3 Things I Wish Someone Told Me When I Started My Business
posted on September 20, 2019 | by Michele Lando
When I started my company Write Styles back in 2014, I had no idea what I was doing, and I didn’t have a lot of people who could guide me. I knew people who owned businesses, but many of these businesses were product-based. Alternatively, if the businesses were service-based, the owners had started the company in a different era before social media and domain names were a thing.
Simply put, I just didn’t know anyone my age who was on a similar career path as me. (Thankfully times have changed and I now am surrounded by some amazing female entrepreneurs who I can easily bounce ideas off of.) With this in mind, I wanted to share three things I wish someone told me when I started my business. Hindsight is 20/20 and I’ve learned a lot in the last five years, to say the least!
Acknowledge what you don’t know and outsource when needed (i.e. accountants, legal, etc.)
This is a crucial part of business (and really a crucial part of everyday life). Sit down and be truthful with yourself so you can acknowledge what you do know (i.e. the services you offer, how to make the products you offer, etc.) and take inventory of what you don’t know.
For me, I didn’t know much about legal or accounting so I’ve always outsourced those tasks for the most part. I’m a very detail-oriented and organized person, so I always had records of everything, but I realized that trying to do the legal and accounting tasks myself would take up a ton of my time, and honestly probably wouldn’t come out as well as if I hired an expert to do it.
Funny story: I said I outsource legal (i.e. setting up an LLC, trademark, etc.). I did/do outsource everything for the most part, but the one thing I did do myself was file my LLC paperwork. I figured it was simple enough to file a document and I could save a lot of money by not hiring a lawyer to do it.
Turns out that nothing is that simple.
Years later I found out that it’s not a one-time thing and you have to send periodic updates, etc. If you don’t keep up with these updates, you start accruing penalties. It all turned out OK and everything got settled, but I had a small freak-out about the situation. I was recounting the story to one of my friends who is also an entrepreneur and she told me that she used Legal Zoom who helped her set everything up, file it, and schedule reminders to update the state as needed. Note that this is no way sponsored; just recounting a friend’s experience.
The lesson I learned from all of this is that even when you could do something yourself, it’s often worth it to hire an expert that truly knows every aspect of the task. It might cost more initially but will often save you time, money and stress down the road.
Open a business bank account
Again, this is something I didn’t think of right off the bat. I always kept meticulously detailed records of every transaction but didn’t even think to open a business bank account initially.
When I first got started I didn’t really know if this would be a side gig or a full-time career so I just decided to wing it and open up the related business accounts at my bank whenever the need arose. Then all of a sudden one day someone wrote me a check for my services and wrote it out to “Write Styles LLC” instead of my name, “Michele Lando” and I panicked. I was too embarrassed to ask them to change it so instead, I frantically ran to my bank to open a business account so I could cash the check in my business’ name.
Because I was in such a hurry to open up the account, I didn’t come in fully prepared, and while I had what I thought was all the information, it turned out that I needed to gather more information. Pair that with the fact that I had a very arrogant male banker “helping me” who was shocked that a young woman such as myself would even need to open a business account.
To put it nicely, it wasn’t a great experience, and I wish I would have taken time to explore everything that went into opening a business account when I first started Write Styles so I could do it properly and not in a rushed environment.
Create an email with your domain name, not a gmail account
This piece of advice also comes with a story. As I mentioned previously, when I first started Write Styles, I didn’t really know what it would evolve into so I just figured I would create a Gmail account and change emails if I needed to down the road. As time went on, I always remember looking at people’s email addresses and thinking about how much more professional they appeared if their email used the domain name of their website.
I knew I had to change my email address (it’s now firstname.lastname@example.org – feel free to email me!). Changing email addresses wasn’t the hard part. It’s actually quite a simple process. The frustrating part is that years later, I still get clients emailing me at my old email address. Whether it’s clients that worked with me when I used that email or referrals from those clients, I get emails to that old account all the time. It’s not a big deal because you can just have the old email account redirect to your new address, but I still wish I would have just started out with a proper email address from the beginning. It would have eliminated a step and saved clients the confusion of what email address to use.
It’s amazing how much has changed in five years, but in the time since I started my business I feel like there are so many more resources out there for entrepreneurs. Hopefully these stories and tips help guide you down your path of entrepreneurship. Ultimately almost every mistake or misstep can be reversed, and nothing is the end of the world, but there is some knowledge that makes starting and running a business much easier.
If you have any tips to go along with this, I’d love to read them in the comments!