In August I reached my six year milestone in business! Yay, right? Yes I’m excited, blessed and overjoyed but the cruel reality is that I am learning things that I wish I knew in year one of business. My journey started as the author of one children’s book called Curls and Coils. Late one night I wrote a short story that was based on a conversation that I had with my then 4 year old daughter about loving her natural hair. I knew of a local indie publisher and said “Hey I want to publish a book!” I knew nothing about the publishing journey, building an author brand or even thinking beyond the book.
From there the excitement continued and I self-published three more children’s books a few months after the first one was released. About two years in and hit a plateau of sorts. The book launch excitement wore off and the sales dwindled down fast. I knew that I had amazing books but I didn’t do my proper research, establish a team or strategize beyond the book launches. Despite all of this I still see it as a blessing. I’m not upset at all. Those setbacks helped to streamline my focus to what it is today.
Similar to how an athlete diversifies their brand, image and portfolio; authors need to do the same. I had to rebuild to discover that my writing interests could pivot into freelance writing, editing, ghostwriting, self-publishing, coaching and retailing products that aligned with my author brand. This revelation didn’t come overnight. It took me six years. So here’s what I learned:
Appreciate the small things. Authors attend many vending events to network and sell. There were plenty of events in which I sold a low amount of inventory. BUT, I built connections with others. From meeting other authors to being asked to participate in author visits, special events or etc; I learned to appreciate those small victories that led to more. It’s truly the little things.
Self-care is a must. I spent many nights writing, researching and grinding until the wee hours. Yes, that leg work is necessary in building a brand but for the longest time I wasn’t prioritizing “me time”. I had to learn to step away from the computer, mute my phone and relax. For me, self-care looks like writing, journaling, drawing, coloring, listening to music, taking naps, going for a walk and more.
Invest in your brand. Attend those trainings, webinars, workshops, etc. Join those membership groups to speak with like minded entrepreneurs. As a business owner, you should always be hungry to learn more. There’s always room for growth and yes, you have to spend money to make money!
Network. This wasn’t always easy for me. I’m an introvert and it truly takes me a while to feel people out. Despite this, I had to overcome my shyness to get out there to network. It was so worth it. To date, I’ve built some great connections over the years that I am thankful for.
Establish Boundaries. Whew! This is the one. Whether working with service based clients, writers or etc; establish your clear boundaries. From methods of contact to response times, let it be known up front. There’s nothing wrong with setting the tone for your business needs.
Respect your Business. If you don’t respect your business, no one will. Set clear pricing, contracts, guidelines and even payment protocols. If the contract says biweekly payments and the client misses it then services end asap. Whether your business profit feeds yourself or a whole family, you need all of your coins and no one can afford to work for free.
Prioritize by Deadlines. This took me a while to learn, LOL. I would always try to overdo it and have massive to-do lists. Now I’ve realized that deadlines are important and they come first by date. Some things will just have to wait.
Scheduling is Bae. If it’s not on my Google calendar, planner or Asana; it doesn’t exist. Straight like that. Scheduling helps to establish order. I even found the glory in scheduling social media posts and I haven’t looked back since.
Create Business Hours. Oh yes. People assume that because you are a small business that they can call, text or email all times of the night but no that’s not good business. Create those set hours; and mark it on your website, social media pages and in your email signature. Let people know and don’t respond after hours.
Go Beyond Your Brand. Think of your legacy, generational wealth and how you can make money in your sleep. It may have started with a book or small product but it can increase to a worldwide brand. Think big, dream big and go hard for your brand. We need more thinkers and doers.
Say NO. Learn to say no. This was challenging but necessary and today is a new day. If you provide services, start to vet out your potential clients. If you notice major red flags then run! All money isn’t good money. Also, learn to say no in order to not overwhelm yourself. You can’t pour from an empty cup so take your business seriously.
Have Fun. Enjoy the process of being a business owner. Also, enjoy the fruits of your labor. Take that trip. Shorten that meeting. You deserve it. You took an idea and built something. Cherish it.
Although these are what I learned in business, it may differ for you so proceed with caution. Every business and industry requires different techniques. However you choose to run your business; have fun doing it. Always remember your “why” and go from there. Honor the baby steps too! Your small strides don’t have to compare to the larger or more established businesses. Trust the process. Happy National Black Business Month.
Writer, C. Scott, is a mompreneur, social worker, educator and lover of all things literary related. Follow her online as @curls_coils.