There’s a reason most WeWork buildings offer around-the-clock access: because the typical 9-to-5 isn’t a concept most start-up owners recognize. While the long hours came as no surprise, there was plenty that blindsided me when growing my first business as a bright-eyed 17 year old, and my second at 24.

Your friends will tell you not to do it

This was certainly my experience. Because I was so young, and I chose to skip university and pave my own way, people who cared about me worried. Fortunately, that same disregard for the safest route is what drove me and my company to success. It’s very difficult to ignore your friends and go against the grain but it helps that the journey is addictive.

Customers won’t care you’re just starting out

No one will cut you any slack for delivering a poor service or a shoddy product. You need to be militant about delivering quality from the very start, or you’ll risk damaging your reputation. Too many start-ups focus solely on where the next round of money is coming from. In reality, you need to focus on having the right service, the right product, and plenty of passion.

Launching and getting paying customers aren’t the same thing

It’s so easy to get wrapped up in launching your business — getting your website up and running, finding an office, getting business cards printed — that many lose focus on gaining their first paying customers and reaching profitability. In the early stages, keep your sights set firmly on revenue through delivery, rather than just polishing your brand.

You’ll need some cash behind you…

Most business stories gloss over the start up costs. You need to find at least $3,000 for set up plus three months’ living costs. Registering your business, buying insurance, software and computer equipment and shelling out for accountancy fees mount up fast. While it is possible to bootstrap – my first business evolved from when I was flying solo in my teenage bedroom with a computer — you’d be a fool to go in with no cash at all.

…but don’t waste money on things that don’t matter

I plowed far too much start-up capital — around $350,000 from the sale of my first business — into my next venture, Time etc. I overspent on a huge office space I couldn’t fill and staff I didn’t need yet. That’s a big regret. I was 24, and naive. I could have done it all on a shoestring, while investing more cash in advertising — the only thing that really saw a return.

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