Are you thinking of going it alone? Be warned that it’s much like parenting – massive highs, plenty of struggles and days that simply leave you lost for words.
It’s coming up to the anniversary of setting up on my own – my baby’s turning two. It’s doing fine. Only a few teething troubles and the inevitable sleepless nights, but toddling along nicely, picking up speed and bringing me great joy.
I suspect I actually thought in more detail about becoming my own boss than I did about emigrating to the other side of the world! (Don’t tell the family back home.) I certainly thought more about the financial impacts with this big decision, having a third mouth to feed.
The first thing I worked through was: “Can I afford to take the financial risk?” For me, it’s certainly not a hobby job and I knew going into it that I had to make it pay. Consider how much of a hit to your income you’re prepared to take and for how long.
But don’t beat yourself up about it. Keeping an eye on the numbers is essential but keep perspective. It’s like when our daughter was a newborn and we diligently tracked what she ate and drank. Ha – new parent syndrome at its best.
If setting up on your own means leaving somewhere you’ve worked a long time, allow yourself to grieve. A very wise Waikato businesswoman pointed out that she could see I was, in some ways, still mourning my old firm months after leaving, even though I was clearly happy with my decision and enjoying what I was doing. Whatever terms you leave on, and mine were great, it’s still like the end of a relationship and a significant life change. Allow yourself time to adjust.
Remember how so many people seemed to have an opinion about what was best for your baby? New parents are never short of sage suggestions. You also pore over websites for insights and reassurance. Sleep techniques. That funny little rash…. The angst we put ourselves through.
When you’re new in business, you’re ravenous for guidance and to learn from the voices of experience. But just like with that parenting advice, you have to be circumspect. People are well meaning, kind and generous with their support, but you still have to be smart about following the advice that’s right for you.
The ups and downs of being busy and then wondering what will happen next can be nauseating. The weight of responsibility to get new clients is huge, and that’s just for me on my own, so my sympathies to those of you with staff to worry about as well.
The absolute elation when you land a new client is massive. Like the sound of baby’s first word. Which is why the frustration is so great when you hit a brick wall when you’re trying to grow your business.
The biggest thing I’ve learned recently is that people are busy and that I’m not the centre of their world, even if they are momentarily the centre of mine. If people don’t return your messages, don’t take it personally. If the baby cried when you picked it up, it doesn’t mean it hates you, it was probably just tired. Or needed a burp… (Now, how am I going to get that image out of my head when I’m approaching my next new business lead?)
So, what other supernanny pearls of wisdom can I share for new business mums/dads? How about the fact that PJs are OK but self-discipline is better. Especially in a co-working space.
Work whatever hours you want to but remember that those around you want to see your face when they’re home not just the lid of your laptop.
Don’t let professional development become a luxury. Don’t network for the sake of it, pick events that are right for you, not just those that have nice food and a free bar.
You think that you’ll be able to say no to things because, hey, it’s your business after all. You can pick and choose all you like, right? But it’s not because it’s your bank balance that saying no is now harder, it’s fear of letting people down. Now it’s your reputation too.
But just like a new parent, being overtired and out-of-sorts is no good for anyone, so we should never apologise for putting our own physical and mental health first.
People kept telling me it would take two years to have a ‘real business’. And it does feel like a real business now. Let’s hope this doesn’t mean this year is going to be like the Terrible Twos…