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10 Things I’ve learned in 5 Years of Business

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I wish I could go back in time five years and teach myself a couple of tips about running a business. Along with the excitement and growth that I had every year, I also learned many things… and often the hard way. I don’t want you to wait five years to learn what I have. And if you don’t want to learn the harder way, you’re in the right place! I put together the 10 tips I wish I knew when I started my business.

You can watch the IG live where we went over these, or continue reading for the written version.

Tip #1 You Need More Than Just “Your” Skill

My first big mistake was thinking that all I needed in order to achieve my business dreams were good design skills. But there’s much more to it! As a business owner, you have to take take care of other factors, and not only what you want to offer. I’ve needed skills in marketing, finances, communication, organization, customer service, and a lot of patience! Be open to learn and embrace these new skills.

I remember that when I started out I used to think “I’m no finance expert, I don’t do marketing… how will I sell my service?” It gets frustrating to hit a wall with obstacles that you don’t have the skills to overcome, but be open to learning these skills to overthrow this wall. Remember, you will need more skills than “the one that you are good at” to get where you want to be. I’ll talk more about this throughout the post.

Tip #2 You Don’t Have To Do #AllTheThings

Your Ideal Audience

Focus on where your ideal audience is. To know who they are, think about what gives you real results. If you know what your ideal audience is, and where to find it, you can save plenty of energy and effort. If you try too hard jumping around different audiences, you’ll burn out and could lose more than you imagine. You don’t have to be everywhere at the same time to see real results.

Delegate!

Now, some skills you might not have the time or circumstances to learn. This can apply to social media, organization, you name it. To solve this, learn to use templates and delegate if possible. This will make your life easier and allow you to use your time in what you love most. This can be key for you to not start hating your business but actually grow to love it more!

Take a few things at a time, and things will go much better.

Tip #3. Someone Else Has Faced that Same Problem

It’s easy to feel like you’re all alone facing something. But there’s a lot of people who have been in the same spot before!

By networking, joining communities—whether personal or online—and asking for help, you will find many people that have gone through the same as you, and are happy to share advice!

Some communities that we are a part of and recommend to you as well:

  • The free Holistic Digital Marketing Strategies Facebook Group is managed by our friend Sumaya Owens, owner of Present Moment Media. She has created this space for business owners and non-profits to find resources and connect with each other. We are part of this community, and are always happy to help others find the answers they’re looking for!
  • The Lab by Digital Nomad Girls is an amazing, private community that helps women working remotely not only get their work done, but also take care of themselves better. It’s a collaboration space where you can join coworking sessions any day of the week, attend hot seat sessions, join the book club, get an accountability partner assigned, and more. We actually host one coworking session on Tuesdays inside this community.
  • And the Business Without the Buts community is focused on marketing that is ethical and inclusive, but it’s also a space for any questions and support around your business. Hosted by the introvert-extrovert copywriting duo Monica Schrock and Cassandra Le, these two are welcoming, fun, and very relatable. We always look forward to the quarterly half-day retreats they host inside the community, where we can plan our message and marketing, but always from a sustainable approach and addressing mindset issues.
  • And there are places like The Rising Tide Society that have chapters all over the world! We can’t vouch for each local community, but we’ve met amazing people through our own local chapter, and it’s always a welcoming place to come with questions and wanting to connect.

Tip #4. You can do it Alone… But it will be Harder

Running a solo business doesn’t mean you have to do everything by yourself. Yes, Google has all the answers—too many sometimes. And you will have to experiment around to see which of those answers fits your scenario. Doing this will make you spend a lot of precious time that you could invest somewhere else.

Surround yourself with people who believe in you and support you. It will make a difference! When I reached out and found people who could help me, my vision about my business changed. I established more effective goals and started to see more results.

You can do it alone, but love yourself and simplify your life by working with other, and finding people who truly want to support you. The communities listed above can help with this aspect too!

Tip #5. Everyone’s Journey is Different

Stop comparing!

If you want to compare for metric’s sake, compare your own growth, taking into count all the variables. Even if it’s you from three years ago, versus you now, the results can look very different depending on the circumstances, so, give yourself grace and celebrate wins no matter how small they are.

Learn from other’s journeys, celebrate their wins, apply what can help you, but do not compare yourself with them. Let others’ achievements inspire you, and not discourage you. Someday your journey can be someone else’s inspiration too!

Community vs. competition

There was a time where I felt that I had to “study my competition”, watch their every step, and at times get frustrated by viewing their progress. But then I discovered communities filled with designers that did not see each other as competitors, but as supporters. We all have our own projects and our own customers without having to compete. And the best is that we all can do this while supporting each other!

Don’t feel that you have to put others down to feel good about yourself. You don’t have to be the best in the business. Just try to be the best version of you, while creating the best community around you too.

Close up of a card in the Sara Obando booth at the Ladies in Action event. The card says "Welcome, you can sit with us".
Close up of a card in the Sara Obando booth at the Ladies in Action event. The card says “Welcome, you can sit with us”.

Tip #6. Embrace the Business Mindset

If you don’t see yourself as a business owner, then you won’t be one.

If you don’t take your business seriously, then who will?

Embrace it! You are an entrepreneur, you have a business, and you can do this! It might seem meaningless, but the way you see “your project” affects how you act and how much you can achieve. Don’t say you’re just working on a project, but say that you have your business. It might be scary to say it out loud, but say it to yourself and to others until you truly believe it. Then you just won’t say it, but you’ll live it.  If you don’t know how to apply this business tip, then try out Jessica’s method. Her contagious and funny enthusiasm will encourage you to give yourself that well deserved affirmation!

I’m not sure when I made the transition of thinking “I’m just a designer!” to “Wow, my financial spreadsheet looks great!” I can’t tell you when I exactly did the switch in my head, but I can certainly tell you that there is a big difference between the Sara that only wanted to be a designer to the one who owns a business and is not scared to say it.

Tip #7. Change is good!

Even if you have prepared yourself very well, know your business tips, and have everything planned out… change will come and make you tremble. Be ready for change, because it will happen whether you want it or not. But the good news is that change is very good!

Growing means evolving. If you avoid the change, then you won’t grow.

You can’t always control it, but try going with it and doing the best you can with what’s handed to you. Just because something turns out differently than planned, it doesn’t mean it’ll be bad. Work your way with it.

At first, I didn’t do branding. I just focused on web design. Although I had been working for years with graphics, I was just not confident with branding. It sounds silly now that I think about it, but that’s how I felt. But eventually, I took an opportunity for a brand, and I loved it. And then I owned being a brand designer!

I have changed from my only web design vision to opening a mastermind for creative entrepreneurs, creating online courses and challenges teaching my approach to branding and online presences, becoming a speaker at online events, growing my team, starting a podcast, and more. So, own the change!

Tip #8. Do not be Afraid to Invest, but be Smart

It doesn’t have to be money, it can be time and effort just as well. But know that you won’t get meaningful results until you invest yourself in something!

Be smart with your investments. It’s easy to get overwhelmed by all the FOMO. Experiencing FOMO doesn’t make you stupid or shallow! Just don’t let it control you and your decisions. Everything has a time and a place. If there’s something you can’t do now, even if you really want it, you’ll be able to have it in the future if you invest in a smart way!

Always think things through, is it really the investment you need at this very point of your business? If it’s not, no matter how good of a deal it is, don’t do it. And if it is, but you can’t afford it, make a plan—how can you afford it? Just don’t rush and be smart about these decisions.

Tip #9. Not all that Glitters “Free” is Gold

We are bombarded by free tips and content nowadays, and in a way, it’s great! But you can also get burned out by all the freebies. Not everything applies to you! So just because something is free, it doesn’t mean you need it.

I wanted to “teach” myself with all the business tips out there, but ended up with information overload. I found out that freebies can burn you out. And you’ll find free info that will contradict others, so, you end up confused. 

Before you sign up to free resources, make sure it’ll be something that will help you. Or even after getting the freebie, if it doesn’t feel aligned to what you want to achieve, you can let it go. There were free resources and tips that definitely helped me! So be smart when choosing what to sign up for.

(And make sure to unsubscribe from any newsletters you won’t actually be reading. Don’t feel bad, it’s ok, respectable business owners will know it’s not personal. If I like someone’s approach, but they send newsletters I know I won’t read, I follow the on social media instead. Don’t let your inbox get overwhelmed with information overload as well!)

Cancel after free trials

When I started out my business, I didn’t have a lot of money to start off. So you can imagine what I did—signing up for all the freebies and free trials! But sometimes I was tempted to not drop out of the free trials hoping I could make good use of the app… and then ended up wasting money. Free trials are great for you to see if they’ll help you, but have the courage to cancel the subscription if you don’t see the results you hoped for. Setting a reminder on your calendar to reassess or cancel before the trial time is over can help you save or be wise with your money!

Tip #10. You Do You

Whether it comes to marketing, or client work, or any other topics where there are tips and “established” ways to do things—do what works for you. Even if it goes against what everyone says! Know yourself, learn how you attract people, how you serve them best. And study your audience—what do they really want from you? Use that to create your own strategies!

Have you heard “Know the rules to know how to break them”? Implement the things you learn from others, and then go and make any changes they need to work for your and your audience.

As an introverted entrepreneur, I didn’t think that I’d have the energy or the right vibe to do things differently. But I wanted to learn more about myself, and find out how I could my strengths best. I spent a lot of time reading books, doing personality tests, studying all the results, and with one of these I learned that Martin Luther King Jr. was an INFJ, like me!

If he could do things differently, then I can too! I am the only one who can stop myself from it.

Now I use the business tips and tools available in the business world, but I use them my way. Yes, I have to step out of the comfort zone a lot, but I do it the way I want to and it’s great.

Share a Tip!

You’ve gone through the 10 tips I wish someone had told me 5 years ago. But what about you? Let me know what tip you would give to a younger you about the journey you are on!

You’re Not Alone!

Find people who support you, ask the right questions, and just know that if the struggle doesn’t seem to end, it’s because progress is happening. But above all, remember you don’t have to do this alone.

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Sara Obando

Date January 31, 2022

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Welcome to the Stargazed Studio Blog!
A space where we expand on topics relevant to our business and our clients, dive deep into our resources and work systems, share tutorials, prompts, parts of our business journey, and recommend you things we love to use ourselves.

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