Today I am celebrating my 1-year “full-time entrepreneur” anniversary.
As with most things in business, this leap didn’t exactly go as planned. It actually happened 8 months earlier than expected.
In January 2015, a new opportunity came up but with my already full schedule of working full-time + building my own marketing client roster on the side + attending an intensive life coach training, it made sense to move up my timeline and step out in faith. Faith of the process and faith in myself.
I’ll be honest in saying there have been many times that my faith in both has been tested. But honestly, those 8 months would not have made a difference. Everything that happened that had me updating my resume or that kept me awake at 2am were lessons learned. And whether they happened 8 months early or 8 months later, the truth is, no one plans for lessons to be learned. They come up when they are meant too.
Let me share that there has been no other time in my life when these types of lessons have been delivered at such speed and such relevance than this past year. Even with parenthood, lessons of who I was as a parent and who I was becoming were at least spread out over periods of time. But as a business owner, you are brought face-to-face with your own fears, shortcomings, and insecurities. And surprising to me, even after building a portfolio and having clients over a year. Also surprising to me, these lessons seemed to happen within the very first week of my full-time leap.
Here is a condensed version of the lessons learned. These are five key points of growth that I experienced and that I am hoping will inspire and encourage others.
What I learned in my first year of business
1. You must be your own cheerleader. This seems so obvious, right? But let me tell you, owning your business can be lonely. So this may mean day after day of your own company and many times in sloppy sweat pants until late afternoons (or evenings). But this isn’t just about being alone in business, it’s about learning to listen to your intuition and trust your heart. It’s about learning to pick yourself up off the ground after disappointment. And believing in yourself when there is no one there to remind you of your special gifts. There is no yearly review to applaud your accomplishments and you must be your own boss to give yourself parameters and goals. More so than your bottom line, your attitude and vision matter most for the measure of your success.
2. Surround yourself with those who understand. Having your own business is like nothing else you have ever done and others who have never worked for themselves have no understanding of what it is like. No one else gets it and even your spouse won’t fully understand (but gentle with them, they will come to understand more eventually). Think of it like parenting: Remember the days of child-free freedom when you first saw that long-time friend and their new baby? You didn’t understand why the new parent’s lives had changed so drastically and you swore you’d never use that cutesy baby voice. But then you had your own children and your life resembled nothing your from your pre-baby self. And yes, you even used words like “upsy” and made “choo-choo” noises at feeding times. Only your parenting friends understood. Having your business friends is just like having like-minded parent friends. So seek out other entrepreneurs/solopreneurs/small business owners even if it’s just to have a virtual cup of coffee together and hear “I get it.”
3. Lessons are learned best when mistakes are lived. I can’t tell you how many entrepreneur friends (those in #2, above) told me not to accept just ANY client; to be sure my clients were who I really wanted to work with or I would burn myself out. It sounded reasonable and very understandable but honestly the fear of not making enough money loomed large. So I took those clients that weren’t good fits, the one’s I was warned about. At first I would beat myself up internally when the predictions came true until I realized that I really I needed to make mistakes like this. This was the only way that I would learn who who I wanted to work with, what services I wanted to offer and even who *I* was in situations that weren’t ideal. These were lessons learned by doing.
4. Your shit will come up so it’s best to deal with it. No getting around it. Time to bill a client? You find out you have “money = worth” issues. Time to send a prospect a proposal and the person balks at what you charge? You change your proposal to reflect the client’s wishes (re-read #3 above) and then you realize there it is again, “money = worth” and maybe even “people pleasing” issues. Have trouble marketing and putting yourself out there? Now you realize you have trouble being seen or are suffering from an imposter syndrome (who am I to do this?). Frustrated at all of the technology you need to learn? Maybe it’s not really the technology but an inner Story of you not being good with all things Internet. Being an entrepreneur brings you face to face with your shit, period. And if this is coming up in your business, it’s most likely coming up in your life in general. Get help: Hire a coach or have conversations with a friend in #2 above (who will probably recommend that you hire a coach).
5. Be a lobster. This beautiful timely video clip was shared from my friend, a business coach, Hèléne Scott who shared it from another friend and soul coach, Teri Connolly. (See how I keep referencing #2 above? It’s THAT important). Take a quick look, it’s not long at all.
So be like the lobster, don’t fold under pressure. Reframe the stress as a growing point, grow a new shell and emerge in your fullness. The lobster doesn’t think about this, he just does it. He doesn’t bargain or wish it never would happen, he just does it. He doesn’t think he’s a terrible lobster or a crustacean failure (reread #4, please). He just does it. Follow suite, be a lobster, grow a new shell, just do it.
The best realization of these 5 business lessons is how they mirror lessons that we all need to learn in life – even if you have no desire to work for yourself. And just like life, everyday its a renewal of the commitment to the 5 lessons listed above and moving forward.
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