The everyday challenges of being my own boss.
One of the best parts of running my own business? Being my own boss. Also one of the most difficult ones. Not because I wish for someone to tell me what to do - there's a reason why I decided to pursue building my own business and not going into employment again, believe me - but because I, and I alone, am responsible. For everything.
From making sure that I have enough shipping material to publishing a blog post and reminding myself of the promotion that needs to happen, from invoicing on time and following up if the invoice hasn't been paid to writing holiday cards and making sure I still see my friends and family and partner - all of it is my responsibility.
So when I received a newsletter reader question recently asking me to share the everyday challenges of being my own boss it really hit home. But! No challenge without a solution, so I put together a little overview of my main everyday challenges together with the solutions I've come up with.
Also - as you might know, I love learning from other creative bosses. I'd love to hear how you deal with the challenges that come with running your own business - would you care to share in the comments below?
Challenge #1: SO many things to remember.
Which documents do I need to send to the tax advisor again? Shit, did I already send out that follow up Etsy review email or not? There are thousands (yes, really!) small and huge things you need to remember if you're your own boss. There's no one there to remind you of anything.
Solution #1: Writing checklists.
My preferred solution? I write checklists. For everything. From the most mundane things - like what to do when to reorder labels - to more complicated ones like the 6 places I need to check for incoming invoices when I submit my monthly receipts to my tax advisor. Every time a repetitive task comes up, I look up the related checklist (mine are all hosted in Evernote) and simply, stupidly, follow it. This has saved my ass more times than I can count.
Challenge #2: Managing energy.
No one tells you when to sleep. No one reminds you to have lunch. No one says "Hey, you could REALLY use a vacation!". It's all on you. You need to figure out when and how much to sleep, you need to remember to eat something every once in a while, and you need to force yourself to go on that trip with your partner and DO the vacation even though there are 53492 things still on your idea list.
Solution #2: get to know yourself.
First things first - you need to know if you're low on energy or not. Observe yourself. Are you cranky? Are you eating shitty fast food? Are you snapping at everyone, including your cats? Chances are, your energy is low.
Secondly, you need to know what you can do to fill your energy reserves up again. Does meeting up with friends recharge you? Or an evening alone on the couch with your knitting? Being aware of how much energy you still have and how you can replenish your energy reserves are two things you absolutely need to know when you run your own business. Your biggest asset in running this operation is YOU. If you're not well, your business is not well.
I learned over time that I need time alone to recharge so now I make sure to only commit to max. 3 evenings "out" per weeks. The rest is reserved for me (and usually spend with my knitting and Netflix or a good book. Yeah, I know how to party.).
Challenge #3: Motivating yourself when you're not motivated at all.
Some days suck. Some days you wake up and you feel like crap and you just want to curl up in bed and watch Netflix and do nothing the entire day.
Some tasks suck. Sometimes you absolutely need to finish something, but you really, really, really want to go out for a long, long walk instead.
And there's no one to kick your butt but you.
Solution #3: Analyse. Decide. Work - or don't. Be okay with the decision.
Analyse the situation. Do you need to push through or can you do something different? If you need to finish up the 123 missing bags for your new wholesaler today because they need to go out tomorrow because they open shop the day after tomorrow, there's no way you can postpone that. If that is the case, then make the thing that you're not motivated to do at all fun. Turn on some podcasts, or really loud music, or get your best friend over to help you with sewing.
Can you get away with not working? Then don't force yourself. THIS is the really awesome part about being your own boss. You can choose to work when you're most productive - and to not work when it doesn't result in anything good. Take today off. Do something you love. Work on Saturday instead. Or tomorrow night.
Trust yourself and that you will find flow again.
Challenge #4: You have no idea what to do.
There are days when you won't know what do anymore. You don't know why the last shop update failed. You have no idea how your next collection should look like. You don't know how to put text on Snapchat (yeah, happened.)
Solution #4: Ask for help.
Someone you know has been through this before - I guarantee it. Don't be afraid to ask for help! It's a bit easier if you already built up your network of creatives, friends, partners - online and / or in real life - but even if you don't have a strong network yet, reach out to someone and ask them how they've done certain things. In 99% of cases people are REALLY nice and they want to help!
Just make sure you ask for something concrete. Don't ask something like "Can you explain to me how to set up an Etsy shop?". There are tutorials for that. Ask something like "I'm currently setting up an Etsy shop, and I am stuck writing my Terms and Conditions. The ones you have on your site look really awesome - could you point me to the person who wrote them for you?"
Challenge #5: Fucking things up and having no one to blame.
Oops. You fucked up really bad. You sent an empty package to a customer. You didn't finish the website on time. You misremembered the name of the girlfriend of the friend of yours that should go on that embroidered pouch. (Luckily, none of that has happened yet to me, but I believe some of it might. You never know.) And the worst part? It's your fault. Entirely and utterly your own fault. And you know it and it EATS away at you. There's no boss to blame, no one who could have told you otherwise, no team member or employee who might have said something or spotted something.
Solution #5: Own it. Say you're sorry. Learn from it.
Welcome to life. It's generally a good idea to look for the fault in your own corner first. Usually it's something you did wrong, it's not a world-wide conspiracy against you. Having this realization is tough and hard and hurts, but honestly? This is the ONE thing you need to go through if you want to own a successful business. Because you are going to do wrong things and fail and the only way that you can deal with that and turn it into something good is to learn from it.
First though - apologize. Say how sorry you are. If you are not sorry, then maybe you should go back to employment. Good service is important, no matter what you do. Then, sit down and think about what you could do to prevent something like that from happening again (good idea is to think about checklists - see #1 up above). And - let it go when you have the feeling you've learned everything you could from it.
I'd love to hear how you deal with the challenges that come with running your own business - would you care to share in the comments below?