Since I was a child, I knew that someday I wanted to work for myself. I romanticized the idea so much so that any typical job I held felt more like a prison sentence rather than a career. Many of my friends and family, who had held the same job for all or most of their lives, told me just the idea of this made them nervous. Ironically enough, thinking about working for someone else and knowing exactly what I’d do each day made me feel the same. My desire for a career outside the cubicle made feel a lot of ways and made me realize many things— here’s what no one ever told me about being my own boss.
When you’re starting your own company, especially from the ground up, you will hear this a lot, “it takes time to grow your business.” As apathetic as whomever is telling you this is trying to be, we all know how frustrating this is. Yes, of course it takes time, but how much time? Is there an average amount of time it actually takes to really start turning a profit? Am I allowed to doubt myself? These are some of the many questions that I often asked both others and myself and quickly came to realize that there wasn’t an answer for. When you work a traditional 9-5 job there are expectations and, generally, there are answers. You know when you will get paid, you know what time to start work, you know when you’re allowed to clock out, but when you work for yourself, that certainty is gone. There is nothing definite— and that can be a very scary realization that you will have to face over and over again. In theory I knew that things would be this way, but actually experiencing the not knowing of it all in full effect was overwhelming. It’s okay to be scared by uncertainty, but use this uneasiness to make your own certainty. Not knowing when I was going to get paid was a terrifying thing, but it made me work harder. I couldn’t live my life not knowing when I was going to be able to pay a bill, and I am sure neither can you. Use your fear to motivate you to be better, to get more clients, to work later— whatever it may be, use it to your advantage.
As much uncertainty as I faced in the beginning, I also confronted by a tremendous amount of adversity. I knew that my product was great, but many people needed convincing. Prior to this, the only times I had to really sell myself was in a job interview, and even then, I didn’t jump through as many hoops as I did when promoting my own business. Do your best not to take adversity and criticism personal, be patient, kind and educate your potential customer by showing them how your product will benefit them. It all comes back to “what’s in it for them,” it’s not enough to rave about your product, its’ features and how it has benefited others. You must customize each pitch to target the wants and needs of your customer. Don’t be generic or unauthentic as people will see through it and immediately distrust you. If you truly believe in your produce or service, speak from your heart and most of all; always tie in how it will benefit them.
Your company, in many ways, is your baby. You’ve poured countless time, sweat, tears, dollars and sacrifices into it and it’s definitely tough to share the reigns— but you need to. The quickest way to kill your business, your relationships and company morale is through micro-managing and obsessing over your business. Know when to step back and enjoy the view. Believe me, I get it. The need to want to do everything yourself is definitely a hard one to manage, but you need to learn how to do so. While it’s easy to write off a “how would you feel” scenario if the shoe was on the other foot, you must understand what damage you could be doing by not sharing the reigns and stepping back from the business from time to time. What are some other unexpected factors that make a successful business? A mix of a few things: dedication, trust, and knowing when to take time for yourself and others. You know the saying; a happy childhood is the result of happy parents? It’s true. If you’re spending all your time on your business and neglecting your life outside of it, sooner or later, the bitterness, hurt, guilt and anxiety is going to set in. Additionally, if you hire a staff to help grow your company and you don’t trust them and end up doing the work for them— you will become distrustful, resentful and sour about it. There are two sides of trust, either it’s earned or it’s given, but if you’re hiring experienced professionals— give them your trust until proven otherwise.
It honestly takes jumping all in to truly understand the realities of being your own boss. You will be faced with situations you’d never handle if you worked for someone else, you will have to be more responsible than you’ve ever been in your life, and you will have to face a lot of hard truths about both yourself and your company and from all of these experiences, you will grow. It’s okay to make a lot of mistakes— as long as you learn from them and better yourself and your company for it. Trial and error is the only way we learn. Some things work, others don’t but we wouldn’t know unless we tried. That’s just the way it goes, there are no short cuts or easy roads to take when you decide to work for yourself but, speaking from experience, the journey is well worth it.