Leaping into Entrepreneurship
August 31, 2017 was my last day at the 8-5 day job. If you’ve been following me for the past several months, you know I struggled with the decision to leave. I did the “side hustle” thing over the summer and decided side hustling wasn't going to cut it.
Other people do this for years, and it works for them. It wasn’t working for me. I faced a decision: lose the business or lose the day job.
Why did I finally cut the 8-5 cord? After 17+ years in a day job, I was burned out. I knew it wasn’t my dream. It wasn’t my future. It was never my plan to retire from the university--at age 85.
There was a huge void in my work life. I simply didn’t enjoy my job anymore, and I didn’t feel like a valued member of the team.
I put a financial cushion in place for my family and made a decision. Not everyone can do this. I get it. I’m grateful that I had the option. But understand that I worked for 17 years, in order to have this option.
Great Expectations vs. Reality
In no way did I think owning my own business would be all puppy kisses and yoga in the park. I was prepared to have crappy days. What I wasn’t entirely prepared for was how to get past those slug days.
The first two weeks were like: Let freedom ring. I’m doin’ my own thang. Yoga pants and t-shirts. Barre at 11:30 a.m. If I want to take a break, I will. No more rushing to the office by 8 (ish). No one over my shoulder or interrupting my flow. No more cube! I have a real office now. I’m a real business owner now. #girlboss
I had my first one-on-one client and was busy working with her. I was picking my daughter up from school. Things were going well. Then it happened.
The first really bad day hit me in week three.
That day was like: Look at such-and-such killing it. I can’t even manage to post on my blog or email my list. What was I thinking? I’ll never make enough money. Can I really do this? What do I have to offer? That person has it together. Look at her website and branding. Wow, she must be good. I’m nobody. Well, they’re hiring the replacement at my former job. They’re doing fine without me. Just like I thought: I didn’t matter anyway. I’m such a loser. Maybe those "haters" were right. It’s too hard. I should just start looking for another job now.
That hurt to write. But it’s real. That’s what it was like inside my head Monday. Noise. Self-doubt. Jealousy. Fear. Ugliness. Shame.
Ups and Downs Are Natural
It’s natural, and I’d say unavoidable, to have ups and downs in entrepreneurship. Heck in life. I knew this day would come. I knew it would happen. I had braced myself for it, but I didn’t feel equipped to fight back. I had no plan.
What did I do? I hid from these feelings, hoping it would pass without too much damage. I got very little work done, and I slept most of the day. I threw myself an all-out pity party and fed the beast inside my head by scrolling social media and wishing I had a win to share.
Here’s the problem: Instead of wishing I had a win to share, I should have been WORKING. I should have been taking action that would lead to that win. I should have been focusing on my business, not anyone else’s.
Why Your Mindset Matters Much More than Your Competition
Comparison is a nasty game, and it’s one you won’t win. When I compare myself to others in my field, I don’t provide any context. I just take everything at face value and run downhill with it.
Instead of thinking, “Oh, Molly Blogger has it together, and she's making so much money,” I should be placing the information in context.
The context is:
I don’t know Molly Blogger, her story, or her business, and I sure don’t know her financial situation. (Even if she gives an income report, I still don’t really know.)
Most of the Molly Bloggers of the world have been in business for a heck of a lot longer than a few months.
Seriously, just stop. It doesn’t matter how much Molly is making or how much she is crushing it. Say good for her and move on.
It’s like I always tell my six-year-old, “Don’t worry about what she’s doing. Handle your own business.” Yes, I need to mind my own business. And so do you.
It’s all about mindset. What is the frame into which I’m putting information? Is it the “Everyone else is killing it but poor me” frame? Or is it the “I’m doing what I need to do today to move my business forward” frame?
The poor-me frame is never going to take my business anywhere. It’s going to leave me feeling like a victim and wishing for success instead of making it happen.
Have a Plan for Crap Days
Whether you’re a business owner or not, your mindset makes all the difference between reaching your goals and crying under the bed with a pint of Edy’s French Silk and Careless Whisper on repeat. (I love you George. Rest in peace.)
Look, I’ll be straight with you. Sometimes you need a good cry under the bed with Edy’s French Silk and Careless Whisper on repeat. It’s okay. We’re only human, and sometimes horrible things happen. Or we just feel like crap. Go ahead and indulge on occasion.
But what you don’t need is a regular reservation for the pity-party of one. If that’s what you’re doing, cut it out. (If you need help, ask for it. I know it’s hard, but do it anyway. You deserve it. You’re worth it. Now go get help.)
Now that I made it through my first really crappy day, I have a plan. I hope this framework will help you get through those bad days as well.
The Mind Ya Own Business Framework
Get your expectations in check:
Often the point of pain is where your expectations meet reality, the two get into a fist fight, and reality knocks your expectations out cold. Ouch.
What are your expectations for your business, for your job, for your life? Are they realistic? If your expectations and reality get into a fight, who’s going to win?
I’m not saying you shouldn't expect great things. Please expect great things! But don't expect impossible things, such as becoming an overnight gazillionaire, or losing 50 pounds in an hour. Probably not gonna happen.
Have goals and a plan for all those expectations:
Don’t have a vague, “I’m going to get super rich on the internet” idea in your head. You can’t “get rich” with a vague wish, or we’d all be Bill Gates.
Set a goal based in reality with numbers and deadlines: “I’m going to increase my business revenue by 10% this quarter.” There’s a real goal. The next question is how.
How will you achieve your goal? What are the exact steps you need to take, each month, each week, each day to make it happen? Plan it. Write it down. Do it.
A structure for your days:
If you work for yourself, you don’t have someone watching the clock at 8:10 a.m. Tsk. Tsk. You know who keeps you accountable? You do.
Yes, one reason I left the 8-5 was lack of flexibility. While I don’t need a clock-watcher, I do need structure.
Structure for me means:
Having a business and content plan in place with both strategies and tactics.
Knowing what I plan to do each day (a top 3).
Knowing how my actions are helping my business. (It’s not just a waste of time.)
Having a back-up plan for off days. (A list of a few things I must still do, even if I don’t feel like it, to keep my business running.)
Have a support network:
Lean on your network for support, in person or online. You have your family, partner, and friends. But you also need someone who gets you and your situation.
If you’re still at the 8-5 and side hustling, connect with someone else in the same boat. If you’re a new solopreneur, find someone in a similar stage in her business.
It has been so valuable to be able to reach out to someone who gets the struggle. If you don’t have “your person” yet, find her. It never hurts to have a whole group of folks you can turn to when you’re having a bad day.
If you’re an entrepreneur, what helped you survive those first weeks or months? What was the reality versus your expectations?