Starting and running a business is one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. It becomes even harder when doing it in a developing country. But that didn’t stop me from padding together an ugly looking freelancing startup, which I took to six-figure revenue stream within a year.
It took sweat, all-nighters and lots of failure to reach that level of revenue. Years later, I look back on what I learned, and I want to share it with other entrepreneurs.
1. You need to put in the hours.
You’ve got to put in hours upon hours of working on your craft – or in my case, building my startup – before you can see results. There is no morning or night person in the freelance business. It's not a 9-to-5 job. You don't actually close up and go home.
For entrepreneurs – at least those who take the grind seriously – there is no off time. No closing time. When I first started my business, I had an office and office hours, but even when I got home, I still stumbled on pending works. And most of the time, I slept in my chair, computer still staring at me when I woke up. Am I saying you’ve got to be a workaholic to succeed in business? Yes.
General Electric CEO Jeffrey Immelt spent 24 years putting in 100-hour work weeks. Yahoo CEO Marissa T. Mayer was putting in 130-hour work weeks while at Google.
There are no shortcuts. What was driving me during my startup period was what Elon Musk said in an interview with Vator. “You just have to put in 80- to 100-hours work every week,” he said. I'll tell you, this advice changed my outlook on my freelance business. Musk went on, "If other people are putting in 40-hour work weeks, and you’re putting in 100-hour work weeks, then even if you’re doing the same thing, you know that you will achieve in four months what it takes them a year to achieve.”
2. Automate your business.
Start to automate your business processes now. Automation helps free up time for you to do one profound thing – think. This is something entrepreneurs hardly have time for. There just simply isn't time to step back and see where things are wrong or when things are shifting off focus.
As a workaholic, I automated my freelance business by employing people and sometimes, putting those I mentored to good use. This helped me cross that six-figure revenue stream. By delegating some of my tasks, it freed up valuable time and enabled me to have a bird's-eye view of my freelance business.
If you play chess, then you should know that you naturally see more loopholes outside the game than when you’re the one playing. A little distance from everything sometimes helps you see your business better.
3. Business isn’t magic. Whatever will go wrong, will go wrong.
I have always likened business to chess because there is no magic in that game. Miss a move, and you get smacked down. You must learn to cover all variables.
Learn your numbers. Know your ROIs. Always look for ways to increase the figures that the analytics give back to you. Always expect things to go wrong. Your mind-set should be on solving every possible glitch that might happen when a particular problem comes. When you think like that, you frequently end up catching some of these problems before they actually happen.
Let me borrow some wisdom from one of Musk's numerous interviews on TV. He said, “Basically, you should always take the approach that you’re wrong. That you, the entrepreneur, is wrong. Your goal is to be less wrong.”
Try to be less wrong with the product you want to launch. I’m not saying you should be perfect, but be close. Anticipate problems, and you’ll always make the clients feel like they’re in good hands.
4. Keep updating your skill set.
Always improve on your main money skills. The reason successful companies grow bigger is because they constantly find every possible way to employ better and smarter people who will inevitably help increase their ROI. Increase yours as an individual. Learn another skill. Venture into another lucrative vertical of your current niche.
I made the mistake of relying too long on my core skills that were bringing in the most money. I am not saying it’s wrong, but diversification is always the best business strategy.
When you keep updating your skill set, your assets keep increasing and any fall in one sector won’t affect you like it would for those who are dependent on one skill.
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This article originally appeared on Entrepreneur.com. Minor edits have been done by Entrepreneur.com.ph.