5 Hard Lessons I’ve Learned from 30+ Years as an Entrepreneur

In my 30+ years as a business owner, I’ve encountered my fair share of ups and downs. I’ve had to overcome numerous challenges to get to where I am today. In this blog post, I’ll be sharing the top five lessons I’ve learned from my years as an entrepreneur. These lessons aren’t easy, but they’re essential for anyone looking to succeed with a business.

I’ve been a multi-entrepreneur since I was 15 years old, and today I’m 48, so that gives me a few years of experience. Did I have success with all of my businesses? Absolutely not. I went through trial and error just like most business owners do.

Looking back, I have no regrets. I’m thankful for every failure I had along the way because those were the moments I truly learned some valuable lessons. You seldom learn from your successes, right – you learn from falling, pushing, breaking, trying, struggling, testing and taking action without knowing if your actions are the right move.

5 Hard Lessons I’ve Learned from 30+ Years as an Entrepreneur

Are you ready? Here we go!

#1. It’s from our struggles that we grow the most

So if I learned anything, it’s that there’s no wrong or right path to starting a successful business. There is just trial and error. The most important thing is to follow your heart and intuition. If you have this idea in your head that you can’t let go, if your heart keeps whispering that you should start your own business – then do it. Start. Take the jump. Life is too short to not follow your dreams!

The worst thing that can happen is that you fail… but if you fail, you will learn some valuable lessons that will propel you faster toward success in the future. Failing is a gift. It might be a gift in ugly wrapping paper – but it’s still a gift. It’s from our struggles that we grow the most, so knowing that, we shouldn’t be so afraid to take chances.

I think you can divide most startup entrepreneurs into two categories; those who overthink things and, therefore, have a hard time taking action and those who take action and jump without thinking too much about their strategy.

I’m definitely in that last category myself. In my younger days, I was like a bull running forward with my head under my arm. Why? Because I was excited and didn’t know anything about running a business. So, needless to say, I’ve hit a few walls in my entrepreneurial life – but I got stronger because of it.

Don’t be afraid to take the leap and start something new, even if you don’t have everything figured out. Don’t hold back because you are afraid of not being able to do it. You will figure it out as you go.

Maybe my most important point here is this: No business success comes without set-backs and struggles. So never take it personally. Take it as feedback and go do better with your new hard-earned knowledge. It will help you become excellent at what you do.

#2. Self-Discipline is how you get things done

Business success doesn’t happen without effort and pushing through. That’s why we need to train our self-discipline. Without self-discipline, we won’t be able to create the changes we desire in our lives.

Unfortunately, self-discipline is not something that we’re born with, but rather a skill that we can develop and strengthen over time. Self-discipline allows us to align our actions with our goals and push through the challenges and distractions that inevitably arise on the path to achieving them.

People who struggle with self-discipline often blame themselves for being weak or lazy, but the truth is that we all face moments of temptation and doubt. It’s how we respond to these challenges that determines our success. When we give in to excuses and laziness, we allow our excuses to dominate and shape our lives. On the other hand, when we push through even when we don’t feel like it, our bodies and minds start to cooperate and adapt.

I clearly remember a period of my life I’d like to call; the “lazy days of my entrepreneurial life”. I felt I had all the time in the world. I would get up late, meet for coffee with other self-employed friends, I would do some research online to try to get new inspiration, watch some TV, look through social media, and think of new ideas that I would rarely execute. I wasted so MUCH time thinking and talking, but I rarely got things done. I’ll do it tomorrow….I promised myself...but it was a lie!

Self-discipline isn’t easy, and it requires effort and determination. It’s about doing the hard things that we know are good for us, even when they’re outside of our comfort zone. It’s about taking action and being willing to learn and possibly even fail along the way.

Self-discipline helps us stay on track despite temptations, push through obstacles and self-doubt, and overcome challenges such as pain, boredom, distraction, fear, insecurity, and doubt. It allows us to feel strong, brave, capable, and in control. In a world full of distractions, self-discipline is what keeps us focused on our goals and helps us push through moments of boredom that can kill our dreams.

And it was actually boredom, that eventually lead me to change my “I’ll do it tomorrow attitude”. I felt I needed a BIG shift in my business. I wanted to get more serious and I wanted to help more people. That’s when I decided to make my first online course. That was back in 2009 and my three kids were little. I quickly discovered how time demanding it was to create a course and I struggled to find the time between my paid photography jobs, chores and motherhood.

I realized I had to change behaviour to reach my goal. I had to be very disciplined about HOW I spend my time. I started getting up at 5 in the morning to get work done before the kids got up. I skipped watching TV and meeting friends for coffee during the day. I was fully focused and I got so much done.

I learned that the key to achieving your goals is to take action and move forward. So, next time you’re faced with a challenge or temptation, remember the power of self-discipline and use it to propel you towards success.

#3. Don’t give up because you meet rejections

Every successful business owner have a lot of no’s, failures and rejections behind them. Now I’m not saying this to take your courage away; I’m saying it to remind you that rejection is normal and you can’t take it personally. When you get a no, it doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with you or your offerings. A rejection is valuable feedback, telling you that you either tried to work with the wrong person or need to change your strategy. It doesn’t mean that you are incompetent, stupid, or a failure.

Every no is feedback. Every rejection is feedback. And every failure is feedback teaching you to look at new ways to do things. Your job as a business owner is to find the strategies that work for your business.

Don’t give up because a few people don’t like what you offer. Don’t give up because you meet rejections. It’s all part of the road to success. For every no, you are one step closer to getting a yes. And when you get your first yes, you gain momentum.

#4. Invest in your GROWTH and your SKILLS

My next tip is to invest in yourself – not your business. This takes a bit of explanation. One of the biggest mistakes I see creatives make is that they invest all their time and money into their business right from the start but not always in the right way.

They want the perfect website, logo, workspace, and more tools and equipment than they actually need. The truth is that this rarely brings in customers. So when you finally have the perfect setup, the customers and clients are a no-show.

I’ve been there too. This is a normal first-move strategy when you are new to business. But often, all these investments are covering up for the business owners’ insecurities.

I cannot tell you how much money I have wasted in my time as an entrepreneur on expensive web design, business cards, flyers, logos, workspaces and strange gadgets to impress my clients, like pens and coffee cups with my logo on.

Not to mention all the camera equipment I bought that I never use, but I bought it because I thought it would help me look more professional. I’m not saying that all those things are not important. But it’s not the best place to put your savings in the first few months of your business.

The truth is that your customers and clients don’t care about those things. They only care about how you can help them. They care about how you serve them and how you make them feel. They want to know if you can make a difference in their lives with your service and products.

So the best place to invest your money and valuable time are to invest in YOU and your skills. Invest in learning the right skills.

Learn HOW to communicate what your offer in the most attractive way possible. Learn how to ask your customers questions that open up conversations that lead to a sale. Learn how to connect with people and inspire them with what you offer.

Invest in courses that help you become so good at your craft that you can’t be ignored. Invest in coaching so you can get support and overcome your struggles faster than your competition.

Invest your time in networking online and offline. Talk about what you do with passion to everyone you meet. That’s one of the best ways to get real customers.

Yes, the website matters and you should have a good profile photo of yourself too – but you can start with a single page website that you build yourself. Even a Facebook page or an Instagram page will do the job. And then when you have the ball rolling and money is coming in, you can begin to invest more into your business.

#5. Learn to LOVE selling

How do you feel about selling your products or offerings? Perhaps you know that nagging fear of putting yourself out there, the fear of becoming a sleazy salesperson, the fear of stepping outside of your comfort zone and ask for the sale. The fear of no one wants to buy your products.

It saddens me to see how many creatives give up on their dream because they struggle to sell. They blame themselves, lose confidence and doubt if they are good enough – when really, what they lack is effective key strategies for selling their products and services.

So if you recognize yourself in the above – do NOT feel like a failure! I bet about 95% of all creative business owners deal with the fear of selling and putting their offerings out there.

As I said earlier, no one starting ballet today will dance professionally on stage tomorrow. How can you be a world-class sales queen when no one never taught you how?

If this is your first time running a business in your life how on earth should you know how to sell and make profit successfully?

I know the feeling. I ́ve been there. It took a huge shift in my focus and a major shift in my thinking to understand that selling was the key to not only business survival but to business thriving.

Selling is, without a doubt, the most challenging part of running a business. After all, we got into this business for the love of our craft, not because we love selling. But then we realize that in order to survive, we need to make offers to people. We need to sell to make money otherwise, we just have a really expensive hobby, right?

And when we start out as newbies, we are so happy just to make a little money and we tend to charge small fees – only to find out that small fees hardly cover our expenses.

We realize that we need to opt our game, raise our prices and start selling more professionally to hit the big income goals.

Selling is much more about relationships, compassion and inspiration than it’s about hard-core sales strategies because selling is all about connecting with your perfect audience and showing them that you are the best fit to serve them.

And let me just remove one of the biggest misconceptions many creatives have about selling; that it takes confidence to sell. I often hear this “I don’t have the confidence to sell my products” or “if only I had more confidence, I would promote my offerings.” The good news is that you don’t need confidence to sell.

The number one reason why so many struggle to make money in their business is that they don’t show up. They hide, thinking it’s so much easier to play safe and color so far inside the lines that they don’t stand out as being too much. As humans… we crave safety. It’s one of the top human needs. We need to feel safe. So when presented with the idea of getting out from our hiding place to sell… it can feel terrifying!!!!!

Perhaps you know the feeling. You want success with your creative passion, but you avoid showing yourself to the world – hoping that one day will be your lucky day and someone will discover you.

And you wait around, hiding in the shadows, hoping your confidence will magically appear someday…

Someday, I will put myself out there…
Someday, I will promote my products…
Someday, I will ask for the sale…
Someday, I will show the world how great I am…

But here’s the truth; visibility is critical to the success of your business: people can’t pay you if they can’t find you.

“Someday”, will not make you a profitable + successful business.
“Someday”, is an excuse to hide and play small. YOU are better than that! YOU deserve more!

You have SO MUCH to offer. And it doesn’t do anybody any good if you keep it to yourself. You got to decide that you’re done with disappearing into the background. You got to step out into the light.

But don’t worry; you don’t have to be a sleazy salesperson! There’s no need for icky sales pitches! Instead, talk about the experience customers will get from working with you. Tell them how it will make them FEEL. Explain ALL the benefits of your service or product. Explain the process of working with you and show your passion for what you do. Nothing sells better than passion and excitement! Customers will be drawn to you like a magnet when you show up to inspire, serve and spark meaningful conversations.

Shift your thinking from believing you are an annoying salesperson to thinking you are a helper. Believe that you can make a difference with your products or offerings. Think of ways you can HELP and serve your clients and make their life better. From that state of mind, it is easier to sell from the heart.

Selling is not about being annoying or forcing your products on someone. Selling is LOVE. If you love what you do, all you sell is LOVE.

Selling is sharing inspiration. If you feel inspired to inspire others, all you sell is an inspiration.

Selling is storytelling. Forget icky sales emails. Talk about your journey. Share how you got from where you were to where you are today.

Share how you overcame your struggles and how you are now ready to help people in a similar situation as you once were.

Be passionate about what you do and what you offer and share your excitement.

That’s it. This blog post got a bit long, but I hope it was helpful and inspiring to you.

With love, Christina

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About Christina Greve

Christina Greve is an experienced Photographer, Educator & Mindset Coach with a passion for flowers, decorating & country living. She's the founder of The Lifestyle Photography Academy + The Empowered Creative Show. She provides tools, education and inspiration designed to help multi-passionate women, artists and creative souls find direction, push through self-doubt + make a living doing what they LOVE.She is known for her elegant storytelling photography and draws much of her inspiration from the Nordic countryside, travels, food and still life.Her work has been featured in numerous magazines, blogs and books worldwide. After a decade of working with psychology, Christina's passion for photography evolved into a full-time photography and coaching business.Today she runs a thriving + fast-growing international empire specializing in professional online training, motivating and engaging female photographers, designers, bloggers, makers and creatives. She has coached thousands of fabulous women from more than 40+ countries.With her Podcast "The Empowered Creative," her popular Instagram posts, and quickly sold-out workshops, Christina has become the go-to person for many creatives seeking like-minded sisterhood, real support and heartfelt encouragement.