It feels like much longer.
It’s a little surreal to have only been in business two years.
In these first two years, I’ve learned a lot, but here are the top 2 lessons after my first 2 years in business.
LESSON NUMBER ONE.
The money is going to ebb and flow, especially in the beginning. That’s a guarantee.
Wow. This lesson was one of the hardest adjustments. I would gain a few clients, and then one or two would quit on me right when the next invoice was due. Yes, there are ways to help prevent this cycle from repeating, but when you are getting started, it’s inevitable to occur at some point in time. I had this constant feeling that I was on a financial rollercoaster, and honestly, it was not the finances that wore me out! The real challenge was the emotional whiplash I experienced. I knew, logically speaking, that it had nothing to do with me, my performance, my value, my efforts, etc. BUT, it was still something I needed to believe about myself. Choosing to “get back up again” even if 5 clients quit at once was the hardest first learning curve as an entrepreneur. It’s a real self-esteem challenge to recover from failure again and again and again.
I knew that this challenge was one I needed to overcome if I was going to stay in the game. Eventually, those thoughts of “quitting and getting a real job” never came back up. I scaled my business from the consistent 2K, to a consistent 3K and on…I still dealt with that problem from time to time, but I got better at preventing it, by working with clients who were ready to invest in my services and who operated in a professional capacity, not terminating when an invoice is past due. I began to account for these things in my business growth, and as I began to scale my business with other subcontractors, I made sure to keep room for margin. It might still be a concern from time-to-time, when cash flow is tighter, but the revenue mark is higher and I have overcome the personal attachment to the revolving door syndrome or the current financial marker.
Learning this lesson has been crucial to scaling my solopreneurship into a real business. In fact, within the last 6 months, I felt the need to restructure service packages, to separate “smaller businesses” from larger, ongoing “more invested” businesses. In addition to that change, I raised rates across the board, even for loyal clients who had been grandfathered into their rate for some time. Finally, I decided to terminate rollover hours, since they caused more harm than good for my own business. Rollover hours were like the ever growing snowball rolling down a hill that was never going to break even. It was time for the change to happen. I knew that this transition would mean lower numbers, but because I had worked diligently to keep bouncing back from failures and separate the dollar amounts from my vision and big-picture goals, I had the confidence to move forward.
I lost between 3-4 clients in that switch, and took a bit of business savings to cover some gaps. But you know what? Within just one month, I completely recovered all revenue. At that time, I reinvested into the business, sent gifts to team members and began mapping out the next phase of scaling the business.
Money is not investment or profit. Money is a resource, evidence of investment or profit.
LESSON NUMBER TWO.
Life happens, and it’s important to let it.
Just around the first year mark of my business, I experienced a personal loss. Death to be exact.
I am grateful that business was slow enough at that time that I could take a break. I gave myself permission to cancel meetings, pause a successful internship program, be a bit less proactive with clients, take extended time off, and reconsider every. single. thing. about my entire life.
To be frank, just a few months after I “came back”, I wholly invested myself into my business, probably more than I should have. However, I knew I needed an outlet to escape, and I knew that burning myself out in my business would at least be worthwhile. It was. Over the course of that second year, I worked hard and hustled harder. I hit new records in my business, learned a lot about myself, gained a lot of confidence in my business, and began to grow personally to commit to healthy boundaries.
Here’s what I’m saying — life is the priority. It’s important that we give ourselves space to operate our businesses in each season the way that we need to. This looks different from one season to the next, from one person to the next, and from one business to the next. There is no one size fits all, but there are some important thing to remember to help you navigate that path. Ask yourself what you need. There’s never a wrong time to look inside and assess your own happiness, your own growth, your own peace.
I allowed myself to experience devastation, and then, I allowed myself to crash and burn….and now? Well, now I’m allowing myself to heal. My business feels better now, but most importantly, I feel better now. And, I’m better equipped to handle life’s storms in the future. I know what I have to do. I also love the opportunity to encourage others in this grace, to slow down, to let life take the lead and to really enjoy the present, to really enjoy each other.
The pace of business should be living; flexible, adaptable, yielding and honoring to the business owner. Business success does not lead to happiness. Happiness promotes business success.
Our businesses are only a brief piece of our lives, but they offer us a lot of valuable lessons. This journey as a business owner has been rewarding, challenging, exciting, and refining. I am truly grateful.