This story starts with a plucky young woman. Day-in and day-out for eight years, this woman sat in her corporate cubicle dreaming of building a business all her own.
There was just one problem: She wanted to do it all.
Being an ambitious creative, she set out to form her own full-service creative studio. (She even bought a domain for it. RIP erikadawncreativestudio dot com.)
When the burnout and overwhelm of doing it all set in, she reeled things back to her roots. To her ballpoint pen and notebook. To yellow highlighters and paperback books. To the one thing she loved most: writing stories.
Back at the drawing board, she narrowed in on her niche and zipped up the diverging roads of her budding business. With her vision laser-focused, she poured her heart (and a lot of matcha lattes) into redesigning a business that would bring less stress and more joy.
One LLC filing mishap, three website copy drafts, and five side-hustling months later she stepped back from her keyboard to consider the lessons learned along the way.
Yo, I’m Erika, resident word nerd around here. If you hadn’t guessed yet, I’m that woman. And this business is the product of my entrepreneurial exploration, trials, and errors.
In this blog post, I’m sharing three things I’ve learned from building a business and how you can apply these lessons to yours. ‘Cause sometimes, you just have to take a sledgehammer to it all and start fresh.
1. Embrace incremental development
As a recovering perfectionist, I grappled most with this lesson during my transition from employee to self-employed. “You mean my debut website won’t bring all the boys to the yard? But, like, I spent months working on it!”
Nope. No, it won’t.
There’s a lot more to building a business than you think. To borrow Shrek’s example, businesses are like onions. They have layers. You need to peel away the big, outer layers to get to the core. And they make you cry. Sometimes.
The core contains your brand’s purpose, whether it’s to make an impact or make money. Or both. But to get to the core, you need to work through the layers of planning, strategizing, branding, and filing pesky paperwork. If you shoot straight for the core, you’ll miss crucial steps and wind up blundering across the finish line.
Incremental development, guys.
A yoga teacher explained it to me like this: just because you can ski down a black diamond and survive doesn’t mean you should. Same goes for yoga. Just because you can twist your body into impossible pretzel shapes doesn’t mean you should.
And just because you can book every client/stock every product/DIY every aspect of your business doesn’t mean you should. (Pssst…I can help you knock copywriting off your DIY to-do list. Just sayin’.)
Tackle bite-sized chunks. Focus on the things you enjoy. Manage the tasks you’re confident in. Outsource things beyond your capabilities. And don’t forget to breathe. If you can’t breathe, you’re doing something wrong.
Take the steps—however big or small—you need to grow sustainably. Burnout is a one-way ticket to inefficiency, or worse, failure. Running a business isn’t always pretty. In fact, sometimes it’s downright ugly.
Just imagine yourself on the slopes. Choose the run you can most gracefully ski down and stick to it.
2. Do one thing—and do it well
You’ve heard the saying, “Jack of all trades, master of none.” Don’t be that business.
Find your niche and master it.
Whether you’re building a business online or from brick-and-mortar, you want your customers to feel like they’re in the right place, right away. This requires being ultra-clear on who you are, what you offer, and who you offer it for.
For example, my half-baked full-service creative studio failed because:
A) I aimed to serve everyone.
B) I attempted to offer every creative service, like, ever.
A) You’ll never appeal to everyone. Focus on your people.
B) You want to be THE go-to expert for ONE thing. Give your people exactly what they want.
To fix this problem, I cut the crap. Messaging that refused to take a stand on who I served? Gone. The list of services long enough to stretch from Google HQ to Timbuktu? Gone.
Go to my home page now and you’ll see exactly what I do (copywriting and content writing) and who I do it for (startups, entrepreneurs, and small businesses):
“Hi, I’m Erika, a copywriter and content writer who high-fives with spirited startups, entrepreneurs, and small businesses.”
After coming to terms with the fact I’m not a multi-talented creative, I turned my focus 100% to writing. I now spend my days talking about writing, reading about writing, writing about writing…heck, I’d eat writing for breakfast if I could.
I am a writing master. Well, in the making. Incremental development.
My point being, it’s better to master one thing you enjoy (or at least don’t hate). Master the heck out of it. Get so good at it that you become the go-to for it. Then, unleash your mastery on the world around you. Shout it from the rooftops.
Whatever your one thing is. Do it really damn well.
3. Stay in your own lane
I’ll be honest, I’m a repeat offender of obsessive comparison.
The internet makes a lot of things easier, including scrolling through everyone else’s business. Comparison paralysis is very real.
But I’ve also made some great business and client contacts online. So don’t run off and shred your ethernet cable just yet.
Here’s the deal: suss out your competitive landscape then get back to your own work. Every minute spent snooping around elsewhere is a minute you can spend doing something nice for your business instead. Like lovingly writing it a blog post or recording sweet nothings for its weekly podcast.
In the words of semi-famous copywriter Laura Belgray, “It’s so easy to rip off ideas without meaning to. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t steal. You should definitely steal, but not from your direct industry. If you’re writing a blog post, don’t steal from a blog post. If you’re writing an ad, don’t steal from another ad.”
So, if you’re going to skulk around the dark corners of the internet for ideas, skulk around industries other than your own for inspiration. Get creative with your idea borrowing. Give the ideas you love a makeover all your own. Add some pizzaz. Pink hair dye. Neon kicks. You get the gist.
At the end of the day, your “you-ness” is your superpower. You bring something unique to your business that no one else can because, well, they’re not you.
As my story unfolds, I’ll share my experiences—the good, the bad, and the downright ugly—as a way to encourage you to pursue your passions, whatever they may be.
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