What I’ve learned in my first year of business

With only a few bumps and bruises after my first year in business, here are a few valuable tricks I’ve learned.

Katie Davidson

A UX designer with roots in digital marketing.

Just over a year ago I made a resolution to myself to start my own business and be able to sustain myself without needing a second job. I was exhausted from working 2 jobs and freelancing on the side just to make ends meet. By March, I was able to quit both my other jobs and was making enough money to support my husband (who was in grad school) and myself. It wasn’t always easy, but looking back on 2016 I wanted to share some of the key things I learned:


  1. Don’t be afraid to ask for help!
    I had several coaches who helped my business succeed. There are so many resources out there that can help you bolster your business, so I wanted to mention a few that might be beneficial to your business.
    The very first thing you should do if you’re planning on starting your own business or are struggling to make your business succeed check out your local SCORE chapter. They offer free business mentoring and have incredible free training on how to make your business succeed. With every obstacle I’ve hit, the mentoring at SCORE have been able to help me get the resources I need to overcome it.
    Leah Kalamakis who runs The Freelance to Freedom Project gave me some incredible tips on how to find clients as a website designer and is a wealth of information for any freelancer. If you’re just getting started, or are struggling to get business I highly recommend her courses.
    The Small Business Administration (SBA) – It’s easy to get lost in taxes and paperwork. I’m in the process of hiring my first employee (!), and I don’t know what I would have done without the SBA website. The SBA has tons of free resources for small business owners and my local chapter has helped me find answers to many of my more specific questions.
  2. Use the right tools for the right job
    I only make money when I’m doing website design or social media marketing, but to keep my business running I need to keep good financial records, keep track of my clients, and drum up new business. It’s hard to know what tools are worth investing in, which is why I’ve created a list of tools I can’t live without.
    Quickbooks Self Employed (affiliate link with 50% discount for 6 months) – I’ve just finished my business taxes! Last year my business taxes took nearly a full week to complete, this year it took me just over an hour! Quickbooks Self Employed makes it so easy for me to categorize my business transactions and record my business mileage, I do most of my bookkeeping while waiting in line at the grocery store. Quickbooks helps me make sure I pay all my quarterly taxes, helps me keep track of my profits and expenses, and helps me keep records of all my tax deductions. At the end of the year, I can export all my information into TurboTax, which means I can finish my taxes headache free.
    Asana  (Free) – One of my biggest mistakes when I first got started was not having a scalable method for keeping track of projects and staying organized. I tried dozens of organization tools, but most of them overcomplicated things for me. Asana allows me to check off items as I complete them, and reminds me of any upcoming deadlines. It also syncs with Dropbox and Google Drive so I don’t have to search through my files to figure out which document I was working on last.
    GSuite (Affiliate Link) – For just $5/month per user I can get my own branded email (ex: Name@YourCompany.com), Google Calendars, Google Drive, and several other apps.
  3. You can’t do everything
    When I was first getting started, I took every job at whatever price the customer was willing to pay. This meant I was always having to train myself on new skills, and my customers learned they could ask nearly anything of me. My thought was that if I impressed enough people with my customer service and how hard I worked I could work my way up to bigger and better customers.
    I wish I had defined my work earlier in my business development. Now I only offer website design and social media marketing services, which means I am only offering quality services. For work outside those two fields, I have a network of local businesses I am happy to recommend. One of the most valuable pieces of advice my business coaches told me was “Not all money is good money” – just because someone is willing to pay you to do something, doesn’t mean it will help your business grow. I highly recommend you define your business and your goals before you start saying yes to customers.


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