Culture

5 Things I Learned In My First 6 Months As a Small Business Owner

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While living in Washington, D.C., I launched a hobby business at the end of August 2014 on Etsy.com, an e-commerce site focused on handmade and vintage goods.

I realized that my little hobby business made me really happy—and the prospect of growing it into something bigger was really exciting. I formed an LLC in October and, by December, I decided to take the leap and build a full-fledged website which went live Friday, March 6, 2015.

Since beginning this journey last August, I have learned quite a few things…

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 1. Time spent doing “Business Stuff” > Time spent doing “Fun Stuff” 

When I initially envisioned myself owning a business, I saw myself spending the majority of my time designing and producing my product—the “fun stuff.”

I laugh now (but happily).

In reality, most of my time is spent “running” the business.

Besides actually creating my product, I also handle all the financial and legal matters, the management of the website and social media accounts, the creation of some promotional graphics, taking photographs of the products, physically packing and shipping items sold…  The list is long enough to fill up a 5-day workweek…and then some.

(I’m sure you small business owners out there are nodding like bobble heads right now.)

This is the reality of “small business”–but I like it!

2. Read up on State and Local Sales Tax, as well as Use Tax 

Longer explanation not needed—just do it and make sure you collect the right amount.

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3. You will spend a lot of time doing little things that nobody sees

Business is a lot like building a house. Although people won’t actually see things like framing or subfloor, you have to spend the money and time to install them–otherwise your house won’t be a well-built house!

Before the “OPEN” sign makes its debut, a lot of time is spent framing the business and completing integral tasks that customers don’t see. For example, setting up accounting software to manage sales, opening bank accounts, weighing products for shipping, etc…

Due to the nature of Wisconsin and its zip codes, I had the pleasure of manually entering 800+ zip codes into BOTH of our e-commerce platforms. It was horrific, but taking the time to enter state sales tax rates correctly was better than the alternative: being penalized by the state or paying the tax myself.

If you take the time to frame your business appropriately, business will run more smoothly once you open–and you won’t have to worry if you cut corners.

4. Even if you are small and just starting out, think about long-term growth

I purchased an accounting software and promptly outgrew it within a few months. Initially, the software was purchased because it integrated with my Etsy.com page. However, once I purchased my own website, I found they didn’t work well together.

If I had been thinking about long-term company goals versus immediate needs, I would have initially bought something that worked with more e-commerce platforms and websites.  It wasn’t a huge hitch in the plan to switch accounting software, but it did eat up valuable time and a little bit of money.

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5. Assign proper value to your work

When I first started out on Etsy.com, my prices were low. I was more focused on offering products at a price-point I thought conservative shoppers (or my friends) would feel comfortable paying versus proper MSRP.

I broke even in two days—so it wasn’t a disaster of a lesson to be learned—but I regret undervaluing my time and my work. If I had priced my products more fairly, I would have a) made a little bit more money and b) had more money to reinvest in my business!

Don’t undervalue your time, effort, and creativity.

*****

Please join the discussion on Twitter. The essay above is the fourteenth in volume 2 of the cultural discussions between the writers of PJ Lifestyle and Liberty Island exploring the history of counter-cultures, the future of conservatism and the role of new, emerging counter-cultures in restoring American exceptionalism. Want to contribute? Check out the articles below, reach out, and lets brainstorm: @DaveSwindle

Volume II

  1. Frank J. Fleming on February 26, 2015: What Is the Future of Government? Why It Won’t Look Like Star Trek 
  2. Aaron C. Smith on February 26, 2015: What Is the Future of Superheroes? Why They Need To Start Killing Super-Villains
  3. Mark Ellis on February 26, 2016: What Is the Future of Gen-X Manhood? Adam Carolla Vs Chuck Palahniuk?
  4. David S. Bernstein on February 26, 2015: What is the Future of Fiction? You’ll Be Shocked Who’s Fighting the New Conservative Counter-Culture
  5. Aaron C. Smith on March 2, 2015: The House Loses: Why Season 3 of House of Cards Utterly Disappoints
  6. Michael Walsh on March 2: What the Left Doesn’t Get About Robert A. Heinlein
  7. Frank J. Fleming on March 3: 8 Frank Rules For How Not to Tweet
  8. Susan L.M. Goldberg on March 4: 7 Reasons Why Backstrom Is Perfect Counter-Culture Conservative TV
  9. Frank J. Fleming on March 5: What Is the Future of Religion?
  10. Aaron C. Smith on March 5: The Future of Religion: Why Judeo-Christian Values Are More Important Than Science
  11. Spencer Klavan on March 5: Not Religion’s Future: ISIS and the Art of Destruction
  12. Chris Queen on March 7: 5 Reasons Why Big Hero 6 Belongs Among The Pantheon Of Disney Classics
  13. Frank J. Fleming on March 11: 6 Frank Tips For Being Funny On the Internet

See the first volume of articles from 2014 and January and February 2015 below:

2014 – Starting the Discussion…

January 2015 – Volume I

February 2015