It has been one year since I have joined the ranks of the rising number of female entrepreneurs, and it has been a year of a lot of learning and fulfillment. Growing up, I never thought about being my own boss—my parents always told me it’s better to work for someone else because there’s more security in it. They’re totally right, but being my own boss has taught me so much, and while it can be stressful and even scary at times, I love it and have never been more determined to hustle and make things work out. I'm also incredibly happy. So, while I’m still learning every day, I thought I’d share with you what I learned my first year in case any of you can relate or are thinking of being your own boss, too. Or perhaps you have your own tips and struggles you want to share—we’re a community here, so feel free to share your stories!
1. Have Patience
Over the last year, my journey has evolved a few times as I have come to find my groove, what it is I really want to do, and how to do it. I really had to have patience with myself. When I first left the company I was previously at, I knew in an ideal world I'd build an independent career; but I kept my options open. I continued to look at jobs and apply for ones that would be interesting for my growth. Thankfully, I have an incredibly supportive husband who let me take my time to figure this out. Even though I had an idea as to what kind of independent career I'd build, I found that that evolved as I continued to consult and work with different people. It took me six months to fully realize what it is that I wanted to do, and another two months to figure out how to do it. Once I found my groove, I needed further patience to build up from there. But patience isn't always about things moving slowly. I have also needed patience when things are very busy, and I need to remind myself to slow down, prioritize, and not feel the need to hustle so much that I'm taking on every project that comes my way. Patience is a virtue. We all know that. And it's a virtue that I know many of us have to work at every day, especially when you become your own boss, and when you are just starting your own business. As my therapist told me, it takes 5 years to build a business and get it to a healthy place, so have patience and commit to yourself.
2. Know Your Value
Whether you work for a company or for yourself, knowing your value is of utmost importance; but especially, when you work for yourself and start your own business, knowing your value can be challenging. You don't want to out-price yourself, but you also don't want to devalue your worth and waste your time on projects that are simply not worth your time. Because I work in the creative industries, becoming independent has given me a whole new level of respect and understanding for unions. If you're trying to figure out your value and what to charge, research what others are charging in the same field and arena, and calculate your fees based on your desired and reasonable salary. Sometimes you may have to charge or start lower than your ideal fee, but as you establish your reputation and take on more clients or project, you can start raising your fees.
Beyond my own network, what really helped me get moving was realizing the freelance platforms out there that are great for helping you find gigs and clients. Fiverr and Upwork are two common and popular ones, and I have found that I preferUpwork. With Fiverr, you create gigs and people have to find your gig. I think this has changed now, but you also used to have to start at $5/gig. The reason I like Upwork better, is because I feel I can be more proactive. People post jobs they need done, and freelancers can bid on the jobs. The more jobs you do, the more people will also start reaching out to you directly to bid or send you an offer. Upwork also offers great ways to protect both you and the client. For example, if you do an hourly contract, there is a desktop app for Upwork that will track your time worked and screenshot your desktop every ten minutes. This protects both you and the client, because no one can argue the work you’re doing, and time spent doing it. Due to the good work I produce, I’ve also maintained regular as well as repeat clients.
4. It's Normal
I hear this phrase a lot. All the self-doubt, stress, lack of clarity you may feel at times…it’s all normal. Whenever I’d hit a milestone or revelation, and reflected on the timeline it took me to get there, I’d hear, “It’s normal.” Any mistakes made or lessons learned along the way, I’d hear “It’s normal.” The key is to have patience, keep learning, and keep moving forward.
5. Trust Your Gut
In my early twenties, I really learned to trust my gut. I can't say I always listen to it, but I most often find that my gut was right. Protect yourself. If something doesn’t feel right, you’re probably right.
6. There is Power in Saying No
Along the same lines of trusting your gut and knowing your value, I have learned the power of saying no. As a people pleaser, and someone who never wants to miss out on opportunity, I say “yes” a lot and probably more than I should. However, I have learned that “no” is sometimes the greater opportunity. In the right situations it can also be very empowering, because sometimes saying “no” is about knowing your value and setting standards.
7. Client Management
It wasn't until I had my first difficult client did I really start to learn and utilize some important client management skills. Even when things seem clear and straight forward, it's always best to confirm your understanding of the project, directions, and expectations. Set clear boundaries and parameters on your end, too, such as what your fee includes. Whether I'm writing an article, script, document, or other content, I have found it is very important to make sure I include how many revisions are included in my fee. Otherwise, when I do get the one difficult client, I may find myself doing endless amounts of revisions. On that note, if you find yourself stuck with a difficult client, you have to know when it is time to cut a client loose. Time is money, and we don't have either to waste!
8. Comparison is the Thief of All Joy
As you forge your own path, it's inevitable to see others succeeding, or seemingly succeeding, and then comparing your own success with their's. Remember, not everything is always what it seems, but also that comparison is indeed the thief of all joy. We all have our own stories and paths, and when you compare yourself to others, you lose sight of your own progress. Be proud of everything you accomplish, big or small.
It has been a major eye opener branching out on my own, and it has also been incredibly motivating and fulfilling. From the moment I figured out the "what," my therapist advised me to commit at least one year to figuring this out and really giving it my all without letting any outside pressure influence my decisions. You can't build anything if you only have one foot in. So, it has been six months since that point of fully committing to myself and my goals, and a lot of good things are happening, but it's still scary at times. I'm now on the other side of the table from where I used to be, so I've essentially had a career change. While I'm someone who is always learning and looking for ways to learn more, I now feel like a new student again and I have to constantly remind myself to stay positive through all the ups and downs. Patience, positivity, and sheer will and determination are what gets me through each day.
Are you your own boss? Share your stories, lessons learned, or advice in the comments below! If you found these lessons learned helpful or encouraging, remember to share the post and spread the good vibes!
BIG LOVE & HUGS