Lessons I Learned the Hard Way During 2 Years as an Entrepreneur

This June marks a couple of important things here at Sweet Horizon:

  1. It’s my birth month! I just turned 27 and somehow that sounds a million years older than 26.
  2. I have now (somehow) managed to run my own business FOR 2 YEARS!

To say that I’m proud of that last sentence is an understatement.

If you had asked me 3 years ago where I saw myself by 2018 there’s no way I would have said I would my own boss and supporting myself while working in my pajamas. Sure, it’s something I had dreamed about but it always seemed like something just out of reach. It took many hours on the phone with my parents and many hours discussing with friends over glasses of wine until I felt like I maybe, sort of, possibly could do this. And honestly, I really didn’t know what I was in for.

Get ready. I’m about to drop some major truth bombs.

These past 2 years have been freaking hard. The entrepreneur life is not for the faint of heart. I have doubted myself, been reduced to tears on many occasion, definitely spoken the words “I can’t do this” at least once a month, and have had to take days where I just left the house to keep from going insane.

BUT, would I change anything about my job? Absolutely not! Would I have done some things differently these last few years? Absolutely! It’s been a very trying 2 years and I’ve learned some invaluable things about myself, my clientele, and this industry. Mostly because I’ve failed at things and have learned to pick up myself up and keep going.

When I first started my business I thought I could handle anything. I then proceeded to make the following mistakes:

Wanting To Do All of the Things

When I finally took the plunge and admitted to myself that there was no going back I was terrified but absolutely bursting with ideas and directions I wanted to explore. Rookie mistake. I started laying out ground work for like a million and one career paths and I believe within the first month I was overworking myself with almost no return and about to pull my own hair out.

It honestly wasn’t until sometime last year that I really started to narrow my focus and gain a better grasp on this whole solo-preneur life. I couldn’t do all the things, nor should I try. Yes, as an entrepreneur you have to wear a lot of hats, but don’t give yourself more hats than are necessary because undoubtedly the most important ones always get lost in the shuffle.

Since then, I’ve learned to keep my business ventures more limited so that I can really hone my skills and provide my clients with better experiences. While I still like to keep a lot of projects in the works at once they still all fall under the same 3 main categories of work: Web design, Photography, and Print Making. All are different, but all have their place in my work schedule. It all comes down to good planning, which brings me to my next mistake:

Not Having a Clear Plan

Like letting a dog out into a backyard first thing in the morning, as soon as I quit my day job I hit the ground running. Problem with that is I didn’t have a clear business plan or really any plan for that matter. I was just taking it one day at a time and covering as much ground as possible.

Not only is that the fastest way to get burnt out with your work, it’s also not very productive. Often I’d find that I had missed crucial paperwork or I’d come up with a client format long after is was needed or I had completely run out of time to do things like post on this blog or on social media. I’d stay up all hours of the night trying multiple processes for the same end goal just to see what was possible and literally getting nothing done.

WORKING MORE DOES NOT MEAN YOU ARE PRODUCTIVE. In fact, better planning and time management means you should be spending less time on tasks and yet producing your best work while getting more done.

Finally, I came to my senses and made a list of all the things I needed in place and ready to go to make my life and my clients’ lives easier. I keep a detailed planner that literally runs my whole life but frees up my mind to be creative for my client projects. I also make a daily to-do list every night to help me stay of top of everything I have going on. Once all those things were in place, not only did I have a clear direction with every project, I also finally had peace of mind.

Not Doing My Research

When I first started, my research into the life of a modern entrepreneur consisted of a few pins I had pinned on pinterest, the occasional post I’d stumble across that pertained to me on a facebook group, and what advice my parents could give me from their own experiences. To be honest, it wasn’t enough.

The internet is your friend. Especially when  you are first starting out. Use the resources out there and learn as much as you can.

Being an entrepreneur, or a solo-preneur for that matter, means you wear all the hats and I do mean all. In my case I am the designer, the writer, the developer, the photographer, the editor, the social media manager, the IT department, the accountant, the marking and advertising coordinator, and the customer service rep. Some of those things I’m STILL learning how to do. There’s absolutely no shame in asking for help or devoting several days each month to learning and honing those skills. Many entrepreneurs continue to take courses and use each other as resources even when they’ve been in business for years. With the internet and industry constantly changing we gotta help each other out and stay up to date. #communityovercompetition am I right?

The light at the end of the tunnel is that someday you’ll be able to outsource some of these tasks and by that point you’ll know exactly what people and skills are needed to make your business function at peak performance.

Not Knowing My Client

This one honestly came as a surprise to me but it’s so true. I’ve been writing my own blog for years and reading blogs for many years before that. So you would think that I understand the blogger market right from the git go. Well… that’s half true.

Sure I knew what type of client I wanted, I could probably tell you generally what that type of client would like aesthetically, and I had a college design degree making me confident that I knew good design practice. What I didn’t know was:

  1. Where to find clients. I knew the industry was growing and fast, but how was I going to appeal to these new bloggers? Or if I could appeal to them how would I get them to see my work?
  2. Specifically what they needed. Like the literal plugins that would make for a secure site and what content was most important to them.

There’s a reason every business coach ever will tell you to define your ideal client and target that person specifically. It’s not about naming the person but more about how to appeal to them, know what they are after, and how to pitch your product to be the best fit for them.

Some of this comes from literally working with clients and narrowing down what type of clients you work best with and want more of. Some of this can be handled with researching like we covered above. Regardless, this is so important to the running of your business it’s not even funny. After all, no clients = no money = no career. Do whatever you can to understand your client and to start a dialogue with them. Go to conferences, join facebook groups specifically for your clientele, meet businesses in their brick and mortar stores if you have to. Not only does this help you do research and put a face with who your ideal clients are, but it also gets your business name out there and word of mouth is king. Win-win.

I SO wish I had someone go through this with me sooner and it would have helped with a lot of doubt and stress early on. Now that I know my niche clientele, not only can I spot them from a mile away, I also end up with dream clients that I would love to get cocktails with after work. Seriously, I adore them. They have made this little dream of mine a real business and I am forever grateful!


While these past 2 years have had their lessons I can honestly say for every personal doubt there has been an encouraging text, call or email that changed my mind, for every time I’ve wanted to cry there have been a dozen where I did a happy dance in my living room, for every “I can’t do this” spoken there have been client emails of gratitude and appreciation (which is really what makes this the best job in the world at the end of the day), and for every day I just HAD to get out of the house, I’m so thankful for the chance to work from my living room, to have the freedom to take coffee breaks whenever and to have the chance to work with amazing girlbosses all. day. long.

Being an entrepreneur is hands down the BEST thing I’ve ever done and has brought great joy to my life and strength to my self confidence. 3 years ago I never would have thought this was possible. Now I sit here doing just that. It’s not impossible. It’s hard work, certainly. But I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

I’d love to hear some of lessons you may have learned the hard way while growing your business! Or maybe you’re still going through some growing pains (we’ve all been there!). Tell me all about it in the comments!

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