By Charl Vollmer, special to Octane Blog
I’ve heard people say that being an entrepreneur is tough, and that you’ll undoubtedly make many mistakes along the way. As for me, I tried proving everyone wrong. I wanted to show the world that I could beat this entrepreneurial race. Little did I know I would encounter more mistakes than I had ever anticipated, and that which I couldn’t have prepared for. Here are my lessons learned:
- Think things through carefully: An idea popped into my head one day, and I had that “a-ha” moment. I’m going to start my own digital-marketing agency. I had everything planned. I was ready to take on the world. I started executing various tasks, such as getting my website up and running, and creating logos and brochures. After the second day of working non-stop, I realized the amount of work I needed to put in to get my venture off the ground. My excitement clouded my judgement, and I never got the chance to mentally prepare for all the hard work I needed to put in. Sometimes we become so excited that we forgot about what we have to do to accomplish our goal. Once the novelty wears off, we often decide to put things on hold. My advice to someone starting out is: Think things through right from the start. Ask yourself these two questions: How much effort is needed to make this idea/dream a reality? Do you see yourself putting in all this effort?
- Stay motivated no matter what: I was motivated and driven; nothing could get me down (or so I thought). There were days I felt like nothing was going right for me. Those days were tough. It affected me so much that I almost decided to quit. I kept myself motivated by reading online blogs about famous entrepreneurs who failed many times, but who still kept trying. If you think working for a boss is hard, try being an entrepreneur. You’ll be tested in every possible way, but through it all, you have to remember to stay positive, motivated and driven.
- Learn from your mistakes: Mistakes are bound to happen; nobody is perfect. The sooner you grasp this understanding, the quicker you’ll learn to adapt and learn from your mistakes. I often dwelled on mistakes and beat myself up about it. Not only did this limit my beliefs, but I wasted so much time and energy. Reflect on your mistakes and move on quickly; time is valuable, so use it to do something constructive to help you progress your business. Be cautious and never repeat mistakes— it could cost you your business.
- Invest in your skill: Investing in yourself is the most rewarding thing you can do for your business. Take the time to read up about your skill/product and master it so you avoid being mediocre. Mastering a skill can help your business excel and shape you into an industry leader. The best thing I could have done for my business was to sign up for a digital-marketing course, experiment with websites and read every digital-marketing blog out there. Narrowing your focus to one single product/skill can do wonders for you. Trying to be the best at everything could make you sell yourself short, which can harm your brand. Today, I still focus on one product. I’ll only start offering other services until I am the best at what I do. Every day I learn something new, which helps me hone my skill.
- Don’t sacrifice family time: When I started out, I spent every minute on my venture. My relationships with family and friends took a strain. I made no time for them; it was just me and my business. Four months down the line, I could hardly focus on what was important for my business. It all got too much for me, and I, along with my business, suffered. Work smart, not hard! Yes, you need to put in extra hours, but don’t sacrifice your precious family time. Reward yourself with small breaks and go on vacation with family or friends. Spending time away from your business gives you time to relax and think clearer, which leads to better business decisions.
Entrepreneurship is tough, certainly. I thought it would be a walk in the park, but I’ve learned some valuable lessons along the way, and I continue to learn every day. Entrepreneurship will bring you many surprises— some good and some bad. Reflect on your mistakes and always strive to make progress, and then look back in a year or two to see how much you have accomplished.
Charl has a background in digital marketing for start-up companies, with a focus on building their digital brand. He is passionate about digital marketing and the entrepreneurial life.