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    11 Small Business Owners Shared The Biggest Lessons They've Learned

    Whether you're starting a side hustle or want to create a job that's all your own, these tips are sure to lend a helping hand.

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    Being a small business owner can be really rewarding. Whether your business is your full-time gig or a way of making a little extra on the side, you get the satisfaction that comes with creating and managing something that's totally yours. But the territory comes with some ups and downs to be prepared for.

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    So we recently asked the biz owners and side hustlers of the BuzzFeed Community to share the lessons they've learned while growing their businesses. Here's what they had to say:

    1. "If you are not willing to put in the work, the time, the money, or the sacrifices, then opening a small business isn’t for you."

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    "Be prepared to not make money for the first couple of years (depending on what your business is). Most importantly, time is money; use your time wisely."


    2. "There will always be people who think you are asking for too much. Know the worth of what you are providing and don’t waver."

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    If you're ever unsure about how much you should charge for your services and products — especially when you're starting out — do some research to get an idea of what your startup costs would be. This can help you put an appropriate price on your service. You might also want to look at the pricing being offered by businesses with similar products or services.

    3. "I started a candy company in July (@littlesistercandyco). I've learned to stick to my guns. I wanted to create candy without artificial dyes, corn syrup, or artificial flavors. I'm proud to have stuck to that, and if I can't make it the way I've promised, I won't make it at all."

    Community submission showing bunny-shaped candies

    "I've learned to invest in a good logo designer! I found this delightful woman on Fiverr and my logo was exactly as I wanted it before I even knew what I wanted.

    I've also learned to BOOKKEEP WELL. I'm stressed over tax season at the moment because my business is still in the micro stages and I'm so afraid I'm going to mess it up. I'm having H&R Block take a look at my stuff just to be safe."


    4. "Being self-employed is nice and definitely has its perks, but I think the biggest downfall for me is planning for retirement and paying for expensive medical insurance without an employer to help with the cost."

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    "The uncertainty of the future comes with that, especially with COVID-19 making a lot of people dip into their savings (or completely deplete them). That being said, I wouldn't trade my job for the world."


    If planning for retirement as a small business owner has you a bit stumped, you might consider looking into an Individual Retirement Account (IRA). It doesn't have to be opened through an employer, and if you go with a traditional IRA, you can make contributions and deduct them when filing taxes. And while enrolling in a medical insurance plan can sound a bit daunting, a great first step would be to apply for a plan online on the exchange — enrollment is open to all from now until May 15.

    5. "It’s hard work — all of it. Be fully prepared to work your ass off. Be organized, and be as prepared as you can be before your opening day."

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    Staying organized can be easier said than done, and what works for one business owner might not work for you. You might like keeping track of tasks with handwritten lists or in a bullet journal, but if you're looking for a more high-tech approach, tools like Evernote and Asana can help you stay on top of your game.

    6. "Always research new trends in your industry and make your own take on them."

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    "Make sure you have good branding that brings in new followers, post consistently, and launch new products frequently but not every week (once a month)."


    7. "I’m a jewelry designer, and I learned that it's okay to not share your techniques or where you got that beautiful charm everybody also wants to buy. Don’t feel obligated to share anything you don’t feel comfortable mentioning."

    close up of a person making a necklace
    Mint Images / Getty Images

    8. "It is okay to say 'no' to some requests. You can’t accommodate everything, and sometimes it won’t be worth the work."

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    "It is also important to keep up on tasks in a timely manner. Nothing is worse than getting behind and risking your own business’s reputation on something dumb you could have prevented."


    9. "Create a business plan. It will help in countless ways. It will also help keep you focused and inspire you when things don't go as planned."

    People working on a plan with post-its
    Copyright Morten Falch Sortland / Getty Images

    "Also, use all the free services you can get: Score, mentoring programs, etc."


    Making a business plan might sound a bit overwhelming — like, where would you even start?? A good first step can be reading through a guide to business plans that explains the different components of each element you should consider when laying out your plan. Orrrr, you can download a free business plan template to put your thoughts together in a structured way (they have soooo many to accommodate for a variety of industries. Think consulting, entertainment, cosmetics, food, and more!).

    10. "Outsource the things you are bad at — for me, that's accounting and marketing. This way, you can focus on the things you do well."

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    11. And finally, "plan for your business to end up costing more than you think, and do NOT be afraid to ask for help."

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    "Your community will open doors you never thought possible. Be kind, don’t burn bridges, and pay it forward. You’ve got this!"


    Are you a small business owner? Share your biggest piece of advice in the comments below!

    And if this sounds like music to your ears (and bank account), check out more of our personal finance posts.