What I learned my first year of starting my brand marketing agency

by | Nov 14, 2019 | Branding, Marketing Strategy

The first year of starting a new business is typically the most challenging. The excitement of new opportunities and the freedom to work whenever and wherever you choose is part of the allure that attracts most entrepreneurs to open up their own shop. Friends and family root for your success and are envious of your enthusiasm to participate in the great American dream.

However, the challenges that come along with being an entrepreneur aren’t always shared, for fear of sounding ungrateful for the new opportunities. So, I’m sharing just a few things that I’ve learned in my first year, in hopes that it will help inspire and set expectations for other creative entrepreneurs.

There’s still not enough time in the day.

The thought of making my own schedule and the ability to jet-set whenever I felt the urge were some of the biggest reasons that I wanted to start my own business. I always felt a bit caged up in an office when my days were filled with countless meetings and little time to actually do the work. I thought I would have much more freedom and time to get work done when I was working from a home office. The reality check- Thanks to some great connections I’d made throughout my career, I had plenty of work. But my drive to exceed expectations left me with feelings of guilt if I wasn’t up at dawn and still working into the late hours. I had no work-life balance and I’d find myself exhausted every Friday evening, falling asleep at date nights. Saturdays and Sundays were no longer time to relax at the pool or leisurely relax around. They were additional days for me to finish projects for others. This year, I’m setting boundaries for myself to balance my lifestyle so that I’m fresh for my clients and not burn out.

Practice what you preach.

I have no problem working late nights on my clients’ projects but found it difficult to find time to work on my own business. Writing and creating content to promote services took a backseat finishing project in an unrealistic deadline, set by myself and no one else. As a marketer, I wasn’t following the advice that I gave to my own clients to ensure I’d have a steady stream of business for the long-term, not just the next few months.

I admired the projects that other start-up agencies were promoting but would feel silly asking for testimonials or promoting my own work on social media. I was having trouble finding my own voice. So, I did what Being Boss authors Kathleen Shannon and Emily Thompson advised “Show up and do the work,” and just started writing. It doesn’t have to be perfect every time. Sharing my knowledge and experience is part of the process of being a creative entrepreneur.

Be a student of your craft.

I’ve learned more about business and marketing in the last year than I have in 6 years of college. The principles and processes learned in my marketing classes were very useful – but nothing compares to just diving in and doing the work. Collaborating with partners that have a unique skill set in digital marketing, communications, or media buying has truly expanded my knowledge to allow me to help other clients. Participating in online learning courses or webinars also helps expand my knowledge in areas that I wasn’t previously familiar with. I’ve made it a goal to learn something new each week that I can apply to my business.

If it doesn’t fit, don’t force it.

In the first year of business, I felt that I had to take every client on because I didn’t know when the next opportunity would arise. That mindset brought me some projects that were not a good fit for my expertise. Unrealistic expectations kept me and my team feeling as if we were not able to add value in the way the client needed or expected. The lessons learned here were to firmly align expectations from the start of an engagement and to know when to walk away gracefully when it is not a good fit.

Being a creative entrepreneur is one of the most challenging and rewarding positions I’ve held. I feel so lucky to be able to help other business owners to see their vision through brand marketing and strategy. This is what I’ve been working towards for twenty years.

If you need help developing your brand or promoting your services, contact Heart & Hustle today.

Stacey Harrison

About the Author

Stacey Harrison is the lead brand strategist and designer at Heart & Hustle Brands and has provided creative direction for healthcare, industrial, and financial services brands for 20 years. She started Harrison Creative Group in 2017 to serve businesses that need a professional brand image on a budget. In 2021, the company rebranded to Heart & Hustle Brands to walk in the shoes of clients that experience a change of name or brand refresh.