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25 Things I Learned From Doing Business in 2012 (& My 3 Commitments for 2013)

December 31, 2012

In January of 2012, I published this post about my plan to stay out of busy-ness (and in creation) through implementing more structure in my workweek.

We’re turning the calendar page on another January, and it feels like the right time for another such post.

While this blog is not so much about my personal journey as an entrepreneur, I can’t ignore the fact that my readership — deep-diving, thoughtful people that you are — tend to really enjoy and appreciate posts where I share my own decision-making process around my business. That’s why I’m introducing a new Creative Lifestyle category here on the blog, to round up posts (like today’s) that explore the issues and ideas related to being in business as a creative person. While I’m not going to blog much in this category, a handful of good posts a year feel just right to me.

Below, my reflections on the year past and what I learned from doing business in it, in the hopes that my exploration of what works and why will have value for you in your own venture.

Here are 25 things I learned from doing business in 2012 (plus my 3 commitments for 2013):

  1. As it is in the beginning, so shall it be in the end. This is true for everything: difficult clients, lovely clients, routines, what works, what doesn’t work. Pay attention to the beginning.
  2. Listen — really listen — to the clients who are an absolute joy (and a healthy challenge) to work with. They will always have something valuable to teach you about your work and how you can deliver it even better.
  3. If you don’t prioritize growing your own business, no one else will. Protect time in every week for supporting your most important client: you.
  4. Do not listen to your Not Quite Right People or your Wrong People who give you advice about your visual brand identity: your color palette, your fonts, what you should do with your sidebar.
  5. Don’t listen to the well-meaning business peer who tells you that every choice you make about your visual brand identity “looks great.” She doesn’t really have a clue and is just going on her own opinion.
  6. In fact, don’t listen to anyone who gives you advice about your visual brand identity except for your web designer or a well-vetted branding specialist. No matter how beautiful a design choice is, if it doesn’t serve your business goals and brand objectives, it’s not a great choice. (Good) design and branding professionals know what choices will serve your goals and objectives.
  7. Don’t hire friends just because they’re friends. Just. don’t. See point number four in this article.
  8. Vet all the creative service professionals you hire, including coaches (business, life, wellness, creativity, and any other kind of coach) and consultants. Vet, vet, and vet some more.
  9. On that note, if you have a funny feeling about someone’s underlying motivations or integrity — be he a business coach, a new acquaintance, or just that guy on Twitter who everyone keeps retweeting — trust your intuition. One or two dark inklings are all you need.
  10. Just look away from resources, articles, blogs, etc. that don’t serve you right where you’re at today, this week, in this season of business. There is too much incoming. You can only hold — much less apply — a tiny sliver of the shinies available to you, so be your own filter.
  11. Say ‘no’ more than you say ‘yes’ to commitments, invitations, joint ventures, and other business liaisons.
  12. Understand the schedule you need to keep to do your best work. Keep it. Guard against unexpected appointments, impromptu Skype chats (yes, even with the sweetest people), and too much filler.
  13. If you’re known for A-tier customer service, the minute you dip down to B-tier (yes, even in an incredibly heavy project season), clients will notice and wonder what’s wrong and why they’re not getting treated the same. The old axiom rings true: underpromise and overdeliver.
  14. Thoughtfully declare (to yourself) your non-negotiables in any relationship, contract, or situation, and be true to them.
  15. If something about the way you’re working isn’t fun or pleasurable for you (including the ‘sweat on your brow’ kind of fun), change the way you’re working until it does feel fun.
  16. Don’t be afraid to iterate, but know why you’re iterating, and be able to succinctly and clearly explain the change to other invested people.
  17. Quality over quantity. In everything.
  18. More money and bigger revenues become possible in your business when you decide they do.
  19. Remember that your best business friends are not your business steering committee. You are responsible for making the best choices for your business and brand.
  20. When it comes to your competitors, there’s always somebody doing it bigger, more often, louder, flashier, or with the full public support of some big name internet sensation — but nobody is doing it the way you do.
  21. If it looks like fluff, if it sounds like fluff, if it feels like fluff — it’s fluff. This goes for your content and the other guy’s.
  22. Practice trusting your first impulse. It’s usually your best one.
  23. Everybody starts somewhere. You can’t claim what you haven’t done yet, and you can’t know what you don’t know. It’s okay to build a business and a brand from what you are and what you do and what you know today. And then grow and get better.
  24. If you don’t want to do it, don’t do it. At least not one more time.
  25. My lessons won’t be your lessons. The lessons you need are all around you, and coming to you. Let yourself notice them.

. . . and my 3 Business Commitments for 2013:

  1. Spaciousness. For me, this means allowing lots of white space in the calendar, not overbooking, and removing the pressure of time.
  2. Wholeness. For me, this means taking care of my whole being, knowing that the quality of me (mind, body, soul, and spirit) I bring to my work is directly reflected in the quality of what I create.
  3. Readiness. For me, this means preparedness, systems, and structures to support myself, my team, and our clients.

Happy New Year!

P.S.

A change is coming to our weekly posting schedule: based on extensive reader feedback gathered through our Voice Bureau Reader Survey, I’ve decided not to continue with the Wednesday feature, The Voice Bureau Asks. And Voice Notes is changing from an every-Friday feature to an occasional spotlight whenever the timing works best. I know this is the right decision for the brand. If you’re interested in hearing why, I’d be happy to share in an upcoming post.

In the comments, I’d love to hear:

What was your biggest business lesson in 2012? Also, feel free to share your top commitments for 2013 when it comes to doing business the way you want to.

And — if you have an opinion to share — feel free to let me know if you’re interested in my behind-the-scenes content strategy decision-making process for cutting or reducing the features I mentioned above.

(Image Credit: tarafirma.tumblr.com via Abby on Pinterest)

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