It’s that time of year when we naturally turn to both personal and professional self-reflection. As we draw 2018 to a close, I sit here at my newly created office and am doing exactly that. Here are the things I’ve learned from my small business in 2018.
- I am filled with good ideas and they are worthy. Whether it be noticing trends or paying attention to subtleties, this year has taught me that the ideas I see have merit. For me, part of the key to this year’s success has been paying attention to them and carrying them out for both my clients and myself.
- My work is serious and I treat it like the business it is. Though I tend to weave humor into my work, I do respect it and treat it as the vital, critically important business that it is. My family would not survive if Robinson Studio did not do well. I am grateful for the opportunities 2018 has provided to reach higher and treat Robinson Studio with dignity.
- It’s all about relationships. Whether client, partner or mentor, my business is all about relationships and nuturing those. This year, I had two very painful lessons with new clients refusing to pay for work rendered. To learn from this experience, I have to firmly understand my part in this misadventure so that I do not repeat it. For me, in both instances (which happened within a month of each other) were the result of several similarities including no clearly written expectations (i.e. a contract in place) and also no regular (weekly, bi-weekly) contact with these new clients to make certain that I was meeting my part of the obligations. Finally, in both these situations I did not send out a regular invoice and so when my cumulative invoice came it was a big chunk for a fellow small business owner and thence it was rejected…and I had no leg to stand on, legally or otherwise. I’ve learned from these painful lessons and can guarantee you that I won’t repeat those same mistakes.
- Budgets have limits. There’s nothing like having a budget, using it up and having to work for free to complete a project. It again was another painful lesson, this one primarily in time and money management. I left the days of minimum wage long ago. Minding my budget (and my client’s) and the time division is critical for not only my business’ success but my mental well being.
- Limit pro-bono to one project or activity a year. While some business’ may need to do giveaways or donations as a way of building an audience or exposure, 2018 for me reaffirmed that I need to stay focused and not scatter my efforts in too many directions. My time is limited and needs to be shared with family and other work obligations, if I overcommit, no matter how good my intentions, I will end up hurting the ones I love, including myself. Boundaries matter. Be generous. Above all, be wise.
Whether you are reading this on NYE or at some later date, consider taking some time to reflect on the past 12 months and the lessons learned. Write them down. See if there is a pattern or an overarching theme. And above all: keep at it!