5 Lessons Learned in 5 Years

happy birthday

Briar Rose Consulting turned 5 years old last month! And while I've been working in design & digital marketing for over a decade, running a small business is a whole different animal. Here are the 5 lessons that have been most noteworthy in these first 5 years.

lesson 1


I received two pieces of business advice when starting Briar Rose Consulting that were seemingly simple, but really changed things.

  1. Especially while getting started and trying to get new work, but after that too, treat every client like they’re your only client.
  2. Don't worry about getting enough work. Focus on helping people.

I'm grouping these recommendations together because I think they fundamentally stem from the same concept, but one concept told me what to do, while the other told me how to do it.

When you follow Advice #1 and treat every client like they're your only client, you go above and beyond on every deliverable, have really singular focus on each project, and remain grateful for each opportunity.

But most importantly, you end up acting on Advice #2 because, when you treat every client like your only client, you pay more attention to client goals, listen more carefully, and deliver better results.

You don't leave space to worry about getting more work (which is hard to avoid when starting something new—so many scary unknowns!). And when you truly help clients achieve what they need, more work follows—either through referrals, reviews, reputation, or the Law of Attraction.

I'm so appreciative for both of the business owners who shared their advice with me and helped me see a bigger picture than I would have seen on my own getting started.

lesson 2


It’s okay—sometimes better—to say "I don't know" or “no, I don’t offer that service” or "that's outside my realm of expertise" when talking with clients and prospects.

A direct and honest answer allows the conversation to keep moving so both parties can decide if it’s a good fit, rather than a long-winded and confusing “I’ve-done-similar-things-so-I-think-I-can-plus-I’m-a-fast-learner-and-I’ll-do-it-half-price-because-I’m-eager-for-the-work” ramble which diminishes client confidence and can land you work you’re ill-suited for.

When getting started, it's tempting to take on any and all work—even if it's a bad fit. Lesson #1 helps reduce this pressure so that Lesson #2 is easier to implement.

lesson 3


Outsource tasks as soon as possible. This could be accounting, administrative tasks, subcontracting actual work, hiring household help to free up work time—anything and everything.

In the Things We Learned interview series, every entrepreneur recommends doing this as quickly as feasible to help your business grow.

With 24 hours in a day, it seems like getting 8 billable hours should be not only possible but easy.

It isn’t.

Between admin, answering emails, and hurriedly eating a protein bar at the desk, there just aren’t 8 billable hours inside an 8-clock-hour window, so "working full-time" can really bulldoze work-life balance quickly, or limit the business's ability to grow.

lesson 4


When learning new things: lots of things are intimidating the first time, but no one knows how to do something their first time (duh) so the best thing is just to dive in. Don't let the intimidation stop you from learning something new or taking on a dream project.

Starting any business can be overwhelming and, as cliché as it sounds, I’ve watched countless entrepreneurs fail before they got started because they failed to start. For anyone dipping their toes into a business, I’d say:

Onboard your first client before you know exactly how to price your services. Sell a physical product before you’ve nailed down your packaging. Say yes to a project that may be a stretch because you know you can figure it out (or if all else fails, you can subcontract the work and still deliver!). Use a stock contract. Use your LinkedIn before your website is 100% up and running. It’s okay, you can change it all later.

—Liz Peterson, founder of Ops Designed | Read the interview »

Everyone has million dollar ideas. But very few people actually act on them. I don’t share my ideas unless I’m physically working on getting them out there. Because no one cares what you are GOING to do. They care about what you are doing 🙂

—Gabriel Conover, photographer and photo studio owner | Read the interview »

lesson 5


Having a more flexible schedule as a result of being self-employed is kinda a myth. I think my schedule may have been more flexible working for someone else, because there was redundancy in staff and other people who could collaborate or cover if I’m out.

Solo, you have to manage all of that on your own. Sure, you get to pick your "in office" hours during the week, but without any backup, that can mean working nights and weekends to fit everything in (see Lesson #3).

I do think the type of work I do now is much more flexible. If a project isn’t a good fit, I don’t have take it on. Saying no isn't always easy, but it is at least possible!

If I had to pick one thing that's simultaneously a pro/con of self-employment, that's what I'd choose: if something's missing in your work, you get to create it. But you have to create it, otherwise it will remain missing. It's an incredible opportunity, and a lot of work, to realize that.

Want content like this delivered to your inbox?

About Caitlin

Hi, I'm Caitlin. I run Briar Rose Consulting, a marketing and design company that works to create meaningful connections between your customer and your brand. I've been helping clients with email, logo design, graphics, and the occasional website for over a decade. When I'm not at the computer, you can find me in the mountains ⛰


  1. Joan Vienot on March 20, 2023 at 2:55 pm

    Happy 5 year anniversary! I have so much confidence in your assistance in the management of my web-stuff!

    • Caitlin on March 20, 2023 at 5:10 pm

      Thank you Joan! 🎉

  2. Mark. on March 21, 2023 at 1:51 am

    Congratulations also!!!! You made it over the hump. I love number two…. “You know I just don’t know”. In the car business cars are very complicated and there is no way I understand all of the things, and I never will. The technology moves just beyond my reach all the time. Most customers just want the truth. “I just don’t know “ just admit it, is very good advice.

    • Caitlin on March 21, 2023 at 4:51 am

      Thank you!! I definitely think it works better than trying to bluff or stumble through a half-answer. Better to say “I don’t know” and just own it, then work towards a solution from there!

Leave a Reply