Tomorrow, I will be celebrating 7 years in business! While I was freelancing for a while before I officially started my business, I always count March 29th, 2016 as the day it all began. That was the day I launched my website and announced “I’m a business owner” to my friends and family on social media. Today, I want to share with you some of my business anniversary lessons and some of the biggest highlights in my business over the last SEVEN years.
LISTEN TO THIS EPISODE NOW:
When I think back to the day (and that moment!), I started it all, I can still feel the NERVES! Because it’s a big deal to start a business. It’s vulnerable, it’s exciting, it’s risky, it’s fulfilling.
In my official announcement post from all those years ago, I wrote:
Today, I want to celebrate seven years in business by sharing two things with you:
- I’m sharing 4 of the biggest lessons (with an emphasis on the most recent lessons, because I’ve talked about earlier lessons on my other business anniversary episodes here and here).
- Share a few highlights from the last 7 years! There are a few things that stick out as the “best moments in business” and while I’ve shared some of these on the podcast, some I’ve never shared publicly before!
Business Anniversary Lesson #1: Success makes it harder to focus.
Another way to put it?
“Success generates opportunities — and distractions”
James Clear, Author of Atomic Habits
This has been one of the biggest lessons, specifically over the last two years, in my business and my life. I was listening to Tim Ferriss’ podcast (episode #648) with James Clear and they both talked about this. As soon as I heard it, I was immediately like “YES - I have dealt with this firsthand in my business and wish I had heard the advice a lot sooner.”
And to be fair - I may have heard the advice before but I was hearing it in a different way now after seven years in business.
While I definitely recommend tuning into their episode, my biggest takeaway was that the more success you have, the harder it becomes to focus because, in the beginning, stages of your career (or mid-stages), you’re choosing between unattractive options and maybe 1-2 attractive options. I have definitely been there before.
But once you start to see more and more success, you begin to get more and more attractive options which makes it much harder to choose.
Another quote from James Clear in the episode was “You get good at something so that brings new opportunities your way. You turn around 6 months later and don’t have time to do the thing that made you successful.” In my experience, this has definitely been true!
Why was this such an important business anniversary lesson to me?
I want to preface this by saying, I truly mean this in a “non-braggy” way. But in reality, my business has grown so much over the last seven years that I’ve had so many opportunities and things I could say yes to. When I was newer, there was less to say yes to, which made it a lot simpler.
For example, I could probably say YES to any of these and have it go well:
- Speaking and podcast guesting opportunities
- Summits to participate in
- DMs asking me to “make this course” or “make this template”
- Growing my team (which honestly feels like a puzzle sometimes!)
- And even joint venture opportunities
The list goes on and on. I feel like the opportunities and distractions are many at this point and my job as the owner of my business is to have a really clear vision and clear goals so I can easily navigate between what’s a real opportunity for me and what’s just a distraction. But it is hard sometimes!
To be honest with you, I have not always done a great job at this. This is a REAL lesson for me. I have let distractions, distract me. I’ve done too many things at once. I’ve had too many balls in the air at once.
In year 7 of my business, one of my focuses is doing LESS, but with more focus. I will probably make another podcast episode on this down the road, but basically, I’m really critiquing opportunities before saying yes and asking myself “If I say yes, what will this look like down the line”.
Business Anniversary Lesson #2: Build your business around your life.
We’ve all heard this before but stay with me: You’ve got to love the life you’re building more than the business you’re building.
First things first: the world is not going to help you here. And I truly believe this concept of a “life-first business” is countercultural to work culture for both men and women (especially in America). This doesn’t happen by accident. Most of us spend more time working than anything else… so naturally, work takes priority. Because of that, you have to deliberately focus on the other stuff.
I also feel like this is even harder for us as business owners because we don’t have that 9-5 business structure and it may even feel counter to everything you want to do as a driven entrepreneur. We have the opportunity to work as much as we want and do as much as we want.
Personally, though, this lesson has been huge for me since becoming a mom but was honestly even something rooted in how I’ve set up my business prior to parenthood. I’ve always been careful to try and remember that I am not my business (which to be honest - is even harder when your business is/has a personal brand element).
What I want you to know is this: You are not your business. You are not your job or career. It’s something you do, not WHO you are. So don’t let it be your whole identity.
Because we are talking about my business anniversary lessons, I’m saying this about work but to be honest I feel the same about motherhood. I don’t want being a mom to be my whole identity, just like I don’t want being a business owner to be my whole identity.
So with that in mind… something I’ve learned is that the business I’m building (including the schedule it requires, the mental load it takes, etc…), needs to COMPLEMENT other areas of my life.
And with that said, I do want to be clear: I do believe some seasons call for hustle in any one area. For example, the postpartum newborn phase of motherhood is A HUSTLE!! You’re likely not sleeping, and all your energy is going towards that baby and recovering and adjusting. That’s good and ok. We never see a new mom giving it all she’s got and think “she’s hustling too much and is too focused on that baby.”
Business is allowed to have seasons like that too. Maybe it happens when you first start your business or launch a new offer, you can recognize that “this requires MORE OF ME right now” and that’s good and ok too. I will just be here to remind you that at the end of it all, you’re building a life, not just a business.
Business Anniversary Lesson #3: Just because you can doesn’t mean you should.
This was one of my biggest lessons as I reflected on 2022. Just because someone wants something, doesn’t mean you have to sell it. This lesson is very closely related to business anniversary lesson #1, but this one specifically relates to offers.
It also feels vulnerable to share.
I love creating things you guys want me to create for you. At times in my business I’ve operated from a place of “They want it. It’s a good idea. I’ll make it and enjoy it. And it’ll sell.” Simple. End of discussion. But there is a lesson here…
Just because you’re being asked to do something and you would enjoy doing it and you would make money from it, doesn’t mean it’s a good decision.
Read that again.
There are more factors involved than people want it, you can make money from it, and you’ll enjoy it. This has been a challenge for me but I’m learning to be okay saying “that’s a great idea, but it doesn’t fit into my business plan at this time.” I would love to encourage you to get better at saying that too!
An Example of this Business Anniversary Lesson in Action
I’ve been asked for years to make a mastermind. And I’ve come close to it about 100 times. Seriously. I have notes on my phone and even have a mastermind application form ready in ClickUp.
On top of that, I have the desire. I think I’d love it. I have a vision for what the mastermind would look like. I want to pour into people in that way.
But right now, I’ve had to say to myself and to people who ask “I love that idea and I’d love to do that at some point, but the timing isn’t right for me at this time.”
You don’t have to say yes to everything either.
Just because it’s a good opportunity, doesn’t mean it is the right opportunity.
Another caveat here? You don’t have to do everything yourself. Not everything in your business needs YOUR hands all over it.
I’ve learned a lot in the past few years about what it means to delegate well. It’s been challenging at times to make sure I’m keeping the things that light me up (or that need my touch) and also being ok with delegating some of the things that I thought I’d always do myself.
Business Anniversary Lesson #4: God provides and he never wastes anything.
Business isn’t easy. You’re going to get hurt, you’re going to have failures, you’re going to have bad months, you’re going to have upset clients or customers, and you’re going to have HARD-EARNED lessons that hurt when you learn them.
With that said God will provide for you. He won’t waste whatever it is you are going through.
Over the past seven years, I’ve had so many moments in my business where God has provided when I can’t.
A few examples are:
- A random hard financial month, he provides help.
- A moment when I’m really nervous about something I’m about to do, he provides comfort.
- When I’m really emotionally hurt by someone, he provides perspective.
- In moments when I feel like “I cannot do my business right now because of what’s happening in my personal life.” I felt like that after my dad passed away and after I became a mom for a little bit. God provided in ALL.
No moment was wasted. God uses the lessons and experiences of what you go through to help you grow as a person, build you into a better business person, and bring you closer to him, or whatever it is. I’ve learned as a business owner to rely on him more than I likely would have if I had a more structured type of job. And I think that’s really special.
Business Anniversary Highlights
As I sat back and reflected on some of my “best in business” moments, I realized that some of the things that are meaningful and enjoyable in your memory don’t always feel that way at the moment. That’s definitely true of some of these highlights.
I think the reason for that is that HARD THINGS are often the most fulfilling things. And I believe we like to do hard things as people. But it often means when you’re doing it, you’re like “this is scary, this is hard, this took so much time to get here.” But it’s so fulfilling.
8 Highlights over the last 7 Years
In no particular order…
1. Getting to speak at my college
A few years ago, I was asked to speak at my college by my old graphic design teacher. I absolutely adore her and was beyond honored. She sent me a message inviting me to come back and speak over homecoming weekend to the Arts + Communications department and I shared my business story.
This was such a highlight for me because when I started my business one of my “goals” or things I wanted to do was go back and speak at my college. Something about that felt really exciting and fulfilling to me. My parents and Adam came and watched (and my parents had never seen me do anything like that before!). It was exciting and deeply meaningful to me.
2. Winning A Showit Award and Showit designer trip
At Showit United in 2019 (which has now been replaced by their Spark Conference), I won their “Showiteer of the Year” award. Which was AMAZING.
On top of that, at the same conference, I approached Todd Watson (the CEO of Showit) to introduce myself and before I could he said, “I know who you are - you’re Elizabeth McCravy”. Y’all I feel kind of cheesy sharing that with you but honestly it was such a highlight for me. The fact that he knew who I was felt so meaningful and so flattering.
Since then, I’ve been able to join them in Cabo on the Showit designer trip in 2020, which was definitely another highlight. It was so nice to connect with the Showit team and so many other wonderful Showit designers.
3. My Sara Blakey Mug
I’ve shared this story so many times so I won’t share the long version here but the short version is: I have an Etsy shop where I sell mugs with sayings on them. I started it as a true passion project and it’s grown a lot (I’ve had over 600 sales now!). I have one mug in particular that says, “Be the CEO Your Parents Always Wanted You to Marry”. One customer ordered it and said, “this is for the best boss ever”. I sent it off with a little note that said “Enjoy the Mug”.
A couple of weeks later, I opened up my Instagram to so many tags and notifications. Then, I saw that Sara Blakely had tagged me, holding the mug for her "Mug Shot Mondays" IG post. It was truly one of those pinch me moments and she’s reshared it several times since then.
4. Taking a long maternity leave
This is truly something I feel so grateful for. Having a business that gave me time and space when Colin was first born was absolutely amazing, and I know it’s not the reality for most people so I feel so incredibly grateful for that.
5. Selling out Booked Out Designer in 1 hour
I know I said these were in no particular order but truly this might be the biggest one. This felt like a “pinch me” moment as well. Listen to podcast episodes #110 + #114 if you want to hear more details about that launch.
The morning it launched, I sent out an email to the waitlist and it sold out in about 40 minutes to 40 incredible people. Between watching the eagerness of the founding members to jump in and even the process of creating it (which I really enjoyed - it felt like one of the most creative and beautiful times in my business), it was definitely a business anniversary highlight.
6. Making my first overnight template sale while traveling
This was earlier on in my business and I was staying at my in-laws in Atlanta. I remember waking up in their guest room and seeing the notification that someone had purchased something. I remember seeing her name pop up (I still remember who it was!) and thinking “oh my gosh - I just got my first overnight sale!”.
7. The first time I met someone in person who told me “I listen to your podcast” or every time this happens really!
I can’t even tell you how hugely happy this makes my heart. I love meeting real-life listeners, designers in Booked Out Designer, template customers, and more at conferences, but I have a special place in my heart when someone comes up to me and sees me “in the wild”. I love moments like that!
In the same way, it’s deeply meaningful to me when someone shares a win or appreciation for Booked Out Designer or launches their website with one of my templates. Even a message from someone telling me they’ve learned something from the podcast really motivates me and I always appreciate having a more two-sided conversation with each and every one of you.
8. Speaking at Business Boutique
This was one of those business anniversary highlights that were so scary in the moment. It was back in 2028 that I was asked to speak at Business Boutique in front of 3000 people. Still, though, it was such a huge highlight.
It was kind of a funny story because it was a panel-type situation and we had been given questions to prep ahead of time but right before I went on stage Christy Wright (the organizer) told me that “she knows they sent me prep questions - but I think we are going to go a different way out there”. I learned really quickly how to think on my feet!
It’s been an incredible business anniversary!
I could truly think of so many more highlights: from starting and launching my template shop, making those first sales, starting this podcast, and hiring team members (with a special shout-out to Abby and Stacey who had been with me the longest and have helped my business grow so much).
Thank you for being here!
I want to close out this episode with a big thank you. I could not do what I do without you. When you support my business, you are not only supporting me and my family but supporting my team and their families as well. You are supporting us being able to tithe to so many deserving ministries and non-profits. I’m truly so “pinch me” every day. Thank you for celebrating with me!
Are you a brand and website designer?
If you are a designer and you want to grow your business (and hear about all of the lessons I’ve learned, without learning them the hard way!), you have got to check out Booked Out Designer. Booked Out Designer truly teaches you everything you need to know to grow a booked-out branding and web design business. We go over everything from how to book more clients to managing the financial side of your business and so much more. I would love to welcome you inside (get instant access and join me on the next coaching call here!).
Listen to Episode #60 - What I’ve Learned From Building A Successful Six-Figure Business In The Last 4 Years
Listen to Episode #111 - Celebrating 5 Years In Business And Sharing 5 Gems AKA Lessons
Shop the Sara Blakely Mug on My Etsy
Join me inside Booked Out Designer
Shop our Showit Website Templates
Connect with Elizabeth on Instagram
March 28, 2023