Everyone has a slightly different approach to launching their business. I’ve worked with clients who fall across the spectrum, from those who want to be perfectly polished before even thinking about launching, to those who are willing to dive in and see what happens.
You’ll always hear me say that there’s no one right way to do things, and that’s true here too. But if you’re unsure about when or how to launch, or you’re getting bogged down in over-analyzing every little detail, my advice is to just start. Get your business out there in some shape or form, because starting somewhere is better than not starting at all.
I just listened to a recent episode of The Career Passport Podcast with my friend and fellow coach, Jill Ozovek that tackles this very topic. In the episode, Jill talks with content strategist and freelance writer Elana Lyn Gross about making the transition to owning her own business. When Elana said, “Start now, iterate later,” I found myself nodding along. You’ve probably heard people say, “Don’t let perfect be the enemy of the good.” Elana’s take on it drives home the same point in a language that many business owners can relate to.
This approach doesn’t just apply to launching a business, either. It’s also relevant when launching new projects or adding subsets to your offerings. If you err towards perfectionism, it can be tempting to spend countless hours on something before you ever let it see the light of day. But this method can be draining and doesn’t always benefit your business.
I know how different personalities have very different ideas on this topic, and when in doubt, I tell my clients to do what feels right for them. If they can strike a balance between preparation and action, it often benefits them in the long-run.
Here are three big reasons why just starting — somewhere, anywhere — can help your business.
1. You take procrastination and anxiety out of the equation (as much as you can)
If you’re someone who delays, delays, delays, you might do it under the guise of wanting everything to be absolutely perfect. And while that’s definitely part of it, a lot of new business owners and independent professionals have anxiety around launching their businesses. It’s a huge step, and it’s normal to feel like you’re under a lot of pressure. There are so many things that are uncertain as you make this leap.
Some people react to that pressure by wanting to dive right in and get the anticipation part over with. Others want to step back, take more time, and make sure they’ve thought through every possible hiccup. And while this is, on paper, a good thing, in reality, it can mean that people procrastinate to the point where they never start at all.
You’ll never be able to anticipate every problem or situation that your business will encounter. And, most likely, you won’t know how to solve problems until you start. It’s perfectly understandable to want to present a polished version of yourself to the world, and I’m all for that. But if you’re feeling that the anticipation (and the anxiety that comes with it) is stopping you in your tracks, I encourage you to pick one thing to start with. Don’t overwhelm yourself with the pressure of launching every single aspect of your business--and demanding perfection from each element--all at once. Start with one manageable thing, and then use the momentum from that project to propel you to the next stage.
2. When you leave room to iterate, your business has flexibility
Having every aspect of your business set in stone before you begin isn’t always beneficial. In fact, the willingness to iterate is often what will help your business grow. Before you start working with clients, you aren’t really sure which of your services clients will respond to, even if you have the most polished and comprehensive website in the world. On the other hand, if you’ve been dipping your toes in your industry for a while, you have a really good sense of what clients need and want from you.
For instance, take my client, Anna Bauer, who began her business after helping a friend with a home organizing project. Her friend posted on Facebook about how helpful Anna had been and then more people started hiring her. Anna didn’t have a website, a social media presence, or even the intention of being an entrepreneur. It completely fell into her lap. Her business was completely flexible, and working with clients before she officially launched allowed her to see which direction was right for her. She had the freedom to iterate as she went.
“I'm a big believer of fake it 'till you make it,” says Anna, now the founder of Sorted by Anna. “Jumping into my business without savings, clients or even a website didn't matter to me. I knew I had found what I wanted to do and with enough determination and hustle, I would be OK. Three years later I continue to surpass revenue goals, added more services to my business and have plans to eventually hire employees."
I had a related experience when I launched my business. I started taking on clients before I even had a website or a social media presence, and I’m so glad I did. When I did launch my website, I agonized over the copy, which in retrospect wasn’t necessary; I’ve changed it so many times! As my business has adapted and my niche has become more defined, I’ve tweaked and tweaked and tweaked.
While I sometimes cringe when I look back at the first run of my website because I called myself a “life coach” and wasn’t targeting any group in particular, I know that I had to put myself out there in order to have the knowledge to adapt and iterate. Now, all my clients are business owners, and even though I’m sometimes introduced as a life coach (by people who have known me since the beginning), it’s not a title I relate to. But in my mind, this is a minor detail. It was more important to start somewhere, and I always knew that I would have the freedom to change my website copy as I discovered my niche.
3. Learn by doing
While I totally get the desire for something to be perfect, in my experience, you often learn by doing. On the client side, you don’t know the flaws in a service before real clients actually use it. You don’t know what’s working until you see it in action or hear clients give you their positive feedback.
And on the business-owner side, you don’t always know what aspects of your business work for you before you get started. Maybe you discover that you need to rethink your business structure because you want more interrupted time to work on long-term projects, or you find that you need to move to an office that has more light. (It happened to me!) These are all things that you won’t know until you start.
One caveat with “just starting” is that you might feel like you’re all over the place with your business (or, worst case scenario, will appear that way to others). But it doesn’t have to be that way. Starting with a mindset of adaptability and growth can help you deal with challenges more skillfully. Rather than panicking, for instance, you can see it as an opportunity to gain valuable insights about your clients or yourself. No business is perfect from the outset, even those that look like they are. Many of the most successful business are adapting as they go, constantly iterating based on what they learn.