One of the things I hear time after time from entrepreneurs, including myself, is that it’s lonely. This is especially true for solo-preneurs. You started your business to do the work you love. You quickly learned there is a lot more to it than just that. As I’ve referenced before, you are accountant, sales, marketing, and everything else.
What happens, is your business starts to own you, rather than you owning it. And what follows is that you spend far too much time working ‘on’ the business and less and less on working ‘in’ the business doing what you love. You also tend to pull away from social activities because there is always something that needs your attention. You may even pull back from your family. More than one entrepreneur mother has told me she felt she’d been neglecting her children. For me, it was my family and friends.
I’ve learned three things that have been immensely helpful.
So, here is my challenge. Take tonight off from work. Sit down with these three simple items, and map out how you’re going to make these changes. Let me know what you’ve done and how it’s worked out for you. I’d love to hear!
I’ve written before about the joys and challenges of being an entrepreneur. Yes, you get to choose your schedule, your clients, your lifestyle, but you also work harder. As an entrepreneur, you get to do work you truly love, but you also have to do sales, marketing, accounting, pay for your own healthcare, and everything else required to run a business. It can be all-consuming and leave little time for the other aspects of your life. The health risks they take have been well documented.
The past 6 months have been the most challenging, emotionally draining and sometimes heart-wrenching months of my life. You see on top of being a single woman running my own business, 6 months ago, I invited my elderly mother to come live with me. It was best for her and I wanted her closer to me than the nearly 3000 mile distance between Seattle and Washington, DC.
As I started preparing for her arrival, as excited as I was, I also mourned the loss of my personal space, and having to store some precious things away. However, I always knew it was the right thing to do and that this was what I wanted. And we both loved living together, getting used to one another’s rhythms, learning how alike we were, and as always, my mother continued to teach me so much.
Mom arrived November 15, and it’s been a ride, to say the least ever since. Mind you, in all of this, I have been an insomniac since July 23 (no idea why it started then) and have been operating on minimal sleep. I needed a hip replacement on Dec 2, Mom fell, broke her humerus and spent 6 weeks in rehab. Once home, it was a long haul to recovery, one that involved much caregiving and assistance on my part. Mid-March, she caught the flu and started a slow decline. Sadly, on April 3, Mom passed away here at home with me, in her sleep. A very peaceful way to go, but shocking for me to go to wake her in the morning and discover her gone.
So, here’s the point of my story. Yes, it’s been the most difficult period of my life. Losing my mother is something I wasn’t at all expecting, and muscling through to try and continue running my business has presented monumental challenges. But I did it. I kept most of my appointments that first week, knowing that an attempt to keep life as normal as possible was the best route. However, I hit a wall earlier this week. While I have been able to do my work, help my clients to the best of my abilities, it’s taken a toll on me and I knew it was time. So, with a relatively clear calendar at the end of this week, I decided to block off time, step away from the frenetic pace of my business, and just allow myself to ‘BE’. It’s time to rest and regroup, and yes, mourn the loss of my dear mother. Muscling through was the right thing at the start, but now it’s time for the rest.
And, that’s the point here. As entrepreneurs, missing out on work can mean missing out on income. And for many, that isn’t something they can afford to do. So, do what you have to do, but also take the time to care for yourself. Take time off, take a weekend away, block off your calendar for an afternoon and take a walk in nature, or whatever else makes YOU happy. Or maybe just cut your schedule back and work shorter work days. Just as a parent needs to take care of themselves to care for their children, an entrepreneur must care for themselves to care for their clients and their business.
Yes, it's true. Being an entrepreneur means a lot of great things. You get to be your own boss, set your own schedule, and do what you really love. And, it's a wonderful place to be. But don't fool yourself, there are plenty of downsides too.
I've recently had conversations with a number of people who are entrepreneurs and are struggling. Yes, some struggle to keep their business afloat and that may drive them back to a 'real job'. Others might be more successful and enjoy seeing their business flourish. But then, there are the rest of them. They are struggling to decide if being an entrepreneur is worth it.
You see there are many things that you have to do as an entrepreneur that you may not have considered.
1. You work alone, almost all the time. Many of us miss being part of a team. We love what we do, but it can be lonely. Who do you bounce ideas off of? Who do you commiserate with after a bad day?
2. You have to be everything. In his book, The E-Myth Revisited, Michael Gerber describes the three people you must be to have your own business: the entrepreneur, the manager, and the technician. Most of us become entrepreneurs to do something we love - the technician. But we must play all three roles. Not all of us are cut out to do our own accounting, or implement a marketing plan. It's a steep learning curve and many can't get there.
3. Marketing and Sales. Yes, these are the bane of many an entrepreneur's existence. We love to do what we love, and in most cases, that isn't sales. Yet, it's vital to the success of our business.
4. Medical insurance. Yes, this may seem like an odd addition to this list, but I can't tell you the number of entrepreneurs who throw in the towel because of the exorbitant cost of health care. To some, it's simply easier to get a paying job with benefits.
5. There are other additional costs that wear entrepreneurs down as well. Where do you do business? Do you have to rent space? Can you work from home? Business licenses, taxes, banking, websites, materials; the list goes on and on. It can take years before you are operating in the black, so you'd best make sure you have a nice nest egg saved up to support you through the lean years.
6. Time. Yes, running your own business takes a lot of time. There will be months or years when you work seven days a week, 10 or more hours a day. Are you and your family prepared for that? I've have many, many weekends where I worked all day because there was simply too much work to do.
I don't mean to scare anyone away from being an entrepreneur. It's thrilling, it's wonderful, and it's great to do exactly what you want to do with your gifts. But go into it with an open mind, understanding the many sacrifices that are required to live your dream.
When I coach individuals ready to launch a business, I help them understand both sides of this wonderful world of entrepreneurship, and guide them to do the proper research and ready themselves for what is ahead. It breaks my heart every time an entrepreneur throws in the towel. Do your research, be prepared for the long haul, and have faith.
The start of a new year often inspires aspiring entrepreneurs to dip their toes into the world of self employment. Here is my top list of things to consider as you move toward launching a business.
1. Have you researched your market? Is there a need for your service/product? Who is your target audience? Who is your competition?
2. What is your unique value proposition? Why should people come to you rather than any of your competition?
3. Do you have the finances to carry you through? Generally speaking, it's recommended to have 6 months worth of expenses saved to support you. Do you need additional financing?
4. Running a business means you have to be everything. You might be a great craftsperson, but you must also be CEO, accountant, marketing expert, salesperson and so on. Are you prepared to wear all hats?
5. Create a business plan. As they say, "If you don't know where you're going, how are you going to get there?" Set goals, strategies and follow them.
6. Seek professionals to help you along the way. Don't ever guess and take unnecessary risks with your business. Hire an accountant, a lawyer, a coach and other professionals who've been there and can provide the professional advice that may well save your dream.
7. Connect with your local Small Business Administration. They are a great source of information, guidance, and training for aspiring entrepreneurs.
8. Get started. Above all else, turn your dream into a reality!
Here's to following your dreams and having success in 2017!
Last March, I was approached by LinkedIn to participate in a pilot they were conducting for a new service, Profinder. I hadn't heard any word about this, but accepted their invitation to an informational webinar offered to invited potential participants. What I learned was interesting and raised my interest in this new tool.
Profinder was in its infancy and being tested in several markets around the country, with a late Summer launch expected in Seattle. The goal of Profinder is to create an online resource of vetted professionals in their chosen field. At the present time, there are 17 fields to chose from from home improvement to financial services to coaching. With just a few simple steps, you can submit an RFP request to vetted professionals in the particular field you are seeking assistance in.
During the pilot, I received a few submissions to review. While none of those that came my way were in my wheelhouse, it was encouraging to see that people were using the service. Now that the service is live in Seattle, I continue to get solicitations. As yet, none has matched my particular service offerings, but I continue to eagerly await each request and am confident some will eventually be a match as the service is more widely used.
A recent Forbes article interview Reid Hoffman, one of the backers of the new service. The article describes Profinder as "an online marketplace for matching LinkedIn users to skilled "white-collar" professionals. With freelancing on the rise, this is a great way for entrepreneurs to stay connected and discover new clients. As someone who refuses to use the "connect and solicit" approach that many people misuse LinkedIn for, I'm thrilled to see a vetted, secure means of connecting users with potential vendors. Congrats to LinkedIn for continuing to innovate!
It’s been some time since I’ve taken time to sit and write; a clear sign that I am one busy entrepreneur! It happens. We build our business and things grow and soon we forget, or choose not, to make time for ourselves. After all, if you’re not manning the desk, who is?
I’ve experienced this recently. My last blog post was August 30, and there’s a reason for that. I’m busy and business is growing. That’s absolutely wonderful and I enjoy every minute. But if I don’t take time to rest and rejuvenate, how long can I sustain this? It’s a hectic pace, this running your own business, so it’s important to stop every once in a while, do something for yourself that you enjoy and that will restore your energy.
As I’m prone to do, I took my vacation to the extreme. I didn’t take a week off. I didn’t take two weeks off. No, I took three weeks off to go on a European vacation with family. Yes, it was a bit too long, but it allowed me to step away from work, forget my daily routine and obligations, and do something for myself without schedules or commitments.
My work as a coach requires a lot of energy, a lot of helping, a lot of giving, so I do find myself ’empty’ at times, needing to spend some time on myself. It wasn’t easy to step out of my routine. I first made sure all my clients were in good shape for my absence; even made myself available if needed. Now, having just returned home, I find myself eager and ready to continue my work! I feel energized, relaxed, fulfilled in a way that allows me to again give completely to my work.
Being an entrepreneur can drain you and steal every minute of every day, so it’s important to remember to take as good care of YOU as you do your business. Maybe a long 3 week vacation isn’t the answer. Maybe it’s long weekends with family, or even by yourself. But make that effort to plan your time. Only then are you going to be able to maintain the pace and level of commitment that being an entrepreneur requires. And in the end, your business will flourish even more for it. #dreambelieveachieve
I found this photo and posted it online today to both my LinkedIn and Facebook accounts. I love it because it’s so tempting to give up when starting your own business. There tends to be a rush at the start. Nearly every entrepreneur I’ve worked with has that early stage where a few new clients pop up easily. I had the same thing. My very first client was the very company I’d resigned from!
You start on a roll and expect things will continue to “fall in your path” continually. Sadly, that is not typically the case. After that first rush, there is a lull. A scary lull. A lull where you ask yourself, “Will I ever find another new client?” The temptation at that point is to give up, get a ‘real job’ and not worry about it again. But those who succeed, persevere.
How you get through that lull will vary. Some will simply hustle and find the new work. Others might market wildly, drawing in new clients. In my case, I was offered the opportunity to be on contract for a short period of time. This allowed me to learn, A LOT, from experienced colleagues while I built a substantial client referral base. Once the contract was done, I was situated well for building my business. That referral base is still my main pipeline of business.
And, then there are the seasonal slow downs. I had a conversation with a colleague the other day and we were talking about how hard it is when starting out to learn that each business tends to have its high and low seasons. For me, that tends to be late summer and during the holidays. People just want to put aside their work during these periods of time. So, as you learn the seasons, you acclimate yourself accordingly. For me, late summer is the optimal time for vacation. Why try and work during the low time? Take a well needed vacation from your work. You’ll come back renewed and ready to help all those new clients that will be starting up their work again.
There are so many factors playing into the your thoughts of giving up. My best advice is to find a small network of fellow entrepreneurs to bounce ideas off of, hire a coach who’s been there and can guide you, and look at the offerings of your local SBA. Don’t go it alone, but do keep on moving. Don’t give up. The world needs special gift! #dreambelieveachieve
Just like last week's blog, I've been continuing to think about the things that keep people from starting their business idea.I meet people all the time who have been carrying around a dream of some kind of business they'd like to start. My first question is always, "What's stopping you"? Typically, their first answer is simply "Fear". Yes, there it is. Fear. Fear of failure. Fear of financial woes. Fear of how it will impact relationships with family or children. It's not to be discounted, this fear. It's real. It's scary. So, how do you move past it?
If you're like me, you reach a point where NOT pursuing your dream is far more painful and scary than getting on with it. When I was living back in Washington, DC, miserable, missing Seattle, no longer loving my work, it felt like my entire life had vanished, at least the one I imagined having. It was hard and scary and took time to reach that point. I've spoken before about enlisting the help of a professional; someone who didn't have a vested interest in whether I stayed put or moved 2770 miles away. Most entrepreneurs have had a similar experience. It may not have involved drastically moving across country, but something happens one day where they just KNOW it's time. One former client was laid off from their job, and that experience had them examining their next move. Rather than find another corporate job, chose to pursue a franchise, now operating a successful restaurant. Another had reached the point where the politics at work were simply intolerable, unhealthy and detrimental to his well-being. He wasn't happy. So, he launched his own consulting firm.
Yes, it looks different for each of us. I was speaking last night to a lovely young woman who has a dream she'd love to be living. But getting there is hard. She has to consider finances. I could see she hadn't quite reached the point where she was ready to launch, but she will. And my gut tells me she's going to be a magnificent success! I can't wait to see her start her journey.
So, as the picture here says, "If opportunity doesn't knock, build a door". Listen to your gut. You'll know when it's time. And if you're having trouble getting there, find a professional to help you along. You'll be glad you did. As Dr. Seuss says, "Oh the places you'll go!".
Stop being afraid and deal with those fears. They aren't insurmountable. You CAN do it! #dreambelieveachieve
I’ve written a lot about the joys of entrepreneurship, and a little about some of the stressors. Something I haven’t yet mentioned is what keeps some people from making the move to running their own business.
In preparation for our upcoming workshop for women thinking about their next career move (Messy In The Middle), my partner Jacquie and I interviewed women on their dreams and what was keeping them from moving ahead. The workshop is for women who are looking at retirement and what that means to them, women who are in the wrong job but not sure what the next step is, and women who would like to start their own business. The #1 response from the overwhelming majority was one word: FEAR.
The fear looks different for each woman. Some fear a loss of status if they retired. For some, the fear is financial. How will they pay their bills as they build a business? For others, it is fear of being too old for the job market. So, they varied, but in each case, it is most decidedly fear keeping them stuck where they are.
I experienced some fear as well. It took some work, but I eventually reached the point where NOT doing anything was far more scary than taking a risk. I got past the fear when I felt I had no choice. Only then was I able to quit my job, sell my house, and move 3000 miles away to return to where I’d come to realize my future would be.
Getting past the fear is not easy. As I see it, you need to reflect on where that fear is coming from and deal with it. What structure can you build to help you move past that fear and start this exciting new chapter in your life? Build a plan that allows you to move forward. Often, this plan is an incremental process. Many entrepreneurs start moonlighting, or have a ‘side-hustle’ as it’s come to be called. You work full-time to keep income coming as you start your business. Then move on to part-time work as the business grows. Eventually, your business becomes a full time gig and you can walk out the door of your last employer and all that means.
So, yes, it’s hard to get past the fear. But you can do it. You need to figure out where the fear is and how to get past it. And you can! That’s the good news. There are many qualified professionals who can help, so don’t be afraid to seek them out. I recognized I couldn’t get here alone, so I sought out a counselor who I could talk to. She wasn’t a friend, or family, and didn’t have an agenda, so I knew I could count on her assistance. Ultimately, she was the one who made me get to where I needed to be.
So, as with all things in life. The things worth having are worth working for. Face your fear, get past it and do what you need to do to live the life you’re dreaming of. There will never be a ‘perfect time’, so just start. Start today. #dreambelieveachieve
I’ve written before about the freedom of being an entrepreneur. That freedom includes the ability to choose what you do each day in your work. It’s one of the things I love most about being an entrepreneur. My passion is making a difference in other people’s lives; helping them achieve the same personal and professional joy that I have achieved. It’s the message behind my tag line: Dream, Believe, Achieve.
So, when the opportunity to develop a workshop with a dear colleague, former boss actually, arose, I leapt at the opportunity. Together, we’ve been researching, planning, and organizing an event for women struggling to figure out that next career or life step. During my work with women being let go from jobs, it became apparent to me that there were many bright, talented, and skilled women who the corporate world was not so supportive of. Some who worked with me made the choice to go into business for themselves, using their talents as they chose. I realized then, that there was a dearth of resources for these women. This became the kernel that grew into the workshop we’ve created.
During our research, we learned there not only who women who dream of self-employment, but there are women who are looking at retirement, but not really feeling it. Let’s face it, we’re not a generation of people who are going to sit on the front porch knitting ALL DAY. No, most of us want to continue contributing in some way.
Both the person with an interest in entrepreneurship and the person looking to make sense of retirement have the same struggles. How do I get past the fear? Where do I start? What do I do? The workshop we’ve developed helps to get people started on this journey.
We’re so excited to be offering this workshop and can’t wait until we meet these wonderful women face to face!
If you’re interested, feel free to check out more about the workshop by clicking HERE.
Andrea made the choice to leave the corporate world in May 2013 to pursue her dreams.