5 Lessons from 5 Years in Business


It’s March 2014 and I’m sitting in my then boyfriend’s one bedroom apartment staring at my computer wondering what the heck to do with my life.

You see, I had just packed up everything I owned and moved 1,000 miles away to another country to be with him. Love brought me to Canada and while I was glad to be here, I was at a crossroads. Should I apply to jobs and build back up my corporate career? Or should I figure out how to make it on my own.

I made the choice and went all in on building my business. I tried everything at first -- being a ghost blog writer, brainstorming product names, reviewing products on Fiverr -- you name it, I did it.

But social media was what I loved, and when one client (who I still work with today) asked me to help her with social media, I jumped on the opportunity. In the past five years, my business has grown from a freelancer doing #allthethings to a thriving social media business that supports my household.

There have been some high points of managing 40 clients and 6 staff. And there have been some low points of pulling money out of savings accounts just to pay the bills. But through it all, I’ve learned some powerful lessons that I want to share with you today.

Understand Your Value

In the beginning, I didn’t fully understand why people would pay me to do something I already loved. To me, social media was easy. I could see the value. Coming up with content ideas comes naturally to me.

What I was forgetting was that what came naturally to me was challenging for others. I’d been on YouTube since 2007 creating videos that now have over 10,000 views. I was an early adapter to social networks and loved playing on them to figure them out. I had a blog. I’ve worked with brands like Steve Madden and Goodwill. I was doing all of these things for myself when I didn’t even have much substance to share.

If I could do that for myself (which was a challenge because I was literally talking about nothing), then I could do that for real businesses with real products and services.

Yes, I was making less than what I wanted to start. But some money is better than no money. And those early clients were my learning ground. The things I tested and figured out on their accounts allows me to charge the rates I do today.

Understand this, experience matters. If you are only one step ahead of who you’re serving, that’s still one step more of experience. Leverage that and keep learning and growing. That’s where the real value comes in.

Build Your Tribe

If I could go back and change one thing about building my business it’s that I played in the shadows for the first 3-4 years of my business. I was working for my clients (which I loved) but I wasn’t doing much to build my own tribe.

Find your people. They are the ones you can lean on in those low times. They are the ones who will celebrate your wins with you. They are the ones who will support your next project or venture. Find your people and keep them close.

For me, building my tribe means joining paid communities like the What Works Network. It means speaking at conferences and events. It means hanging out in the Instagram DMs of other business owners I admire.

Building your tribe can look however you want it to look. Just make sure you’re intentional about that connection. Your success depends on it.

Create Original Content

Creating original content is an amazing way to showcase your authority. There’s something about showing, not telling, that builds the know, like and trust factor for potential clients and customers.

When I started, I did that with YouTube videos. These days, I focus on my podcast and Facebook Live videos in my Facebook group. My original content is a reference point for my potential clients and an entry point into my ecosystem for potential students. This original content positions me as an authority in the space. There’s a history there because viewers can see how long I’ve been doing the work.

Figure out what that looks like for you. It could be blogs like this one. It could be as simple as sharing a tip to your LinkedIn account. Whatever the case may be, find a way to share what you know. And keep doing it. The magic happens one to two years in.

Focus on the Main Thing

Back in 2014, my then boyfriend (and now husband) would always say this to me: keep the main thing the main thing.

It’s so easy to get distracted by shiny objects of taking a new course or rewriting your email sequence or scrolling through Instagram. Being that the internet is so accessible, we literally have millions of ways to distract ourselves at our fingertips.

Don’t forget the main thing.

For me, that’s getting invoices paid. It’s literally the only thing that keeps my business going. Without paying clients, I can’t pay out my team. Without paying clients, I can’t take time off to travel to speak. Without paying clients, I can’t pay my bills.

By keeping the main thing front and center, I’m able to accept amazing collaboration opportunities like my partnership with Social Report. I’m able to support my husband who now is pursuing his career as a fiction author. And I’m able to fund my own new business venters like building a social media training membership site called the Savvy Social School.

Your main thing is the one thing you need in order to keep doing what you love. Figure out how to keep that main thing the main thing and you’ll go far.

Remember Your Why

Rewind back to that one bedroom Toronto apartment in 2014. My husband was miserable at his job. I was making some great progress with freelancing and he wanted to join me in this online business.

When we started to think about what we wanted to do in building this business, we wanted to build something that relied on the what we called the 3 Fs:

  • Freedom

  • Flexibility

  • Financial Independence

We wanted the freedom to work on the projects that light us up. We wanted the flexibility to work from anywhere and at any time. And we wanted to financially be able to support ourselves through this process.

All 3 of these F’s have to work together. You can’t have Freedom and Flexibility without Financial Independence. It doesn’t work that way. That’s a hobby.

So we ran the numbers and realized in order for this to work. We had to move somewhere more affordable. Somewhere that wasn’t Toronto. If this was going to work, we had to cut our expenses down so low that if we had to work at a coffee shop, we’d still be able to feed ourselves and put a roof over our heads.

So yes, we sacrificed living what some people would call a glamorous city life. Our friends in Toronto didn’t understand why we’d do such a thing.

We did it because we wanted to live a simpler, happier life. We chose freedom, flexibility and financial independence over a living in a condo or having a flashy car.

As you go through building your business, remember why you do what you do. It’ isn’t all about money. It’s about building a life that you enjoy living.

Meet the Author: Andrea Jones

Andréa Jones is a social media strategist who works with small businesses, startups, and podcasts to build their online presence through targeted social media and content marketing solutions. She’s the host of the Savvy Social Podcast, a show for budding entrepreneurs who want to understand the how and why of social media marketing. She’s also the founder of SavvySocialSchool.com – a membership community that has everything you need to achieve visibility, growth, and engagement on social media.

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