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4 Shortcuts for Becoming a Business Pro (No Matter How Amateur You Feel Right Now).

I remember back in college when a friend of mine told me that she was joining the “Entrepreneurship Club”.

What a wack job, I thought (though probably in more vulgar terms). Only nut bags start their own businesses.

Back in 2007, in the prehistoric (and pre iPhone) era, wanting to run your own business sounded like career suicide…especially to 20 year-olds.

Way too much work.

Not enough profit.

Much too much legal risk.

And then a funny thing happened. The year that I graduated from college with a degree in “French Language & Literature” (hire me!), THE WORLD ENDED.

OK, obviously that’s not 100% true, but the economy did decide to flip me and the rest of my generation the middle finger . It was April 2009, and I spent weeks after graduation applying for every job on Craigslist and at every retail establishment under the sun. No one would hire me. Not even Target. Needless to say, I was regretting spending four years and tens of thousands of dollars on a French degree.


In a strange turn of events, I decided to start my own business. (I bet you saw that coming).


Translation: Not one single marketable skill and no idea how to charge money or find clients and customers. I was a certifiable Amateur in every single way.

Eventually, though, I figured something out. I started tutoring French, offering résumé writing services, and eventually found my niche as an online copywriter for sassy one-person businesses.

Along the way, I’ve discovered a few “tips ‘n’ tricks” that I really wish someone would have told me about way back in the pre-historic (pre iPhone) era.

(I bet they talked about this stuff in the Entrepreneurship Club. Damn).

Today I decided to let you in on the secret to becoming a professional so that you don’t have to suffer a rejection from Target the next time the economy collapses. You might even use these tips to make tons of money this year and never have to find a job ever again!

(Take that, Target!)

1. Treat yourself like the CEO of a Fortune 500 company would treat you.

In other words, you need to ask yourself “would I get fired from a job if I behaved this way”?

Whenever I feel like sleeping in until lunch, watching Ellen instead of writing, or going out for a *much deserved* drink with friends on a Tuesday afternoon, I put on my “boss” hat and give myself a pep talk.

One of the best parts about running an online business is the fact that I can sleep in until lunch, watch Ellen, and grab drinks with friends. But you can’t abuse that power or you’ll never get anything done.

Be honest, if you had a cubicle, you’d definitely stay off of Facebook more (especially if the big cheese was just around the corner).

2. Prioritize money-making tasks.

When I first launched my “business” (I put it in quotations because I’m not sure that it was a business), I spent roughly 34 hours a day fiddling around with the design of my website.

Is web design important? ABSOLUTELY.

Is web design more important than sending client invoices, responding to client inquiries, launching your first service? ABSOLUTELY NOT.

Businesses need to make money. If you’re not making money, you don’t have a business… (you have a “business”).

3. Collect your ideas in an organized fashion.

Entrepreneurs? We’re idea people. (Some idea people are not entrepreneurs. If that’s you, then this rule still applies!)

We creative people jump around from one thing to the next faster than those weird vampires from Twilight. We can’t focus on projects long enough to see the finished product. We LOVE shiny objects. Seriously – the shinier, the better.


Most times, our ideas strike at the worst possible moments. You’re driving, in the shower, going for a run, or laying in bed at night.

Guess what?

If you want to be a professional, you have to write down your ideas no matter where you are when they arrive!

You just have to stop running and send yourself an email.

You just have to buy shower markers and write things down on the wall.

You just have to turn on the light and write down your idea!

If you don’t, your idea goes back to where it came from. Your muse will note that you aren’t very serious and she won’t come back.

4. Screw morning routines.

Do you know why you can’t seem to follow your morning routine?

It’s because you never consulted your morning-self when you created it!

Let’s be honest: you’re always going to hate hearing your alarm clock. Mornings (even for morning people) have their challenges. Getting out of bed is hard for all of us. Don’t make it harder by trying to go for a 12 mile run, do yoga, meditate, make the healthiest smoothie on the planet, and work on your novel.

How can you make mornings easier?

By focusing on your nighttime routine.

Instead of showering in the morning, shower at night.

Set up your breakfast the night before.

Set your coffee maker to brew at 7:30.

Set your intentions for the next day before you shut your eyes.

I shared mine, now you share yours! What Professional habits do you have that you’d like to share? Tell me about them in the comments.

Written on 7/21/2013 by Courtney Johnston. Courtney Johnston is the creator of The Rule Breaker’s Club, where she helps people get really good at being self-employed and teaches them how to write for the web. This summer, she’s launching her next eBook, From Amateur to Professional. When not writing, she enjoys margaritas on the rocks.

Photo Credit: Shimelle Laine

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