3 Words of Wisdom to the Newly (or not) Self-Employed
I find that business – like relationships, like parenting, like our health, like Life – comes into our world for one true reason. Not to make us money. Not to make us happy. But to make us grow. To show us what we get to learn.
I got (and still get) to learn a lot. In all my adult years, I’ve only been self-employed. This means 13+ years of Spiritual Growth coming at me masked behind the costume of Big Ideas. It’s been intense, exasperating, liberating, enlightening, exhausting, exciting, and mind-blowing (depending on the day or the lesson or the way I approached it).
Anytime someone is starting a business, they tend to ask questions like “How do I find the right business name?” or maybe “What do you think about this color scheme for my branding?” Necessary questions, for sure.
But what I really want to do is invite them in for tea, show them to the nearest cushy seat, and share some hard-earned sisterly wisdom. Not to freak anyone out, or turn them off from business. But to help them see through the easy parts – the excitement and fun of getting started – to the real gift of self-employment: the ways in which you get to expand. And also to share with them the wisdom I wish I had had from the very beginning so they can move through it with more grace and fewer bumps or stalls along the way.
Where would I start? With these three:
#1: As soon as you have your Big Idea, all your shit is going to start surfacing.
Yeah, sorry to break it to you, but it’s true. I tell this one to everyone who will listen, because if you don’t know it is going to happen, you’re likely to be blindsided and quite often, sidelined or seemingly sabotaged by it. By “your shit” I mean everything from your fears of putting yourself out there or not being good enough, to your bad habits, to the struggles in your family that need addressing in order to master that whole life/work balance thing. Everything that you need to examine, spend time, heal, elevate, or shift in your inner and outer world will slowly (sometimes quickly) come to the surface. This is not a bad thing. Addressing these things will be necessary for you to do in order to see the level of success you want from your business and life. They come up because now is the time to address them.
Ignoring this stuff or “pushing through it” spells doom for a business every single time. Every. Single. Time. Because the sole (soul) purpose of your business – and everything else in Life – is to wake you up to these things.
My advice: Take a deep breath and be willing to listen to what Life is showing you you get to do. Take it one step at a time, reach out for support in any area that you need, and start a practice of mindfulness (Digging Deep, meditation, observation, art journaling, morning pages) to keep yourself from being washed away with it all. Lean into the trust that this is actually the PERFECT time for these things to be happening and congratulate yourself on upping your game to such a level that Life sees you’re ready for the next step.
#2: “Making your own hours” sometimes really sucks.
Oh the myths of this lovely little fact of business. Yes, you DO make your own hours. You have the freedom to take a vacation whenever you want to. You can have mornings off to sleep in, or evenings off to spend with the family. You can go to yoga in the middle of the day, or drop everything to rush to help your aunt in a crisis. I’ve had the privilege to have the freedom for all of these, and yes, it does totally rock. A lot.
But what isn’t often told (we don’t want to scare you off, after all) is that damn near every OTHER hour in your week will be a work hour. (I think the only time I had a four hour workweek was when I took a vacation.) This is for two reasons:
- You’re going to have a lot to do. You’re the marketing department, the administrator, the brains and the brawn behind your operation. There is always something to do, tweak, try, change, fix. Until you get established (and anytime you’re in Creation Mode or Re-Creation Mode) you’re going to have a lot to do. Period. You can choose to do it slowly, spreading it out over time to maintain a (hilarious) Four Hour Workweek, but more than likely your bank account (and all the bills its paying) will want to light a little fire under your booty and get your stuff out there much faster than four hours will allow.
- Your love for what you do means you have a hard time putting it down. It’ll be on your mind as you drift off to bed (keep a notebook there for late night inspiration BTW), and the first thing as you pop awake (do not be tempted to check your emails in bed!). When you don’t actually need to work, and you have free time for other things, you’re going to find yourself suddenly inspired and having the time to look into that new program or read your favorite biz blogs or chat it up with your fellow entrepreneurs online. It just never stops, because even when it does, your creative and passionate mind won’t.
Which is the perfect segway to #3…
#3: Your first business priority has nothing to do with business.
All that passion, creativity, desire, drive, excitement that keeps you up brainstorming at night, or finds you spending waaaaaay too much time online is going to turn into something ugly real fast: Burnout. It’s a little like driving a fun, fancy race car. It’s exciting, sure. But if you’re not carefully you can drive yourself right into a wall.
Your first business priority, the thing you need as diligently as you check your emails, before you check your emails, before you do anything else, is YOU.
You can’t output-output-output (like all businesses essentially do) without some serious input. You know, cup filling. Or that terribly overused, and still oft neglected term: Self-care.
You are the core of your business. How well you function will be how well your business functions.
I don’t care how much you think your business IS filling your cup. I don’t care how much fun you’re having. Your body, mind, and spirit all need you to realize that your work is not the end-all, be-all of existence. Your body-mind-spirit needs some diversity. It needs some attention and adventure and something else lighting up its face other than the glare of your computer screen. It needs to move and stretch. It needs to sleep and rest. It needs to meditate and “do nothing”. It needs to eat without you thinking it would make a good Instagram, and have a conversation with a friend without you wondering how to format it into a blog post. It needs a life, to get away, to experience something else. If you want to have a thriving business you need to give it and you some space to breathe, percolate, and realize there is more to you than what you do. (This in fact will give you more inspiration and energy for what you actually do.)
What do you do just for you? Not for work, for Instagramming, for Facebooking…what do you do that is solely between you and you? A sacred practice, a fun adventure, that doesn’t get turned into a business idea or a marketing attempt? (Oh I know it’s hard.)
My advice: Answer that question in as many ways as possible and then schedule your self-care as the first and most important task in (and throughout) your work day. Schedule it like you’d schedule a client or customer: something you don’t cancel or double-book or multi-task your way through.
Because YOU deserve the same kind of kindness and attentiveness you give to your people.
|Tara Wagner is a guide, Soul Sister, and creator of Digging Deep and the Organic Sisterhood. Her work helps women get out of their heads, out of the boxes they’ve been living in, and drop into their hearts, their core, to allow what they do to (finally) flow organically from Who They Are. Connect with her: Blog // Instagram // Facebook|