Working for yourself is something many women want, especially later in life. And it’s something you can make your reality. It is possible for you to have your own business and work for yourself.
You only have to carry out an online search and you’ll see, there’s lots of advice, courses, programmes and coaches out there, that can help make it a reality for you. Many of which will promise you an easy route to success or the lifestyle you’re dreaming of.
There’s no shortage of success stories out there
It’s easy to go online and see lots of women making a success of running their businesses. You only have to follow them on social media, and you’ll have an endless supply of photos, statuses and success stories - and that’s fine.
But often, the focus is always on the upside of working for yourself. You don’t always get to see behind the curtain, as far too few female business owners are willing to share that side of self employment. They won’t show you how much work and time it took, to build the lifestyle they now have. They’re not always willing to admit when they’ve stumbled or made mistakes - and some don’t even give you an honest reflection of their current reality.
Working for yourself has its up and downsides
Working for yourself can be totally rewarding and exhilarating but, as with anything, it also has its downsides.
If you’re currently thinking about starting your own business, you need to know both the good and bad sides of working for yourself, so you’re prepared for the journey ahead. And if you’re currently running your own business and feeling out of your depth or overwhelmed, I hope this article will help you realise what you’re experiencing is normal, you’re not failing and you’re on the right path!
So without further ado, here’s what I’d consider to be the top 10 ugly truths you need to hear about working for yourself.
#1: You will doubt yourself
Let’s face it, when you’re working for yourself it can sometimes feel that you doubt every decision you make! You’ll feel like throwing in the towel on a regular basis and will question your sanity at various stages of your self employed journey.
But also be aware that this is normal! All businesswomen, no matter how accomplished they are, feel this. The key is to work on your self-belief and to also work through any fear that may arise - because it will, at some stage or another! Mel Robbins has great advice for rewiring your brain and that self doubt - check out this video:
It’s our job to work on our own limitations. But it’s also our job to ensure we stay motivated as female entrepreneurs. As Shailaja V mentions in her blog article on how to stay motivated:
“It’s nobody’s job to motivate you, other than yourself”
So what are you going to do, to work on your fears and self doubts - because you need an action plan, if they’re things that need addressing.
[Need help with your self doubt? This ‘She Owns It’ blog shares 7 unusual ways you can conquer self-doubt.]
#2: Your to-do list will always have things outstanding
There will be a million and one things to do - and you won’t get them all done. In fact, the truth is you will always have things on that list. When you’re working for yourself you are in charge of everything, so it’s understandable that you will always have things you can do, to improve, tweak, run, grow, experiment and analyse.
The key here though, is to differentiate between what needs doing today/this week - and what would be nice to do, at some stage. Get yourself a clear routine in place for prioritising and scheduling out your time.Spend your first 15 minutes each morning, going through your tasks for each day. Take 30 minutes at the end of each week, planning out your week ahead - and plan out your promotions and goals for each quarter in advance.
Look to automate as much as possible, use business tools that will benefit your business and save time/effort, and ensure you’re repurposing your content, to maximise the potential of everything you create.
#3: Work life balance is a myth
When you’re working for yourself, there’s always going to be a grey area between work and home life. You’ll not be able to find a balance, as there isn’t a clear line between the two. The best you can hope for is an acceptable level of integration. You don’t get to go home at the end of the day and leave it all behind. Work will creep into your non-working hours, your thoughts and sometimes, your dreams. It’s like a little earworm that gets into your brain and won’t go away!
The key is to know what is acceptable to you. Set your boundaries and know when to switch off from work. If it helps, carry a notebook around with you, so you can jot down ideas and random things you need to do, once you’re back at work. This way, you get them out of your head and focus back on being in non-work mode.
But also, be honest with yourself and honour your own boundaries. If you want to work 6 hours a day - do that. Don’t sit there and continue working after your day is up. Honour yourself enough to get up, close your laptop for the day and walk away from your desk.
Check out this article over on the VACT site. It helps you understand what work-life integration is, as well as some handy advice for achieving it in your life: Work-life integration: How to achieve it.
#4: You will get lonely
There will be times when you’ll stop working and sit back in your chair, cup of tea in hand, contemplating how you currently feel - and you’ll feel a little lonely. For some, it’s a feeling akin to deflation, for others, it feels more like you’re lost or adrift in some way. And as we all know, loneliness can easily lead to depression, if it’s left unchecked.
Working in an office gives you access to people. You can have a casual coffee and a chat during working hours. Some even find the background buzz of a busy office, a good sound to have.
But when you work for yourself, there’s no one to talk to and no one to share your excitement, fears and dreams with. You want someone who’s in the thick of it with you, to bounce ideas off or share frustrations with. You also need to be ok with your own company and you may even find the quietness around you, a little disconcerting.
This is when you need to be honest with yourself and admit that you’re feeling lonely, Get yourself either a coach or a business buddy. At the very least, join a couple of business networking groups (on or offline) and get interacting. Take yourself to the local coffee shop and work from there, or just reach out and call/text/PM a friend. Please don’t struggle through it alone.
#5: It will look like you’re the only one who hasn’t got your shit together
Social media can give us a really warped view of other people’s personal and business lives. On my own business journey I’ve followed lots of women in business, women who seem to have everything they want. But over time, I’ve also seen female entrepreneurs:
- Split with their partners and share how unhappy they were
- Confess to everything being fake in their life
- Own up to having big figure sales income - but even bigger expenses
- Take a massive direction change as they weren’t happy
- Shut their business down and get themselves a regular 9-5 job
The key here is this - you do not know what really goes on in other people's personal and professional lives. So stop comparing your journey to theirs, your lifestyle to theirs, and your business to theirs.
If you need help with comparisonitis - check out Marie Forleo’s video on it, below:
#6: Working for yourself will involve an investment of both money and time
I’ve heard it a lot of times - if you want to succeed in business, it will take an investment of either time or money. Unfortunately, that quote is wrong. The reality is, this quote should read:
“If you're self-employed, your business is going to need an investment of both time & money, if you want it to be a success.”
Working for yourself and running your own business means you need to part with both time and money. Yes, if you have more money, you can outsource and invest in automation tools etc, so you can spend less time on your business - but you will still need to spend a decent time on it. And, if you have a lot of time to invest in your business, you can spend it on more promotional activities, engaging on social media and writing great content etc - but you are still going to need to invest some money in your business, to grow it.
By its very nature, an online business will need you to invest in it, right from the beginning. You need hosting, a website domain and basic mailing list, to even get started. You can get free email marketing platforms, but they are still limited in their functionality. You can also use a free website creator, but you’ll be sacrificing professionalism and will often find you have to pay for the functionality you need.
I’m all for bootstrapping and saving money where you can. But the problem is, you can often fall into the trap of spending far too much time, trying to find a free or cheap workaround. It’s far better to invest in something now, that can do everything you need it to do,so you don’t have the hassle of having to move, further down the line.
#7: There are no magic solutions or blueprints
The problem with the online world is there are a lot of targeted adverts aimed at you. Yes, you’ll see products, courses and programmes that promise you 'the secret’ to success and ‘‘solutions’ to solve every business problem you have. There’ll even be blueprints that supposedly give you the exact words, templates, step-by-steps etc, to guarantee your business is a success.
But when you read the fine print, you see they’re not guaranteeing income levels, client numbers, success levels and even any real guarantee for anything!
Because there is no magic solution or blueprint that will have all the answers you need.
The best someone can offer you is the blueprints and the steps that worked for them. All results will vary, as your attitude, circumstances, dedication, available time and anything else, will not be the same as there’s.
So please stop wasting time and money looking for something that doesn’t exist. If you want to, use their blueprints and how-to’s as guidance for creating your own plan - but then put in the effort needed, to implement actions that work for you. And if it works, great! But if it doesn’t, don’t beat yourself up. Simply chalk it up as a learning experience - before tweaking your plan and trying again!
#8: It will take lots of time to get started and patience to keep going
Carrying in the same vein - there are no shortcuts to business success. No one can give you a deadline for when you’ll be a success and achieve all you want to achieve.
Running your own business is something that will take time and patience. You need to get comfortable with both.
I’m notoriously bad at estimating how long something will take me. I need to figure out a time, double it and then add a little more - that’s how bad I am at estimating time. But I’m ok with that - because I know I’m bad at estimating time! I’ve found a way of managing it, that works for me and keeps me from getting impatient at how long something is taking me.
Working for yourself is something that takes time. You need to find your own way of coming to terms with that, without it playing havoc with your levels of patience. Because if you get frustrated by the time something takes, you’re not focusing on your goals and actions. And if you’re getting inpatient, you’re going to get frustrated and start wasting time looking for magic solutions that aren’t there (check out point #7!).
#9: You’ll always be learning
Working for yourself means you need to learn how to wear a lot of hats! If you’re doing everything yourself, you are going to find yourself taking crash courses on the different elements of running a business and being online.
And that’s ok. In fact, it’s perfectly normal and, with the online world being in a constant state of change, you need to get comfortable with knowing you’re always going to have something to learn.
The key here though, is to make sure you’re not spending so much time learning, you never actually implement what you’ve learnt. This is one of the mistakes I’ve made in my business. I’m a complete course magpie. I ended up having to give my credit card to my husband to hide it from me, and putting myself on a course lock down so I didn’t buy or sign up for anything else.
You need to be comfortable with learning, but also know that you’ll only be able to do so much yourself. Limit how many courses you’ll do this year and plan them (and their implementation) into your planner in advance. If you find yourself learning something you really don’t enjoy doing or that takes up too much of your time, see how you can either cut it out of your business or outsource it.
#10: And it will never be ‘done’
Running your own business is a journey, not a destination. Sometimes that's a hard pill to swallow, especially when you’re looking for results or wanting to narrow down your to-do list. It can be overwhelming at times, knowing there’s never a finish line to cross - but it’s the nature of running your own business.
The problem is, there are so many people out there promising laptop lifestyles and 6-7 figure months. And if you’re currently sat in a position where you’re in a job you hate or have just starting your own business, you have a kind of end destination in mind - and often, that’s the very thing they’re promising! But even if you reach them, there’ll always be more - because business is never done and neither are your lifestyle dreams.
We’re often told to ‘reach high and go big’, and that’s ok. But what if you’re not looking for high and big - you just want normal? And what if big is a nice dream to have, but deep down, it’s not really something you want.
The ‘go big or go home’ advice can work, but it’s also something that can be a dangerous road to follow. It’s the difference between fantasising about something and yet knowing you don’t really want it to ever happen.
At times, that can feel a little depressing, especially when you’re starting out. But it’s also what makes it so appealing. I know there are some women in business who do want a big lifestyle and big figures etc, and that’s ok for them - but just make sure you’re chasing your own dream and not a fantasy.
Many of us don’t really want the laptop lifestyles and the 6-7 figure income - what we really want is a life that we consider normal to us. We want to be able to pay our bills, provide for our families and do something we enjoy for a living - something we can do on our own terms and that fits into our idea of what a comfortable life is.
And that’s why ‘it’ is never done. At its core your business is less about goals and financial figures, and more about passion and living a life, your way - and it’s only ever ‘done’, when you are.
Working for yourself is something many women want, especially later in life. And it’s something you can make your reality. It is possible for you to have your own business and work for yourself, but you need to go into it, knowing both the ups and downsides.
It’s only when you have an accurate picture of what working for yourself looks like, that you can see past the illusions and gloss often spread around social media and the online world. Far too many self employed women get discouraged by their own lack of progress - simply because they didn’t know what was really normal.
By sharing the 10 ugly truths above, I’m hoping you can see that no matter what stage you’re at, working for yourself is a journey without an end. What’s important is that you go down your own path, safe in the knowledge that you will at times feel excited and motivated, but also lost and clueless at others - and it’s all perfectly normal, understandable and totally expected.
So now it’s over to you! What did you takeaway from this article? How did you find the action steps and advice - did it help? I’d love to hear your thoughts, opinions and any questions you may have on working for yourself, so do please drop a comment below - and I’ll make sure to reply!
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