April 26, 2022

7 Must-Know Lessons from 7 Years of Entrepreneurship

My Advice for anyone starting their own business, freelancing or starting a side-hustle

#EntrepreneurshipTips #StartupAdvice #LessonsLearned #BrettSnowball

Be Careful Who You Take Advice From.

Everyone has an opinion. Not everyone’s opinion matters. Controversial — yes. But this is reality. People will give you advice nonstop, without context, even when you politely try and steer the conversation in the opposite direction. Carefully select those who you accept advice from. My rule of thumb is: If they haven’t been there before — I don’t need their advice. Entrepreneurship is often a trial-and-error process. It’s painfully slow at moments, and lightning quick at others. Before asking the dangerous question — “Hey, what do you think of this?” Take a moment to reflect if their opinion will be beneficial for your current state.

Ask yourself:
* Does it move the project along in a positive, or negative direction (negative opinions are ALWAYS welcome).
* Is there an angle we haven’t looked at, which requires an outside source?
* How accurately does this person know the project/situation/challenge/etc.

It might be a hard conversation to have. But it can save you a lot of heartache in the end.

Learn How to Schedule.

Creating a schedule was one of the most difficult things for me as an entrepreneur. I would wake up with tons of ideas, dozens of email responses, and a pencil full of creativity. It wasn’t until I learned how to curb my task-jumping, then I truly became productive.

I break my day into quarters, with 15 minute time blocks allocated to each task. Some tasks require four blocks — like design! Other mundane tasks like writing quick email responses, or day planning & prep get allocated singular, 15 minute blocks.

This isn’t an exhaustive list, nor does it work for everyone… but it took me seven years to start time blocking and becoming hyper-productive, so if it works for me — it might work for you!

Help With No Expectations.

Everyone wants something for nothing. They feel slightly guilty asking, but they still ask regardless. Offer your services to friends, family, and friends-adjacent for free (in your early years) only if they ask for it.

There’s nothing worse than trying to write an invoice for your girlfriend’s mom, who asked you to help redesign her salon logo. It’s awkward, it’s messy, and feels wrong — so don’t even start.

When you help with no expectations of receiving compensation, it feels good. There isn’t a weird pressure felt when interacting with your “client” because it changes the dynamic of the relationship. It’s totally about serving the person, solving their problem, and helping in the most selfless way possible.

This absolutely stops when you start making money from external clients. Then you pass these F&F clients along to someone else.

Keep Your Ethical Standards High

People will try and screw you. They’ll take advantage of your good nature. Clients will blast you over the smallest details, that you warned them about. It happens in every single industry, to every single entrepreneur at some point. Don’t let this break your spirit — keep your ethical standards high.

Kicking and screaming will get you nowhere. This isn’t kindergarten. This is real life, although some people will at like children. Focus on the aspects you can control. Consistently produce a high level of service/product to your customer, and ignore those who try and nitpick details for a $50 discount. It’s seriously not worth it.

Having a strong moral compass is very important. Understand where you need to draw a line in the sand. Hopefully, by this point you know right from wrong. It’s okay to disagree with someone — but having the ability to disagree from a place of expertise and experience, rather than fighting from a positing of hurt, frustration or anger is way more beneficial.

Sometimes its better to send a client home with their bags packed, no service fees charged, zero work, even if this costs you money. No harm, no foul. You can break up with any client if you feel something isn’t working out — but keep it professional, and hold your ethical standards high.

Stop Refreshing The Inbox.

On days when there feels like there's no work coming in. When you’ve exhausted every cold outreach email, or prospective client in your contact list. Stop refreshing the inbox. Go outside. Leave the office and find something else to do. You will gain nothing from sitting at your desk and banging your head against a wall.

Find other sources of joy, or points of interest in your life. For me — I find my best ideas come from running. It helps distract me just enough, where I can work on complex business problems in my head, while filtering them through a passive mind state. Other times, I’ll spend an hour or two playing music to help reset my creative mind! But I can’t continuously, consciously, work on grandiose business plans if I’m sitting, refreshing my inbox waiting for the next big project to fall in my lap.

Learning Is Forever.

The day you stop learning is the day you die. I truly believe this statement. Leaning should be something that everyone strives to do, forever.

As a creative, I constantly update my arsenal of software skills, or learn how to create better compositions. But it doesn’t stop just at career skills. Life skills like: how to have difficult conversations, navigating cultural biases, understanding alternative points of view.

These are soft skills that proliferate farther than skills learned for work. Arguably, they are more important too. But I think learning should be a lifelong journey which ends once we die… and then we learn what’s on the other side!

Did you catch I only wrote six? It’s because I haven’t stopped learning yet.

Born outside of Vancouver, British Columbia (Canada) in 1993, Brett Snowball is an artist, graphic designer, and creative director. After earning a degree in Business Management from Douglas College, he obtained dual accreditation in Communication Design and Industrial Design from Emily Carr University of Art + Design.