Wanna start working for yourself? Here's four golden nuggets I wish I knew before I started.
I'm nearing my four-years-in-business-anniversary in a few weeks, and it's got me thinking – what nuggets of wisdom have I dug up during this insane period of fun, fear, freedom and foolishness that I can share with you beautiful lot?
But I didn't want to pull up all the predictable tips that you can find on a bazillion other blogs on the tinterweb. I want to be wholly honest with you so you're actually prepared for your messy, imperfect adventures ahead, rather than disillusioned by some romantically-Instagrammed, direct-route to entrepreneurial bliss.
These four nuggets are not meant to deter you, and they're certainly not meant to scare you, they're actually to empower you, help you plan and make you think, K, I got dis.
So get a pen and paper and write these down somewhere. You're gonna wanna remember 'em:
1. Starting up and finding time to side-hustle is the easy bit.
K, sorry for starting out with the hard-talk. But it's important that this bit sinks in. I remember working on developing my Kerry Lyons Co. website, social media presence and products while I was still working full-time in a design agency. Of course it was hard work and exhausting, it absorbed all of my spare cash, it left very little time for much else and sleep was way down my to-do list, but man was I LOVING it. I was beavering away in the trenches in secret (well, a few nearest and dearest knew), I had a laser-focus, I knew exactly what I wanted to achieve, I knew how much time in a given week I had to put to it, and I had a launch deadline. Life was exhilarating and I felt creatively-challenged and fulfilled. And I felt empowered and in control within my dream's safe little secret bubble. Which in hindsight is what made it the easy bit – I wasn't really relying on anyone else.
The not-so easy bit?
So I'd got the courage to put myself out there, I'd achieved what I'd set out to do, but besides the initial period where I felt super-proud of myself, I then felt a bit aimless to be honest. I think perfectionism comes into this a lot too, in that it's really hard to feel satisfied with your accomplishments. Plus when you're creating something all by your perfectionist-self, you have all the control. Then when you launch something into the public realm, you relinquish that control because you're not within the safety of your dream's secret bubble anymore. This bit is super-hard. You're relying on the rest of the world to like it/buy it/read it/share it/approve of it, et all to affirm that your dream resonates with them. Relying on outside, daily reassurance for success = major buzz-kill, for perfectionists particularly.
But y'know, when I really think about it, this is actually what makes working for yourself so freaking awesome too. These challenges that test your resilience, commitment and talent, are what make you. And even if they break you, they still make you. Which makes every easy bit and hard bit worth it.
First nugget of wisdom:
Spend 25% of your time on what you're doing now, and 75% of your time planning what you'll do next. Oh yeah, and never leave anything to chance. Know your sh*t.
2. You're accountable for every. single. teeny. weeny. thing.
You might be in a senior position in your day job. You might be accountable for a team, or company sales targets, or certain projects' chance of success, so you know the pressure that comes with responsibility. That's a great starting point. But chances are, there's others around you that are accountable for the other stuff too. Nothing is more eye-opening than the harsh realisation that everything is on you when you work for yourself. Now I know this makes me sound like I must've been a total eejit and you're questioning my cop-on to not have known this pre-business, but seriously, until I was actually in the position of being the captain of a ship (whilst also being the deck guy, the engineering guy, the electro-technical guy, and the steward etc.), it's impossible to have a true grasp of what this actually feels like. From the big decisions like firing suppliers or deciding to cut your losses on a project, to remembering you're out of ink cartridges or you need to replace the loo roll – it's all on you or it won't happen. And even if you delegate stuff to people and they mess it up, you're still accountable – because it's your business. Just think about the weight of that for a second.
The brighter, flip-side of this however is that it's all on you or it won't happen! How freaking empowering is that?! You get to own this. You get to decide on every single particle of your business. It's a bed you've single-handedly stitched and made AND you get to savour sleeping in it too. No more clocking in and out and giving over your time to someone else. This is your baby for the making and the taking and it feels oh so gooooode.
Second nugget of wisdom:
Create an organisation chart of the different roles you'll need to play for your business to run smoothly, and the responsibilities those roles will have. Even if you don't plan to hire anyone to fill those positions (or at least any time soon), it gives you a more-informed picture of what it's going to take to run your business and you start with your eyes open. And then if you do eventually come to hire shipmates, you and they know exactly what's expected of them.
3. You can change your mind/direction/offering.
I struggled with this one for what felt like a long time. Knowing I wanted to 'give back' and add more meaning and heart to my business, but petrified of what people might think if I tried something new. If I changed tack halfway through something, wouldn't it make me look flaky? Unprofessional? Like a failure? Hmmm...possibly, depending on how I handled it. But more likely than not, most people don't really care, they've better things to be bothered about, and they might even be interested in whatever new stuff I'm doing. And even if for some reason, they are bothered by my new stuff and lose interest, the world is a pretty ginormous place of an audience to tap into – there's basically plenty more fish in the business-sea!
The important bit to remember is that if, for whatever reason, your business doesn't serve you any longer in its current format, you absolutely have to change it. The same goes for relationships and employed jobs tbh. It's probably one of the most overused clichés there is, but life is waaaaaaay too short to live a millisecond of it just pleasing others and not yourself. #YOLO sister!
Third nugget of wisdom:
It's freakin' awesome to start your business with a plan and a vision of what you want it to become. But don't be closed off to the idea of that vision changing/evolving in time. And certainly don't be scared of it. Listen to your instincts and act on them. They're on point.
4. You don't have to do everything yourself.
Classic perfectionist, right? I know you feel me. Part of it is from actually loving doing everything yourself, because everything's all neat and contained and boxed off, just the way you like it. And part of it is because you genuinely can't help yourself or dare relinquish control – what on earth would happen if someone else did it?! Surely it'd be a disaster! But the truth is – nope. Mistakes maybe, but disasters no. Life will indeed go on. And man, is hogging it all for yourself such a huge limitation for growth! Do you really want to be stuck in one-human-capacity, working at-capacity, until the end of time?
As much as my second nugget above is certainly true, you are accountable for every. single. teeny. weeny. thing, that doesn't mean that you have to do every. single. teeny. weeny. thing. Again it links back to this relinquishing control vibe, which looking back seems to be a recurring theme in my business!
Doing everything yourself sure feels more comfortable, but when your business starts gathering pace, your email inbox begins to expand and there's more places you need to be at any one time, this is when you need to be honest with yourself about what you can realistically do as a singular human. And I wrote a post here to help you decide what tasks you do-do, and don't do. Have a goo.
Fourth nugget of wisdom:
Plan from the outset what tasks can be outsourced, and get yourself used to that feeling of loosening the reins with delegating minor, almost insignificant tasks at first, to break yourself in gently. And when you do delegate, make sure you never assume and your briefing/instruction is crystal-clear (what to do, when to do it, how to do it, how much to spend on it and so on).
Wow, it feels kinda cathartic to purge all that into a blog post I'm not gonna lie! And even if my business closed its doors by midday today (which I feckin hope it won't!), I can at least feel accomplished in knowing my four years were worthwhile if only to be able to share my nuggets witcha :) nawwww <3
Now go forth and conquer my friend. With these nuggets in your pocket, you'll be unstoppable!