Lessons I have learned from starting my own business at 18 (Part 1)

Hi! Here are some little (and some not so little) lessons I have picked up along the journey of creating and nurturing my business. There will be two parts to this post, so if you like what you read, keep your eyes open tomorrow for the second installment. It’s a very long post, so I apologize in advance (I know how annoying it is to read really long things online), but for those of you who are interested in my own experience of the work I do, here it is! I’m really bad at these introduction things, so I’ll just start with my list (making lists is something i’m very good at).

1. You don’t need to invest too much money into your business right away.

A common and yet often times erroneous decision I see many new entrepreneurs make is that they invest too much too soon into their business. Sound ridiculous? How can she say that I shouldn’t be investing my money to shape my business into looking exactly as I want it to look? Let me explain.

It’s very exciting to create your business and your brand. You get to be all kinds of creative. Your business is ultimately an extension of yourself; your product, your values, your expectations, your standards, your creativity – and you are putting this very extension of yourself out there into the big scary world! That’s a pretty big deal. You want it to be something that is respected and of high quality. You want to make a lot of money. You want everything to be working efficiently and seamlessly on the inside, and you want it to look real pretty on the outside.

Many people have this very intention, and put in a lot of money into their business from chapter one, day one. They rent an office. They buy a years worth of supplies. They set up a very impressive website. They get 1000 business cards made. They pay for advertising in well acclaimed mediums.

Now they are set up. They are ready. Let’s go!

But what if it doesn’t “go”? What do you do then? Then you are left in the lurch, wondering “Where did it all go wrong? I thought I did everything right.”

But your business, no matter how fancy it’s looking, is an empty vessel – waiting for a breath of life. When you have a baby, granted you need to prepare for the new addition to your family. But do you buy them a wardrobe that should last them the first 5 years of their life, or the car car you plan to give them for their 18th birthday? No.

When I started my business doing intuitive readings I did not invest any money. I invested my time, my practice, my energy and my skills. I fully acknowledge that this was an appropriate decision for the field that I am in (intuitive work), and I do understand that for those in another field of business, some initial financial investment is necessary – but only the bare essentials. For example, if you were a masseuse, investing in a massage table would probably be a good idea, and would be pretty necessary.

I just did readings. I focused on my product. That’s all I had to offer and that’s all I knew I could offer at the time. Over time I started making a small investment of around $10 per reading that I did in order to rent a beautiful space downtown, where I could do my readings. Soon after, I moved to giving readings from my home, because it just made more sense for me.

My point is that at the beginning, I never paid for advertising. When people asked for my business card, I would write down my name and number on a piece of paper (in my best handwriting of course!). The only supplies I invested in was a new deck of tarot cards. I didn’t have a website. I didn’t have a blog. All I had was my product. And you know what? That’s all I needed.

This is not to say that this is where I stayed. As my business began to grow, I found myself bringing in much more income than I was putting out there. That’s awesome. Isn’t that what we all want? It was at this time that I realized that if I wanted to invest in plumping up my business, I could, and it would be a well-timed move. At this point I had been doing readings for over 1 year, and my clientele was increasing. I had some business cards made. Not too many, just enough. And I reordered as was necessary, no more and no less. I placed my first paid ad in a local wellness magazine – and I realized that the purpose of this advertising was to accelerate my clientele, not to build it. At my workshop, I rented out a bigger and more lovely space, hired a chef, and also invested money in a great graphic designer to work on the poster. I am also having my website designed very soon!

I never felt the “blow” of any of these expenditures because I was finally at a position where it made financial sense. I was at a point in my business where putting more into my business would naturally result in more being given out. At the birth of your business, the putting in to getting out ratio is not that mutually favourable.

This was a very important lesson for me to learn. That even though it might be super exciting to spend and invest a lot into yourself initially, sometimes it can be much more beneficial to wait, focus on your product, improve your product, establish a stable clientele, and then start getting really creative. Because then you will have an audience that will actually appreciate it for all the hard work you’ve done.

2. Word of mouth is the best form of publicity

As aforementioned, advertising is a great way to accelerate your clientele growth (under the right circumstances) but is not always the best way to create your clientele from scratch. This is why I would advise new business owners to not bother investing too much in advertising in the beginning. If you don’t have a brand or identity in some small way yet, then you are just buying some white space.

If I counted the number of new clients I attracted through advertising versus the number of new clients I attracted through positive feedback from previous clients – the difference would be substantial.

If I see a great ad from someone in a business I am interested in – I’ll look at it, be intrigued, and may or may not check it out depending on many external factors (cost, availability, resources, do I really want it? Are they really what I’m looking for?)

If a great friend tells me that they have had a good business experience with someone in a business I am interested in – I’ll be more likely to make that initial contact. Because I trust my friend under the premise that if they had a good experience, maybe I will have a good experience too!

If I see a great ad from someone in a business I am interested in, AND a great friend tells me that they have had a positive business experience with this person – hallelujah the cosmos align and I am there. If this is something I really want, I couldn’t really ask for any more validation.

Word of mouth is a powerful tool that should not be used lightly. It can build or destroy your reputation. If you do good, authentic work – that knowledge will spread and people will seek you out. If you do something great for one person, then they will tell their people, and so on and so forth. This is where about 90% of my clients come from. And I am thrilled about that.

It can also destroy your reputation if you are reckless and don’t do a good job. Stories of bad experiences can spread like wild fire -this means you always have to be on your game. But if you are doing what you do for the love of it, and you have confidence that you are good at what you do – this should not phase you.

So in order to master this lesson, all you have to do is make sure that every interaction you have with a client is a positive one. Give them something to rave about. 

3. Create a need through exclusivity.

One of our primal psychological needs is our need to feel significant and important in our lives. If your business can assist someone in fulfilling this emotional need, you will attract customers naturally. This is not to say that you need to be superficial – you can still make your customer feel that their role in your business is significant in an authentic way. There are two ways to create exclusivity.

The first rule of exclusivity: You don’t need to be available all the time.

This is not to say that you must fake being busy and not take on any new clients because you are “exclusive and unavailable”. This simply means that you don’t have to offer your resources and services constantly. There are two reasons for this.

Firstly, people don’t want what is normal and easily available.

When something is always available, it becomes easy to put it off for “another time”. It also loses it’s lustre – because you know it is always going to be there. So what if you don’t hop on this train? What’s the big deal? You’ll just catch the next one. It all takes you to the same place anyway, and you have other things you need to be doing. Being late is not a big deal.

A personal example for myself would be the workshops and lectures I conduct. I could offer regular workshops and classes every month, but I choose not to. Rather than being constantly available with an easily accessible workshop or lecture up my sleeve, I rather take my time and plan. I rather wait and create something of great value that may not come often, but when it does, is entirely worth it for the participants. It is more important to me that my clients can make the most of their time attending one of my events, rather than getting a consistent but watered down version of everything I would like to represent. When you do this, the natural reaction is that people begin to wait for you and follow your schedule. People start to follow your work because of what you do and who you are, rather than just because it’s there.

Secondly, people feel a greater sense of accomplishment when they themselves find a diamond in the rough.

When a community becomes saturated with a certain kind of resource, service or skill – people get turned off. It’s all the same old thing. You’ve heard it all before, and even if you could really benefit from this service, for some reason you are not as compelled to try it out. Everyone is the same, offering the same thing, and reciting the same passages from the same books. What people want is something different and special. Something that sparkles. When a person finds something gold, they feel good about it. It isn’t like any thing else they could easily get with the press of a button. They realize that this is special, and if this is how they see your business, they will also treat it that way and keep their connection with your work sacred. When a customer deems your work as sacred, they respect and honor the relationship they have with your business and will support you to the end.

A personal experience of this would be if there is one resource that is available by many people – and yet you wait and choose to get it from one person in particular. Suppose you really love a particular speaker’s knowledge and expertise on a particular topic of your interest. You really feel that this person is an expert at what they are talking about. There are many people who have learned from this master and give similar lectures on the same principles and philosophies. Yet you find that you rather just “Wait” until the master is in town and hear it from him, than hear it from other people who may be equally knowledgeable. But in your mind – he is different – because he is exclusive. He isn’t around often, and he is a master at what he is sharing. And everybody knows it.

The second rule of exclusivity is: Raise your rates.

Here is a word of caution about this one – never act from a place of selfish self-entitlement, and never raise your rates before you are ready. Doing this can really backfire in your face, and we don’t want that.

If honour your work and raise your rates, your clientele will shift to a new group of people. People who can afford your services – whoever these people may be.

If you raise your rates at inappropriate times or in inappropriate amounts, your clientele will not shift, it will stop completely.

If you have raised your rates and no one is coming – you are not ready to raise your rates yet. It’s okay, just step back. No big.

Ultimately, raising your rates builds exclusivity. (But you don’t want to be so exclusive that you are alone 😉 )

You should only raise your rates to a level that you are comfortable at. You must feel 100% confident in your services. A good tester of this is to ask yourself if you would pay your own rate for your services. Or would you feel like it was underpriced or overpriced? Either way, you’re probably right. If you experience any guilt along the lines of “Oh man, I don’t think I would pay this much for this service”, you are not ready to raise your rates yet. However, if you experience any guilt along the lines of “How can I accept money from people for my service to the community! I’m so evil!” you need to get over it solider, and understand the concept and laws of exchange in the universe – that exchange of money is simply exchange of energy.

When I started giving readings I was uncomfortable with receiving money for my work. At the time I just didn’t trust my abilities enough to think it was “worth the money”, and also didn’t understand how much of my own time, energy and resources it would use to provide this service. I had a lot of reasons. Finally when a dear friend and client insisted that I must charge for my readings, I started at $55 which felt comfortable to me.

As my abilities sharpened and I began to invest more of myself into my work, taking on more readings, and constantly developing myself so that I can give you the best of the best, I increased my rates. It was a natural progression. I always listened to my inner guidance and when it was the right time, I would know.

Through my time giving the same quality readings, but in a varying and ranging price range, and I learned these three things:

Monthly $ 30 dollar readings are for people looking for quick fixes.(They want me to fix their life, predict their future, make their decisions, tell them how many babies they will have, and when they will leave their husband)

The more occasional more expensive readings are for people looking for and are committed to their spiritual development.

But people going to monthly expensive readings are simply people looking for expensive quick fixes!

Hehe, I hope that put a smile on your face!

Watch this space for the second part of this post tomorrow.

malavika

xo

3 thoughts on “Lessons I have learned from starting my own business at 18 (Part 1)

  1. introspeak says:

    So many wonderful insights. You got great business acumen!
    Loved your observation that exchange of money is simply exchange of energy. So very true, and fundamental.

    BTW, I had sent a mail to your live mail address a few days ago. Just wondering if you got it.

    Like

    • Malavika says:

      Thank you Sri, and thank you for the compliment! 🙂
      I did receive your mail, but I haven’t yet gotten that far into my books yet. I will get to you as soon as the people who had contacted me before I booked in! Thank you for your support and involvement in my blog!

      Like

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