Last week marked exactly three full years in business, which prompted a full-scale reflection (aka, I scrolled all the way back on my Instagram and had a good, nostalgic cry). What worked? Where did I slip up a little and learn a lot? What advice would I give to someone just starting a creative biz?
So I wrote this for you: The 3 Biggest Lessons from 3 Years in Biz. Feel free to comment below with any questions or insights from your own experiences.
LESSON 1: FIND THE TYPE OF STRESS THAT WORKS FOR YOU.
I think the big misconception (I had it too before starting my business) is that self-employment is the answer to all of your woes. When you're at a soul-sucking job that makes you dread Sunday nights more than a trip to the dentist, the idea of quitting it all and working for yourself sure does seem grand. But maybe what you need is a new job, not to start your own.
What if I told you there is no one answer that'll make all of your work-related stress go away? You can't avoid stress; you just have to find the type that works best for you.
The type of stress that works for me: worrying about bills, debt, and if I can make ends meet this month; finding self-motivation when all I want to do is crawl back into bed; making sacrifices in my personal life for my business; working well over 40 hours/week at times; making big decisions for my business without input from others; feeling creatively stuck and having to find my way out of it; balancing art and business.
The type of stress that doesn't work for me: being expected to stick to a daily schedule; not being able to take time off whenever I want; going into an office or work location every day; working on a boss's timeline; not being able to control the higher-level operations of where I work.
I know people who would MUCH prefer the second type of stress, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. Sometimes I wish I would prefer the other kind, because running your own ship can get really exhausting. Ultimately, though, I wouldn't trade it.
This path takes time and dedication, just like any other. It's a cliche, but there really are no overnight successes. There is no substitute for hard work and consistency -- showing up every day and plugging along. You might feel like you're going at a snail's pace, and you have to be okay with that. Just know the lows happen -- stress happens -- regardless of whether you're working for yourself or someone else. You just have to get really honest with yourself and decide, which one works best for you?
LESSON 2: YOU NEED TO FEEL EXCITED BY YOUR VISION.
I truly believe the only way I've made it this far in business is because of my pure excitement and vision. You HAVE to be excited by what you're doing. Your heart has to be in it, otherwise you're gonna burn out oh-so fast.
Perhaps an even greater challenge than finding your initial excitement is keeping your excitement level high throughout the years. Of course there will be moments of low energy, even complete creative silence. This is when you have to shift gears, try something new, or take your biggest risk yet to find the vision that will pull you out of your funk.
I like to approach everything in my business as an experiment, and I think this has helped me not get stuck in one idea of how my business should be. You try something, see how it feels, and you pivot. This fluidity has helped me find the excitement I need to wake up every day and give it all I've got.
LESSON 3: DO IT.
If you've realized this way of life will work for you and have a vision you're truly excited about, do it. You'll regret not trying.
Especially while you're young(er) and have less financial and general life responsibilities, just DO IT. You can always go back to what's familiar. This is the one life we've got for certain, why not give it a shot?
I hope my ramblings might give you a bit of insight in you're considering making the leap to being fully self-employed. As always, feel free to comment below with any questions or reach out to me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org. I'd love to hear from you!