When I explain to people that I live six months in Italy and six months in New York City as the owner of as travel business, the response is almost always followed by a series of questions such as how, what, why, but mostly how.
I launched my Italian travel business, Travel Italian Style in 2014. At the time I took what I thought were the proper steps in becoming well-rounded in this venture. Beginning from the participation in online marketing programs, business coaching, purchasing a series of books from successful professionals, and spending endless hours researching my field.
Now that I’m entering my fourth year of business, I can say that while those first steps were great, I still made a fair share of mistakes along the way. This also has been some of the hardest four years of my life, but I wouldn’t trade them for the world; I just wish I understood the reality behind becoming an entrepreneur prior to launching.
I believe it’s possible to live the life you imagine, especially one as an entrepreneur. However, it’s important to be realistic, ethical and prepared. This is why I chose to not only share standard business advice, but also practical wisdom on becoming a respected heart-centered entrepreneur.
1. Be original and never stop growing.
I’m sure you’ve heard this before. But have you really listened?
No matter which industry you choose to pursue, there’s a way to differentiate yourself and you must do this. You’re not the first one starting a business and you won’t be the last, this why it’s important to establish and share your unique gift, then keep evolving from there.
When I first started my business as a travel planner, I used to tell people that what I wanted was to combine my love of Italy with spirituality and motivational speaking. Everyone thought I was crazy. Just two years into the venture, I was recommended to speak at a TEDx event in Germany and my career as a motivational speaker took off. Since then I’ve easily combined my two passions and even expanded into other sectors such as nonprofit. I found my niche and you can find yours, the one that works for you. Be open to possibilities along the way and also strive to inspire others.
PS. If you’re still unclear on your role in your business or life, I highly recommend Marie Forleo’s B-School. The first portion of the program has a strong focus on this subject.
2. Get your finances in order.
When speaking with fellow entrepreneurs, we often agree the biggest mistake we made at the beginning was not preparing our finances properly. To avoid our same mistake, I would recommend establishing a strong savings account before launching your business. There are investments you will have to make for your work and yourself that are essential at the start.
I would also highly recommend hiring an accountant or a financial advisor. Choose someone who understands your business, taxes and the laws associated with your line of work. If you feel confident enough to do it yourself, then be sure to invest in the right programs such as Quickbooks.
3. Be inspired but don’t copy.
When you’re determined to start a business, there are days when you may feel frustrated, stuck and uncreative. This is when you might turn to your competitors or the website of a well-established person in your industry for some inspiration. Personally, I think this is a disaster waiting to happen. While it’s important to understand what’s going on in your industry and where your competitors stand, it’s more important you stay clear of any plagiarism.
Besides the fact that it’s likely you’ll be approached by this business and possibly their legal team, it’s also imperative to have integrity and respect for fellow professionals and yourself. You should strive to stand out as a leader, not a follower.
There are a ton of ways to learn rather than copy. My suggestions would be to visit a local library or bookstore and research your industry, listen to podcasts, read business blogs or participate in free webinars. You can even sit with a close friend or family member outside of your network. Sometimes fresh ideas from the outside can inspire what’s burning on the inside.
If you truly feel inspired by the written copy of a competitor, try acknowledging them in this way:
“Thanks to _____, I have finally found my purpose. I recommend you follow this amazing person too.”
I believe it’s possible to live the life you imagine, especially one as an entrepreneur. However, it’s important to be realistic, ethical and prepared.
4. Protect your business.
Now that we’ve established staying ethical with your fellow professionals, the next step is to protect your own venture both online and on paper. One of the first ways to do this is to become an incorporated business. Next, I recommend hiring a lawyer to discuss with you all the legalities involved in copyright and trademark protection.
Also, be cautious as to whom you share your ideas and bring into your business. While I highly believe in “each one, teach one,” sadly there are people who will take advantage. If you do decide to share your ideas, be sure to first create a written agreement between you and the other person. If someone requests a mentorship, take some time to access the situation. I know you want to help (because we all know what it’s like starting out) but sometimes simply extending words of encouragement and suggesting a few great resources could be enough. Not everyone needs to be welcomed into your world.
If you find several inspired fans reaching out to you, I recommend sharing professional advice on a paid basis, developing a mastermind group where you help one another or taking part in speaking events. This will give you the ability to share what you’ve learned without comprising your business.
5. Expand your branding beyond social media.
Social media is made up of a series of platforms that can reach millions. From the outside it seems easy to be successful with sales. However, in my opinion, this is not a reliable income stream. Instagram may be full of people, but not everyone is your target market, even if they follow you. Be sure to be versatile and try many forms of marketing.
Think of it this way: If social media disappeared tomorrow, would your business still make it?
6. Create a tribe.
Where you spend your time and with whom you keep around during your journey is one of the most important aspects of your career. Keep close to those who understand, support and motivate you.
I’m not saying to drop all of your non-entrepreneur friends. I am encouraging you to stay closer to those who lift you. Engage with those that who you feel good and inspire your creativity. You need every ounce of energy as a business owner. You’re not being selfish, you’re just looking out for the most important person in your life, you.
7. Stay healthy, keep focused and work on your mind and body.
Exercise, incorporate foods into your diet that keep you balanced and well-nourished, read books, attend self-development seminars and listen to music or inspirational talks. If you have the time and resources, try to meditate, take breaths, stretch or even a treat yourself to a yoga retreat.
Make a point to honor yourself and to feel your best. Even if you’re not making a high income at the start, there are plenty of budget-friendly ways to stay healthy and strong.
I’ll end with this famous quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson, “The first wealth is health.”
If you’re looking for tools to keep yourself balanced and informed during your journey, I suggest:
Staying Healthy + Centered
Are you an entrepreneur or thinking about becoming one? What advice on this list is most helpful for you right now?
Feature Image via Rachel Shoppy