DESIGNERS, MAKERS, ENTREPRENEURS, THIS IS FOR YOU.

On one of the last nights of 2013, I sat down on my living room floor surrounded by journals, poster board, markers and post-it notes to do an “annual review.”

I started thinking about the past year. What went well? What didn’t go so well? What have I learned? What mistakes did I make? What do I know now that I didn’t know before?

What started as a personal audit, turned into a running list of 45 entrepreneurship principles that I felt have held true over the years.

For a while, those 45 concepts sat in my notebook untouched and unread. I wasn’t quite sure what to do with them or how they would translate off paper.

It wasn’t until February that I started plotting out a new idea — a way to scale my business so that I wasn’t working from individual project to project and could help more designers and makers just starting out.

So, today I’m sharing the first five principles that I discovered on that night in December:

1.) Solve a problem for others, and you’ll never be expendable.

There’s a difference between products that sell and products that earn customer loyalty. In the world of fashion, your cotton tank top competes in a sea of cotton tank tops. It’s a disposable product.

On the other hand, do you sell a pair of hiking pants that can easily convert into business attire? Or give people an option for saving their t-shirts they don’t wear anymore? Or offer interchangeable straps so you only need one pair of sandals to match every outfit?

Solve a problem for your customer, and they’ll keep coming back.

2.) Sell a feeling, story, belief to sell your product.

What are you communicating? Are you building a connection between your offering and your customer? The marketing of the most successful products evoke an emotional reaction. Make them laugh, make them cry, make them nostalgic — just make them feel something.

With every sales page, social media platform, and blog post, you need to be selling something beyond your product.

3.) Social media marketing is only as strong as the community you build.

Since both Facebook and Twitter have gone public, there has been a lot of talk about whether social media marketing converts into sales. The answer has been a resounding “no.” The smartest companies focus less on pushing sales, and more on building community, creating brand recognition, and receiving feedback.

With word of mouth still being the number one way to gain new customers, a strong online community of followers and loyal supporters is more important than ever.

4.) Productivity comes in all different forms – even when you’re not working.

Sixteen hour work days, plowing through lunch, and abandoning your social life is old-school entrepreneurship. You don’t have to give up your life and ruin your relationships in order to build a successful business.

I believe that if you eat well, exercise, experience new things, and cultivate healthy relationships, then you will be far more productive and require less “work time.” Self-care is productivity in its most basic form.

5.) Working in pajamas is overrated. Being your own boss isn’t.

I remember in the early days of {r}evolution apparel, I would get home from my bartending job at 3am and wake up at 10am to get started on emails, blog posts, sourcing and design work. My computer slept on the other side of my bed, and I would pull it onto my lap with one eye open. By the time I was done with admin tasks for the day, it was noon and I still hadn’t eaten breakfast or changed out of my pajamas.

I look at that time in my life as “sacrificial.” My co-founder and I put in the long hours, leading double lives with side jobs, because we were so firmly committed to being our own bosses. I can tell you now that my workday is much more structured, healthy and energizing.

It takes time and dedication to get where you want to be, but it’s more important to feel the way you want to feel while you’re getting there.