Taking a leap of faith, running your own show, going for your dream – whatever you want to call it, thinking about what it would be like to run your own business compared to living it, are two very different things.
I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve been out with my friends and they drift off, dreaming of how great it would be to be their own boss. Sleep-ins, picking and choosing your clients, working whatever hours you’d like to… ah, that’s life, isn’t it?
Only, in reality, it’s not quite so breezy. Don’t get me wrong; I love what I do and I can’t even imagine ever going back to the daily 9 am to 5 pm grind but like everything in life, running your own business has its pros and cons. When everything feels too hard, there’s no one to vent to, your hours never seem to end and when disaster strikes, it’s all on your shoulders.
We need to be prepared for a hard, long slog towards what we define as being successful.
When chatting with budding businesspeople (I have no idea why but I attract a lot of people wanting to share their stories with me), I am always very careful not to paint a picture that isn’t entirely true. Sure, for a very small percentage of people, they’ll hit the jackpot within the first year and we’ll see their stories covered by the media. For the rest of us though, we need to be prepared for a hard, long slog towards what we define as being successful (of course, it is different for everyone).
So, to keep in line with my tradition of saying as it is, I’ve touched on the good, the bad and the downright ugly experiences during my year-long stint as a business owner.
There is something rather wonderful and special about earning a living by doing something you love and chasing a passion. It took me a long time to figure out where I wanted to go with my career and now that I have a very clear direction, it’s made all the difference to my contentment in life.
If I want to sleep in and start my day at 11am instead of at 9am, I can.
On the majority of days, unless I have a meeting I need to attend, I dictate my own days. If I want to work at 4 am in the morning and then leave the office to go shopping in the afternoon, I can. If I want to sleep in and start my day at 11 am instead of at 9 am, I can. And if I am just not feeling it one day (it happens as a writer), I can choose to do less creative work such as general admin tasks or reading.
Above all else, it’s so great to choose whom you work with – after a while, simply earning money isn’t enough. You want to be working on projects that are stimulating, challenging, that help others in some way and with people who value you, for your skills and as a person. I’ve met some incredible and inspiring people thanks to my business.
You will have days and weeks even when you ask yourself: why am I doing this? Why don’t I just do what’s easy and get a job like everyone else?
Maintaining a healthy and positive mindset can be a real challenge, especially when things start going wrong and you’ve been working excessive hours. Suddenly, you lose your focus and start questioning everything. Remember; when you work alone (as most do when starting up), you don’t have a colleague to vent with. You can’t just take a walk with one of your work friends and chat about that mistake you made. You’re on your own.
The day you make that phone call and put an end to it, is the day you’ll smile quietly to yourself and think: I’ve got this.
Of course, early on, we all tend to learn things the hard way as well-meaning we will get taken advantage of. Meaning we will do work for free or under quote drastically or tolerate that rude client because you need the cash. Trust me, the day you make that phone call and put an end to it, is the day you’ll smile quietly to yourself and think: I’ve got this.
Well, I won’t lie. I decided to do a little experiment and calculate how many hours I actually work on average. It’s not pretty – too ugly to even divulge. Looking at my own work schedule, I seem to do nothing for myself besides go on an hourly walk each day and go to the gym. Of course, every now and again you’ll go to dinner or drinks with friends but that’s pretty much as exciting as it gets.
Set your boundaries and have a good long hard think about what you can and can’t give up
Like I said earlier, it can be a long, tough slog and you need to be prepared to make some sacrifices. Whether that means you can’t buy those pretty shoes you’ve been eyeing for months or maybe that annual getaway with friends gets the miss. As someone who has been there and done that, I can say it’s useful to set your boundaries and have a good long hard think about what you can and can’t give up. That’ll be different for everyone but it’s good to go into starting a new business with clarity.
So, you’ve just gotten a snapshot of what life as a business owner is really like. Most importantly though, it is incredibly rewarding – when you receive that first email from someone telling you how much your product or service means to them, you’ll be reminded of why you embarked on this journey to begin with.
Sarah Cannata is a professional writer, journalist and best-selling author. 2016 is going to be a massive year for Sarah who is launching a digital magazine called This Woman Can and releasing her first picture book, Willow Willpower.
Issue #1 will be released on International Women’s Day – you can pre-order the first issue now here.