I was having a conversation with a wonderful client this week, and we both agreed: there is a lot they don’t tell you about becoming self-employed and starting a business.
Now, I know there are plenty of blog posts and articles and books out there telling us about the late nights and how you’ll have to get used to not having paid holidays and regular income. That’s all true. But they miss something out. Something big. Something that I’ve had to deal with, and that I help clients deal with every single day.
They don’t tell you how being your own boss will act as a giant magnifying glass, making you so much more aware of your habits, beliefs and attitudes to everything.
You realise what it means to be in charge of (and responsible for) your own life, actions, decisions. There’s no one else to blame. You’re not fighting a system or a boss or a culture. Everything is down to you.
You learn about your routine-making habits. Are you good at planning your time and sticking to a routine? Or do you find it hard to stay focused on your own? You gradually, over time, learn what kind of routine works for you. You keep learning it, and re-hashing it, because it changes.
The giant magnifying glass will blow up your beliefs about self-care so that they’re the Empire State Building. For months, I let exercise – even a walk in the park – become less important than emails or social media or just “getting ahead”. I let my work become more important than my body and wellbeing. I’ve had to examine that habit, because it doesn’t reflect what I actually believe.
Being self-employed will highlight every single thing you believe about money – how you earn it, how you spend it, what’s worth investing in. You’ll start to see where your fear crops up around investing. If it’s there, you’ll discover that you’re not naturally inclined to keep track of your expenses. Or perhaps, like some of my clients, you worry about every investment decision and keep yourself blinkered to what’s possible.
You will uncover a whole host of beliefs about your worth and your work’s value. What to charge? How to market? What have you been secretly believing about what marketing means? That you should just magically get customers without putting yourself out there? That you find it excruciating to put yourself out there? That you’re afraid of pissing people off by trying to make money doing what you love?
This is a particular area I’ve been thinking and learning about as part of my Playing Big training with Tara Mohr. The transition from “good student” to being out in the world of work, where the rules are very different. At school, we can quietly write essays and learn the rules and get good grades. It’s not easy, but we don’t have to put ourselves out there. In the world of work and business, we have to do the good work, make the good stuff AND talk about it. A lot. More than might feel comfortable. We have to get good at talking about it, so people know about our work. They don’t tell you about this discomfort and deep well of self-belief you have to build to combat it.
You’ll ask yourself questions like: Where are your boundaries? Are you worth the effort it takes to build, maintain and grow a business? Are you even capable of it? Can you ask for help? What if they (anyone) discover you’re not coping well? What does failure even mean?
You’ll find out that a lot of things don’t feel comfortable, and you’ll figure out how to deal with them.
I feel grateful that I had been working on my beliefs about my work, my worth, about money and time and quality and authenticity for years before I started my business. But even with the years of work and shifting beliefs, the enormity of the magnifying glass has still thrown any lingering doubt and fear and shame into bright and shocking light.
And I feel proud of myself for continuing to dive into all these beliefs and work through them. It’s absolutely essential to my work as a mentor, coach, consultant and retreat leader. It’s through looking through my own magnifying glass that I can guide my clients through working on their own stuff. I have the empathy and experience to have the conversations, question the beliefs, look at things differently. But I didn’t get here overnight.
So. If you’re reading this before you become self-employed, don’t be put off, but know that you’ve got a road ahead of you, and it includes some steep bits!
If you’re reading this as your own boss already, note which bits still stand out for you.
Either way, know that this magnifying glass business is a LOT easier and healthier when you have good, strong, appropriate support. A mentor or coach. A supportive network who truly gets it. A friend who can truly listen without sticking their own stuff in there.
The best, best thing you can do for yourself and your business is to be really honest about what’s going on. Struggling to keep up with your profit and loss? Explore the beliefs and old habits that are holding you back. Finding it difficult to share your products and market your business? Maybe it’s not just about it being ‘time-consuming’ – maybe you also have some beliefs about making your voice heard.
You may need someone to sit with you while you realise that you have these beliefs and habits holding you back. Find the right person, and while you do, hear this from me: It’s okay. You’re going to be okay. We all have limiting beliefs and struggles. They’re not the end of the world. You can get through them, even if it’s not today.
Deep breaths and cups of tea help.