In April, this one-woman business, Thoughtfully, turned six. I’d always wanted my own business and I’ve enjoyed the ride from the start but over the last couple of years, there has been such a shift in my work, goals and confidence levels that it has positively affected every other aspect of my life (and vice versa).

These are some of the lessons I’ve learnt from running a business and the world of freelancing, but really they are just good lessons for life. 

  1. You can get better at anything if you are willing.

  2. You don’t need to get up at 5am to be successful.

  3. Work where you live or live where you work.

  4. Parkinson’s Law is real.

  5. Doing work you enjoy and quality of life is a much better measure of success than money earned or size of business.

  6. Life is short.

  7. Always bear in mind that a new client might read your last tweet.

  8. Walks, showers and drives are best for generating ideas.

  9. Go with your gut.

  10. Stop feeling guilty.

  11. Jump - you might fly, you might fall.

  12. Ask for work - every time you finish a piece, ask what’s coming up next.

  13. Don’t worry about people stealing your ideas.

  14. Everyone thinks everyone else is better than them.

  15. Make sure you have the money conversation - something’s not right if you don’t. ‘Facturo ergo sum’.

  16. However much you charge, some people will think it’s cheap and some people will think it’s expensive.

  17. If you don’t feel motivated to do your best work, you’re not charging enough.

  18. Chase invoices early.

  19. Use Thomas Higgins for long overdue or problem payments.

  20. People don’t value free work.

  21. People work with people they like.

  22. Create a really nice workspace for yourself.

  23. Get a dog (but only if you have time to train and walk them).

  24. Unsplash is the best place to source royalty free stock imagery. There are a few others here.

  25. MailChimp is the best for building and storing databases and email marketing.

  26. Canva is great for creating well-designed presentations, posters, invoices, invitations, social posts (pretty much anything).

  27. Install Grammarly.

  28. Use Google Drive for all your work.

  29. If you work in a job where increasing profits year-on-year is a more important goal than say staff wellbeing or the environment, you should question why you’re working there.  

  30. If you work from home, try not to eat like a teenager who’s been left on their own for the first time.

  31. Use a text-to-speech function to proofread your work and emails (on a Mac go to System Preferences > Accessibility > Speech).

  32. Make it about them, not you.

  33. Q-TIP - quit taking it personally.

  34. Always have a flight booked, a gig booked and a race booked.

  35. The best clients come from referrals.

  36. Nurture your best clients and referrers like a newborn kitten.

  37. Confidence - fake it until you make it.

  38. Invest in looking good and feeling good.

  39. Get a decent notebook (Moleskine) and a decent computer (Mac).

  40. Stabilo point 88 black fineliners are the greatest pens.

  41. Bullet journal.

  42. Outsource what you hate doing or you’re not good it (like accounts and cleaning).

  43. Anyone could be a potential client.

  44. Don’t get excited about a potential new client until it happens.

  45. Drink lots of water.

  46. Exercise.

  47. Keep busy.

  48. Get outside.

  49. Do things that inspire you.

  50. Inspire others.  

  51. Go to TedX Live.

  52. Listen.

  53. Question.

  54. Act.  

  55. You will always underestimate what you know.

  56. Don’t assume other people think like you.

  57. Read the brief again and again.

  58. Don’t sweat the small stuff.

  59. Everything can be fixed - you’re not saving lives.  

  60. If people ask for a decision to be made, make it.

  61. If you said you’ll call somebody at a certain time, phone them bang on that time.

  62. Create processes and clear deliverables.

  63. Have a niche - industry, style, service (or all).

  64. Productise something you do to make money while you sleep.  

  65. Failing is good.

  66. Feedback is good.

  67. Do the amends they ask for.

  68. Even for deadline thrill seekers, working ahead of schedule can get addictive.

  69. Visit your clients face-to-face.

  70. Ask someone you respect if they’ll business mentor you.

  71. Save the planet.

  72. ‘Not knowing where to start’ is not a good excuse.

  73. ‘I didn’t have the time’ really means ‘I didn’t want to’.

  74. Acknowledge that you’re scared but don’t let it stop you from doing things.

  75. Be professional.

  76. Force yourself to work from a different place with people around if you’re feeling a bit low (and learn to recognise when you’re feeling a bit low).

  77. Prep your ‘elevator pitch’ (but don’t make it sound like you have).

  78. Be very organised - check your to-do lists, deadlines and calendars several hundred times a day.

  79. Send calendar invites and reconfirm meetings the day before.

  80. Find common ground quickly when meeting prospects.

  81. Don’t wait until business is quiet to start marketing.

  82. Don’t think of networking as talking about yourself but as a chance to find out more about other people.

  83. It’s better to have projects that you can learn from than ones where you know exactly what you’re doing.

  84. Practice being optimistic, positive and seeing things from a different perspective.

  85. Assume the best in people.

  86. Good things happen to people who are generous and nice to others.

  87. Don’t have an ulterior motive.

  88. Your job is to take things off other people’s plates.

  89. Create healthy habits (like not leaving things until the last minute).

  90. It’s unlikely that you are predisposed not to be able to do something (this is another excuse).

  91. Work for people who you’d go for a beer (or five) with.

  92. No one else can give you self-belief.

  93. Find a network of people to support you (Twitter Clubs and Facebook Groups are great for this).

  94. Don’t focus on the end goal, just the next step that you need to take on the journey.

  95. Clients often don’t want someone who is the best at their craft but would rather have someone who’s reliable, positive, professional, present and confident.

  96. Spend time on your own things.

  97. Take time off.

  98. The skill of ‘just getting started’ is the most important one to master.

  99. Take care of yourselves, and each other.

I’m always more than happy to help if you need advice or a
pep talk about anything, just give me a shout. 

Image by Emma Matthews on Unsplash.

Business, MindsetSophie Cross