Running my own business over the past decade has been an exhilarating journey full of both successes and disappointments. I remember first deciding to start my own business back in 2013, shortly after I’d just been promoted into a global marketing role in the corporate world. Ironically, that promotion helped illuminate the fact I didn’t want to continue climbing that professional ladder. I’d decided the time had come for me to branch off on my own to see what unique path I could carve for myself in the world of self-employment.

Looking back on these past 10 years, I now realize that certain decisions I made early on have played an important role in fueling my ability to continuously grow my business over the years. Whether you’ve already started your own business or are an aspiring entrepreneur thinking about starting your own business soon, these seven principles that have helped my business thrive can hopefully serve as useful guideposts for you too.

Diversified My Offerings

While focus is crucial to any entrepreneurial endeavor, one of the best decisions I made early when starting my business was diversifying my work and income streams. During my time in the corporate world, I’d faced my fair share of budget cuts, sudden project cancellations, and corporate reorganizations. It instilled in me a ruthless pragmatism and skepticism related to any business endeavor that programmed a bit of paranoia in me that’s kept me up some nights but ultimately served me well.

I technically started off as a career coach, offering 1-on-1 coaching to clients navigating professional transitions. But I quickly began hosting workshops and exploring paid speaking engagements across a wide range of both marketing and career development topics. I tried hosting events. I created some online courses. I hosted a podcast. And while it resulted in me initially being spread a bit thin, it also helped me clarify which paths had the most potential.

Taking a portfolio approach to your career provides so many benefits. Practically, it enables you to avoid putting all your eggs in one basket, diversifying your potential sources of income. Diversification also allows you to explore what truly energizes you. Having more than one income stream also reduces the stakes a bit when selling any one service, enabling you to come across as less desperate for business, which in turn, instills more confidence in your clients. So don’t be afraid to test the waters with various offerings when starting out.

Leveraged My Past Experiences

When shifting from full-time employment to self-employment as a career consultant, I was concerned I may not directly use the functional skills I developed from my former days as a product brand marketer in the corporate world. I thought those skills may just be lost since I was going into a different line of work: professional speaking and career coaching.

However, to this day, I’ve found my former experiences in the corporate world to be invaluable. I regularly have my marketing hat on when communicating my own services, creating my content, or designing my presentations. I’ve also made a point to refer back to my former experiences when introducing myself to others both to cast my professional history in a certain light and also to establish credibility with my clients. And while I didn’t love navigating organizational politics in the corporate world, it helped me develop a business intuition that’s been useful when collaborating with clients.

Even if you’re starting in a business in an area seemingly unrelated to your past work, you might be surprised how much leaning into your former experiences can serve your future ambitions.

Trusted My Intuition

I’ve always considered myself to be a very logical, left-brained individual. Every personality test I’ve taken has affirmed this, and growing up, I found myself drawn more to the sciences and math rather than creative arts. Attending business school further reinforced my bias for methodical analysis and careful planning being the most sound approach to decision-making.

However, especially as an independent business owner, I’ve found my gut instinct and intuition about what’s right for me, my clients, and my business to have been a surprisingly precise guide for my actions. During those moments when I allowed my logic to trump my intuition, things haven’t gone well. Ignoring my intuition resulted in me initially hiring the wrong person for a project, taking on the wrong client, and agreeing to an unrewarding speaking engagement.

My intuition is not always right. Far from it. I’ve made plenty of missteps during my self-employment days-honestly too many to count. However, I’ve learned to trust my intuition, even if my logic suggests otherwise. When something hasn’t felt right to me, it generally hasn’t been right.

Trusting yourself, especially when you’re running your own business, can often point you toward doing what you know deep down is uniquely right for you.

Accepted My Vision Wouldn’t Make Sense To Everyone

During the early days of launching my podcast, every time I saw a certain friend of mine back in San Francisco, the first question he would ask me was, “Is your podcast making any money yet?” All I could do was politely chuckle because I knew he was completely missing the point of my podcast, which I created to serve the unique purpose of expanding my global reach and impact, not necessarily generating income. To this day, I still have people questioning why I would invest time into projects that make virtually no money for my business. And my response has always been that these activities have opened countless opportunities that have been priceless to the work I do.

In any domain of your career, you’re likely to have no shortage of unsolicited incoming advice. I’ve had people tell me I should expand my services. Others have said I don’t need a website. Audiences always weigh in on my presentations. Over the past month, I’ve had multiple people suggest I should hire more people rather than turn work away.

I have no doubt most people around me are well-intentioned when they share business advice with me. I regularly solicit, welcome, and embrace feedback from others. I certainly take some of it on board. However, the nature of running an independent business means that no other business will look exactly like yours.

Your reasons for making certain decisions on your business may not make sense to others around you. That’s okay. It’s your business. As long as you’re achieving the personal and professional goals you’ve set out to achieve, you get to run it the way you want.

Prioritized Relationships

Developing and maintaining strong professional relationships has been a cornerstone philosophy of mine from the very start of my career, something I learned during my first internship after college when I sold life insurance.

During the early days of my coaching practice, nearly all of my clients came through professional connections of mine, including former colleagues, managers, and agency partners with whom I had strong relationships. As my services quickly evolved to focus primarily on offering workshops and webinars, nearly all of my speaking engagements came through my professional network, which is still true now. While I do feel the quality of my workshops ultimately drives repeat business, the quality of my relationships with those organizing these sessions is also a critical part of the equation.

Also with freelancer hiring related to my podcast, content creation, and other administrative tasks, which can be quite transactional at times, I’ve done my best to treat all of them respectfully, as if they were full-time employees, especially since they’re the closest thing I have to colleagues.

In all cases, I’ve found the strength of relationships to be as important if not more important at times than the work itself.

Invested Into Good Tools and People

I’ll admit that I’ve made my fair share of penny-pinching decisions while building my business in my attempts to keep my costs low. In some cases, using free open-source tools for project management, turning to lower-cost freelancer platforms rather than more expensive agencies, or initially purchasing cheaper equipment was enough for the job at hand.

However, I’ve also had plenty of situations where my attempts to save money or take shortcuts backfired. I hired an inexpensive independent web developer to build my first website, which became an enormous waste of time and money. The first IP attorney I hired off of a budget hiring platform ended up making a costly mistake with my trademark application. And I’ve used plenty of cheap or free software that failed me at the worst possible moments.

So I’ve made a point to invest heavily into more expensive solutions when needed. Investing in the right appointment-scheduling software, email provider, web host, videoconferencing application, invoicing tool, recording app, and newsletter provider has saved me countless hours, hassle, and headaches that enable me to focus on my actual work. Additionally, paying more for the right talent to assist with my projects has been well worth the investment.

Investing in the right tools may feel costly in the short run, but if done selectively, often pays off in the long run.

Focused on What Matters

A lot of things that I used to think drove my professional happiness like an impressive job title, affiliation with an esteemed company, fancy office, or corporate perks are no longer important to me anymore.

My perspectives on what matters as a business owner have also evolved over the years. I used to think that exponentially scaling my business, attaining a massive following, or changing the world was somehow a measure of my “success” as an independent business owner. I suppose I felt these very visible, external metrics somehow validated my professional worth.

Recently though, especially after crossing the 10-year mark of being self-employed, I’ve reconnected with why I went into self-employment in the first place. Yes, I did it to do work I found more meaningful and to have a positive impact out there. But I also did it to regain control of my time, to create a more flexible work-life balance, and to enable a lifestyle that allowed me to feel emotionally and physically fit.

I do feel frustrated as a business owner at times, either because I’m not making as much progress or doing things as quickly as I’d like. I almost never get as much done as I would like on any given day. But whenever I’ve questioned if I’m on track, I’ve tried to look at whether I’m serving these interests of mine that motivated me to leave the corporate world in the first place to start my own business. If I am, I know I’m not doing too badly.

Knowing what matters ultimately informs where you choose to direct your attention, energy, and time. For me, these last 10 years have been incredibly illuminating in so many ways. As you plow forward into the next stage of whatever professional venture you’re pursuing, I hope you’ll take a moment to assess what matters the most to you so you can focus on building the business you want for yourself and living a life that feels right for you.

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Originally published at Forbes.

About Joseph Liu

Joseph Liu helps aspiring professionals relaunch their careers to do work that matters. As a keynote speaker, career & personal branding consultant, and host of the Career Relaunch podcast, his passion is helping people gain the clarity, confidence, and courage to pursue truly meaningful careers. Having gone through three major career changes himself, he now shares insights from building & relaunching global consumer brands to empower professionals and business owners to build & relaunch their personal brands.

About Joseph Liu

Joseph Liu helps aspiring professionals relaunch their careers to do work that matters. As a keynote speaker, career & personal branding consultant, and host of the Career Relaunch podcast, his passion is helping people gain the clarity, confidence, and courage to pursue truly meaningful careers. Having gone through three major career changes himself, he now shares insights from building & relaunching global consumer brands to empower professionals and business owners to build & relaunch their personal brands.

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