My business just turned ONE year old, and while I couldn’t be prouder and more excited, I also have been reflecting on the things that I really messed up on! I’m all for self-reflection and personal growth, so I love fine-tuning my processes and the way I do things with my business. That being said, there are some things that I wish I could re-do. We all have to start somewhere, and I truly believe I learned great things from these “failures”, BUT I would love to help YOU not make the same mistakes as me.
1. Not Paying My Taxes Quarterly
When you’re self-employed, taxes are confusing. They don’t automatically get taken out of your paycheck like they would with a “normal” salary. This means you have to SAVE somewhere around 20% of your income in order to pay Uncle Sam. While you CAN wait until April 15 to pay your taxes, I STRONGLY don’t recommend it. This leaves so much room for error and forgetfulness.
Each quarter, you can opt to pay your taxes for the previous quarter. This helps you get a better idea of what you owe and how much to save, that way, when April 15 rolls around you either have it 100% paid off, or you only have a little bit more to pay. WAY less stressful.
2. Not Scheduling Out Work-Time vs. Me-Time
This one is HUGE, and it’s one that I knew about but still turned my head to. It is SO important to create that cut off between work and real-life because if you don’t, you will be working and/or thinking about work NON STOP. With most normal 9-5 jobs, when 5:00pm rolls around you can walk out of the office and call it quits for the day. It’s not as easy to do that when you work from home.
I have worked from 7am-11pm many many MANY nights. This leads to stress, overwhelm, and it really takes a toll on your personal life and relationships. I wanted to be self-employed in order to have more freedom… but I was doing the exact opposite.
3. Not Creating Contracts for MANY Clients that I “Trusted”
If you are just starting out, my number one piece of advice is to get things down on paper. Set expectations with your clients, and get their signature on it. I have been burned SO many times from clients taking advantage of me by finding loopholes and workarounds. I have had to fight for payments from clients who suddenly fell off the grid once I completed the project. I would decide who I would create contracts with based on the “vibe” I got from them over the phone, and let me tell you… that was DUMB.
Create contracts with EVERY SINGLE CLIENT. Draft up a template and keep it in your Google Drive. Replace the names of the businesses/clients, but keep the basis of the contract the same. Then, use DocuSign to get electronic signatures BEFORE you do ANY work.
4. Not Pricing My Services Correctly
I doubted myself SO much when it came to pricing my projects and services. I even had clients tell me “Kellie, you NEED to raise your rates!” People that were paying me to do work for them were telling me to charge them MORE. If that wasn’t a HUGE sign, I don’t know what is. My dad told me every week to raise my rates, but I was afraid to in fear of losing clients.
As a general rule of thumb, if you are getting “Yes”s for 100% of the projects you pitch, you need to raise your rates. I started with a $5/hour raise, then a $10/hour raise, and now I am making $20/hour MORE than when I first started. Yes, this has a LOT to do with experience, and I definitely don’t think I could have been charging what I am now at the start of my journey, but I could have made the switch a lot sooner.
The reason people are coming to you for your products/services is because they CAN’T do it themselves… a-duh! In my mind, I was constantly thinking “well this isn’t that hard of a project so I can’t charge too much”. The flaw with that is, I have been working DAMN hard to become an expert in my field, so of course it’s easy for me now… but that doesn’t mean it’s easy for my clients or the people inquiring in my services. Know the value in your work!
5. Not Getting Payments Upfront
When I first started my business, I would do entire projects before asking for payments. I can’t tell you how stupid this is. I would develop entire $600 websites BEFORE getting paid, and I ran into a lot of problems. Most of the time, people were lovely and would pay me the day I requested, but other times, I had to fight to get paid. Clients would find any and every excuse to not pay. I even had a client claim all of a sudden that they couldn’t afford my fees, even when we settled on a price BEFORE I started.
There is nothing more terrifying and frustrating than not being able to get payment for a project you already completed. I don’t recommend asking for 100% upfront for a big project like a website, but I do recommend doing 50% upfront and 50% upon completion. This not only allows for more peace of mind, but it establishes trust with your client because they know that they don’t have to pay the entire invoice until the project is totally complete. Instilling this rule shows that you are confident in your work and are willing to bet 50% on it.
With everything I did wrong with my business, the most important takeaway was that I didn’t trust myself enough.
I second guessed myself, talked down on myself, and questioned my abilities every single day. This led to so many mistakes that could have easily been avoided. Bottom line, trust yourself, trust the process, and trust in the universe to have your back. You are capable, and you will land on your feet. You are a fighter, and you are more than capable of greatness.