Years ago, I was the director of a spa in Seattle. It was a pretty awesome job, honestly—I received free spa treatments regularly and I enjoyed the work. I liked overseeing operations, ensuring everything ran smoothly.
At the time, I remember thinking, “Wow, I’m really running this place.”
Looking back on it, I want to be like, “Girl, you had NO idea!” Starting and running my own business at Living Well Spending Less has been an incredible experience. It’s also been the biggest challenge of my life and full of learning opportunities (but not as many free spa treatments). When I began the blog back in 2010, I had no idea where it would go and how much my life would change.
Running a small business is exhilarating. It’s terrifying. It’s fun. It’s a lot of work and most of all it’s totally worth it. As the business grew, my husband was able to leave his engineering job behind to stay home with our daughters and run the household. This has been a wonderful shift for our family, but it’s also nerve-wracking to know I’m responsible to support and provide for our household. Bringing home the bacon is a tall order, but I’ve been fortunate to experience success.
Along the way, I’ve had (many) learning opportunities. There have been struggles and challenges, but honestly, I’ve never looked back. Starting a business was hands down one of the best things I’ve ever done. Still, there are several things I wish I knew BEFORE I even started.
This was part of the reason I wrote the book, How to Blog for Profit. There was a lot of noise out there about starting a blogging business, but there wasn’t a true “guide” to walk you through the step-by-step process of creating a business from scratch. After receiving an overwhelming response to the book, we crafted the steps and curriculum into an entire course, Elite Blog Academy. During the program, I walk students through each and every step to business success.
Considering taking the plunge? Wonder if you have what it takes to become a pro-blogger or to start your own business? If you’re working on your own blogging business or another entrepreneurial endeavor, go for it! It’s worth the work, when it all pays off. You can do it! Here’s what you should know as you begin.
1. The Buck Stops with You
When you own your own business, you’re in charge of making all the decisions. While initially this sounds like a great deal, it’s also daunting and tough at times. If you don’t perform, you won’t earn money. The success of your company hinges on you.
If you’re working on your own, it also becomes quite lonely. There’s no one to vent to. There’s no one to listen when you need an outlet. At the same time, even if you have a great team working with you, when you’re the boss you still hold the responsibility.
Tough choices will come your way. When mistakes are made, ultimately you will answer for them and it’s up to you to resolve and correct them. Even if you didn’t make the error, you are the face of your business.
2. Time Management is Critical
When you own your own business you work whenever, wherever you want. If you enjoy working in your basement, wearing fuzzy slippers—go for it, it’s your choice. BUT when work needs to get done, you’re in charge of setting the timeline and seeing it through.
One of the toughest aspects of working on your own is keeping yourself focused and productive, especially if you work from home. Suddenly, you’ll feel the urge to dust your bookshelf, clean your toilet or organize your pantry. Your family’s needs will arise. Everyone will request your attention.
Even if you run a business from home and plan to work part time, managing your work time is critical. Block out your schedule and treat your home office like a business office—when you’re at work, you’re unavailable to the rest of the world. Remember, if you waste your time, you’re only robbing yourself of productivity.
3. You Will Feel Exhilarated (and Sometimes Scared)
Owning your own business is absolutely thrilling. It’s wonderful, energizing, rewarding and yes, fun. It’s pretty exciting to see money coming in based on your own hustle. When you earn your first revenue, you’re going to want to dance around and shout it from the rooftops.
At the same time, there are times when owning your own business is absolutely terrifying. I can attest, no matter how successful my business has become, I’m still gripped with anxiety at least once a month (often more frequently). When you see a decline in revenue, when you hear bad news about the economy, or when you get negative feedback, it’s heartbreaking.
There are many nights you’ll spend awake, mulling over your to do list and worrying about what you need to accomplish. While this might not be “healthy,” it’s certainly normal. I would argue most business owners experience fear, quite often. The key is to power through it. Keep your eye on the big picture and when in doubt, do it scared.
4. Not Everyone Will Love You
I’ve received MANY negative comments. My books have received reviews that were absolutely gut-wrenchingly painful. It happens. Especially when your business is internet-based, where people online are particularly, well…critical.
While it’s easy to tune out the positives and take the negatives to heart, remember not everyone will love you, and it’s okay. Whether you’re an artist, a restaurant owner or an accountant, you’ll serve clients, customers and patrons who don’t like what you do. Maybe your message doesn’t resonate with them, maybe you don’t fit their taste, or maybe they’re just having a rough day.
Whatever the case, embrace the habit of tuning out the negative. Now, it doesn’t mean ignore productive feedback. Sometimes critical feedback is important to growth. Learn to take it in stride, separate out the useful advice from the “haters,” and move forward. Not everyone is one of your people…and that’s totally okay. As long as you’re keeping most of your customers and clients happy, you’re doing fine.
5. You Can’t “Call In”
When you’re the boss, you can’t call in sick. Not to say you can’t take a sick day, of course, but if you decide to phone it in or slack, there’s no one else to make it up. When you’re the boss, you set the boundaries and guidelines.
One of the biggest secrets to success I’ve discovered is to embrace boundaries. That means, when I need a personal day, away from work, I take it. Fully. I don’t check my phone or email. Now, this wasn’t always the case. When I first started out I was online constantly. I was on my tablet before going to sleep, I was responding to emails at 4am. If I was sick, I worked from bed.
When we push ourselves beyond healthy boundaries, we slack on our own self-care. We get tired, run down and burned out. When I worked constantly, I reached a point where I never felt “well.” I was always stressed. Instead, I made a change to take a sick day, when I needed a sick day, or really focus on my family time when we were together. Consequently, I no longer had days where I felt like I was “phoning it in.” I was more present at work, because I was more present in my downtime.
6. Professionalism Exists for a Reason
When you work from home, you’re going to experience days where you stay in your jammies all day long. Perhaps you’ll skip a shower. You’ll feel grateful for email and phone meetings because if you had to do video conferencing, you’d need to become presentable (at least your top half).
Guess what? If you want to stay motivated, even when you’re in charge, you need to shift yourself into “work mode.” Even for the self-employed, professionalism exists for a reason. When you respect yourself, dress and behave professionally it will shine through—even on emails and phone calls.
We’ve all received emails with a million emojis or had work interactions where someone was more casual than professional. You can, and should be fun BUT you should also remember you’re interacting with customers and clients. When money is involved people expect a level of professional decorum. Get dressed and shift your mindset into work—the results will show.
7. With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility
When you’re the boss, you might be responsible for your family’s finances. If you employ an assistant or a team, you’re also responsible for other’s livelihood. This is a huge responsibility. In fact, knowing others depend on your business to provide for their kids is probably one of those thoughts that will keep you awake at 2 am.
This is why it’s important to treat your business as a real, professional endeavor. You can also look at it as a gift—how wonderful you’ve created a way to care for your family! What an amazing blessing to help others care for their families too!
When you’re the boss, you may occasionally get bogged down with the minutia and stress of the responsibility. While it’s totally normal to sweat the little details, it’s also important to step back and realize how awesome it is to be your own boss. You own your own company—it’s a completely amazing feeling!
8. You Won’t Have All the Answers (and That’s Okay)
Guess what—when you’re the boss, you don’t suddenly know all the answers. In fact, you may often feel like you’re flying by the seat of your pants. The real secret of owning your own business is every day you’re learning something new. You are constantly growing, adjusting, looking at what works and tossing out what doesn’t.
People will look to you for answers. Your company will rely on you to figure out the solution to problems you aren’t even aware of yet. You’ll need to get creative, enlist the help of professionals, coaches, mentors and experts.
Even if you’re a pioneer in your field, making new discoveries, there are plenty of opportunities for trial and error. The greatest part of owning your own business is YOU get to make the discoveries. It’s up to you to forge ahead and you’re limited only by your own imagination and drive.
If you want to own your own business or if you’re starting out, keep the big picture in mind. Imagine where you want to be in five years, ten years, even twenty years. Aim big and then set your path to get there. At the end of the day, there’s nothing more satisfying than a job well done. That satisfaction makes it all worth it!