Five lessons I’ve learned after being in business as an entrepreneur for five years.
Inspiralized is officially 5 years old today! Instead of calling this my “blogiversary” (as us bloggers do), I’m calling it my business anniversary, because after being in business for five years, Inspiralized is much more than a blog.
Aside from these super blogger-y, adorable photos taken with my girl Erin Dwyer, I’m celebrating five years by sharing five lessons I’ve learned in five years of entrepreneurship.
First off, if you’re new to Inspiralized, you can read my story of how it all began here. I love that some of you have literally been following since day one – I’m so humbled by that, and it’s you guys especially that inspire me to keep pushing forward and building this brand!
Many of these lessons I’ve learned, I learned early on, but they still hold true- five years later! And I’m not going to bore you with the “You’ll work harder than you’ve ever worked!” or “Don’t compare yourself to others!” lessons, because those are obvious by now. Here are five lessons I’ve learned in five years of entrepreneurship:
1. It’s okay to stall the speed of your success in exchange for some work-life balance.
This was a hard lesson to learn. There were many times when I was discouraged by how slowly my business was progressing, even though I was extremely happy with my life. During the daily operations of my business, I’d think, “Ugh! I should have accomplished X by now!” However, my business was still progressing, profitable, and successful and most importantly, I was HAPPY. I couldn’t figure out where this dissatisfaction came from and then I realized that I was me putting these added pressures on myself and comparing myself to other businesses that weren’t even in my league (like, larger, capital-backed companies!)
I started focusing more on my personal overall happiness as a PERSON, rather than an entrepreneur and then I realized, I much prefer the happiness as an individual rather than being EXTREMELY successful (whatever that means.) I love my life and the legacy I want to leave behind is that I was a kind, happy, loving person – not necessarily that I built an empire. Both would be great, don’t get me wrong – but I’m more conscious of the first one. Most highly successful entrepreneurs I know are sleep-deprived, stressed out, and not even happy even though they have so much success. When you have more, you want more (it’s a vicious cycle!) Plus, slow and steady wins the race, right?
2. Define what success means to you early on and build your business plan around that.
To my first lesson above, I wish I had done this sooner – it would’ve saved me a lot of soul searching in the first couple of years of my business! I think every entrepreneur has their definition of success. For most, it’s money. Whatever it is – define it clearly and build your business plans and goals around that success mission. Otherwise, you’ll be very disappointed.
I learned after about 3 years that money wasn’t my motivator. It was the community. If I made less money than the last year, but my community was stronger, larger, and more engaged, I would be happy and feel successful. I have never said, “I want to make X dollars by X year.” I feel successful when someone recognizes me on the street and tells me I’ve changed the way they eat. That means I’m touching the world – people are listening, and I’m making a (healthy) impact on the world and my community.
If money motivated me more, you’d see me doing a LOT more sponsored posts (which I hope you’ve noticed, I don’t do many), doing more product roundups with affiliate links, being more salesy with the Inspiralizer (I should probably work on that, haha!), and hosting more paid events.
Just define what “success” is to you as a business owner. Save yourself the headache later down the road when you’re dissatisfied and can’t figure out why!
3. You can learn anything on Google and YouTube.
Every time I’m asked, “How did you build this company?” I always respond excitedly with, “Google and YouTube!” Seriously, guys. If you’re looking to start a business, you can literally serach, “How to start a business,” haha! I half-kid, because it’s true. I learned so many things by just watching hours and hours of how-tos on YouTube or reading articles found on Google. I’ve learned everything from food photography to how to edit videos, and I was never discouraged by not knowing how to do something in these past five years, I always knew I could figure it out. Where there’s a will, there’s way.
4. If something is crucial to the growth of your business and you are really bad at it (after trying it get good at it!), outsource it.
Another lesson I wish I had learned sooner. This is especially true with graphic design. I tried to design my own Inspiralized graphics with Photoshop and spend a couple years on trying to figure out how to make consistent brand images and graphics. Then, one day, I said, “Why am I wasting all this time making inadequate designs for my business, when I have the money to spend it on exactly that AND then I can invest that time saved in parts of my business I’m great at and will grow my business?” It was a heart-to-heart I had with myself and pursuant to lesson #5, I started outsourcing graphic design and it really did help grow my business and make my brand identity more solid.
It’s a fine line – don’t outsource everything! Try to do it yourself first and if you truly fail at it, outsource it. Don’t be lazy and outsource – try to figure it out yourself and then outsource. This is a lesson for beginning entrepreneurs and startups – if you’re in a different financial position and farther along in your business and have the resources to invest, do it!
An example of this for me was food videos. I tried so hard to learn how to do my own Tasty-style food videos (like these) and I literally spent HOURS prepping, filming, and editing (like, 8 hours a day) multiple times per month. After a few months of this, I decided to hire someone to come over and film me so I could eliminate the filming and editing. Then, after losing hours where I could be focusing on my business and knowing I had the resources to invest in a full outsource, I outsourced those videos. So now, if you see those quick-style cooking videos, those aren’t my hands! A lovely husband and wife entrepreneurship duo film them for me! And I have those hours to spend growing Inspiralized! Plus, I could never make those videos as beautifully, so it’s a win-win: better quality content and more time for me to work on other parts of my business.
5. Invest your money back into your business early on.
When I first started off as an entrepreneur, I literally had $3,000 to my name (and that included my last paycheck at the job I had just left.) I was never a great saver and still am not (sorry, Lu!) I pinched pennies to get the business to run. About 6 months in, I was ready to throw the towel in (or at least get a side gig to afford my life) and I had a frank conversation with Lu at dinner one night and he said, “Don’t worry about it. We’ll make it work.” We were just dating (but living together) and he was/is a struggling entrepreneur as well – we didn’t have much money and every dollar counted (it still does, of course!) This made my heart swell for Lu and made me want to work even harder to make my business work.
It’s hard to shake the penny pincher mindset once you start making money. It took me a few years to realize that it’s better to invest (almost) every penny you make back into your business, because that’s what’ll make your business grow – as long as you invest in the right places in your business, of course. I’m not saying to spend money on Post-Its and cute wall decor for your home office, I’m saying invest in graphic designers, your website, SEO consulting, hiring, and marketing materials. Early on, once you first start making money. Looking back, I wish I had invested more money in the first two years. Now, it’s easier, because my business is profitable and there’s money to be invested, but back in the beginning, I regret holding on to my money personally – I should have put it back into the business. You live and your learn, that’s what entrepreneurship is all about!
Thank you giveaway
I hope you enjoyed these lessons learned! And thank you SO SO much for all of your support these past five years! To celebrate, I’m doing a giveaway of FIVE things on all of my social channels, this blog, and in our newsletter! Make sure you’re following along to participate. Open to US addresses only, sorry!
You can win 1 of 5 prizes:
- Inspiralized & Beyond cookbook
- Inspiralize Everything cookbook
- Inspiralized cookbook
- Inspiralized Swag Pack
- Facebook, here
- Instagram, here
- Pinterest – just follow along and we’ll be picking five winners tomorrow!
- YouTube – just follow along and we’ll be picking five winners tomorrow!
- Twitter, just retweet this Tweet to win!
- Subscribe to our newsletter, we’ll be picking five winners tomorrow!
Enter the blog giveaway here:
All photos by http://erindwyerphotography.com.