Some people imagine their first year in business looking a lot like a 24/7 marathon. I can agree, it felt like that at times, especially in the beginning before I found my footing. After a year on my grind, I feel confident in the business I’m building.
I’m stoked to share what I have learned with you, and I’m still marveling over the thought that this all happened in just one year as an Austin Web Developer.
What I Accomplished During My First Year as an Austin Web Developer
- Profited more than $50,000 while still employed at my full-time job for half the year
- Left my job of six years on January 1st, 2021
- Launched more than 15 websites for clients
- Added on new services like project management, account management, and consulting
- Worked with high-profile clients including Robinhood, DoorDash, and Twitch
As my business has expanded, I have gained a tighter focus on what I can do. I have created lasting relationships with clients that I now call friends-- Something that you wouldn’t imagine would happen with running a business online.
The virtual office can be more personal than I initially thought.
1. Trust Your Instincts
Have you ever started to do something that you felt wasn’t going to go well but you pushed through anyway? Sometimes that goes well, however, I have learned that in the case of business, trusting your instincts is key.
My very first interview as a freelancer was with a marketing director at a small startup. During the initial conversation, I could tell she didn’t know what she wanted. My gut told me to say no, but I was so new to freelancing I went ahead and worked with her anyways-- throwing caution to the wind and feeling thrilled to have a client.
The project ended up consuming my time and pulled my focus from what I should be working on-- My business! She constantly needed to get on the phone to discuss her revisions and new ideas. When I closed out the project, I realized the hard truth. This was my fault. I didn’t set any boundaries, and I was just unable to say “no”.
People-pleasing at its finest. Maybe every business starts there, maybe it’s my experience in the hospitality industry.
Now that I am settling in with a proper footing, I know who I want to work with. I prefer to work with someone who knows what they want and can clearly define their needs and expectations for their project.
2. Focus on Running a Successful Business that Feels Good
Transitioning from a 9-5 job to freelancing is scary. To feel safe in my transition, I overworked myself. I booked myself into misery. Rookie mistake.
The quality of my work suffered because I didn’t have enough time to complete everything to the right standard. Soon I stepped back and focused on defining a business that felt good. This is the most important part of being a business owner-- I am the boss after all! I can’t overwork my only full-time employee and expect to get good results.
Once I realized the importance of running a business that feels good, I took the time to build out processes to make my business run smoothly. This included budgeting, time management, and making sure I don’t overcommit myself (one of my favorite pass times).
3. Always Have a Suggestion for Your Clients
As a new freelancer, I let clients run our meetings and I had few suggestions for them. I quickly realized that my clients want my expertise and ideas.
Once I was able to offer more pointed suggestions, not only were my clients happier, but I noticed I was able to get through projects more quickly. I realized that in most cases, I had worked on projects similar to what the client needed much more than they had. An experienced leader and guide make for a smoother project.
4. Prepare an Agenda before Your Meetings
I’ll bet you’ve been to one of those meetings where within two minutes you knew it was going to be rough. You can tell right away when the facilitator isn’t prepared. Not only does this look unprofessional, but it also erodes your client’s confidence in you. How can we expect our clients to have respect for us if we don’t have enough respect for them to be prepared?
I’ve always said, “Time is the most valuable thing someone can give you”. It’s important to have a clear and concise agenda so that your meeting is effective and respectful of the other person’s time. This is paramount to gaining your client’s trust.
5. The Law of Abundance is Real
Something that I noticed early on is that my most successful projects were the ones that I priced fairly. When taking a low-paying job, I noticed that I had negative feelings and resentment towards it. I also found myself rushing through it, because I was chasing the money and not devoting enough time to the quality of the project. Low-paying project only pull your numbers down.
You know how much you need to make in order to reach your goals and keep your freelancing affordable. If you are taking jobs that don’t support that goal, your business and attitude will suffer.
Don’t be scared to raise your rates. No one else has the unique set of skills and experiences that you have. Put yourself in a space that allows you to flourish. This can’t happen when you’re stressed and overworked.
BONUS: Find a Mentor
When you want to do something well, it's a good idea to find someone who has already done it. If they have already walked the path you’re on then they may be able to keep you from stepping in the mud. Their experience can offer valuable insights and suggestions to help you reach your goals faster. Mentors help to push you to get uncomfortable and try new things. You’ll end up in places you never would’ve found on your own.
While we’re talking about it, I have to give the BIGGEST shoutout to my coach, mentor, and friend, Rachel Sheerin. Sometimes you need an outside influence to give you the extra push to do more, and she’s done that for me over the last year. She got me out of my day-to-day mindset and taught me to focus on a growth mindset. Her most common statement in our meetings is always, “That’s great! What’s next?” She also kept me accountable by giving me someone to report to, which is something new business owners tend to lose when going out on their own. She kept me disciplined and focused.
I think when anyone first starts their business it's easy to fall into the mindset of, “I just need to make this work”. If you keep a mindset that you are going to make it work well then it all falls into place smoother and more quickly. Slowing down with intentional footing gets you further along your path than if you just start running when you’re not exactly sure where you’re going.
My first year in business has been more successful than I ever could have dreamed of, and I credit that to slowing down to make sure I was doing it right. If you are ready to make your footing more intentional, schedule your free 1-hour strategy session with me. I look forward to helping you figure out exactly what you need to get your business where you want it to be.