Let start off with some truth right off the bat. I am not an expert. I haven’t sold a million copies of anything or raked in thousands of dollars worth of profitability from a thriving business that I’ve started from the ground up. I am a girl with a dream who has grown up to accomplish things while never growing out of my child-like fantasy to make the world a better place. One day I decided that embracing change and following my dream was the only thing I could do, and I’ve never turned back.
In the past, I’ve thrown myself into a number of “opportunities” in the form of jobs, internships, contracted positions and careers. I have spent an uncountable number of hours mindlessly scrolling through every social media platform, downing bottles of wine with friends on any given night and finding excuses of why I “can’t do” (fill in the blank with X, Y or Z reason here). Life for a while seemed a bit like I was stuck on a hamster wheel, running just to keep it spinning and keep my mind occupied with pointless activities.
Does this sound familiar? Probably so, because I’m a little like you.
And most likely like you, this was a problem for me. Because I’m here to live wholeheartedly, with passion and with a purpose. Because of this, a dream that I saw many years ago has always kept my head a bit in the clouds and left me half-passionate about building someone else’s dream.
Two years ago, my life changed forever. I stared up at the sky (literally, I was lying in a hammock desperate for relief from a hangover from a stint at the previously mentioned wine bottle crushing) and saw that dream I left behind glaring back down at me.
This time, I wasn’t able to shake it because it was more than just a dream, it came in the form of an idea that was so close to a reality that there was no way to back out. The fire was lit. I began taking little steps that lead to bigger strides through embracing change.
Embracing change is an unpaved path that leads to success. It is full of challenges that live in the time and work it takes to see that dream through. The reason why people do not succeed is not that they don’t dream. It’s because they quit before they take the time to do the work to succeed.
With this in mind, this article is for those of you who have a dream you’ve been hoarding, one that has grown in magnitude and leaves you less than satisfied with everything else. All you who want it so bad you can’t sleep at night and who are ready to walk the walk alone (or with a small group of supporters dreaming the same dream).
There’s good and bad news (isn’t there always) and both are simple.
Good News: YOUR dream can (and will) become a reality.
Bad News: It’s going to take TIME and it’s going to take WORK.
Ready to have your mind blown? There’s no complexity in having a dream.
So, now’s the decision-making time. Whichever decision you make will define your existence more than that fancy bachelor’s degree or years of travel. This moment right now is about embracing change, commitment, and facing fears.
If you decide to turn back, go ahead, close this article and return to the mind-numbing routines and paper pushing you’re doing and keep half-heartedly laying pebbles to line another man’s driveway.
Or, you can pull up your big girl (or boy) pants, ruthlessly charge forward and lay the bricks to build your own yellow brick road to successes and figure it out along the way.
Still reading? Fantastic. Embracing change is soul-crushing and self-worth questioning, exhausting, never-ending and continually changing. But if it were anything less, there would be a million and one (fill in the blank of your genius money maker idea) out there and no demand for something new, innovative or exciting (like the thing you’re working on).
But know, you’re not alone.
You’ve decided that passion pursuits > paper pushing. So, let’s talk about what to do when you want it so bad you can’t sleep at night.
What do you do when you have this dream that has grown from a bumble bee sized hum into a freight train roar that has built up so much angst that is keeping you up at night and waking you early in the mornings.
What do you do now? Take that noise maker to the chopping block.
Focus on these three things to get your fire lit and dream-maker motor up and running.
Embracing Change: Write it Down
A dream must shift into a goal to come to life. In order to do this, you have to write it down. A dream lives in the clouds, in your head, and in casual conversation.
As stated by John, “When you keep a vision in your mind, it’s not really a goal; it’s nothing more than a dream. There’s power in putting that dream on paper. When you commit something to writing, commitment to achievement naturally follows… If you cannot see the goal, you cannot go toward it.”
So go ahead, grab some paper, write down your dream and pin that puppy up somewhere that you can see it every single day. Start and end your day, every day with reading that goal over from start to finish.
Embracing Change: Put it out into the Universe
Once you have captured that dream and put in your direct line of vision, the next step is to solidify that dream and begin giving it no other option but to become a reality. Tell your friends, your family, your social media following, tell everyone that you can. Some people believe that if you have an idea, you should keep it to yourself because someone might steal it. My response is always, “Amazing! If someone takes an idea that I put out into the universe and brings it into a reality, right on! I have dozens of others.”
You need to know that once you have the courage to put your idea out there not only does it bring it into existence, but it gives you this superhuman power that will support that idea being yours. Others may mimic your model or copycat your offer, but they’ll never be able to provide that unique thing that you have, the YOU touch. So, take that as a form of flattery, confirmation that you have a stellar idea and charge forward with finding the niche that will make you stand out amongst the others and let the signs provided to you in your everyday interactions, conversations, and experiences guide your way. Because once you’ve put your idea out there, it will fuel it to move forward and line the way for you to follow if you’re open to listening to the signs.
Embracing Change: Set a Timeline
Circling back to the wise words of John Mason, “Procrastination is killer. When you kill time, you kill the purpose and dreams within you… The first step to overcoming procrastination is to eliminate all excuses for not taking immediate action.”
Once you’ve established your idea in writing and put it out into the universe, you need to seal the deal with setting a timeline to get the engine going. The timeline doesn’t need to be something huge like “I’m going to bring in $100,000 in net profits within the next 12 months” or even “I’m going to sell into XX amount of stores by the end of the year.” Start with something smaller and achievable that you can curate the control over because the success is directly linked to your actions.
When I made the decision that I was going to make my own money, my own way and follow my passions I spent days upon weeks writing every idea that came to me down. I filled notebooks, emails, iPhone notes and Google Docs with ideas. Until something stuck. I wrote that sticking point down on a piece of paper and taped it to my mirror so I could see it every time I looked at myself, every single day. I went to GoDaddy, bought my domain name and laid out a haphazard website where I put up a page called “On the Road.” I spent the next couple weeks fantasizing about what it would look like to take a cross country road trip to the west coast and back and then I laid this out in a map app. I paired this map with a declaration that I would be taking a 4-month solo cross country road trip in July 2015 and pressed publish.
My idea was 1. Written down 2. Put out into the universe and 3. Set with a timeline.
I didn’t know how I was going to make this happen, at the time, I was unknown to me, on the cusp of getting laid off from a job that I was looking for an out from and making a little less money than I wanted to make. But I knew that once I pressed publish, there was no turning back. I started talking about it and telling everyone I knew. The more I said it, the more confident I became in the idea and the more confident I became in the idea the more I began to see all of the elements arising in my life that supported my dream becoming a reality.
When Embracing Change Don’t Skimp on the Boring Stuff
By nature, in any given situation I first asses the situation, and then automatically go into problem-solving, organization and delegation mode. This is not an auto-instinct for most people and in most cases, I’ll say lucky to those of you who missed this trolley ride. But being 100% real right now, it’s a technological world, and it moves FAST. Accessibility for anyone, literally anyone, to become a business owner is within reach. The opportunity to share and capitalize on any given idea is available.
If you decided to take your idea to the chopping block, this is something that the bravest part of you believes to be true. As a self-funded passion-pusher balancing working full time and building my brand, I will proudly protest that I am a fan of the less is more mentality. This isn’t just about how you delegate tasks or shred minutes by scheduling tweets. I am about to share with you a few of the most important decisions you will make along this transitional paved road to a profitable business.
The glitz and glam that outshines the foundation building will do it’s best to distract you from laying a solid foundation. And as a newfound friend, I’m here to tell you, whatever you do, Don’t Skimp on the Boring Stuff.
You’re flying high on an idea that keeps you up at night. You’re telling all your friends about it, they think it rocks. You’re feeling confident and ready to take on the world.
Embracing Change: Protect what’s yours. Period.
This is a non-negotiable. From someone who dreams and schemes all day long, ideas come to me as natural as breathing. And because of this, I casually share ideas without any hesitation. I confidently and openly welcome someone to bring any of these ideas to fruition. Why? Because I’ll have a dozen other ideas today and a dozen more tomorrow.
But my BIG ideas. I keep these ideas a little more under wraps until I have time to organize and protect them. I take the time to formulate a strategy to present them to the world. I advise you to do the same.
I’m talking about the spine-shivering topics of legal protection and internal structuring. This is the lull and dull. It’s the stuff you WANT to bypass because it is about as exciting as watching paint dry. But as boring as it may be, these decisions are a few of the most important ones you will ever make.
Whether you decide to seek help from the outside or take on the tasks yourself, make sure you begin by laying your foundation with basic legal protections and organizing your infrastructure.
Getting organized is for the grand majority of people. You’ll find yourself ahead of the game if you go about the un-fun stuff the right way and set it as a priority from the beginning. And when it comes time to expand your team, pitch to investors or partners or hand over your tax information to your accountant, the preparation will be minimal.
Here are a few things that every beginner business owner should start with:
Push the Legal to the front of the line
Not necessarily what the everyday Joe or Joella who just wants to take their recycled fabric sweatshirt designs to manufacture and sell them through an online marketplace would label as “fun.”
But, the last thing you want is to find out a few months into hard work and brand building is that your business name was already taken or that you’re losing a cringe-worthy amount of dollars because you didn’t have the proper paperwork to seal that deal on a high dollar partnership. Making sure that you have your ducks in a row BEFORE you start handing over those designs to the manufacturer, the buyers and the consumer is key.
Begin by doing some research and identifying your needs for the type of business that you are seeking to build. There is a selection of ways you can establish your business to make the best decision for what is right for your long term needs in order to save time, money and work down the road.
For some, an online a la carte pick services like those offered through LegalZoom, Nolo or Legal Match provide an affordable, minimal fuss rate and pretty speedy turnaround time. The upside to this is that if you know your needs and enough about the game of starting a business, you can piece together the best package for yourself and save a few bucks. The downside is it can be a little overwhelming, time consuming and the support is a little less personable than what you might find working with a firm.
For me, time is money and my peace of mind comes with knowing that I didn’t skip any important steps. This is why I decided to work with a firm instead of an online outlet for establishing my business and managing my legal needs. This has allowed me to save my energy for where it shines the most; the creation and delegation of building out my brand. Knowing that all the important things are being taken care of has allowed me to do this at full speed and anxiety-free.
When I came to the realization that Stranded on Land would become more than just hobby, I reached out to my friend and now legal adviser Christopher DiSchino of DiSchino & Schamy for a little direction. His firm specializes in Business and Intellectual Property Law. Their expertise is ideal for my legal needs and comes with bonus consultations to assist me with things I’m uncertain of or didn’t know I needed. Working with a firm has afforded me the ease of not only having someone do detailed searches on things I didn’t even know I should be considering, but also come with an added benefit of monitoring my trademark and immediate action if someone else were to file to use the name or something like it. Additionally, my legal team updates me when certain pertinent documents are close to expiring and keeps me posted on any urgent matters so that I can properly budget and not miss important filing dates.
Whichever you decide is the best option for you, make sure you begin with the bare minimum legal protections. According to Chris, the most important thing to make sure that you don’t bypass when you’re starting a new business is to “make sure you choose a legal structure that will suit your long-term business goals and personal tax situation.” He says, “Often times, entrepreneurs will use online services to incorporate without getting proper legal advice. More importantly, startup owners should make sure that their corporate documents (for example, partnership’ agreements, employment agreements and standard services agreements) are properly drafted. Having a properly structured company before starting operating will save time and expenses down the road.”
Name and Trademark Your Brand
Building a brand isn’t something that happens overnight or without a strategy. It takes blood, sweat and tears glued together with legal backing to make sure that all the muscle you’re putting into it reaches its maximum potential. Once you’ve decided on a name for your company, you should reach out to the experts to make sure that you are not infringing on anyone else’s property. Simultaneously, you should begin the process and trademark your brand before launching the business. According to Chris, “[When] choosing your brand name, start-ups should have an attorney run a comprehensive trademark search and apply for their trademark at least three months before launching their business. In this regard, start-ups can make sure they own the rights to their trade name and avoid conflict with other trademark owners. “
Spending a little time and money upfront will save you headaches down the line like losing your following or rebranding because you didn’t take the proper steps before you took the leap.
Build your Brand’s Identity and Presence
Once you’ve received the thumbs up that you’re in the clear to blast out your trademarked name, you’re ready to identify and build your brand’s presence. This is an exciting, taxing feat that takes time, effort and proper structure to execute. Although it is a creative process and for those like me, a fun one, it’s vital that you from the beginning build a structure and standard brand guidelines. These guidelines will serve as a go to that will keep you, your future internal team and external collaborators in check, preserving the consistency of your brand’s presence. Take the time, attention to detail and consistency to create this. The key building a consistent brand identity and presence is defining the groundwork so that no matter who is viewing or working on your brand knows exactly what it should look like and they have the tools to keep everything consistent. I recommend starting with a mood board, pulling and piecing together everything that inspires you and visually and verbally describes your vision of the brand you want to create. From here, you can then either hire a paid professional / team to build this out for you or work with your team or a trusted source to put together the foundational guidelines for your brand’s presence.
Internal systems and structuring best practices
As someone who has come into several established and successful businesses running on haphazard systems, I can’t state enough how important internal systems and structuring is. It can seem like the only important detail to pay notice to when starting up is getting things off the ground and income through the door. But I will strongly argue that in tandem, establishing your internal structure is crucial. And here’s why. The bigger and more successful you become, the less time you have to allocate to details and the harder it is to implement new procedures to an existing team. To continue to grow, you must master the art of delegation. If you cannot articulate or demonstrate how to complete tasks and have them align with your brand’s identity, the success of your brand will always offer less than its full potential.
The best systems are the ones that are not reliant on the person who created them to stay alive. If you build a structure that anyone can come into, study, take over and add to, your business will continue to thrive and grow. Incorporate shared documents, project management platforms, and automated reporting systems into your daily routines when it’s just yourself or a small team of a few and define your company’s system. Systems offer boundaries, guidelines, and support for you, your staff, clients and external supporters like your legal or accounting team. Structure minimizes confusion, mixed communication and holds every person accountable by providing clear expectations right from the beginning. Which allows your team to thrive as they know what to do, how to do it and what purpose each task serves. Additionally, handing off tasks when someone is out on vacation or has decided to move on to other life endeavors becomes somewhat seamless.
There are a plethora of project management systems that you can choose from. Figure out which work best for you and your team.
Here are a few starters that I use often and love:
I like Expensify because it’s simple, user-friendly and you can share data across a team. It offers an app that you can download to your smart device, take in the moment photos of receipts keeping you organized on the go with minimal fuss. You can also link most bank accounts, track mileage as well as log hours. Customize your account, create your own company codes, send bills or invoices and manage multiple team members expenses all from one place. When it comes time to do your taxes, simply download a PDF file, send it to your accountant and in just a few minutes they have everything they need. Basic starter usage is free but you can upload for more and unlimited features at a fee.
Cloud and Shared Document System
For me, Google Drive is life! I use this for literally ev-ery-thing. Uploading and storing files, drafting documents, rough drafts, content calendars, and questionnaires. Google Drive is user-friendly and has smart features like spell and grammar check, teams and committing on edits. I mostly use Google Drive for forms, a secondary backup to the content for my website and working group documents like a social media content calendar. Drive makes it easy for multiple people to interact in real time on any given project and see in the moment edits, eliminating eating up storage space on your hard drive and confusions as to which is the latest version of a working file. You can download and access drive on your phone or iPad, also making it a perfect system for someone always on the go.
Project Management System
Trello gives me the warm and gushy feels that you get when you smell fresh baked cookies. Finding this project management tool was one of the best things that ever happened to me when I was working as a Design Project Manager a couple of years back. Managing a team composed of multiple designers, a creative director, account leads and clients was overwhelming at times. Finding the best way to organize communications, deadlines, and needs for each individual helped keep me from drowning in hundreds of emails and meet client demands.
With Trello, I was able to create project boards for each team, upload details and files, assign projects to team members and set deadlines. If a project opened back up, all I had to do was pull the card with all the past details and add new notes so that no matter who took it on knew everything they needed to produce top-notch work. I trained my internal teams and implemented similar practices with my clients to help streamline communications and speed up the processing of the workflow. I could go on and on about how much I love Trello (they should probably be paying me at this point) but I recommend you checking it out for yourself and incorporating into your task delegation and timeline setting regimen.
To conclude, if you’re going to start something, don’t skip steps for sake of initial convenience. Eliminate headaches that will inevitably come down the line by protecting and organizing your infrastructure before it grows into a money-making beast by doing things the right way from the start. Build your dream on a platform that is strong, steady and easily transferable to any internal team member, external partner or future buyer of your brand. Because the lull and dull’s luster will shine brighter the bigger and more successful you become.
Begin Embracing Change NOW
So now it’s time for you to take your idea to the chopping block. If you’re not sure what that idea is quite yet, begin with dedicating time to discovering what you like, what you’re good at and how you want to impact and change the world you’re living in. It can be a big change or a small change, but enhancing the world around you will only enhance you and increase the rate of your success.
Do whatever it takes to discover this. Follow the steps above to transform that dream into a goal. And don’t just believe, but know that once you put it out into the universe, the whole world will conspire to support you.
Welcome to the club, fellow Dreamer.