After going through my first year as an official business owner there were many lessons learned. While I’m no expert on the topic, I thought I’d share what I found to be some key things that affected my first year and how recognizing them has helped me grow and make this second year run smoothly and less stressful.
1. You have to be very aware and conscious of your time. Time management is one of the hardest things to do when you work at home. There are no set hours or boss or time sheets to keep you accountable. You have to be your own enforcer who dictates when you work. When I first started I thought working all the time was best. I was just starting out so I had to grind that much more to make myself known and to get experience. But this isn’t the case. Yes, I need to work a lot but I need to give myself breaks and spend time on other things or else I’ll burn out and then who will run my business!?! It’s so easy to think your time needs to be spent on work all the time but spending time with friends or family or even my dog can help clear my head and then give me even more motivation and inspiration to work. That said, you need to be smart with your time as well. When working it’s so easy to get sucked into “research” only to feel like you didn’t accomplish anything. I would spend hours going through Style Me Pretty or Pinterest to see the latest trends or ideas for weddings or engagements. Not to say this isn’t a good use of time because I should be aware of these things, but I shouldn’t have spent hours on it! Knowing how to block off certain amounts of time for certain work is a skill that I had to learn (and am still learning).
2. Balance is key. This relates to the point above and is something that I struggle with each day but I’m trying to learn the best practices for balancing work and life. When I first started out (and currently) all I could think about or focus on was work. I wanted to practice as much as possible, write blog posts, attend trade shows, collaborate with vendors – whatever I could do to get my work out there I was focusing on it. Late at night when I should have been spending time with my husband I’d be thinking about the best time to post that blog I just wrote or when I’d go take more photos. When I’d walk my dog I’d be thinking of the graphics for my webpage and how I wanted to change a certain paragraph of text. You get the picture! It
was is so easy to let myself only think about work and only focus on work that I forget about other things. There’s a sense of guilt that comes with it too. I feel guilty if my friends ask me to meet up and I say no because I need to work – they all work just as hard and are able to make time, why can’t I! But then when I do give myself time to spend with them, I’ll think about the work I should be doing and feel guilty that it’s not getting done. It’s a vicious cycle of guilt and forcing yourself to prioritize and use your time efficiently. I’ve come to the notion that my family and friends are the ones who support me, motivate me and inspire me so they are just as important, if not more, than my work and while it’s easy to let myself go into hermit-work-mode I have to make the effort to have balance.
3. It won’t be perfect and that’s ok. When I first started out I read a lot of articles by other entrepreneurs on all the tips or advice they had for starting a business. One point that really struck me was “Clarity does not come by learning more, it comes by jumping in with your instincts and putting yourself out there, even if you don’t know exactly what you’re doing.” (It’s from this article) The perfectionist in me would cringe at this thought but it’s so true. It’s so easy to get in your head about making sure everything is perfect, researching as much as possible, testing over and over, and editing till your eyes go cross. But nothing will happen if you’re not out there and it’s through lessons learned that you grow. I applied this specifically to my website. I would spend hours going over what font to use or the perfect sentence to describe myself – did I want to be funny, serious, who did I want to project? My site was finished but I kept agonizing over each little thing. I read that quote and decided to just put it out there and jump in. It may not have been perfect but it’s not like it was set in stone and couldn’t be updated after it was live. So that’s exactly what I did, I made it live, tweeked it a little every now and then, and came up with a voice and look that I felt represented me after I had grown more. I find I tend to fall into that perfectionist state quite often so I go back to this notion and question if I’m perfecting because I’m afraid to jump in and if so I need to just let it go and dive.
4. There’s a lot of self-doubt. One of the biggest challenges I face running this business is myself. I’m my own cheerleader and worst critic all at the same time. Each day is different too, one day I’m elated with happiness and pride knowing how great of a job I’m doing and the next, I feel like crawling back in bed and giving up because I don’t think I’ll ever make it or my photos aren’t good enough. I have the perfectionist gene so I’m sure a lot of my self-doubt stems from that. I tend to focus on everything being done perfectly and if it’s not (in relation to my standards) then I get down on myself. I’ve had to train myself to push those negative thoughts aside but sometimes it’s too hard to do alone. One piece of advice I got from a friend who is also an entrepreneur and works freelance was to make sure to do something on the side that you’re good at that doesn’t relate to work. She said you need to do something like joining a sports league or taking an art class as something that makes you accountable to step away from work for a while and that also allows you to look on it and say “I’m really good at that”. In my case, this was doing barre classes or working out. I found I got really into it before starting this business and it made me feel strong and successful so I needed to continue with it. As much as I would make excuses that I don’t have time or that my time should be spent on work, I needed to have that other part to my life where no matter what negativity I felt, I was doing this other thing right. It’s one of the best pieces of advice I ever got and while it’s hard to maintain it’s the easiest way to feel better about yourself and have more motivation.
5. There’s nothing else I’d rather be doing. While my husband may disagree with this stating that I seem more stressed out now that when I worked at my old job, I wake up each day feeling lucky to do what I do. I get to carry out my passion and dream each day and it’s a lot of fun. While there’s a lot of negative and stress those are just feelings that come with something that means so much. If I wasn’t scared or stressed then I’m not growing or working hard enough. There are people I’ve met and moments I’ve captured that have taken my breath away. And I write this point holding back tears because I’m so passionate about it. While there’s many moments that made me feel this way, one in particular stands out – I remember last year chatting with some friends on a Sunday and they were complaining about having to go to work, you know the saying “ugh it’s Monday tomorrow” and I stood there smiling thinking “yes! I get to go to work tomorrow!” I was so excited and happy and in that moment I knew I’d made the best decision.