25 Entrepreneurial Lessons I Learned in 2015

2015 was a year of growth, both personally and professionally. It was the year I took my passion in design and turned it into a freelance business, called it Geeky Dreamer Branding & Design, and had a very small understanding on how business worked in today’s times. I winged it though. Stringing myself along day-by-day as I threw things at the wall in hopes that they’d stick, using that as a method to “learn” business and how it worked.

Then at some point I just got really tired of that.

I ended up coming across a podcast—the seanwes podcast—and started listening to the shows as they talked about design, creativity, professionalism, and most importantly, business. I caught onto another show—Lambo Goal—that also talked about entrepreneurship and business. Over the next several months I listened, applied, listened, and applied. Always taking the nuggets that jumped out at me the most and applied them to my own business. Then I got around people who thought and talked like me. Who wanted to do better, think bigger, and dream more ambitiously. And inside this community, my learning continued. And all throughout the rest of 2015 I took it upon myself to soak up as much of the information and value I surrounded myself with.

And now I’m here. In 2016. Feeling phenomenal and in a much better position because I took the time to learn. So I figured, hey, why not share the top 25 lessons I learned that transformed my business with you?

And as you read through the list, I’ve included additional material for you to either listen, watch, or read that’s related to the lesson. Hopefully you’ll find this valuable, and if you do, don’t be afraid to pass it along to other entrepreneurs who may benefit from this list.

(1) Niching Down is Essential to Your Business Growth

Niching down keeps the noise out of your ear.

I believe we all inherently have a bit of “shiny-object syndrome” where “the new, shiny thing” catches our attention too often and takes our focus off of what we should be focused on. Niching down took me from a graphic designer who designed everything from t-shirts, flyers, buttons, CD covers, and anything else a client could throw at me to a brand identity designer who creates brands worth remembering for entrepreneurs. This has also lead me to developing two courses (Learn Branding online video course and the FREE 7-Day Branding Bootcamp email course (page coming soon)); add two more services this year; and running a weekly blog dedicated to providing branding and entrepreneurial insights.

From designing club flyers to growing a business. All because I niched down.

Don’t fear it. Embrace it.

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Listen
4 Reasons You Don’t Need to Be Afraid to Niche Down | seanwes podcast
Making a Living at a Niche Pursuit with “The Trifecta” | seanwes podcast

Watch
4 Reasons You Don’t Need to Be Afraid to Nich Down | seanwes tv

(2) Defining Your Target Audience is Everything

Everyone is not a target audience. Women between the ages of 20-40 isn’t a target audience. “Kids and teenagers” isn’t a target audience. This is a target audience:

Single mothers in their late 20s, early 30s, with 2-3 kids living on a modest, yet slightly stretched budget. She keeps a busy schedule between her 2-3 kids and doesn’t have a lot of time for herself. The downtime she does get, she wants to relax and take a few moments to herself. She’s in the middle of finishing school, but between her job and kids, her school schedule can’t adjust. She’d like to transfer to an online school, but isn’t sure if her credits will transfer and doesn’t want to spend a lot of phone time between the schools to make sure. So we’re going to build an expedited curriculum for this single mother. We will handle her credit transfers and instantly notify her if a credit doesn’t transfer before she switches to our online programming. During her small downtime, she may access her courses on a PC, laptop, tablet, or mobile device, simply by opening the app. The app will determine where she last left off and set its own reminders of upcoming coursework and assignments due. For this mother, we will create a custom feature for her and other mothers like her. This is our Hall-Pass feature, which allows up to 3 excused “mommy duty” absences from tests, papers, and other assignments. These can be rescheduled within a 7-day period.

Outlining and creating a “character” for what your target audience looks like allows you get more focused on the product you need to build. You can’t get that specific with “Women between the ages of 20 and 40” on a good day. Your target audience is going to impact every major touchpoint, experience, product/service benefit, etc of your business. Give this area some weight.

Listen
Defining Your Target Audience | Behind the Brand podcast
Staying True to Your Target Audience & Delivering Value | seanwes podcast

(3) Everything Starts with Writing

My case studies have attracted clients. Potential clients were able to see how I thought through each project and put themselves in the passenger seat as they read through them. Then I started blogging. With blogging, a better understanding to branding and brand identity came with it. This in turn increased my ability to better assist my existing clients. The more I wrote, the more comfortable I became speaking on the subjects of branding and brand identity. This has lead to me creating coaching services and developing two courses (as mentioned above; see: Learn Branding).

You can start writing too. You won’t know if you have something to say until you start writing.

Listen
It All Starts With Writing | seanwes podcast
It All Starts With Writing (Again) | seanwes podcast

Watch
Early Wake Daily Write | seanwes tv

(4) You Can’t Be On Every Social Platform

For one of my businesses, Twitter has been engaging and enjoyable. For another, it’s been dead in the water. Every social platform has its strengths, find out which you can leverage for your business and leave the rest alone. You don’t need to be on Instagram, Snapchat, Vine, Facebook, Twitter, Google+, YouTube, Tumblr, and Pinterest. Pick 2-3 platforms max and make them work for you. Spreading yourself out on every single one of those is going to exhaust and dilute your brand.

Listen
Can Your Business Be on Too Many Social Platforms? | seanwes podcast

(5) Scarcity Mindset Exhausts All of Your Resources and Time

There was a time I would sink a lot of resources into Upwork, submitting dozens of proposals and cover letters to make some spare change because client work wasn’t coming in as steady. Then it hit me this past weekend. I was in scarcity mindset. Once that clicked, I deleted my account entirely. That same night, I decided to create my two new services for 2016:

  1. Brand & Business Coaching
  2. In-House Designer

Had I continued to sink all of my efforts and time into Upwork, I wouldn’t have the time or energy to invest more into my business and do more of what’s been working for me. Upwork left me frustrated, exhausted and uninspired. Creating two new services left me hopeful and looking forward to future interactions and relationships with clients who will invest into these services.

Listen
How to Defeat Scarcity Mindset | seanwes podcast
Eliminating Scarcity Mindset & Recalibrating Your Perspective | seanwes podcast

(6) The Rule of Reciprocity

Give before getting.

Give.
Before.
Getting.

Provide value—the best value you have to offer—to your target audience. For free. And watch what happens.

Watch
The Rule of Reciprocity | seanwes tv

(7) Price on Value

When I ditched hourly pricing, I grew wings.

It turns out clients don’t like hourly pricing. It’s the uncertainty. They don’t know how many hours you’ll rack up in the process, and are scared to death of going over budget and getting an invoice they can’t pay. So taking the time to discover the value of my services and deliver a fixed flat investment quote up front has resulted in no one asking me to bring down the price, paid invoices, and extremely happy clients.

Listen
Getting Started With Value-Based Pricing | seanwes podcast
Attracting Clients and Positioning the Conversation Around Value | seanwes podcast
The Nuts and Bolts of Value-Based Pricing | seanwes podcast

(8) Your Business Can’t Grow On Facebook

Someone else’s platform isn’t the proper place to grow your business or brand. You’re restricted to their rules, their regulations, and their policies. You also can’t prevent major platform overhauls, design changes, or new restrictions and limitations they place on their platform.

You need a website.

A one-stop-shop that answers frequently asked questions, directs people where they need to go, introduces your product/service, and creates experiences.

Get you a website.

I design websites.

Problem solved. 😉

Listen
If Social Media Went Away Tomorrow, What Do You Have? | seanwes podcast

(9) Story is King

When I was little, I dressed up as Batman one time for Halloween. That same day in class, one of the other boys told me that I couldn’t be Batman, because Batman wasn’t Black. So as a child, this hit me very hard at a young age. What do you mean I couldn’t be Batman because he wasn’t Black? Was I not good enough? Were we, Black people, not good enough to be heroes? Only villains and support characters? That sent me down a road that would eventually lead me to create a platform to build and create my own comic universe and intellectual property under the name Arclight Comics, where believing is the gateway to becoming extraordinary.

Now doesn’t that sound better than me just saying, “I’m making a comic,”?

Story. Over. Everything.

Listen
Storytelling, Part 1 – Your Brand Story | Behind the Brand podcast
Storytelling, Part 2 – Crafting a Narrative | Behind the Brand podcast

Watch
Using Stories to Get More Eyes On Your Content | seanwes tv

(10) There’s a Difference Between Spamming and Marketing

Buy my thing!
Buy my thing!
Support my thing!
Support my thing!
Click my thing!

That’s spam. It creates noise. We’ve been training ourselves over the last several years to scroll past these kinds of posts without a second thought. They aren’t engaging and they don’t add much value to the people you want to buy your thing.

Create a story.

Create a value.

 

(11) Learning is Key to Personal and Business Growth

And it’s why I’m able to write this list.

Podcasts were my learning tool of choice in 2015 and will be a mainstay in 2016 with a return to physical and digital books. Knowledge truly is power.

Listen
The 3 Groups of People and How Learning Can Set You Apart | seanwes podcast

(12) Don’t Be Scared. Research It

If you hear a term, a technique, or something else you aren’t aware of, research it. We’re living in the Information Age. Google is a new tab away. Research that sucker and follow the rabbit trail. If you’ve raised a brow at any terms in this post, this is your opportunity to try this out!

(13) Comparison Is the Murderer of Progress

You are your own person. You have your own gifts and skills. You don’t need to compare yourself to someone else. Why? Because no matter how green the grass looks on their side of the fence, they still can’t grow grass the way you can grow grass. You’re uniquely and wonderfully made. Own every bit of it and leave your own mark. Let everyone else leave theirs.

(14) Content Marketing Is the Gateway to New Business

Share what you know.
Teach what you know.
Become an authority on what you know and bundle it up in ways that bring in new business.

Blogging has forced me to stay on top of what I know and learn more about it in ways not blogging wouldn’t. I’ve learned so much in 2015, I’ve been able to increase my design rates and build new business opportunities for this year.

Don’t believe me? Just to recap:

  1. 2 new courses launching this year: Learn Branding and the FREE 7-Day Branding Bootcamp email course
  2. 2 new services coming in 2016: Brand & Business Coaching and In-House Designer

Listen
Creating Content That Markets Your Launch | seanwes podcast
The Case for Evergreen Content  | seanwes podcast
How to Repurpose Your Content | seanwes podcast
Content Marketing Ideas for New Businesses | Lambo Goal

(15) Establishing Authority Gets You Clients

Once you’re seen as an expert on something, it builds trust. Trust leads to loyalty. Loyalty leads to paying customers and clients. You build authority by:

  1. Sharing what you know
  2. Teaching what you know
  3. Using content marketing to distribute those things to your target audience

(16) Consistency is Key

A dope logo and identity will only take your business so far. That’s because they make up a very small percentage of your brand. Being consistent builds credibility. Credibility builds trust. We like brands that we can trust and buy from them time and again.

Be consistent.

I’m still learning this myself.

Listen
People Don’t Notice Announcements They Notice Consistency | seanwes podcast

(17) Slow and Steady Wins the Race

Pace yourself. In time everything will fall into place. You’re not going to build Google or Apple in a day. Go all out on the long-game, remain future-focused, properly build your assets, and create a business that becomes sustainable. This takes time and patience, so adopt those concepts early on.

Listen
20 Steps to Building an Empire | Lambo Goal podcast

(18) Just Enjoy the Journey

Live in the now.

Appreciate the now.

Value the now.

We only have today. This is your journey. Make the absolutely most of it.

(19) Everything Can’t Be Free

Content marketing is great. Free e-books are great. Free courses and webinars are great. But when everything is free, there’s nothing coming back to support the making, building, directing, and producing of all of that content. Free doesn’t pay the bills. You have to sell and not feel bad for doing it. Also, be careful with those discounts. Because they’re slowly killing your business.

Listen
Two Prices: Full Price & Free | seanwes podcast
Full Price or Free | seanwes podcast
How I Sell Without Using Discounts | seanwes podcast
Sales Is Not a Dirty Word – Why You Need to Learn to Sell | seanwes podcast

(20) Automating and Optimizing Creates Margin

Creating margin = creating time.

If you can take a process that takes you 4 hours to do and have a service handle it for you, you’ve essentially bought back 4 hours in your day. Find areas and ways to automate and optimize. You can read more about this here.

Listen
Automating When You Can’t Afford to Hire Yet | seanwes podcast
Level Up Your Business (Part 4 of 4): Optimize | seanwes podcast
Working With Virtual Assistants and Hiring | Lambo Goal

Read
Why Doing It All Is Keeping Your Business From Growing| Geeky Dreamer blog

(21) Rest Is a Tool

The “I’ll sleep when I’m dead,” mentality has to go. I use to be that like and suffered many insomnia-related nights because of it. You rest to get back to work. You can’t work effectively and efficiently when you’re physically and mentally worn down. Taking small breaks brings some of the best creativity and clarity you’ll ever get.

Listen
Small Scale Sabbaticals | seanwes podcast

Read
The Power of Small Scale Sabbaticals | Geeky Dreamer blog
The Power of Small Scale Sabbaticals (My Results) | Geeky Dreamer blog

(22) You Don’t Need a $500k Investment to Get Started

If you’re not starting your business because you don’t have that $500k investment you need to start, it won’t mean much if you eventually get it. You can still put the pedal to the metal with a $500k hustle. Your grind has to match the dream. Even without that investment, you can still move forward with your dream. It may not be at the scale you want to do it at, but there’s always something to get started on today.

(23) Your Why is Everything

There are going to be days, weeks, and even months when the grind gets so tough you’ll face them and wonder why you’re doing what you’re doing. But if you know why you’re doing what you’re doing once your feet hit the ground every morning, those periods in time get easier to face. Having a Why moves you forward even when you don’t feel like it. It puts you in the mood when you aren’t in the mood. You Why is the holistic driver behind all that you do for your business, and without it, you’ll have a hard time progressing.

Read
Discovering Your Why | Geeky Dreamer blog

(24) 80% of Your Time Is Going To Be Spent Working On the Business, Not In the Business

This the the realest thing I heard in 2015. And the it’s true. I’ve spent more time building and growing my business than I have designing. I’m carefully constructing a foundation that’ll allow me to continue scaling and growing. But here’s the hard-hitting news. You may not be cut out for this entrepreneurial life if you aren’t willing to forgo the passion for a bit in order to work on the business. That’s the real of it.

Watch
Why I Have Employees When I Encourage People to Be Entrepreneurs | seanwes tv

(25) You Need To Be Around Like-Minded People

Getting around people who thought and dreamed bigger made all the difference in my growth last year. When I became a member of the seanwes Community, Geeky Dreamer took off in the direction of my vision my first month there. Everyone is equally yoked in terms of ambition. And when everyone is equally yoked, voices of descent and negativity can’t be found in the number. There are people in your life who won’t understand what you’re doing. You won’t be able to talk to them about visions and dreams simply because they don’t have any of their own. And not being able to share those things you’re so passionate about with others can bottleneck your growth.

Having someone to:

  • Talk too,
  • To see things you aren’t seeing in your business (both strengths and weaknesses),
  • Prevent you from doing things that may hurt your business, and
  • Introducing you to new ideas and opportunities you haven’t seen before was one of the biggest lessons I learned in 2015.

It took some stretching outside of my comfort zone to ask for help, but once I did it, the benefits are showing themselves now.

With it still being the start of the year, you may feel this is a good time to get around someone who can offer you this sense of community and support. But where do you start?

As I mentioned several times in the post, I’m adding two new services to my business this year. And one of them just launched. For 45 minutes, we’ll engage in an intense coaching session about your business, your brand, and explore the unseen opportunities and possibilities that already exist for you. And for the next 7 days, I’m launching the service at an introductory rate. This will be the only time this rate exists. Next Wednesday, January 20, 2016, this rate will no longer exist. I will never have this rate again, and it will continue to go up overtime. Click the image for more information and to schedule a session!

Introductory-Rate-Coaching-Collateral

(Click for more information)