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I started my company in 2015 at the age of 21, around 11 months after graduating with a degree in Management with Marketing. All I had at the time was an awful 8 months of experience at a company which defined a toxic work environment. I first began by taking on freelance work before going ahead and founding my company.
Here are some of the lessons I learned along the way.
1. ASK QUESTIONS
Yes! Asking questions is very important, especially at the early stages of your venture. When you ask questions to people who are your potential customers, collaborators, industry experts, you will learn a lot. At the same time, people will in turn know more about you and your venture. It’s a win-win situation where both parties gain knowledge. Don’t ever be shy about asking questions. In fact people respect that and appreciate the ballsy approach to, well you research. I’ve managed to get internships and clients all by asking questions to the right people! It’s a powerful tool, one that can help you grow over time and also connect you to people.
2. BE CONFIDENT
While this seems to be an obvious thing to do, it can be rather difficult when you’re trying to make decisions regarding your company and are not sure what is right or not because of the ever changing “trends”. More often than not, you can be as lost as your employee who may turn to you for guidance and support. In such situations, I’d advise you to feign confidence and maybe ask them to share their opinion on this. Not only does it foster a progressive environment in the workplace where everyone is encouraged to share their opinions but it also gives them confidence in you. If you are as unsure as them, they might not be that confident about working for you and the hesitation would show through their work. It’s similar to a horse and its rider. Though this would also apply to the clients and potential customers, if you aren’t confident when talking to them or replying to their queries, they will take their business elsewhere. You’d rather respond with a “I’ll get back to you with a detailed analysis on this.” than fumble over your words.
3. SEIZE EVERY OPPORTUNITY
The truth is the world has become very competitive. So with every opportunity that comes your way, don’t dismiss it before doing absolute research on it. When you are in your early stages of business, you must explore every opportunity that comes your way in addition to seeking them. Whether it is collaborations, partnerships, events or any other opportunity, make sure to do a thorough research before making your final decision. These opportunities may lead to a lot of successful long term partnerships and lucrative deals.
4. ALWAYS HAVE A CONTRACT OR AGREEMENT IN PLACE
It doesn’t matter who you are working with, whether it is your childhood best friend or a perfect stranger, always have an agreement or contract in place before commencing any sort of work. Agreements and contracts protect you, your business and your finances. They also prevent any ugly or uncomfortable situations that may arise when something goes wrong or if someone tries to take advantage of the situation financially. From scope of work, timeline, payment agreements, job profile to project details and expectations, list everything in an agreement or contract and make sure it’s written down and the concerned parties have signed. And no you do not need to hire a lawyer for this, you can do it yourself too.
5. KNOW YOUR WORTH
This might be the most important lesson I have learnt. Know your worth. When I say this I mean as an entrepreneur and as a person. Do not allow someone to negotiate with you, a price that would leave you unsatisfied and unhappy and may cause a loss, one to your self esteem and your Bank balance. If you provide a skill, definitely be firm about the cost of your services. Yes you can maybe adjust the prices a little to accommodate the budget of the potential customer so it works well for you both, but never something which is 20% less than what you would be okay with. The same rule applies to a product sale. While it has a cost price, there are a lot more factors that go into getting that product into the market and that includes you, your hardwork, planning and vision. Do not undervalue your products. In the long run, knowing your worth is the most important thing but be realistic about it too. Over time, your worth and value increases so do adjust your expectations accordingly. Never do anything less than what you’re worth. As women, it’s easy for people to be condescending and make us feel like we are worth less, what we are selling is worth less. However it is on us to not be swayed by other people’s opinion (because we are not the opinion of someone else) and stay firm in our business ethics and values.
In addition to this, I’d say- be patient with your work and yourself. Establishing yourself as an entrepreneur takes time and along the way you will learn a lot of lessons. Keep an open mind, stay confident, be patient and always sure of yourself as a woman in business.