Five lessons I’ve learned from starting a business

The first 18 months of running IrvineMedia have been a mixed bag. There have been more positives than negatives… I think. Regardless, I’ve come across many valuable lessons along the way. Entrepreneurship is a complex beast, and the answers can’t always be found in a book or on a website. Hence, the reason for this blog post.

The results will help shape the future of IrvineMedia throughout 2024 and beyond. It will save valuable time, resources and my sanity. I’m actually very excited about the plans we have coming up.

Below is a raw, stream-of-consciousness list of the five lessons I’ve learned from starting a business. I’ve tried to keep them general instead of industry-specific so that any start-up or fledgling company will benefit from them. Let’s go…

Don’t expect anything

A grim one to start with, sure, but keep your expectations of clients and customers low. They won’t always act exactly how you want. It’s a rule for life, really – if you don’t expect too much from people, you won’t be upset if they let you down. The same goes for business. In the corporate world, you’ll come across slick operators who will promise you all types of riches, exciting projects and long-term retainers, only to renege on them. In the early days, I was gullible enough to take these at face value, only for the rug to be pulled from underneath me. It left me desperately trying to chase work as I’d relied on their now-lost income for the month. Set the bar lower than a snake’s belly and enjoy anything above it. *See bonus tips below for more on this.

Celebrate the small victories

Won a new client? Celebrate. Expanded your network? Celebrate. Finished that piece of work that’s been haunting your dreams? Cele… you get the picture. Every step along the way is progress for what you want your business or brand to become. This was a mind shift that didn’t come easily for me. But it’s important to enjoy each success, no matter how small. Heck, if you’ve managed to escape a toxic client, don’t forget to celebrate this, too.

Build out your team ASAP

If you have the means, hire someone part-time or on a project basis to sweat the small stuff. Admin, finances, emails, custom/client liaisons or even social media can burden a lean start-up. Doing everything at the start might feel OK, but you need to take a holistic approach as an owner. It’s what separates you from being a freelancer or a business.

Start saving

I’m terrible with money, but thankfully, my better half is not. Unless it’s written down, I have a hard time tracking the financial incomings and outgoings. I’ve since enlisted the help of FreshBooks – an all-in-one invoicing and accounting platform. It’s really easy to use. If I can use it, then so can you. The most important thing I’ve learned from doing this is keeping an eye on my savings. You never know when your business will go through a barren patch, and making sure you have funds to fall back on is essentially for keeping you a) sane and b) free from bankruptcy.

Hold on to great clients

OK, this is targeted to those providing client services. A good friend of mine told me this, and I didn’t know what he meant until we found a great client. We have numerous ones now – they’re the ones that are clear with their communication, pay on time and provide updates in a timely manner. You don’t have to worry about after-hours calls or emails asking you to tidy up the mess you could see happening a mile away. They’re professional. So, going above and beyond for these clients is exactly where you want to be. Hold them close.


Bonus lessons

  • Never turn down the offer of work because you’re too busy. You’re not, and you never know when that decision may come back to haunt you.
  • Keep your current customers and clients sweet, but always be on the lookout for more opportunities. Again, you never know when you might need them.
  • Be ready to evolve because what you start out doing now might not be what you do in the future. I started writing about video games, but I can draft a white paper on the future of KYC/KYB perfectly. This applies to services, too. Inflexible businesses will be left behind.
  • Don’t compare yourself to others – especially on social media. Everything is carefully curated on Instagram, LinkedIn, etc. Keep doing your thing.

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ChatGPT reimagined as the T-800 from the move Terminator 2: Judgment Day.

ChatGPT is a threat that copywriters need to embrace

ChatGPT is the talk of the town. And rightly so. The sophisticated chatbot from OpenAI can answer internet queries in a way we’ve never seen before.

It can mimic basic human responses to questions in a detail rather than simply throwing up a URL link to your search. It’s so revolutionary, that Microsoft is plunging $10bn worth of investment into OpenAI and forging a long-term partnership. It has the potential to shake up a number of industries – from education to marketing and beyond.

There have been plenty of hot takes spread across the mainstream media since ChatGPT launched in November 2022. The common theme is that writing gigs are doomed. And while there’s a slither of truth in this, it’s not for the reasons you might think.

ChatGPT isn’t going to steal writing jobs by itself. It’s not actively applying for the same roles it finds on LinkedIn or Indeed. But there’s a growing perception that ChatGPT and the like can simply replace employees.


The invaders have landed

Take the entertainment site Buzzfeed for example. The once all-mighty, yet often dubious, business model of fast and engaging content was a license to print money in the early-to-mid 2000s. But back in December ‘22, it was forced to close newsrooms and cut 12 per cent of its employees as traffic and profits began to dwindle. It has since been revealed that Buzzfeed will use ChatGPT to work on part of its content creation – a move that doubled the stock price and no doubt made those at the top of the pile very happy.

Regardless of the moral implications this may have on the wider world, Buzzfeed’s move is savvy. It’s a cost-effective way to generate content and fill the internet one quiz at a time. It’s a decision that is entirely based on making profits and one that will be mimicked en masse. ChatGPT isn’t going away anytime soon.

However, ChatGPT is limited. Its research and factual content are getting better, but it’s sketchy at best. Where a human will double- or triple-check details before pushing something live, ChatGPT will spit out its best guess and the person receiving it is then tasked with the job. And this human touch is what AI can’t replicate.

Technology site CNET is using AI to churn out SEO-friendly content but has recently found that more than half of the articles that made it online were riddled with errors. Again, this is what happens without the due diligence of an experienced writer or editor. Creative copywriters and content creators know this, but convincing those upstairs that a human employee – or employees – are more valuable an asset is an unwinnable battle, especially if the cash is rolling in regardless. So what should we do?

Remote control

Firstly, we need to accept that ChatGPT and the like are here to stay. There’s no point fighting it. Instead, we should embrace this new technology, try to understand it and come up with ways we can use it to our advantage. We’re not advocating for people to just use it to write their copy for them, no, sir. Rather get to know its strengths and weaknesses, and become an expert in handling them.

We can see a future where the preferred skills sections of writing roles will require ChatGPT experience. It’ll sit alongside the likes of proficiency with Microsoft Word or the latest CMS.

Yes, you’re probably more accurate and experienced than ChatGPT. But you’re also unlikely to change the fortunes of a client that’s watching their rivals make bank. Showing a willingness to work with new technology and help them harness its power is how we need to evolve as an industry.

The allure of ChatGPT is tempting, but don’t compromise on quality copy for your business. Fill out the form below or drop an email to to find out how we can help you.


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