By January 15, 2013 Read More →

8 things I wish I’d known before I started a business

by Barbara Winter

Work from Home Wisdom - Barbara Winter - 8 things I wish I'd known before I started a business When I started my first business, I didn’t know another self-employed person. There was no Internet and not many books that were written for someone wanting to create a one-person operation. It was all trial and error…lots of error.

Today there are abundant resources, but some of the most important things I learned, still aren’t being acknowledged.

Here are eight things I wish I had known sooner about business

    °The business you start out with is not the business you end up with. By it’s very nature, business is an evolutionary process. As you change and grow—and as the marketplace changes and grows—you’ll make adjustments.
    The good news is that you can get started wherever and whenever you want without having to know every detail. Be willing for your business to deliver pleasant surprises and lessons.

    ° Refuse to take advice from uninformed sources. It’s easy when you’re filled with self-doubt to listen to dreambashers. Don’t do it. And don’t solicit advice from those who have failed.
    It’s amazing to me how often I talk to people who have abandoned a great idea because someone who knew nothing about their business (and probably wasn’t even an entrepreneur themselves) talked them out of it.
    As the Persian poet Rumi advised, “When setting out on a journey, do not seek advice from someone who has never left home.”

    ° Know the difference between an expense and an investment. Many new self-bossers see any outlay of money as an expense. While your business will have costs associated with running it, spending money now to produce a greater good in the future is an investment.
    Your money needs to go to both. Some of the biggest return on investment comes when you invest in yourself.

    ° What you don’t know can be learned. Part of building a successful business is determining which parts of it make your heart sing and which make your heart sink. Once you know that, you can farm out the parts that you’re not good at.
    Equally important is learning how to research your ideas and connect with informed sources. If you operate on the assumption that you can acquire the information and skills you need at every stage of development, you’ll always have the pleasure of being a voluntary student.

    ° Personal growth is a daily activity. Paul Hawken says, “Being in business is not about making money. It’s a way to become who you are.” I became an entrepreneur because I was curious about what I could become. Self-employment continues to be my best teacher.
    There’s a basic truth you need to keep in mind: you can’t outperform your self-image. In order for your enterprise to reach it’s fullest potential, you have to reach yours. An occasional seminar or personal growth book or CD isn’t going to have the impact that daily work on your self will. Happily, there’s an abundance of tools to help you do just that.

    ° Don’t confuse a project with a dream. Your dreams are your ultimate destination; a project is a step along the way. Too many people use a project failure as an excuse to abandon their dreams.
    Know the difference—and don’t make that mistake..

    ° Patience is your best friend. There’s a fine line between being patient and being a procrastinator. It seems to me that what many people call failure is simply running out of patience, giving up before their idea had a chance to blossom.
    For most entrepreneurs, patience is an on-going challenge.

    ° Know the difference between taking a risk and taking a calculated risk. Timid people who are not self-bossers think that you’re a wild person jeopardizing your family and finances. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Studies have shown that successful entrepreneurs take risks, but they’re cautious, calculated ones based on research—and intuition.

    Of course, part of the appeal and adventure of being joyfully jobless is not always knowing exactly how things will turn out.

    Barbara J. Winter is a California-based self-employment advocate. She is the author of Making a Living Without a Job and Seminar in a Sentence. She also publishes Winning Ways, the longest-running self-employment newsletter now in its twenty-sixth year. She is spending 2013 traveling around the US and Canada conducting Joyfully Jobless Weekends to help others build a better business.

7 Comments on "8 things I wish I’d known before I started a business"

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  1. Liz says:

    I love that quote and am going to put it on my wall! “When setting out on a journey, do not seek advice from someone who has never left home.”

    “Making a Living without a Job” is a book I read over and over, every time I need inspiration.

    I woud add that running a business from home changes your whole life, not just your working life – the separation between the two somehow begins to disappear.

    • Judy says:

      I agree, Liz, and one of the main reasons I like being self-employed and working from home is that there is no separation between work and life – it’s all just life! I do realise, though, that some people want to keep that in place, and I think that’s the difference between the ‘natural’ joyfully jobless and those who prefer employment.

  2. Adam Connell says:


    I wish I could go back and take what I know now back with me.

    Patience is a powerful one, especially working online or with SEO because all these things take a lot of time. There’s no magic button unfortunately.

    • Judy says:

      Well, that’s very refreshing to hear, Adam, and I always wonder about the so-called overnight successes. As I posted on FB recently, ‘Sometimes the grass will appear greener on the other side because it has been fertilised by bullshit’!

  3. Bookmarked, cached, carved on my brain 🙂

    I have an artist’s date with myself every week (a genius of an idea from Julia Cameron) where I go to a coffee shop and do something creative that isn’t business. It’s my balance to the rest of the week and my invest in myself as you say. Since I started doing it again last month, I’ve written 3 guest posts instead of struggling to write nothing!

    If anyone is interested in what I do in my date’s, currently I am copying out Julia’s book (yours is on the waiting list, Barbara). It’s my meditation.

    Oh, and the cost of my date and materials go in my business expenses. It isn’t tax-deductible, but a business expense it is none the less. For me it’s an investment, but one does need to stick to HMRC’s rules and I doubt a cup of tea counts as an asset according to them!

    • Judy says:

      My accountant has never been impressed by my mentions of cups of coffee, Rosie!
      This is a great idea, always worth the time out, I find. There’s more about it on a previous post The Home Worker’s Date.

      • I have non tax deductible expenses on a separate area of my spreadsheet. That way it saves a LOT of time.

        The spreadsheets I send to clients are structured to make the calculations much easier and take less time – both for working out what you’re spending money on in your business, and for the tax return.