In May 11 years ago, with visions of freedom dancing in my head, I took a leap and began the adventurous and enlightening journey of being my own boss. And my goodness, I never could have imagined where this road would take me!
These years of entrepreneurship have held countless lessons learned (some very hard ones), but I can confidently say that running my own business has undoubtedly been one of the best decisions. Spoiler Alert: It took waaay more effort and hours (years, actually) than I imagined to get where I am today. But after evolving and growing, I’m finally in a spot where I have a clear vision of where I intend to go – and that feels great.
It’s also true what they say…experience is the best teacher. Being receptive to learning from where you’ve been and gaining knowledge from others who are more experienced is key to success, ultimately bringing you the happiness, freedom, and clarity that inspired you to start your own business in the first place.
With hopes that the nuggets I’ve learned along the way will serve you, I’m sharing 11 lessons I’ve learned from 11 years as a business owner. Some of them might just surprise you….
There’s nothing I love more than an organized and well-thought-out plan, but after many years, I’ve learned that things rarely go exactly as they should. So rather than develop a rigid plan, I prefer to create a rough outline and evaluate goals on a monthly and quarterly basis. This way, if things change, it feels like a natural shift rather than a complete overhaul. Plus, staying fluid in my business has actually led me to do great things I may not have done if I had blinders on.
There are many moving parts involved in business ownership, and I’m not sure I fully grasped how in-depth each detail would be. From daily tasks, marketing, and accounting, all the way to project and team management, each role is a full-time job in itself. And in the beginning, you’re the one doing all of them. So be prepared for long hours and a ton of work. I promise it’s worth it in the long run!
Systems are key to a successful business, especially if you have a team (which I highly recommend). Not only do our organized systems allow us to deliver successful outcomes to our clients, but it gives my wonderful team the freedom to work independently without being micromanaged and me the freedom to do what I need to do in a day. I’d say this is a win for everyone involved!
Mistakes will happen, and that’s okay! Instead of being hard on yourself in those moments, see them as a learning opportunity and grow. Think of it as taking the scenic route and gaining additional wisdom as you journey towards your final destination.
When you don’t celebrate your successes, they tend to pass you by as you move on to the next. Take time to stop, reflect, and give yourself the credit you deserve for your achievements. For us, it’s celebrating at the end of each completed project. I genuinely believe that home is the most important place, and there’s nothing better than to see the joy and happiness when our client’s vision becomes their reality. And that’s worth celebrating!
Whether it’s midweek breaks or a later start to your day, make a note of how and when you work best and take advantage. After all, that’s the beauty of being your own boss, am I right?
For example, we recently discovered that four-day work weeks are super helpful for our team. We spend the beginning of the week working hard and staying super focused, and Friday is devoted to personal projects, not in the office. This method allows time for us to actually enjoy our weekends. Bonus? Because we’re rested and inspired, we’re getting more work done than when we worked five-day work weeks. Surprise, surprise!
Let’s be honest, running a business is not a walk in the park. There will be moments where you may consider quitting (I’ve been there a few times) but trust me…it’s worth it to push through. There’s nothing like overcoming an obstacle to help you realize how strong you really are and how you can really do whatever you put your mind to.
When running your own business, what’s the most important (and most difficult) thing? Rest. It’s far too easy to get caught up in endless tasks, but that’s a recipe for burnout. Whether through exercise or a non-work-related creative outlet, make it a priority to disconnect, rest, and recharge on the weekends.
Instead of looking at what everyone else is doing (hello, Instagram), focus on growing the way that works best for you. Bigger is not always better! Concentrate on where you are, how far you’ve come, and the future direction that is best for you. Remember that slow growth is still growth. A while back, I heard a mantra worth repeating – “You are exactly where you’re meant to be” – I love this and often remind myself.
I literally could not run my life without my people! I have two assistants, a social media and marketing gal, two photographers (one for my face and one for my interiors), amazing suppliers and contractors, a business coach (I’ve had several over the years), a house cleaner at home, and some fantastic care providers for my son, plus my partner Chris loves to grocery shop and cook for our family (thank goodness). It is simply impossible to do everything yourself or to do it all WELL by yourself. So get the support you need, and enjoy the added benefit of knowing that you’re supporting these amazing people as well!
Everyone’s path looks different, so don’t be scared to pave your own way. One of my favourite business quotes is from Sara Blakely, founder of Spanx:
“Don’t be intimidated by what you don’t know. That can be your greatest strength and ensure that you do things differently from everyone else.”
Believe it or not, I’ve never had a job at an interior design firm (or a “real job” ever), and I started working for myself right out of design school. Everything we do here at Staci Edwards Interior Design is because I’ve devoted time to figuring out systems and processes that worked for us. And honestly, I think that’s what makes us so special.
Are you in the early stages of starting your own creative business and feeling stuck on where to start and what to do next? I’d love to support you and provide the clarity and encouragement to keep you moving forward. Really. I’ve got not one but two successful creative businesses and many ideas to share.
Reach out here, and I would be happy to schedule a call to discuss your ideas and goals and offer guidance on your next best step. Mentorship has been on my heart lately, and I would love to help you succeed!
Until next time,
305 Lakeshore Road East, Suite 204
Oakville, Ontario L6J 1J3