5 Lessons from Self-Employment
Next month it will be 3 years since I jumped off the 9-5 train and threw myself into self-employment. It’s been the most amazing time but boy, it has also been the steepest learning curve.
I have learnt so much - about running a business, sales, marketing, finding clients, building a tribe and about myself.
And I have made my fair share of ‘mistakes’ along the way. So today I thought it might be fun (and hopefully of value) to share some of the key lessons I have learnt so far, for those of you just starting out (or thinking about it).
1. REMEMBER YOUR WHY
I wrote a whole post about this a little while back, but it’s totally worth mentioning here. For most entrepreneurs (particularly if you work alone), there will come a time when you become stuck, disillusioned, confused, panicked or pressured. You might be heading down a path you are not sure is right.
When this happens it is really important to remember your ‘why’. What was it that made you start this journey in the first place? What is your mission?
I have been in this position several times - and remembering my ‘why’ helped me to make desicions that brought me back into alignment with my big vision. It is also really motivating to remember why I chose to leave the ‘9-5’ in the first place.
2. YOU CAN’T FAIL IF YOU ARE DOING IT YOUR WAY (BREAK THE RULES)
One of my biggest reasons for choosing to work for myself is that after years of working in a corporate environment, I became tired with the traditional ways of doing business. 'Textbook' sales and marketing techniques left me with a bad taste in my mouth - I believed (I still do) that business didn’t have to be that way. I was passionate about creating a business that was heart-led, that gave real value to my clients. I wanted to build connections and community, to break the rules and create a business that adds value to the world, allows me to do what I love and makes me enough money to live the lifestyle I choose.
But then, I got started.
Shortly after launching my business, I almost gave it all up. Running my own business suddenly didn’t seem to be working - I was putting hours of work in and not getting any results. What had happened?
I had fallen into the trap of doing things the ‘old’ way. I was so afraid of failing that instead of carving my own path as intended, I slipped into doing what I felt was expected of me. Don’t get me wrong - the traditional approach works for a lot of small businesses, but it doesn’t work for me. Realising that saved my business.
Here’s the thing...
You can’t fail if you are doing it your way. You make the rules. You decide what works for you.
Which brings me onto....
3. FORGET WHAT EVERYONE ELSE IS DOING
It is so easy, when the internet makes everything so accessible to get really hung up on what everyone else is doing.
Forget what everyone else is doing.
Do what feels good to you. Yes, someone may have already done it - do it anyway. Do it your way, put your unique spin on it.
It’s easy to look at someone else's business and view them as more successful - they have more comments on their blog, more twitter followers, six-figure product launches. But remember those people are at a different point in their journey. Instead of getting disillusioned and wondering why you aren’t where they are, celebrate their success and take them as proof of what is possible for you.
There is really no such thing as an overnight success (well not sustainable success anyway). Behind those six-figure launches is years of learning, creating, hard work, sweat and tears. No one said this self-employment lark was easy (and if they did, they were lying).
4. STOP LOOKING FOR VALIDATION. TRUST YOURSELF
I probably spent the first 18 months of my business questioning every step and asking everyone I knew for their opinion. ‘Am I doing the right thing?”, “Should I launch this product?”, “Does this blog post sound ok?”.
After years of having someone else tell me what to do, I was suddenly out there on my own. It was hard to let go of my need for approval, certainty. And yet that was exactly why I wanted to do this in the first place. I didn’t want someone else to tell me what to do - I wanted to be in charge.
Trust your instincts. Do what feels right to you. Remember if you are doing it your way, you can’t fail (see how that works?).
5. GIVE YOURSELF PERMISSION TO CHANGE YOUR MIND
Hell, I will give you permission to change your mind. Seriously, feel free.
I have changed direction more times than I can count over the past 3 years. I have dropped projects a few days before launch, changed my whole business structure, even changed my business name.
It’s something I was talking to my lovely coach about (side note - Sas is fab - go, check her out) recently. I was worried that all of this change makes me look flaky - Sas gently reminded me that if I am doing what feels right to me, I can’t fail. All of those changes - they are refinements, I am fine-tuning my business and discovering what works for me.
With every change in direction I have learnt so much about myself and my business. And that’s like gold dust.