I realized that Liz Lee Media has been in business for seven whole years recently when I got a lot of LinkedIn notifications that said, “Congratulations on your anniversary!” It seems like only yesterday that I was submitting my resignation from teaching 8th grade English and trading a 60-hour workweek for an every-waking-hour workweek.

And even though I constantly focus on what I have not yet accomplished or figured out, I have come far.

Here are seven things I have learned from being in business seven years:

1. It’s OK to say no.

Five years ago, I said yes to every project and every client who contacted me. While I had a few amazing clients who represented the vibration of what I now attract all the time, I had a few who were serious boundary pushers and made me wonder if I should just go back to teaching.

I put up with a couple of these “character-building” clients for a year or so, and then even though it hurt me financially in the short term, I fired them. At first I felt the same way I did the first time I sent an unruly student to the principal’s office–powerful and also very uncomfortable exercising that power. I often wondered if I had been a little too impulsive in letting them go.

But now, I am so grateful I did.

I learned that sometimes, the best way to figure out what you want is to clarify what you don’t want. Once you have taken care of that unpleasant experience, it’s essential to then move on to focusing on what you do want and keep your attention on whatever that is.

2. You will always be learning something new and possibly feel like you don’t quite know what you are doing.

I find myself almost always on the edge of my comfort zone. There are really few moments when I feel like I am an expert or that I have mastery in my field. (Yet somehow, I have helped launch dozens of businesses.)

I have a couple of clients who constantly present me with new things to learn. They will ask, “Hey Liz, can you set up blah blah blah for me?” and my answer is “Yes!” and then (honest moment here) I search for “how to” videos for whatever it is that they have just asked me to do.

I have learned to accept and embrace that there is always something new to learn. Fortunately for me and for my clients, I love to learn new things. I may decide in the end that I want to hire someone else to do a particular task, but at least I have a sense of what is required to complete it.

3. It’s all about relationships.

95% of my business has been from referrals. At some point, I made this wrong in my mind because I thought that I should have some stellar SEO going on for my own website. Racking my brain trying to figure out my own SEO and online marketing strategy, I have come to this conclusion: nurturing great relationships with my clients has kept my business going. Why not take that to another level and create offerings that include within them the seed for even more great relationships?

So, recently, I developed a new (very affordable) offering that in its very design is a powerful relationship starter for my business.

I am also showing love to my clients who refer me by giving them referral rewards in the form of a service credit equaling 20% of the cost of the initial project I do for the client they refer to me.

At some point, I will have more people calling me “out of the blue” for work, but right now, I am so appreciative of the relationships I have built over these last seven years.

4. Fill your funnel so that it doesn’t matter who closes.

Once I found out who my ideal clients were and I started attending events where they all hung out, I started to feel like I was speed dating–in the best way. The rush of meeting so many amazing, awakened entrepreneurs had me spinning.

But then, I started to become attached to the idea of working with some of them. And with that attachment came heartbreak when someone would change their mind for whatever reason–not enough money, not a good time to start a website, etc. (And boy did this bring up old feelings of rejection that I had to process!)

As I was never the type of person to keep a surplus of suitors in my dating life, it just did not occur to me to use this method in my business, either. But it makes so much sense and takes the attachment out of the equation. If I keep my funnel full, it doesn’t matter who closes, because someone (amazing and wonderful) will close.

So, yes, seven years in, I am working on building and refining my funnel. 🙂

5. Find freedom through focus.

Specializing has freed up so much of my energy because now I know that I want to focus on one type of client: women over 40 who want to run a thriving online business as a coach, consultant, healer or intuitive. This doesn’t mean that I won’t take any other clients. It simply means that I can tailor my marketing to this particular group of entrepreneurs. And because I am not out there trying to build all kinds of websites–e-commerce, real estate, etc., I can focus on developing the type of website that serves my clients best.

I also build exclusively on WordPress, and the only websites I will manage/edit are WordPress, Squarespace and occasionally Joomla.

Focusing on certain types of clients and website platforms has made me much more efficient. And when a project comes along that really does not fit into my natural workflow, I feel fine referring another provider who specializes in that area.

6. Rest is just as important to “getting things done” as work is.

I used to pursue a project like a dog with a bone…spending long hours sitting there gnawing at it. I did not realize that with every minute beyond my natural “get-up-and-take-a-break” time, I was losing productivity.

Now, I listen to my body’s signals and get up and take a break when I need to. Having a three-year-old nearby also helps. At regular intervals throughout the day, my daughter requests an encore YouTube viewing of KC and the Sunshine Band’s “Get Down Tonight” (and sometimes “Boogie Man”) with full dance mode as a requirement. (Being a work-at-home mom is a topic I’ll address another day!)

7. Entrepreneurship can feel isolating, but it doesn’t have to.

I spent the first six years in business wondering if my struggles were unique, but I was afraid to reach out to anyone who does what I do because they were all, in my mind, “competition.”

In the last year, I have reached out not only to other web designers, but other entrepreneurs of all kinds. I have gradually allowed myself to be vulnerable, revealing that I, too, am learning how to do this business thing as I go.

As with #2 above, I have realized that being a constant learner is a strength, not a weakness.

 

I could say that “I wish I knew these things” seven years ago. And I am certainly glad I know them now. But I can’t imagine any more effective way of learning them than to go through the activating experiences that brought me to where I am.

Entrepreneurs: Does any of this resonate with you? What are the most important lessons you have learned since starting your business?