The 10 Most Important Lessons I've Learned as an Online Business Owner

I left my career as an elementary school teacher in June of 2018 to go full-time in my product-based business. A lot has changed since then (more on this later), and I’ve had quite a bit of time to reflect on the last couple of years of running my first business — I faced a lot of challenges, especially in the beginning, and I see so many women who are currently where I once was not that long ago.

I didn’t have a professional coach or mentor, nor did I have any loans funding my little hobby turned online business; I started my brand in my parents’ kitchen on a random night after work and truly, from that moment, the rest was history. Looking back there are plenty of things I would have done differently, but there were so many important lessons and experiences I wouldn’t have had otherwise. This post is for all the women who are currently working their asses off to turn their online business dreams into reality — and need a little push to keep them going on that journey.

Lesson #1: Marketing is everything

Full disclosure — I was really, really, really awful at marketing. It took a lot of tears, frustrating conversations with my significant other, late nights combing through every resource I could find, and lots of patience to finally get a grip on marketing. The truth is, you can have the most incredible product but if you’re not working on marketing your business and giving people a reason to buy from you, it will be reflected in your sales (or lack thereof). Remember that.

We are often tempted to have this mindset of “build it and they will come” (I know I did at first), but you have to work on bringing people to you. In rare cases, people may randomly stumble across your social media or your website, but 99.9% of the time you have be taking actionable steps to get your future customers to your online store. There are so many facets to marketing an online business — SEO, social media, Pinterest, emails, cold-calling, in person networking — the list seems endless and extremely overwhelming at times.

My best advice: if you go the DIY route with your marketing, find out where your target market is hanging out the most and focus on one or two areas to begin with so you don’t overwhelm yourself. Get really good at marketing your brand in those two areas before you add another method to the mix. If you can afford to outsource your marketing, I highly recommend hiring someone to do a lot of the leg work for you. There are plenty of Virtual Assistants, SEO Experts, and general marketing strategists out there that are more than willing to help you at a variety of different prices. Alexa from Healthy Dash of Social is a digital marketing genius, and I totally suggest you check out her services if you need someone to help you out. Outsourcing takes a lot of the pressure and work off your shoulders, so you can focus on the other important tasks of running your online business. Whichever route you choose to take, know that marketing is absolutely essential to growing your brand.

Lesson #2: Start building your email list ASAP

In the same thread of marketing, you need to establish an email list as early on in your business as possible. I started my email marketing system so late in the game, and that is one of the things I wish I would’ve had in place right from the get go. A lot of people roll their eyes at this piece of advice, but you’ve got to start getting people on your list — even if you haven’t officially launched yet.

Why? Simple: you do not own your social media. If your account is hacked or a glitch happens, you can lose everything, easily. In addition to that, with the way the algorithms work at times, your content is not always being seen by your followers. You want to have a quick, convenient way to get directly in front of your target market — current and future customers alike — at any given moment, and e-mail marketing is the best way to do that.

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. I receive a small commission if you sign up or purchase through my link at no additional cost to you. Thank you so much for your support!

In the beginning I used MailChimp for my email marketing, but switched over to ConvertKit as I found it was much more organized and user-friendly; now, 9 times out of 10 I always recommend starting with ConvertKit. You can sign up for a free trail to start, and then choose a plan according to your preferences (and budget), when it’s time to upgrade. If you want to find out if ConvertKit is right for you, this article is super helpful and can help you decide if it will meet your needs.

  • To provide you with a little email marketing 101: When you are first establishing your email list, you will want to provide your future subscribers with a reason to give you access to their inbox. This happens by offering some sort of incentive in exchange for their email address that you will collect via an opt-in form. The opt-in form for the freebie (an ebook), that goes with this blog post might look something like this:


Important Lessons for Entrepreneurs

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    We won't send you spam. Unsubscribe at any time.
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    • For example: The incentive I’m offering you in order to collect your email address is the freebie (an e-book). The opt-in form is where you enter your email address to get access to the freebie. A stand-alone opt in page might look something like this, and can be created even if you don’t have a full website just yet, but want to start collecting subscribers. A stand-alone opt-in page can be created within your email marketing provider, who will then supply you with a unique link to share with your customers.

    Your incentive may vary depending on what type of business you have (or aspire to have). It may come in the form of discount codes, free shipping, e-books, informative articles, exclusive access to a subscribers-only membership portal, etc. If you do some digging around Pinterest or Google, you can find a long list of suggestions for possible incentives that make sense for your industry. Just keep in mind that most of the time, your customers aren’t just going to give you their address without knowing they’ll get something in return. Take some time and really think about what you will offer them.

    I promise I will have a full post dedicated to email marketing soon, because it’s a topic that a lot of entrepreneurs (and bloggers) wonder about. For now, just know that you should (1) choose an email marketing platform (2) create your opt-in form or page (3) offer/create an incentive and (4) deliver valuable, consistent content to nurture your list and keep your subscribers happy.

    Lesson #3: Get really, really clear on your ideal customer

    “When you speak to everyone, you speak to no one.” – Meredith Hill

    While the context from this quote originally came from an article about attracting clients, it also holds true for product-based business owners: If you think you’re selling to everyone, you are selling to no one. Your products will. not. be. for. everyone. That’s just the reality — and that’s totally okay. You just need to figure out exactly who you are selling to.

    You need to get incredibly clear and incredibly specific when defining your ideal customer avatar. Who are you selling to? Why do they NEED your products? What problem are you solving for them? How old are they? Where do they live? What do they do for a living? (You’ll find a full worksheet in this free e-book to help you discover your ideal customer).

    You have to step outside of yourself, the business owner, and step into the mind of your ideal customer. Your products are for them and they are handing over their money to you. Take care of them, get to know them, and market to them. 

    Lesson #4: Don’t lower your prices as an attempt to generate sales

    One of the most difficult things in the beginning stages of my first business was determining prices. I worried that if my products were too expensive, no one would buy them, and if they were too cheap no one would see the value in them and I wouldn’t make any money. Initially my first instinct when I wasn’t making any sales was to decrease my prices, so I went ahead and cut my prices nearly in half as a desperate attempt to get more customers.

    The result? I barely broke even during that time. In fact, I’m pretty sure I lost money when I slashed my prices. People weren’t flocking to my store like I hoped they would.

    When I finally started charging what the products were actually worth, that’s when I realized I didn’t have to drop prices to bring in customers — people would actually pay the higher price if my marketing was in check. You need to dig really deep into the numbers here — know how much your products cost (whether you make them yourself or purchase wholesale), how much you put into making/packing/shipping your items, factor in any of your overhead costs, and decide how much you want to earn (your profit per item). There are plenty of resources out there to help guide you through determining your cost of production and your prices no matter what industry you’re in; I was lucky enough to have a financial analyst for a significant other to help me work through this process.

    Lesson #5: Create a lifestyle around your products

    A great price of advice I got early on in my first entrepreneurial endeavor was to create a lifestyle around my brand. This is where defining and understanding your ideal customer avatar really comes into play, and how it connects with your marketing strategies. Show your products in action. Curate a social media feed that is appealing to your target market and showcases your brand. Provide your audience with valuable, engaging content and give them a reason to need your products (or services). Sometimes it’s crystal clear on how you can develop your brand’s lifestyle, sometimes it isn’t so easy. Take some time to really sort this out.

    Lesson #6: Don’t be afraid to reach out to influencers

    I recently wrote a blog post about how entrepreneurs can work with influencers based on my experiences with my product-based business and as a micro-influencer myself. Using influencer marketing is a great way to get your brand out there and build a loyal customer base, but there are a few things to consider before you publish a post in a Facebook group asking for volunteers to review your products. When you go into influencer marketing blindly, you end up sending out a ton of free stuff with very little return, so you absolutely need to do your homework first. I highly suggest reading that post before you start collaborating with influencers, or even if you’ve already done some collaborations in the past. Regardless, don’t hesitate to reach out after you do some research on who would be a good fit for your brand!

    Lesson #7: When sales are stagnant (or non-existent) don’t churn out new products

    Keep. it. simple. This was a hard lesson learned for me. Early on I thought if I offered more it would bring in more sales, but all it did was stress me out, put me in the red, and spread me way too thin. I’ll go as far to say that it made me hate my business at times. You need to get really, really good at making and selling what you currently have first; then later on down the road once you’ve built up a loyal customer base and have your feet under you more, you can gradually introduce new products if the time, price, and demand is right.

    Lesson #8: Network, network, network

    My dad has ingrained the importance of networking into my brain for as long as I can remember, and I guarantee you he attributes much of his success to this very principle. Grab yourself some business cards, hit up local events in your area, talk to the stranger at the coffee shop, tell people what you do — it doesn’t matter where you are or what you’re doing, there are always opportunities to build new, meaningful connections and solidify existing ones. You truly never know what could come from a simple conversation with the person next to you.

    My favorite place to network online is inside Facebook groups. I’ve met so many incredible people within these various groups who have purchased from me, signed on as clients, and even purchased inventory at wholesale rates. I started a community for creative, entrepreneurial women that you can find here, but if you want to search for additional groups to join, I highly recommend browsing Facebook.

    Lesson #9: Your mindset is a crucial factor in the success of your business

    “Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t, you’re right.” — Henry Ford

    I’ve always had a pretty crappy mindset, but towards the end of my teaching career, I slowly started to realize that I could re-wire my self-sabotaging brain to think differently. Running a business will test you emotionally, physically, and mentally, so loading up on personal development is incredibly important. If you don’t think you will succeed in your business, you won’t. Plain and simple. If things get really difficult and you can’t see yourself pushing through those challenging moments, you won’t. If you think you can succeed, however, you will. If you believe in every fiber of your being that you are destined for success and financial abundance, you are. That’s not to say we don’t have moments of self-doubt from time to time, but your resiliency, how you react to challenges, and how you bounce-back says a lot about your state of mind.

    Your mindset is a powerful tool: feed it, nurture it, and treat it gently. You can find my favorite personal development books for entrepreneurs here.

    Lesson #10: Patience is hard, but absolutely necessary

    Ah, my least favorite lesson of them all. I am not a patient person; and in a world where instant-gratification runs rampant and so many things are literally at our finger tips, patience is a difficult virtue to possess. Building a business takes a lot of time, and success just isn’t going to happen overnight. It’s so hard to be patient sometimes but you have to put your head down and keep at it. Keep providing value, building connections, and working on your marketing.

    Final Thoughts

    Starting and running your own business is not for the faint of heart — it will test you, break you, make you cry, and you will absolutely have moments when you ask yourself 'wtf am I doing!?’ but it will also show you how resilient you are. It will teach you important lessons, provide you with new, exciting opportunities, and maybe even uncover new skills and strengths you never would’ve noticed otherwise. If you’ve made the brave, bold decision to start a new business, if you’ve finally committed to transforming your candle-making hobby into a full-blow brand, or if you have taken the leap and left your career to be a full-time entrepreneur — I commend you. In a lot of ways, you’ve already done one of the hardest parts, and I’m proud of you for that.

    My inbox is always open if you want to chat, or just need some positive vibes sent your way. What are some important lessons you’ve learned running your business?


    Shopify vs. Squarespace: how to choose the best option for your business

    Starting a business is hard. Starting an online business is even harder. In the never ending sea of online businesses, it can be so difficult to get your store recognized among the millions of other business owners out there. So continuing with this series for bloggers and business owners, I wanted to take some time today to talk about the best options for hosting your online shop.

    I get asked by aspiring business owners almost daily about who built my website for my brand. When I tell them it was me, they are floored. They then often ask me what platform I used and how I did it. All of these questions inspired me to revamp my blog and turn it into what you see here: a resource for other business owners and bloggers.

    I’ve tried Etsy, Blogspot, Wix, Shopify, Wordpress, and Squarespace in the last several years. I took my business online about year ago, but was doing in-person sales almost a year prior to that. I still do most of my sales offline through wholesale and individual sales, but once more people started asking about where they could purchase my products back in 2016, I knew I had to create an e-commerce website for people to order from.

    From my experience with Wix, I knew I wanted something that offered a bit more customization. There’s nothing wrong with it, I just knew I wanted more freedom and flexibility in my designs. I had tried my hand at Etsy, but found that the keywords and SEO were just as frustrating as Instagram’s ever-changing algorithms, so I went with Shopify.

    Disclaimer: This post contains some affiliate links. I receive a small commission or credit if you sign up through my link at no additional cost to you. Thank you so much for your support!

    I love Shopify for several reasons. It’s so easy to use that anyone with little to no background for web design can set up a beautiful site that will be visually appealing customers. It wasn’t until later that I found Squarespace, which is what I use for my blog currently.

    Regardless of which platform you choose for your business, you absolutely need to purchase a domain name before you fully launch. That will immediately eliminate the generic www.{your brand name} web address and make your brand look much more professional. All of my domain names were purchased through Go Daddy, but I’m currently looking into transferring these to self-hosting through Site Ground (more on that later). I pay for my domain names annually, at $14.99/year. Go Daddy isn’t a bad option at all in my opinion, but if you prefer to be self-hosted then definitely go with Site Ground. If you want to start with GoDaddy, you can sign up here.

    In this post I’m going to breakdown the differences between Shopify and Squarespace — the pros, cons, what they’re used for, and which one you should go with for your online business needs. Just to reiterate, I use both of these platforms every day and have become very familiar with the two of them and love them both, but for different reasons. Here’s what you need to know:


    Shopify is perfect for you if you’ve never run a website before and have a product or service to sell. It’s incredibly easy to set up and doesn’t require a huge learning curve. When your customers ask you if they can purchase your products or services online, it is crucial you have an easy-to-navigate online store ready for them to go to.

    Shopify offers plenty of visually appealing templates to choose from, and they are all fairly customizable. You can use additional graphic design tools like Canva to customize your site even further, but if you don’t have the time or patience to go that route, Shopify still has enough features that you can use to make a beautiful online store.

    It is super easy to manage your inventory, track your sales, and ship out your orders. What I also love about this platform is their app that you can download right to your phone that essentially has all the same features as their website version. This allows you to easily manage your shop from your phone which is a huge bonus.

    As far as price point is concerned, Shopify offers a few options. You are granted a 14 day free trial before you fully commit, but after that you need to choose a plan to fully publish your site. I currently pay monthly for my Shopify site at a rate of $29/month for the basic plan. Rates for the other plans then start at $79 or $299, but if you are a new business, the basic plan gives you everything you need. There are zero transaction fees to pay under any of the plan options, but credit card rates start at 2.9% + 30 cents for the basic plan.


    Oh how I love this platform. Unlike Shopify, Squarespace comes with a bit more of a learning curve. There’s a lot going on here, and it’s going to take a bit more time to learn the ins and outs of this platform. If you have some experience in building a website, you may feel comfortable taking on Squarespace. If you want to offer your customers more than just an e-commerce website, then this is definitely a better option. For example, if you want to run a successful blog and an online store together, Squarespace is my first pick. If your sole purpose is just to sell products or services, then you might be better off choosing Shopify, although I do know plenty of business owners who have chosen to run their site through Squarespace and have been very happy with it.

    Similar to Shopify, Squarespace offers a ton of beautiful templates that are all highly customizable. The design features are pretty outstanding in my opinion. You can manipulate very specific design features on this platform as compared to Shopify, where you’re slightly more restricted. You can also use additional graphic design tools like Canva here, though you might find Squarespace already has exactly what you’re looking for in many cases.

    There are a few different apps that Squarespace offers. The only downside is you’ll have to download them separately — they have an app for your blog, your e-commerce store, your portfolio, and another one that allows you to view the analytics of your site. While it’s helpful there are mobile apps for Squarespace, it can be a little inconvenient to have multiple apps to manage everything.

    As far as price point is concerned here, Squarespace also grants you a 14-day free trial before you publish your site. From there you have a few different options. Squarespace allows you to build a personal or business website, but if you are hoping to build an online store, you will obviously want to choose that option. If you are just looking for a basic plan, you can choose to either pay $26/month (billed annually), or pay $30 month to month. If you need more than just a basic plan, you’re looking at $40/month (billed annually), or $46 month to month.

    One last thing I have to say about Squarespace is regarding their customer service. Recently on Instagram I talked about how I had an issue publishing one of my digital downloads. I like to think I’m pretty tech savvy and can usually troubleshoot most issues on my own, but after an hour of trying to figure out the issue, I opted for Squarespace’s chat support. The person I was connected to was extremely personable and helpful — something not all platforms offer. I haven’t ever needed to use Shopify’s customer support, but I’m sure they would be equally as helpful.

    The Final Verdict

    If you are looking for something that can be easily accessed from your phone, is simple to navigate, and will allow you to focus on selling a product or service, my best advice is to go with Shopify.

    If you are looking for a platform that will allow you to go above and beyond in the creative design features of you shop, or if you plan on providing your customers/audience with more than just your products or services, AND you can take on a platform that requires a bit more of a learning curve, then Squarespace could be the right one for you.

    If you still aren’t sure which platform you’d prefer, I recommend signing up for their free trials, playing around, and seeing what you are most comfortable with. If you have any questions about either platform, or need some help once you sign up, please feel free to leave a comment or send me and e-mail — I’d be happy to help!

    I also just launched several custom design services here, so if you’re looking to take some extra work off your shoulders, I would be more than happy to design your Squarespace or Shopify store for you. If you’re interested, you can head to my design services page to check it out!

    xx Elizabeth

    how to start your blog or business | part I

    start your new blog or business.png

    I absolutely love working from home now. I love the freedom, the flexibility, the lack of dress code…BUT (of course they’re a but), it’s not all unicorns and rainbows all the time. Working from home and being your own boss is something so many of us dream about. It’s this fantasy we play out in our minds — we’ll leave our corporate jobs and work for ourselves and be able to do whatever the eff we want, whenever we want. But I think what many people don’t realize is that it is so. freaking. hard. It’s hard when you don’t have a typical routine. And it’s even harder when you realize you aren’t totally sure if you’ll be able to make enough money every month to cover your bills and expenses.

    All that being said, it is totally possible, and I’m here to lead by example to tell you exactly how I was able to go from teaching full time to working for myself full time. It wasn’t an easy road to get here (and it still isn’t easy), but it is 1000% worth it.

    My job as a teacher was sucking the life out of me. I was mentally, physically and emotionally exhausted. Only six years into my career and I was already burnt out. I knew if I stayed where I was, I would eventually be compromising my health and happiness. While the steady (but very small) paychecks and benefits were nice, I had to put myself first and do something risky: leave. And I did just that.


    Based on my experience, I’ve started a series for you on how you can start your brand — whether that be in the form of a blog or a business. Today’s post will go over some things to do in the very beginning stages, and the posts that will follow will be increasingly more specific. All that being said, here is my advice for those of you chasing your dreams of working for yourself, and the first steps you need to take:

    1. Decide. Do you want to run a product or service-based business? Do you want to start a blog? Pick ONE of those things to start with. If you love blogging but have a specific product that you make and people love, choose one or the other to devote your time and attention to when you’re first starting out. Trying to grow two new things at once will just be too overwhelming. If you want to start blogging first and focus on growing that platform, you can always introduce a product later on down the road once you’ve established yourself and grown your audience. Same goes for starting a business. For me, my hobby of making natural bath and body products grew into a business, and once I was able to grow my brand I knew I was ready to start blogging again. I was at a really good place in my business that I felt like I could juggle the two without going crazy or overwhelming myself.

    2. Determine what you will sell or blog about. Does your product or service solve a problem? Who will want or need to buy it? These are two key questions that you need to ask yourself if you are going to start a product or service based business. Ultimately, your product or service will fulfill a need for your potential customers or clients. Think about what type of customer or client would be likely to purchase what you’re offering. To give you an example with my business, I was tired of buying expensive bath and body products that were filled with harmful chemicals and questionable ingredients, and I knew other people were too. I also wanted to find a way to give affordable gifts to my family and friends for the holidays and special occasions. After some research and lots of trial and error with ingredients, Lotus Soap Shop was born. Now, I’ve had customers tell me my scrubs have helped their eczema, psoriasis, and other skin-related issues. It solved a problem for people and fulfilled a need.

      Blogging is slightly different, but can certainly still help solve a problem and fulfill a need. When you find yourself wanting to start a blog, the important questions to ask there are: what am I passionate about? What can I offer to my future readers that will be of value to them? What do I want them to take away from my blog? This is your “niche.” I actually really, really hate that word, niche, because sometimes I don’t believe it’s always necessary to pre-determine your niche when you sit down to start your blog. I’ve had several blogs over the last decade, and it took me a long time to finally figure out what I truly wanted to write about that would be beneficial to others. When I started this blog, I told myself to just start. To just write whatever was on my heart and from there I would find my “niche.” And guess what? I did. I started to see a pattern in the content I was creating and realized I wanted to take it and run with it. There is so much I could say pertaining to this specific topic, so I will add another detailed post about that in the near future.

    3. Establish Your Target Market/Audience. Who do you envision reading your blog or using your product? What is the age range you are targeting? What do they look like? Where do they live? What do they like to do? Think about your ideal customer, client, or reader and cater to them. I often browse Pinterest and create a private board to come up with a target market “profile” that will help keep me on track.

    4. Create your brand name. This one is always tricky. Luckily, coming up with Lotus Soap Shop was a no-brainer for me. The name was inspired by a tattoo of a lotus flower I had gotten a couple months before I started my business, and I knew I wanted to incorporate that into my brand. How She Does It didn’t come as easily. I had previously named this blog Blissfitly because I was focusing on health and fitness topics at that time. When I changed the direction of this blog, the name How She Does It literally came to me while I was trying to fall asleep one night, and now here we are.

      My advice to you if you’re stuck on a brand name, is to write down whatever ideas you already have, and use a thesaurus to help you come up with different variations of those ideas. Seeing everything on paper will help spark some creativity.

    5. Make Sure Your Brand Name Isn’t Already Taken. So you’ve established what you’re going to sell or blog about and now you’ve come up with this really awesome name for your brand. You are SO excited to introduce it to the world! But then you enter it into google or Instagram and see it’s already taken. UGH! I’ve been there and it really sucks. But sometimes it’s as simple as adding an additional word to the end of your brand name (@howshedoesit was already taken on Instagram so I changed it to which is the same as my domain name), or making some minor adjustments; other times it’s not so easy. Find out before you start a new Instagram, or make any sort of graphics for your new brand. Once you’ve established your brand name, grab your domain name and social media accounts (more on these specifics soon).

    6. Set Up a Pinterest Account. I’m OBSESSED with Pinterest. It’s no secret that Pinterest is one of the best tools you can use to drive traffic to your blog or website, and in my opinion, I think it’s even better than using Instagram for that purpose. There’s a post coming that talks all about Pinterest, but for right now, once you have your brand name ready, sign up on Pinterest. If you have already chosen a domain name and started setting up a website, you will definitely want to create a business account so you have access to your analytics, and so your followers can be directed to your website. I’ll be doing a full tutorial on how to do this soon, and why you need to do this for your brand.

    7. Work On Your Blog or Business in Your Free Pockets of Time. When I was teaching full time I would use every free second to work on my business. This meant getting up earlier, staying up later, and working on weekends. It meant forgoing plans sometimes. Even if I had just five minutes of uninterrupted time, you bet your ass I was working on my business. I was so determined to leave my job, and I loved my business I was creating so much that I would do whatever it took to grow it, even if that meant being insanely sleep deprived. You have to want this to work so badly and have to put in countless hours of your precious time. Your determination and dedication to building your brand has to be so unshakeable that it will withstand any and all skepticism, desires for sleep, and moments of self-doubt. If you’re not willing to do that, then this might not be right for you. But if you are, figure out where you can fit in the extra work. If you can work on your lunch break, your commute, etc. that will really pay off in the long run.

    8. Be Ready for Criticism. I was very lucky to have a lot of support when I started telling people I was leaving my job to go full-time in my business. Even my boss was supportive of my decision and understood my reasons for leaving. I have had plenty of people though think I was completely crazy, and people who just didn’t understand my choices. Pay these people no mind. You need to stay laser focused on your blog or your business, and you simply just don’t have time for any negativity or judgement that will come your way. Surround yourself with those who support you, and find other creatives who will lift you up. There are a lot of great Facebook groups out there for small business owners and bloggers who are in your same position.

    9. Find Helpful Resources. Look through Pinterest, blogs, Facebook groups, personal development books, listen to Podcasts, watch YouTube videos — always be open to learning more about your “niche”. Look for information on growing a business or growing a blog, but don’t stop working on yourself either. I did a post on my favorite books for personal development, and there are some great books in there for bloggers and business owners, too.

    These nine steps are so important at the beginning of your new blog or business venture. They will lay the foundation for the other steps that will be outlined in this series; steps that I personally followed and continue to follow as my brand and blog expand. Wherever you are in your quest to become your own boss, stay focused, stayed determined, and always believe in yourself. Keep putting in the hard work and you just may find yourself right where you want to be sooner than you think.