When I quit my corporate job, I dreamed about what my life would look like as a small business owner. I relished in the thought that I wouldn’t have to drag myself out of bed at 6:30 in the morning and sit in bumper-to-bumper traffic for an hour. I imagined that I would have this big bright beautiful office full of pretty things that I’d get to photograph everyday. I dreamed that I’d get to travel the world because no matter where I went, I would be able to work from my laptop. I knew it would take some time, but life was going to be amazing!
Even though I love where I am with my business now, the first year of running my business was extremely difficult and overwhelming. My 9-5 job quickly became a 7-6 job (Wait, what? You worked more hours than before?!), I wasn’t able to sleep because I would lay awake for hours thinking about everything I had to get done the next day, I found it difficult to get out of bed in the morning, I had no money for a beautiful office or to travel the world…the list goes on and on. Being a small business owner is hard work, and I think it’s easy as an outsider looking in to think that it’s a perfect life to be your own boss because small business owners give the perception that everything is perfect all of the time, which just isn’t true! So today, I want to share with you a few things I’ve learned over the last few years that I wish I would have known before diving into this career.
- You will talk to your dogs, or cats, or yourself…a lot. Seriously, you’ll feel like you’re taking crazy pills! You’ll find yourself talking to anyone to feel like you’re not spending countless hours each day shut in an office completely alone. Being a small business owner can be incredibly isolating and lonely, so if you’re going to dive into this business, make sure you have a really great support system around you. Make sure you also have people you can call or talk to throughout the day if you need some encouragement and support (This means no emails, texts, or messaging them online! Call them – talk to them!).
- It’s not a very glamorous lifestyle. Oh sure, when you look at a small business owner’s social media pages or website, it gives off the impression that our lives are absolutely perfect – that everything is constantly organized and runs according to schedule. The truth is that a lot of the time, you’re sitting at home ripping your hair out because you are overwhelmed with the amount of work you have and your desk (and house!) are in constant disarray. You’ll also probably spend most of your day in front of the computer with no makeup on, dressed in sweatpants and a t-shirt. I think I speak for every business owner when I tell you that there will be days when you emerge from your office showing a slight resemblance to the Gollum creature from Lord of the Rings. If you head into your business thinking it’s going to be glamour and glitz 24-7, think again!
- Vacations can be really stressful, especially when you’re first starting out. Depending on your job, vacations can be overwhelming because the entire time you’re gone, you end up dreading the amount of work waiting for you when you get home. The other big downside to taking vacations as a small business owner is that you don’t get paid leave (which also includes any sick days, too). Yep, that’s right: everyday you don’t work is a day you’re not making any money. Eventually, you could set your business up in a way that allows you to get paychecks every week, though for many small businesses, this isn’t an option. It can be really stressful and at some point, you feel like you don’t even want to take any vacations because you can’t even relax when you’re away.
- There will be days where you’re going to want to quit. There will be times when you’ll find yourself sitting in front of your computer, bawling your eyes out, wondering what you’re doing. You’ll question if all of the sacrifices are worth it to be business owner and you’ll start to weigh all of the pros and cons of going back to a corporate job (or ANY job for that matter). There are going to be days where you absolutely hate your job, but just try to remember that you’re pursuing a career you love, and that it’s okay if your heart isn’t in it every single minute of every single day. As long as you find it enjoyable most of the time don’t give into your doubt!
- It’s not meant for everyone. If you have been blessed with an incredible talent, I think you have a responsibility to share it with the world! However, running a small business is definitely not for everyone. It takes a ton of discipline to turn down fun lunch dates in order to make sure you get your work done. It takes a lot out of you to work 9, sometimes 12 hours a day to make sure you meet deadlines and keep your business running. It can get really overwhelming figuring out how to keep track of expenses, pay all of your own taxes (when you’re the employer, a good chunk of that burden falls on you), and find balance between your business and personal life. It’s okay if you only do your business part time on the side while working another job, or if you just pursue it as a hobby. If you’re passionate about something, you should pursue it! Just evaluate if you think taking it full time as a business is right for you.