I want you to know something. Starting your own business is wonderful. You wake up when you want, work from where you want and never have to sit through a boring-ass ‘weekly planning meeting’ EVER AGAIN. Rocking.
However. This freedom does not come on a platter. You don’t wake up one and go ‘oh I seem to have stumbled on the perfect life. Ho ho. Tea and toast, Jeeves’.
(Because that’s just what my mornings look like. Ahem)
So let’s take a down-and-dirty look at what really goes on in a fledgling business. This isn’t a negative article, it’s just the less sexy bits that get left out of the ‘how I made it stories’. I think you deserve to know it all so today I’m sharing these 10 truths with you.
The below is your psychic ball to know what’s up ahead so you can be ready to ride through this messy, beautiful journey and make your free range life happen.
Let’s get to it:
1. The business you start with won’t be the one you end up with.
The first version of your idea will be wrong. People won’t want it, or you won’t want to do it. More than likely:
Your first website won’t be your last
Neither will your first brand name
And that’s a good thing.
Your business is a living creature, not a statue. Until you’re in the field it’s hard to know what it’s really like to live with, and when you get there you’ll soon learn what you need to change. Sometimes the answer is ‘almost everything’.
So don’t spend too much on that first logo.
2. You will want to quit
More than once you will think you have made a huge mistake even starting this.
You will think you were crazy for even contemplating that you could run a business.
You’ll think you’re an imposter.
That’s when you know you’re on to something good.
3. Your family and friends won’t get it
Start your business and more than likely:
Aunt Maude will think you made a mistake.
Your buddy Sam won’t hold back letting you know how many businesses fail.
Others in your life will be ‘supportive’ but never actually understand what you do.
Many will miss the days they could put you into a box and say “she’s a lawyer”.
At least some of your friendship groups will change.
Honey let’s get real here. What is more important: your happiness every day, or someone else’s mild discomfort at introducing you at weddings? Sticking with the friends who count or the ones who only empathise because you both hate what you do? Following the beige army’s footsteps or living your real life? (you only get the one, you know)
Isn’t escaping from a box that doesn’t fit precisely the reason you are here?
4. There’s no such thing as an overnight success
You will work your butt off to get your first 10 clients. They will be the hardest ones to get.
You might look at a successful person in your field and say “I want what they have… but without doing the graft that let them achieve that”. They will look back at you and say “good luck, and if you find that easy button let us know”.
What counts is DOING (smartly). You can learn all the strategies in the world but unless you DO them they are worth nothing.
Are there overnight successes out there?
I admit it, the successes, they were ‘made overnight’: over many, many nights of late toil. With coffee and the company of streetlights.
They wanted to quit, they thought they made a mistake but they kept going and going until one day someone said “hey you’re an overnight success, I wish I could be as lucky as you!” (you can be, by the way. Just do the above.)
5. Your number of Twitter followers doesn’t count
There are a lot of things you can buy to look like a business: you can rent an office, get good business cards, have a nice website made up by a hot designer, and yes you can even ‘buy’ Twitter followers and Facebook fans.
There might be good reasons for you to do all of these things. I’m not judging. However. None of these are enough on their own. You can easily sit in your office with nice cards, 10,000 followers and a cutting edge website… with no clients and no money.
A business ‘shell’ is not a business.
It is one thing to build something that looks like a business. It is another to build that moment of magic where people love what you do, get it, and hand you money to do it some more.
Know the difference.
6. No one owes you a paycheque
I once heard someone say “no one is buying my ebook. I wrote it and created a website but no one is buying. I put so much time and effort into it already, I shouldn’t have to put any more into promoting it!”
Yes, you should. You are not an employee.
No one owes you a paycheque. No one owes you their money. No one owes you their attention.
It’s up to you to make your offer worth their attention, work their money and work a paycheque.
Showing up to work is not enough.
The value you bring is not just the content or the service. A huge whack of your value is presenting what you offer so GET IT. Don’t set yourself up to be ignored as one of the shouting hordes, but create an environment so people WANT what you have on the table. Desperately. Enough to pay for it, now.
Learning how to sell is 50% of the journey (so don’t waste all your start up time on creating a product you have no idea how to communicate and waiting for a paycheque). Instead, live in your clients’ heads. Learn how to show them the value of what you do so that they want it, really want it, and pay to prove it too.
7. It’s not all cocktail parties and CEO moments.
In the early days you will do it all. Forget the glamour of ‘having your own business’. For the first few months that just means “I sweep the floors, as well as meet the clients”.
Later you can (and should) outsource the parts you don’t love. But if you outsource something before you understand it, you’ll find it slide to a halt all too soon.
The only way to understand something? Do it yourself, first time round. Keep notes on how you did it and the mistakes you made and what you learnt. Then pass it on. Of course, by then you’ll be taking control and acting like a free range human.
You will also be handy with a broom.
8. Your dream life does not come with your dream business
You’re not doing this just to ‘be an entrepreneur’ (you’d be reading another blog if you were).
You’re doing this for a reason: to build a life that you love. To spend time with the people and places that mean something to you. You have a vision of what you want to contribute to the world, of doing something that makes you come alive every day, and your business is your vehicle to get it.
Never lose sight of that. That groundwork, knowing what you’re in this for, is crucial.
If you just ‘build a business’ without considering ‘you’, then you’ll end up in a cage of your own making. This time there will be no boss to blame.
Getting free is a conscious decision, not a gift that comes with self employment or a job title.
More important than just “I have a business” is sticking true to what you want and crafting each element of your business to suit you and your life.
That takes guts.
You’re not building a business, you’re creating a life. And that, my dear, starts with you.
9. You wouldn’t give this up for the world
Once you get into the free range life, you’ll know two things
1) the above is true
2) you wouldn’t give this up for the world.
The payoff of being your own boss is bigger than a paycheque.
I read some research recently showing that self employed humans are happier than employed humans, and it clicked instantly.
When you are self employed, you get validated every time someone likes you enough to hand over money and buy from you (when did you ever feel that praised by your boss?).You get to do every part of the business you want to (see that chicken logo at the top? I drew him, cause I wanted to). And you get to be YOU every day.
It’s like becoming a grown up for the first time.
You’ll get addicted to this life. And that’s when you know you’ve made it.
10. You get to make your own rules.
Hey you’re a free range human! Want to include 10 points when the article asks for 9? Do it. Like this 🙂
Seriously. I want you to know this honey: the hardest part is understanding, truly understanding, that you make up your own rules. And then grasping that opportunity with both hands.
With no boss to hold you back, and no boss to blame, it’s down to you to make magic happen on your own terms.
To me that is the most wonderful thing in the world.
About the Author: Marianne Cantwell runs Free Range Humans. She helps women create and tweak their business to fit their personality and lifestyle, while growing their profits. A self confessed geek on both marketing and happiness, Marianne is combining these two usually very different topics into a book about free range businesses, (to be published in 2012). For more tips on breaking the rules and making your business work for you (not the other way around), subscribe to her blog and Friday ‘love letter’ at http://www.free-range-humans.com (and follow her on Twitter @freerangehumans)