Looking back on my first year in business in 2014, things were a bit of a whirlwind. I was just trying to figure things out...like getting my brand in place, creating proposals, setting my pricing, letting people know I was open for business, and actually making a go of this thing.
Year 1 takeaway: hire a bookkeeper!
The best thing I did my first year was to hire my bookkeeper, Hazel. Not only is she a badass corporate whistle-blower, but she's also saved me so much heartache and money I keep telling her she needs to charge me more (if you're reading this Hazel, please raise my rates!). That year, I broke even with my corporate salary. Not too shabby!
Year 2 takeaway: do work that you love that brings you joy and trim out the work that sucks your energy.
My second year of business, with all my systems in place, I had this sudden epiphany. I remember thinking, "Wait...I don't have to do any work that I don't like to do?!?"
That year, I cleared out all the project work that sucked my energy (like these deep-dive marketing reports that my clients loved but I hated doing) and only offered the work I love love love doing (branding and marketing strategies, design, and websites). What a lift to my morale and spirit. That year, I exceeded my corporate salary by 40%. What?
Year 3 takeaway: Don't wait until year three to figure out who you want to invite into your business!
But it's in my third year of business that things got interesting. That's the year I realized I get to choose who I want to work with.
This was utterly revolutionary for me - after all, as a good corporate soldier for 20+ years, when you work with an a**hole, you've got to figure out how to keep things positive and productive with that person. Yes, you may find yourself venting to your husband for hours after work or crying in the bathroom stall (I've done both), but you still need to make it work no matter how miserable you are.
But not when you have your own business.
In my third year, I found myself working with a toxic client. I kept trying to make it work, but it was a total cluster. So, at a good breaking point in the engagement, I fired that client from my business. I even left $18K remaining on my retainer on the table. The money wasn't worth the hit to my emotions, my morale, and even my physical health.
The feeling of peace and calm and – let's face it – control I felt after choosing my business over a toxic client was nearly euphoric. And later that week, I had three projects rev up that totaled – you got it – $18K. The universe definitely had my back.
And it was in my third year that I doubled my corporate salary. What the what the what the what?!?
I don't know how it all works...all I know is that when I focused on who I wanted to work with (people who are smart and ambitious, bring me joy, who are open and creative, are a little silly, and serious about success), my revenues hockey-sticked (and have stayed that way).
Since then, I've been totally selective about who I invite into my business. If I get even the slightest whim-wham, I decline the work, knowing that I am saving room for the people I like to work with and that they will come to me to fill that gap.
Be crystal clear about how you help and who you want to serve – and then listen to your gut when you get those warning signals that you may be in for some client heartache.
And simply say "no" to those people. From the get-go.
While it may feel a little scary to turn away business, you're simply making room for the people you love working with (and who love you back). And all that good mojo is what sets the foundation for a successful and sustainable business.
I'm rooting for you!