I have been asked to speak a handful of times by young professional groups about how I started my business. My anwser is almost always the same. The wrong way.
It's not that I didn't know I was doing it wrong... I just didn't have many options. I graduated from Montana State Univeristy with a degree in Graphic Design in May of 2009. I don't know if you remember the spring of 2009 but it's not what I would call a "glory year" for the American economy. Needless to say, there were not very many positions available, especially in Montana. After applying all over the country I decided to start freelancing to help pay the bills until I moved. This is really how Prime started.
Starting your own gig is hard enough, especially when you're a snot-nosed 23 year old. Over the years there are a few lessons that stuck with me. Here are three things I learned starting my business right out of college.
1: You're going to screw up. People will let you, if you're not a jerk about it.
We still screw up here on occasion and we will in the future. Everyone does and it's not a dirty secret. When I first started out, I was learning how to do a lot of things on my own and some things took awhile or didn't work perfectly the first time. There were things I had never done before and it killed me when it took me all night to get something, that now takes me 30 seconds, to work. This could have been a terrible experience for a client and could have lost me a lot of repeat business. However, by simply explaining the issue, apologizing for the delay or the problem, and then making sure they knew I was doing everything possible to fix it in a timely manner, I would ended up being thanked after making mistakes. I still take this approach, and it still works. Note: this sometime involves not going home at 5:00.
2: You can make up for any lack of knowledge, skill, or experience by just simply outworking everyone.
There is always someone bigger, better, and smarter then you. The reason why I own a business that has now reached 7 years old is because I was willing to work until 3:00am to learn new things. I fully believe I'm here because of relationships and a lot of late nights with music blaring and me pacing around a room.
3: Take every opportunity to learn from anyone that will let you!
Some of my clients are great mentors. A few are people that I worked for in college who are now clients. I still learn from these people every day. I had a great conversation with a client in the Minneapolis airport over an omelet and a Bloody Mary that was priceless. I have bought beers for people at conferences for conversations that have changed my business. Their knowledge base is vast and something that should not be wasted.
All in all what really worked for me were a handful of obvious things; Be fair, don't let people treat you unfairly, bend over backwords and people will give you a ton of slack, shake someone's hand enough that after time they demand a hug, and more so then anything else... when the time is right... buy them a beer.
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