5 critical things I wish I had known before starting a business

start a business
Image courtesy of Victor Habbick/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net


I’m not ashamed to admit it.

I thought starting a business would be an absolute cakewalk.

Seriously, how hard can this whole “starting a business” thing be? I am a smart enough dude with plenty of hands-on work experience and extensive knowledge about business and marketing, not to mention an MBA.

Suffice to say, I failed more times than I succeeded in the past year working as a freelance writer specializing in social media marketing and Web content writing.

However, I’ve also learned from every failure, and I want to apply this knowledge to my second year of freelancing and being a business owner.

I’ll share with you what I learned from starting a business and my first year of running it in this useful post I’m calling:

5 critical things I wish I had known before starting a business


5. Everyday as a business owner, you’ll be hustle, hustlin’, hustlin’!

When starting a business and even when things are finally off the ground, you should be prepared to hustle.

Like everyday.


Here are the cold hard facts that nobody else in the “starting a business” game is willing to admit.

Everyday is an opportunity to increase your chances of success as a business owner.

For example, when people first meet me and ask what I do for work, I mention my writing business and how I’m a writer.

That vague response inevitably leads to more questions about what I write.

And that’s when I bring up my social media writing and Web content business. Basically I write content for social media posts for my clients on their business Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and other social media websites.

Every successful business owner must do this one thing really well…


Just the mere mention of networking makes me want to awkwardly eat cheese cubes by myself in the corner.

Because that’s what I used to do at networking events before I had this funny yet unshakable urge for starting a business.

And nowadays…well, I’m still awkwardly eating cheese by myself at networking events.

However, I’m also talking to people about what they do for work and how I can help their business with their social media marketing and blog writing needs.

From my own experience as a freelance writer, I can tell you that networking and getting the word out about my social media and blog writing services is absolutely critical to the continued success of my business.

Does the thought of networking and talking to others about your business make your palms sweat and send shivers down your spine?

The good news is you can face this common fear head-on. Learn to overcome your networking anxiety by reading this useful blog post article entitled “How Small Business Owners can Maximize Networking Opportunities”.


4. Start your business first as a “side hustle”.

A side hustle is what happens when you try out your dream business.

Since you don’t know how to run your dream business, you do it on a very small scale.

Treat your side hustle as a fun, part-time project; something you tinker with at night or on weekends in your own secret lair of side hustle hustling.

How you do a side hustle to test out your dream business idea is up to you, however I would recommend working part-time or simply volunteering in the industry you want to start your business in.

A part-time, no pressure, for fun type of side hustle will help you gain crucial industry experience and knowledge to determine whether you truly have what it takes to start a business in this industry.

For example…

Want to open your own bakery?

You will gain valuable baking and customer service experience by working at a donut shop, such as Doughboy Donuts in South Boston, MA.

Want to own your own restaurant?

Learn how a successful restaurant is run by working as a line cook.

Want to be a freelance writer?

As a freelance writer, I started at the bottom of the freelance writing ladder.

In order to gain freelance writing experience, I wrote for “content mills” as my side hustle.

Content mills are companies that specialize in providing Web content to businesses to use on their blogs and websites.

The content is written by a freelance writer who is usually paid a very low wage in exchange for the written work. Since the pay is low, the quality and expectations of the written work is also usually low.

However, writing for content mills taught me the basics of how to blog for business. It also answered my question “What do I want to do with my life?”


3. It takes money to make money.

Depending on what type of business you are trying to start, you should figure out your budget for things like:

  • Equipment
  • Rent
  • Education and training
  • Marketing
  • Employees
  • Insurance
  • Permits
  • Licensing
  • Lawyers
  • Accountants
  • Tech support
  • Catering
  • Whatever else you will need for your business

Calculate the amount of money you’ll need to pay for all of this, then double it.

That should be the amount of money you’ll need to get this venture off the ground.

What if I don’t have enough money to pay for starting a business?

Don’t have the funds to pay for all this? Then you should strongly consider supplementing your income by taking a second part-time job while you are starting your own business.

Before working as a full-time freelance writer, I had a number of different jobs, including a stint as a pizza maker and another as a line cook in a restaurant.

Another route you can take is to go to your local bank for a small business loan.


2. Your business needs a website with a blog, Facebook fan page, Twitter account, and other social media.

And of course, all of these must be updated with new and useful content regularly

Regardless of how you finance your new business, you will need cash flow from the get go to keep your dream alive.

And what’s the least expensive way to market your business to the most amount of people?

No, it’s not skywriting.

It’s your inbound marketing that provides useful content on your blog and social media to educate current and potential customers and position your business as a helpful authority in the industry.

But let’s back up for a second…

The goal of many business owners is to make income from their business.

But you will never achieve that goal (and thus, FAIL as a business owner) if nobody knows:

  • What you offer
  • Where you’re located
  • How to contact you

Quite simply, if you want to cast the widest net for potential leads and maximize your chances of being a successful business, then you’ll need to give interested prospects something to look at when they look you up on social media or do a Web search for you on popular search engines such as Yahoo!, Ask Jeeves, and of course, Lycos.

Do I need a website for my business? Can’t I just use my (Facebook, LinkedIn, other lame excuse for not having a real website)?

Starting a business
Image courtesy of Michal Marcol / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Sure, a well-written LinkedIn profile, Facebook page, or a Twitter account are also useful and highly recommended.

Do you really need a website for your business?

No, you don’t. But it can only help.

You are making it harder on yourself in this day and age to set yourself up for the path to success as a business owner if you do NOT have a website or something for people to stare at on their smartphones.

Here’s my unsolicited advice: if you want to be a business owner who looks professional and gets paid to do what you love to do for a living, then a website is probably a good idea.

Why should I have a blog on my business website?

A blog on your business website is your communication to your audience, (i.e. customers and potential customers).

Not only will your blog content get your website on the first page of search engines when people search for whatever it is you’re blogging about on your business website’s blog, but you’ll also be helping others with your knowledge and experience that is shared in your blog.

Ever wanted to say something useful and thought-provoking to the world?

A blog is your chance to do it.

What will you do with this opportunity?


1. Be prepared to trip and fall flat on your face the first time starting a business.

The first time you attempt something new is usually not your best performance.

However, by learning from your mistakes, getting more educated and skilled in essential techniques, and implementing these critical components for a successful business, then your business may pull in tremendous returns and become a huge success.

However, if you don’t make any significant money from being a business owner then you have failed.

What should I do if I fail to make it as a business owner?

Your options are limited to just two choices:

  1. Quit trying to start your own business forever and try to make money doing something else.
  2. Try starting your own business again, only this time you will employ the valuable lessons learned from previous mistakes learned the first time you failed to generate any real sizable income at all from your business.

Which option you choose will determine whether or not you ever truly succeed in achieving your dream of owning your own successful business.



Do you dream about starting your own business, being your own boss, and living virtually anywhere you want on the planet?

I believe you can do it, but only if you set yourself up for success by having these basics which will mean the difference between success and failure.

Have you ever started a business?

What did you learn in the process that you wish you had known before starting a business?

Let’s hear all about it in the Comments below!


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PS- this post was inspired by the inspirational posts submitted for Jessica Lawlor’s “#GetGutsy” Week. If you are looking for more inspirational blog content about starting your own business and achieving your dreams, head on over to her blog now.

James K. Kim About James K. Kim
James K. Kim (Jim) is a commercial real estate advisor with Pyramid Brokerage Company of Albany, Inc. in the Capital Region of New York, specializing in helping business owners expand into new locations or sell/lease a commercial retail, office, industrial, or investment property.

6 thoughts on “5 critical things I wish I had known before starting a business

  1. Jim, this is awesome, awesome advice that every aspiring business owner should read.

    I especially agree with your tip about starting your business as a side hustle. That’s what I’m currently doing and it’s been working out really well for me. It gives me peace of mind to know that I have a paycheck coming every two weeks, but that I can also pursue my other dreams in my free time and make an income from that too. Best of both worlds!

    Thanks so much for sharing your gutsy story!

  2. Thanks, Jessica!

    I agree, a side hustle is the the most important step you can take in the path of your dreams.

    Because it’s the first step!

    Which means that as long as you’re moving forward, then you’ll reach your destination.

    Where is that? Of course, I’m talking about:

    HAPPYTOWN! Population: You. And your dreams.

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