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15 things I wish I knew before I started a business

PHOTOGRAPHY BY JASON HENLEY

Words by Alyce Greer

This is a tax write-off, right?

Is it just me, or does every Tom, Dick and Harry have a business these days? Millennials are starting sustainable fashion labels, influencers are building apps and that guy you went to school with is still harassing you to buy his health supplements. 

Aside from Health Supplements Guy, I’m here for it. It’s time for some fresh eyes, better options and more opportunities for young people to make a living, especially as a creative. Plus, owning a business is fun.

I know this because I own one: a Melbourne-based copywriting studio called Bossy. Copywriting. But let’s get one thing straight – owning a business is not easy. It’s fucking hard and stressful and you never, ever understand what the accountant is saying. 


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It would have been super helpful if I had someone to show me the way, so now I’m going to help you out. Here are the 15 things I wish I knew before I started a business. Even if you want to break all the rules, at least follow these ones. 

Eeeeease into it
Creep very slowly. It sounds cliche, but always have something to fall back on: a part-time job, some savings or generous parents. 

Money isn’t everything
It’s very nice, but it’s not everything. Don’t base your success on how much money is in your bank. Can you occasionally work from a cafe while eating smashed avo? If so, you have officially made it. 

Block the haters
“But what if it doesn’t work and you’ve quit your job?” – shut up Carol, it’s called taking a risk.

Get your finances in order
Seriously. At the very least, get a separate bank account, set up a spreadsheet to track your income and expenses and always, always put your tax and super aside. I repeat, do not spend your tax and super.

Invest in branding
If you have to DIY, invest your time. Even better, enrol in a workshop or course. Branding is the first thing people notice and it’s make or break. Hard truths.

Think about your values
It turns out you won’t be fulfilled if your business doesn’t align with your personality or your values, so think about these early on and build around them.

Timing isn’t everything
You’ve probably heard this before: there’s never a perfect time to launch. I can confirm this is true. Don’t wait for your business cards to arrive before you hit live. (You don’t even have anyone to give them to yet.)

Set up your processes
Trust me – your life will be one thousand times easier if you set up your systems and processes before you get busy. Think portfolios, rate cards, onboarding documents, project management systems and email templates. 

Cooperate with your productivity
It’s taken me this long to figure out I’m more creative between the hours of 2pm and 7pm. I’m really no good to anyone before lunch. Now, I do the boring stuff in the morning and save my juicy projects for the afternoon. Find out which times work for you and stick to them to maximise your productivity.

Comparison is the devil
Spend most of your time in your business account, only follow people that make you feel good and never compare yourself to anyone on Instagram. If you can’t help it, set very strict boundaries – no mindless scrolling allowed!

Upskill, upskill, upskill
Wordy person that despises numbers? Creative type that doesn’t understand business? Newsflash: you’re going to be doing e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g. Get over it and level up with online or short courses

Focus on your portfolio
In the beginning, it’s all about your portfolio. Fill it however you can – even with lower prices or free work – so you can prove that you can nail future jobs.

Diversify your income
You can only get so far when you’re exchanging time for money – your time, clients and money are constantly capped. Think about diversifying your income with resources, workshops or speaking engagements.

Collaborate with creatives
Find other creatives that complement your services. This will help you keep costs low while offering a wider range of services. Plus, you’ll have a friend to bitch about business with. Yay!

Outsource the shit you’re bad at
Admin, finances, social media, project management – whatever it is, if it’s holding you back, outsource it. You’re probably spending much more to pay yourself to do it than someone else. 

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Alyce is a contributing writer for Fashion Journal and the director and head writer at Bossy, a Melbourne-based copywriting and content studio. You can find Bossy here and here.

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