One year as a post graduate entrepreneur: What I’ve learned

Quick background about myself:

Holy cow… I can’t believe that it’s been nearly a year since I graduated from college. At the time, I was excited yet scared about the future. I understand that graduation is approaching, and I’m here to share my insights as an entrepreneur who decided to take a leap of faith straight out of college. My goal is to make this into something weekly that I can share about because I know the feeling that many are going through if you’re nearing graduation.

Here are 20 key lessons that I’ve learned and something that I hope can be helpful to those who are about to graduate.

  1. ) The pain is only temporary

At times, it feels like the world is going to be against you. From personal experience, the high of the entrepreneurship life is amazing, but the moments behind the curtain can be grueling. Here are some of the pains that I have had to deal with throughout my journey:

2.) Don’t give up on your email chase!

I wish I would have known this earlier. I only learned about this a few weeks ago. After one of the clients that we were chasing said not interested, I decided to follow up with that person a month later.

Here’s what I said:

Hey “Name”
I understand that you weren’t interested last month in what my company had to offer. I understand that it’s a new month now, and I wanted to see if there’s a chance that I can follow up with your team.
My team has made a lot of great progress since I last reached out, and I know that we can bring value :)
Cheers,

To my surprise, the client responded, and I was able to land an in-person meeting. Had I given up after the first no, it would have been a loss for my team.

3.) FAILING is okay!

At the beginning, my failures would derail my progress and take me off track. I was always wondering wow, how on earth am I supposed to recover from this? I would tell my friends, and family and they were all encouraging, but the reality was that they weren’t going to get me out of my failure.

I realized that I had to take a different approach. As opposed to sitting there and feeling bad for myself, I had get up and learn from the failure and move forward.

Once I discovered the true meaning of failure, I started to pick up my pace and achieve more goals. My mentality now is if you don’t fail, you’re not going to learn.

4.) Dreamers dream, while hustlers work

Dreaming is easy. It doesn’t require any effort whatsoever.

If it was easy, everyone would do it, right?

Well, that’s the reality that entrepreneurship has taught me. You have to put the time and effort into something you want. Money isn’t going to fall from the skies and having people feel bad for you isn’t going to help either.

5.) Be scrappy, especially when you don’t have any credibility

Starting out, I had no credibility. I had zero corporate experience and my resume screamed that I’d fail.

That’s where I started to think outside the box. I was looking at what people were doing and figuring out what they didn’t take advantage of.

To reach people, I started to document my journey on Linkedin because not a lot of people were documenting what they were doing in their early stages. Starting the Linkedin grind increased my reach and currently helps me reach 70k+ people per week.

When it comes to cost, you can always find an alternative. For instance, if there’s an expensive networking event, you can get in for free. All you have to do is apply for the event, and they’ll usually give you a complimentary conference pass.

6.) No doesn’t mean that the world is going to end

Receiving a no is a blessing in disguise. In my case, I was emailing a lot of people in the beginning. Anytime that I spoke to someone on the phone, I always assumed that something good was going to happen. I would follow up, and ask to see what the next steps were, and many times I ended up chasing many of these prospects. Many of the times they weren’t interested, but it took a while to figure that out. That’s why I’m actually glad when someone rejects me because I’ll know not to invest time to chase after that person. Think of it this way, you can’t force a relationship. If someone doesn’t like you, you have to move on and move to the next opportunity.

If you need inspiration, here’s a list of Hollywood rock stars who were rejected many times before they got to where they are today:

7.) Invest in personal development

There’s a lot to learn out there and the sky is the limit. You have to believe in that if you want to excel in the real world. If there’s something that you can’t do, you have a friend out there called google.com who will likely have the answers. If that doesn’t work, I recommend that you find a group of people who are in the same position as yourself.

Sources: FB group, Linkedin Group, Meetup, and networking conferences

When you connect with people, be sure to provide them value. Tell them what you’re good at and ask what they are good at. Exchange ideas and help one another out. Trust leads to established business relationships

8.) Enjoy the ride

Regardless of whatever you choose to do, make sure that you’re having fun. Time is something that you can never buy back. When you graduate, take the time to pursue the burning passion that you have. Make sure you don’t build regret along the way because that sucks…. Especially if you’re sitting back one day saying I wish I would have….

9.) Staying Persistent

If people don’t respond to you the first time, try again. If you want to get in touch with them, you can’t expect for them to answer the first time. Especially if they are high business executives.

Here’s a list of what you can do to stay persistent

  • Look up your target’s social media accounts, and send them a DM
  • Send your target a Linkedin message and endorse their skills
  • Keep your email short and concise, and be kind when following up in emails.
  • Read content that they’ve shared on Linkedin or blogs. Once you read it, send them a message to let them know that their advice was helpful.
  • Find events that they’ll be speaking at, and find a way to attend.

10.) Don’t spend money that you don’t have

Realize that you don’t need money to get your task accomplished. There’s always a way to dig around the straight path which is paying money for a service. Think outside of the box and look for alternatives using your friends at google.com. To be clear, it’s great to spend money, but know that you can’t automate something by putting in a large lump sum. Learn first, then assign work using the other tools once you build up capital.

11.) Expect the unexpected

I never thought that I’d connect with a llama, but it happened! I was in the valley and the main attraction that night was the llama. People were taking pictures with it… it was strange, but that’s how the entrepreneurship path is. There isn’t any guarantee with this path, and there is a lot of uncertainty.

I’ve learned the hard way that there are a lot of high and lows. One moment, things look good ,and suddenly one big curve ball can change everything.

Here are some of the highs that I’ve dealt with, along with the lows:

High:

  • Launching a product
  • Seeing the team hustle
  • Connecting with top celebrities
  • Being acknowledged for the work that we do

Lows:

  • Getting screwed over by clients. When we started, we worked with a top client who misguided us. We spoke with the agent, and he was on board along with the client up until the day the product was completed. We spent hundreds of hours and capital and it totally was unexpected to be blind-sided by the client.
  • Not being able to make rent money/bills
  • Not hitting target numbers for launch

12.) Don’t be afraid to ask. The worst that someone can do is say “no”

This is a picture of myself and Gary Vee back in October. I saw that he was speaking at an event in NYC, and I happened to be in town. I sent him an email the week before the event and asked if I could attend his event. To my surprise, he replied and made it happen….

The event cost thousands of dollars to attend, and I happened to attend for free because I asked him. I told him that there was no way that I could afford the entry fee, but he was someone that I admire. The place was filled with a ton of marketing gurus and I was able to make a lot of valuable connection.

Gary Vee is someone that I look up to because of how fearless he is with his business. Although I don’t know him, I watch his content nearly every single day, and he makes me work even harder. Because of him, I see that hustle pays off and that you have to eat dirt before, you can get to the destination.

13.) Realizing that you have value to offer

When I was still in college, I would reach out to people asking to see if they’d be open to having coffee with me in exchange for their knowledge. Most of the time, people were genuine to help, but I almost felt bad that they weren’t getting value out of the meeting. A few months ago, I realized that if you can give value to someone, they are more likely to help you out, especially if it doesn’t feel like they are doing charity work by taking time out of their day for you. If both parties can gain something out of a meeting, it’s a win, and that’s how you should look at things when you reach out to people.

Today, I learned that my strength is in personal branding/outreach strategies. Most of the top business folks that I reach out to are surprise when I’m able to provide them value as it’s something they don’t expect. However, it usually leads to a positive relationship where we stay connected because of the value that we can provide for each other.

14.) Trusting your GUT feeling.

Everyone is entitled to their opinion, but sometimes having negative feedback can be hurtful. It may make you think twice before pursuing what you’re doing. However, if you truly believe that what you’re doing is right, then stick to it. Tell the nay-sayers that you respect their opinion, but don’t spend time dwelling on it. Your time is valuable, and realizing that will lead to more positive opportunities. Use the negative energy to fuel your grind so that you can prove them wrong. That’s the best way to get back at someone.

15.) It’s okay to not know everything

I used to get nervous if people asked me questions that I didn’t know the answer to. I would try to come up with something, but would end up looking silly since I had no idea what I was talking about…. Over time, I’ve realized that it’s okay to say “I don’t know, but I will double check with my team and get back to you on that.” To my surprise, people will respect the honesty. We’re humans, not robots, and having the ability to say you don’t know can set you a part from others. Just be sure that you follow up.

16.) Decide on what you want to do, and TAKE ACTION

While most people are accepting their 9–5 full-time job offer, the entrepreneurship path presents a greater challenge. While it’s great to have college support for the entrepreneurship path, it gets even harder out in the real world. When you’re out in the real world, people are going to expect you to make money and use that as a way to measure your success. If money is what you want, go for it. If building a company is something that you want to do, then stay laser focused.

17.) Don’t let social media photos fool you from the reality. (perhaps one day… )

Yes, I’m sure you’re likely active on IG and Facebook. If you are spending your time at home on the weekend to focus on personal development, there will likely be times where you’ll be jealous of some of the pictures that you see. Most people who work a typical 9–5 job enjoy their weekend going out with their friends (which is fine). By the time they check out, they can save their work and it won’t be on their mind. Just ask yourself, what do you want to do? Would you rather work a job with a nice safety net or would you rather put 100% into something that you enjoy and make it into something that will pay dividend down the road?

18.) Surround yourself with like-minded people

If you see someone crushing it in business in something that you admire, then REACH OUT TO THEM. Simply ask to see if you can connect and exchange some ideas with that person. Even if you don’t feel like you can give value to them, you can state your situation and see if they’d be willing to help you out. This is something that I’m constantly doing and some people say no, but the majority of the people that I’ve reached out to have been more than helpful.

Here are some tips for reaching out:

  • Compliment the person and tell them why you admire them.
  • State why you’re reaching out and be blunt about it.
  • If you really like them, continue to follow up until they respond. The worse they can do is say no.

19: Until the check clears, you don’t have a deal.

Examples of over promising:

  • This looks good, I’ll get back to you next week.
  • I think this would be great for my business!
  • Can you send me a pitch deck?
  • Would love to start this!
  • I’m busy this month, can we start next month?

^^^ The above is the type of over promises that I’ve heard many times. I would get antsy and think that they were serious, but most of those were people who were over-promising. I’ve learned the hard way that you can’t take someone’s word for it until the check clears. In the past, I would pre-plan if I received a verbal commitment, but then it would impact my personal finances if the deal didn’t close.

20.) Stay in touch with people who follow through.

THIS IS KEY!!! Similar to bullet IV, you’ll meet a lot of people who want to “help,” but you’ll quickly realize that people are simply saying that to be nice. Many people will not take the first step to reach out to you, and it’s really up to you to follow through. If someone does follow through and offers to help, stay in touch with that person! Find ways to provide value and also realize that some people genuinely want to see you succeed and don’t have an ask and that’s okay. Just make sure that you don’t make them look bad.

If you’re about to graduate, just know that everything will be okay. The world is interesting and will present obstacles that you’ll have to overcome. Just understand that you’ll get through the hurdles and that I’m here to share my insights in hopes that you can learn from my experience.

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If you’re about to graduate, just know that everything will be okay. The world is interesting and will present obstacles that you’ll have to overcome. Just understand that you’ll get through the hurdles and that I’m here to share my insights in hopes that you can learn from my experience.

Follow my journey on Instagram

Do you have any tips? I would love to learn from you/hear about your experiences; please share them in the comments below.


Originally published at https://www.linkedin.com on April 3, 2017.