This post is sponsored by State Farm®. All views are, as always, my own.When I speak at events, and daily online, people ask me for advice on starting their own business and how they can work for themselves. I can’t believe that I have been running Bright Bazaar for 10 years this year! It started off as a hobby but became my full time job in 2012. I have learned a lot on the way and made plenty of mistakes. I love working for myself and wouldn’t have it any other way but there’s lots to think about. Today’s post is sponsored by my friends at State Farm who asked me to share some of the things I have learned from starting a small business. State Farm goes a long way to support entrepreneurs and small business owners, including a small business section on their website which is full of helpful articles you should check out! There’s even a female entrepreneur podcast series called Color Full Lives that gives women tips to earn some extra money, get their finances in order and start a business of their own.1. Starting Small = Starting Smart
There’s a lot of advice about starting a small business that says you need one big idea and then have to dive into it headfirst, quit your job and invest everything you have otherwise it won’t work. In my experience, this was not the case! In fact, for me, such an approach to starting my business simply wasn’t feasible. I couldn’t afford to quit my day job – I was in my twenties, had just graduated at the height of a deep recession and I had no savings. The approach that worked for me when I started my own business was to start small and work really, really hard. I carved out time after work, during my lunch break, on weekends, etc., and started creating content whenever I had a spare moment. I carried on working at it in my spare time for four years before I was able to give up my full-time job and make enough money to pay my rent.
Sure, it meant sacrificing nights out and weekend lie-ins, but it was worth it in the end. I’ve been running my business for a decade now; four of those years were spent building the business alongside a 9-5 corporate job and the last six I’ve been working on it full-time. Had I tried to run before I could walk and thrown the towel in on my corporate job back at the start, I truly don’t believe I’d still be running the business today. Bottom line: starting small can also mean starting smart. Don’t be pressured into going too big too quick!2. From the Start, Get Sound Financial Advice
When starting a business there’s always a list as long as your arm of things to do, and more mundane tasks, like setting up finances, taxes and insurance, can easily be put on the backburner. For the first handful of years, I was juggling so much and hadn’t focused on setting up structured finances for the business and wasn’t thinking about whether equipment was insured. I learned the hard way when I broke one of my cameras and it wasn’t covered under any of my insurance policies – gah! So, my advice is to make sure you do a bit of research and get advice about how you should structure your business, what bank accounts you need, the records you should be keeping and the different types of insurance needed.
I know, it can feel overwhelming. However, don’t worry, because there are tons of places that can help. The State Farm website has a ton of helpful articles, and if you have insurance needs then speaking to a State Farm agent about the different types of insurance to meet your needs can be really useful. It’s really easy to find a local State Farm agent near you. Just log onto statefarm.com/Agent and use their agent finder, you can even select ones that help with small businesses and financial services. As someone relatively new to the States, I found the Small Business Administration websites useful, also. Lastly, sometimes you need to seek accounting advice from a CPA. Don’t shy away from telling them you are just starting out and ask them to be clear about how much their advice and their services will cost upfront. I have found that anyone who is reputable is more than willing to be clear about the costs, and keep you regularly updated about them, so make sure you ask upfront.
3. Keep Trying New Things
Bright.Bazaar is now entering its 10th year – yikes! When I first started blogging, Instagram and Pinterest weren’t developed yet, and you could only have a personal Facebook account. Things have changed a lot online and in social since I first started, that is for sure! I learned that to keep up I have to always be trying new things; some work and some don’t, and over the years I’ve come to find peace with that. I will say that it still can feel tough to dive into trying new things, whatever they might be, as social is constantly evolving and there are a lot of pressures that already exist – but it’s so important to keep evolving.
Here’s how I learned this: I remember when Instagram first came out, I loved the platform but I didn’t think it would be useful from a business standpoint, as you couldn’t link out from Instagram to your blog. At the time, blogs were the beating hearts of social media businesses and as you couldn’t link out of Instagram to get more eyeballs on your blog, I disregarded it and didn’t invest as much of my creative time and resource straight out the gate. As you can tell, that wasn’t the best idea! After about a year, though, I invested a lot more heavily in the platform and luckily managed to grow my presence there into a highly engaged and loyal following. Still, I wish I’d followed my gut (which told me how much I loved it as a platform) and started investing in the platform a year earlier. That experience taught me how important is to invest time and efforts into new things, especially when you are running your own small business.
Do you run a small a business? I’d love to know what’s worked for you!
This post was sponsored by State Farm.