This post is dedicated to anyone and everyone who owns a business, has a side hustle, made themselves a CEO or wants some trips, tricks and the truth.
This is everything I know about business a year on!
(Please keep in mind I am not a guru and do not claim to be! This is just everything I know and I hope it helps someone out there!)
It was about this time last year (I wrote this at the end of January, I’ve just been THAT busy that I couldn’t finish it) I took on my first two clients. I was an 18 year old first year Architecture undergrad at university. I didn’t have a large master plan to freelance because my ‘Ah-ha!’ moment didn’t hit me for quite a while. I just enjoyed designing, saw that people would pay for something such as personalised Snap chat filters - the first thing I started designing for clients - and the rest is history!
The first thing you need is a talent or which allows to provide a service or a product to sell. I didn’t have all the skills I needed to start MABIN2 Designs which is why I often say the business came to me.
I was teaching myself Photoshop and Illustrator (the two bits of software I use to create my designs) as I was going, watching a YouTube tutorial and then making things for fun, and to help me with my course at university.
Business continued to pick-up and the funniest thing is I was just really praying for a change to enter my life and God provided. Via word of mouth and Twitter, I kept on getting inquiries and I just never said no to any job. There were times where someone would ask me to create something I hadn’t mastered yet but I would never tell the client that I couldn’t do what they wanted, I would learn. I would study what I needed to do and then execute for them and it worked because I’ve never had negative feedback from a client.
I got better and better with each client and would create things for fun to test out different features on the software I was using. I genuinely enjoyed the challenge of learning what to do.
This is the first lesson, perfect your craft.
Organisation is KEY. I am just mastering it after a whole year of juggling university, MABIN2 Designs and a part-time job. Having a routine is the backbone behind being organised. Once I step out of my routine, something will suffer and I feel it really badly. My major thing is when I sleep and wake up. I hate running on 3-4 hours sleep but a lot of the time it has to be done as I like having a big healthy breakfast every morning and enough time to check through my emails, messages and social media. I really struggled with balancing it all at the start but I am getting used to it. I am at point where I am so used to being busy that I have to work on something every day.
This is the second lesson, organisation.
I don’t know how to take genuine time off because I have such a love and passion for designing that it has become second nature to me. If I’m not working on something for university it’s my website, if it’s not my website it’s client work. If it’s not a client I really do just sit down and come up with business ideas, designing things for future ventures. Even down to the books and articles I read, they are all related to where I want to be and get to.
I am such a creative person and it is the passion that fuels me to work, not the money. If and when something goes wrong, it will be your passion for what you do that will push you to correct it and keep trying. When you are sick and tired no one will run your business for you so you passion has to act as your fuel. You can’t call in sick and still get paid like a regular job because your time is literally money. There is no sick pay when you work for yourself.
This is the third lesson, passion.
It would be ridiculous of me to paint the picture like I never rest. I do. I actually have several “stress naps” as I like to call them, all the time. I just lay down, play my favourite kind of music and close my eyes for a good 20 mins. In all honestly I get super stressed out during term times at university. I put a lot of pressure on myself to be great in everything I do but I have learned that you cannot spread yourself that thin.
You need to be strategic in every sense. You must especially be strategic with your time, effort and money. Your time is not like the average person and you must divide it in a strategic way to maximise the outcome.
Money isn’t everything but when starting any kind of business you have to spend money to make money; and have a clear strategy on how you will recover from that loss, your profit, and then how you will reinvest. That means you need to have income coming in from somewhere else or savings ready, all before you make money. Alternatively, you could do the whole I’m-going-to-quit-my-job-struggle-and-fight-until-I-make-it-thing which is only wise if you can actually do this without messing up your credit (and the like), can deal with a complete lifestyle change, have extreme faith and perseverance, and are an extremely patient person. I would never recommend giving up a stable source of income. How are you going to fund and focus on your dream if you’re so stressed and worked up about where your next meal is coming from?
Adobe Creative Suite does cost £25 a month (student subscription). I also pay annually to have the domain name MABIN2.COM and the email address info@MABIN2.com. Nothing about being self-employed is free or easy. There are clients who are difficult, days where you just want to switch off and I have definitely had dry weeks where I received very few clients. I believe you have to find YOUR formula for YOUR business or hustle. You can read as many business books, watch as many interviews or try and copy as many entrepreneurs as you want but there is something unique about every business because each CEO is different.
This is the fourth lesson, strategy.
The money is lit. It’s great BUT not all the time. I can’t just live off MABIN2 money because it’s not a reliable source of income. I have to grind harder for MABIN2 than I do at my weekend job but 3 logos = earning the same amount as a weekend at work. The most enjoyable thing is that most of the time I could spend X amount on Monday and know that by Friday I’ve made it back but please remember it’s taken me a year to reach this point. It wasn’t like this at the start. It’s liberating to have a source of income that comes from your passion and it really gives me a taste of the life I want to live in the future and my career once I graduate. It is easy to get carried away but financial discipline is something you must master. When you own a business there are always little surprises resulting in you spending money you never intended on spending. Money management and back-up funds are so important. My parents are strong believers of living within your means and I am really adopting this notion, especially in 2018 as I have some larger financial milestones that I wish to reach this year. Am I rich? No. I swear to God you will really know if I was really making the money I want to make. I would be decked out in Fendi’s latest season collection. Am I better off than a lot of students? Yes. However, I recognise that God can take it all away quicker than it was provided and the amount I work does impact my academic success (I average at 2:1’s and could probably get firsts if I didn’t work like I do but that will all change in my final year of undergrad).
That is the fourth lesson, money.
Get business savvy. Big brands have several people in several different departments to make everything perfect. You don’t have his opportunity YOU must become your so self-dependent. You are the CEO and the cleaner, the marketing mogul and the accountant all rolled into one.
Read books, I heavily recommend Otegha Uwagba’s Little Black Book - a toolkit for working women, watch YouTube video’s, hire someone to perfect your brands graphic presentation (hire me!), master how to up your engagement on social media and so on. Back in the day you’d have to go out handing your business card to everyone you can, now LinkedIn can do the job for you. Twitter can be your networking vice. Instagram can be your virtual advertising campaign. It is so easy to flourish if you do it the right way! I would not have received as many opportunities and blessing as I have if it wasn’t for Twitter especially.
That is the fifth lesson, research and marketing.
There are some very amazing women that I look up to, what they do and their socials are listed also. Follow them all! They are hustling, grinding, and making a name for themselves. By showcasing their hard work, I only get inspired by their consistent dedication and progress:
@MelsWardrobe - Mel is effortlessly stylish, she’s an amazing celebrity stylist and interior designer & her Instagram stories are hilarious! She has tirelessly worked hard at her craft for years and I look up to her because she reminds me of me! I think it’s an Aquarius thing!
@ConnaWalker - House Of CB. That’s all I need to say. I’ve watched House of CB grow from Celeb Boutique to an internationally recognised, celebrity worn brand. I remember the first time I left Westfield’s with a stripy hot pink bag I received years back. I could talk about her story for ages and how she inspires me but I recommend you do some digging, read into her story, and be inspired.
@DazhaneLeah - I first acknowledged Dazhane on my radar when I was a young teenager (maybe 14-ish and I’m 20 now). She posted an outfit in cute overalls, white vest and a chain on Tumblr. I was instantly inspired. Since then she has propelled herself, utilising social media and her gorgeous white room to showcase her amazing hair, outfits and body, and phenomenal photography skills!
@aysh9t / @Certifeye - CEO of Certifeye, Aysha is a genius when it comes to cosmetics! The way she has utilised social media, high quality branding and packaging (as her little glitter eyeshadows come in the cutest pots that remind me of fairy dust), and expanded into men’s grooming also? She’s simply amazing.
@owusuism - Sarah is a beautiful, talented artist that uses her work for good, painting everything from black legends and icons to breathtaking patterns for charitable causes like Give Me Tap. Her work is bold and unparalleled - I have not seen anything quite like it before! She speaks to my inner artist and I get a craving to lift up a paintbrush every time I see her creations!
Now I’ve shared some of the people I look up to, here are some amazing books I’ve read that I think you should read too for all my young bosses:
Little Black Book: A Toolkit for Working Women by Otegha Uwagba
#GIRLBOSS by Sophia Amoruso
Steal Like an Artist by Austin Kleon
It's Not How Good You Are, It's How Good You Want to Be by Paul Arden
Working for yourself is a rollercoaster but it’s liberating and you can always get off the ride if you like. I want to work a 9-5 for a while in the future as I feel like I need that experience before I really do what I want to do, but I will always keep my business running because it makes me happy. I don’t think a 9-5 is beneath me and neither should you just because you want to or do work for yourself. If a 9-5 is not for you come up with a plan so you don’t have to work one but please be smart. I am all for taking risks but your success story doesn’t need to be raw, including a section on how leaving your job left you broke, eating air for dinner for months all because you wanted to chase your dream.
Please make wise decisions; perfect your craft and walking in your purpose by during your pursuit.
This was a long post but all in all I want you to understand that: You cannot come and kill yourself. I wouldn’t be African if I didn’t include this. Melissa (@MelsWardrobe) says this all the time and sis I’m with you. By all means work hard but never compromise your physical and mental health & well-being.
I am considering creating some sit down videos on a few things related to this post, a possible YouTube channel. We’ll see what happens but please let me know if you would watch me!
I hope you enjoyed this post and feel free to message me if you want to ask some questions! All my socials are on my ‘Contact’ page!