It takes a lot of bravery and hard work to start your own business. So it can be especially disheartening to finally make the big leap…and hear nothing but crickets. For some first-time entrepreneurs, it is even more frustrating to have a lot of implied interest, but no paying clients.
In those days (or months or years), before clients are clamoring to work with you, it can be especially difficult to determine where you should focus your time and energy every day.
Start Preparing for Massive Growth
In the early days of your business it’s fairly easy to get caught up in the woes of not being the very busy, insanely successful businessperson you know you will be. It’s even easier still to binge-watch Scandal or go back to bed while you wait for sales to trickle in. But there’s a lot of work that can be done during the slow times before your business ramps up.
This quiet season in your business is actually the perfect opportunity to complete the foundational work you need to build a sustainable business and life as an entrepreneur. Here’s a look at three simple steps you should take now, rather than later.
Set Working Hours
Starting day one you should approach your business like a professional. Yes, that means you should probably take a shower every single day, if you run a home-based business … and change out of your pajamas. But even more importantly, it means you should set dedicated working hours. This is an important thing to note for your future clients, of course, but it’s also an important distinction to make mentally. This helps improve your work-life balance since you’ve made the commitment to work between certain hours of the day, while leaving time for your personal life.
I’m not saying you have to work from 9 to 5 every single day; or that you must keep the same hours daily. If you’re anything like me, you left a structured full-time job so you could make your own schedule. But the catch is this — you have to actually make one. Design your days now, so that your business and clients can fall in line later.
Work Smart Tip: Decide on your daily/weekly hours. Plan out the work that you will get done in that time frame every day and commit to it.
Cover Legal and Financial Bases
Is your company structure an LLC or an S-Corp? Maybe you’re a sole proprietor (you automatically are if you have started conducting business)? How will you pay your business taxes this year? Quarterly or just once by April 15th? Is there a separate tax you have to pay for doing business in your city? When’s the last time you wrote a contract? These are great questions to ask yourself – and perfect documents to get in order – while you’re still building a client base.
It’s a lot easier to add a few details to a lawyer-approved contract when your first client is ready to sign on the dotted line, than to scramble getting everything in order on the fly. You have the time now, so use it wisely. I guarantee that your future self will be so thankful that you’ve covered legal and financial bases now, so you can focus on your clients later.
Work Smart Tip: Make two appointments today; one with your business lawyer and another with your accountant. Work with them to formalize your business (if necessary), write a contract, and prepare for next tax season.
Learn, Learn, and Learn Some More
I love learning, so I’m incredibly biased. There isn’t a better opportunity to expand your knowledge than when you’re first starting out. Self-education should be an ongoing, lifelong process for any small business owner (you understand and that’s why you’re reading YFS Magazine!). It’s a smart idea to use any extra time you find for yourself to learn, learn, and learn some more.
Get started by taking classes; attend live talks, conferences, and webinars; read business books. Seek out every opportunity to grow and become a thought leader in your industry. Most importantly, implement what you learn. Education shouldn’t be used as a stalling or procrastination tactic. Rather, it should help you continually grow your knowledge base; which in turn will help you add more value to your clients’ experience and the product or service you offer.
Work Smart Tip: Sign up for one class, online course, webinar, or e-newsletter. Or purchase one business book you’ve been itching to read. Then implement one new idea you have learned in your business, immediately. Don’t just learn. Do the work.
Launching a startup is difficult, but if you follow the three steps outlined above and use your downtime wisely to prepare and expand, you’ll be much better off when the clients and sales finally start rolling in.
This article has been edited and condensed.
Jenna Arak is a copywriter and personal essayist living in Los Angeles. She works with women entrepreneurs to help them write the story of their business and their brand, and communicate it in a way that speaks directly to the people they’re looking to reach. To work and write with her, visit her website and sign up for her weekly newsletter at JennaArak.com. Connect with @jennanicole on Twitter.