. Discipline involves following through even when you’re feeling distracted or less-than-motivated.
A good way to work on this now is to practice discipline with something you’re already committed to, like going to the gym, playing an instrument or learning a language. Set aside a time and follow through, even if it means rolling into the gym, throwing on your sweats and slowly walking on the treadmill. Show yourself you can count on you.
Remember that fridge you got cleaned when you were supposed to be brainstorming your next big business move? That’s a clear issue of prioritizing, and it’s something most of us struggle with, which is why our to-do lists often become prisons or sources of shame.
There is no need to feel this way. The first thing to understand is this: It is never all going to get done. What you must do, instead, is answer the question: What needs to get done today?
There are plenty of ways to practice this, but one I like is choosing three chores or things on my to-do list that must get done. This keeps me focused and feeling less overwhelmed. While there will probably be many more things to get done when you run your business, knowing that you’ve been consistently getting those three things done every day will give you confidence and keep you moving.
When I started my business, I didn’t trust anyone to do what I could do, even if it was something I would have to learn from scratch, like coding or business taxes. But the amount of time I spent learning those things cut drastically into the amount of time I could have spent providing services that make me actual money.
It’s a balancing act, delegation. Part of it is knowing your worth and part of it is trusting someone else to do what you could probably do. An easy way to practice this is asking friends and family for help with projects and chores you think no one can handle but you.
Another thing to do before you start a business is get quotes from other professionals and compare that to how much time you’d have to spend doing it. For instance: Would you spend $300 on a website or would you do it yourself in 80 hours? Because at that rate, you’re making $3.75 an hour. This part of practicing delegation will get you to understand more clearly that time is money.
If there is something that can improve every area of your business, it’s the ability to be honest with yourself and understand the person you are. Not the person you want to be, who codes and creates beautiful graphic design; not the person you should be, who always shows up on time and gets every job she bids; but who you are this minute.
Knowing your strengths and weaknesses makes it easier to choose employees, contractors and even vendors. Knowing that you often get exhausted in the afternoon will stop you from scheduling important meetings then. There are so many benefits to understanding yourself, both in life and in business.
Start now by spending time with yourself, listening to your heart and asking trusted friends for insight on the person you are. Read self-improvement blogs and peruse the self-help section, talk to a therapist, journal — whatever it is that helps you be more honest and understanding of the you that you are.
There are so many things you can do today to start a business even five years from now. Don’t wait until the day your bank account says you’re ready. Start now and you’ll be a business superstar when you finally take the plunge.