So you want to be a female entrepreneur? More and more women are empowering themselves and taking charge of their careers by launching their own startup. We did it, and so can you! But it is NOT easy. In fact, it’s probably the hardest thing we have ever done. The road gets less bumpy. But only after plenty of really embarrassing screwups, teeth-gritting anger, merciless rejection, and holy-crap-I-can’t-believe-we-pulled-that-off happy dances. We learned valuable lessons along the way, so we want to pay it forward and drop some knowledge on future boss ladies like yourself.
Without further ado, here are our 10 top tidbits of wisdom for female entrepreneurs:
1. Charge What You’re Worth–From the Start
When we first started Witty Kitty, we had no idea how much to charge for some of our services. We asked other female entrepreneurs and learned that pricing varies greatly in our field. We knew that we wanted to give our clients great work at a fair rate, but we hadn’t yet built the confidence to know that “fair” doesn’t mean giving crazy discounts.
When you’re hustling trying to get clients, the stress (and, ok, maybe desperation) can make you want to offer low prices to lock in business. Don’t do it! Do your research, set a price, and stick with it. If a client can’t afford your services, then get comfortable saying no and recommending an alternative. Many female entrepreneurs run themselves ragged trying to handle a huge workload that just isn’t financially rewarding. Charging what you’re worth from the start is better than not earning enough–and letting go of great clients that would have paid you a higher rate if you’d asked for it.
2. Learn a Little Bit of Everything
It’s hard to sell the benefits of services and walk your clients through a project or product pitch if you don’t understand exactly what you’re offering. We are huge cheerleaders for hiring employees who are the expert and delegating to compensate for not being an expert yourself. But that doesn’t mean female entrepreneurs shouldn’t have a basic understanding of all facets of their business. Witty Kitty has teams devoted to all kinds 0f services, and we know enough about each service to maintain a conversation with “that guy” at the marketing conference. You know the one…who does nothing but read industry articles. Talk to your employees or female entrepreneur friends who know their stuff. Attend events or read publications that keep you up-to-date on what you offer.
Most importantly, if you don’t know the answer to a customer or client’s question, don’t act as though you do. Politely tell your client that you’ll ask your team and get right back to them. A pet peeve of ours is throwing around cryptic buzzwords and dodging questions instead of being honest. Not knowing is ok!
3. Follow Through, Follow Through, Follow Through
It seems obvious. But, as a busy female entrepreneur, it’s easier said than done. Have integrity–If you know you can’t do something, don’t overpromise. You can and should say yes to a job you don’t know how to do YET. If it’s realistic that you can make it happen, then stretch yourself and make it so. But if you are certain a deadline isn’t going to happen or a project is outside your expertise, let others know ASAP. Clients and employees appreciate your honesty, and there is always a way to set things right.
We have found that the “busier” some entrepreneurs get the less time they have to follow through on requests. Everyone is busy, and your time is no more valuable than your lowest-ranking employee or smallest client. If you say you’ll do something, you had better do it. Or fess up and accept the consequences.
4. Find Your Place At The Table
As a female entrepreneur, it’s sometimes a struggle to prove that you belong. To make sure your voice is heard and your expert opinion respected. This is not exclusive to male-dominated businesses like ours. Sometimes other women can be harsh, and drown you out in an effort to have their own voice be heard. You have to have a backbone and not let it get to you.
As co-founders, we have had to find balance not only between finding our own voice but making sure we are both being heard equally. This holds true of business partners and employees alike. Concentrate not only on making yourself heard but on making sure other qualified voices are noticed and amplified. You’re much more likely to find your spot at the table if everyone else knows they have their spot, too. This also makes meetings a heck of a lot more enjoyable and productive!
5. Network with Genuineness
One of our least favorite scenarios in the business world is the onslaught of unwelcome pitches at conferences. This is not to suggest that conferences aren’t meant for pitching! We have gotten some of our favorite clients from introducing ourselves at events. But this is where we employ the give-give-get philosophy. Instead of immediately diving into why a business owner should become your client, try chatting about other common interests first.
As female entrepreneurs, we always prefer to get to know a person a bit before offering our services. After all, it’s best to find companies clients who are a great fit for what you offer instead of a blanket approach. If you can’t find something to chat about for five minutes before you pitch, then you may need to work on your conversation skills. Worst case, talk about your pets. This conversation topic is always a hit!
6. Don’t Micromanage Others
No one likes being told what to do…fifteen times. If a freelancer or employee is giving too few updates, either encourage them to improve their behavior through open dialogue or cut them loose. You shouldn’t need to micromanage. If this tendency comes to you naturally, you absolutely have to overcome it to be a female entrepreneur. If you want respect, you must give it. Hire people you trust and then trust them. If you can’t do this, then you’ll quickly discover you can’t handle your management duties as you scale.
7. Play To Your Strengths
We have always been terrible at math. So, the first chance we got (even when we couldn’t really afford it) we hired an accountant. We know we are word people, and would rather shell out than get audited and deal with us possibly embarrassing ourselves by billing incorrectly. Similarly, we know that I am better at public speaking, pitching, and strategy. And that Caroline is better at organizational skills, editing, and creative direction. When we know we can do something best, we have no shame about owning that. When we know we don’t excel at something, we have equally little shame admitting it openly. Be honest with yourself about your strength and your weaknesses, and hire employees and freelancers who complement you as a leader.
This could also be applied to meetings and pitches. If you know you get nervous speaking in front of others, prepare aids. Take along an employee who is great with public speaking.
8. Dump Clients Who Don’t Value Your Work
One of the best feelings in the world is saying goodbye to a stressful client. This one is pretty simple. If a client is surly and doesn’t pay you enough to make up for it, then you have our permission not to work with them! In some cases, even if they pay you plenty, it’s better to cut ties. Your mental health and the pride you feel in your work will suffer if your client does not appreciate you.
As female entrepreneurs, it can sometimes be hard to overcome our desire to please everyone and maintain the status quo. But some clients just aren’t worth your time, and that is ok. Give it some real though, pass it by an unbiased colleague, and sleep on it. But if you’re having nightmares about your nightmare client then…Bye, Felicia.
9. Invest in Professional Development
Maybe you’re a female entrepreneur unicorn who knows everything. But you’re probably not. In our business, if you don’t stay on top of the game and constantly refresh your knowledge on current trends, you’re dead in the water. This is also true of every other industry. Technology, marketing, and networking know-how have never been more important to success. Take that coding class! Read a few articles a day about business management and other relevant subjects! Talk to your mentor about changes she sees on the horizon for your industry! Never lose your hustle. The second you do, there will be someone younger, cooler, and hungrier than you to take your place.
10. Give Back
We know you’re busy. The female entrepreneur life is HARD. But we encourage you to volunteer and do what you can to improve your community and the lives of those around you. Some of the most amazing business deals we have struck have been the result of volunteer work. Whether it’s good karma or a winning pitch strategy, we don’t know. But either way ,the warm fuzzies you get from helping others can sometimes be the anecdote to all the stress you’re feeling in your career. It is also a priceless gateway to meeting those in the community who share your passions and are willing to help you along your own path. Get yourself to the animal shelter, organize a community fundraiser, or donate your services to your favorite non-profit. Good things come to those who put out positive vibes.
Congrats! You’re going to rule the world as a female entrepreneur! We hope these 10 tips will help you an enviable boss lady. They definitely helped us climb the ladder. If you want some advice straight from the horse’s (or kitty’s in this case) mouth, please feel free to reach out! We always aim to help other female entrepreneurs.