Happy Friiiiiday! I have some exciting news…today is my birthday! Well, not my birthday exactly, but my business’s. See, one year ago today, I was waking up in a tiny Tokyo apartment with both the crushing and exciting realization that I was now
unemployed a self-employed entrepreneur. The day before was spent cleaning out my desk at the Japanese high school where I’d been a teacher and saying my goodbyes to the students, business casual slacks, and train-ride commute. I’d made the decision to quit my job because I knew I enjoyed blogging and graphic design more than anything else I’d ever done, and I wondered, “Can I actually make a living from this?” Luckily, the answer was “Yes.”
The past 365 days have taught me a whole freakin’ lot, and today I’m here to share what I’ve learned — the good, the bad, the everything.
1. It feels more natural. When I worked for other people, I had to wait to eat, even if I was hungry. A ten-minute pick-me-up nap would have been weird, even if it would have helped me do my job better thereafter. Now, I feel much more in touch with what my body and mind need to keep me going. Instead of waiting for a set time to do things, I do them when it feels right.
2. Small successes feel absolutely incredible. When I worked for other people, achievements in our business were still exciting, but they never really felt like my successes — they were the company’s, the school’s, or someone else’s. Now, every step forward motivates me, because I know what it took me to achieve. It just feels good to know that I earn everything I receive. It’s kind of surreal for me to think about sometimes. I feel more in control of my life than ever before.
3. For someone who sets her own schedule, taking vacations is actually harder than it was when I worked for someone else. When I was a teacher, I had a specific amount of vacation days every year. On those vacations, I didn’t have to think about work AT ALL. Now that I’m running each aspect of my business, not checking my email or social media for a week would be close to impossible. I’m still able to get away sometimes (usually with lots of pre-planning), but I can’t ever really detach myself from my business completely.
4. The only ceiling is your work ethic. Instead of working my way up the food chain at a corporate job, I’ve realized that when running your own business, the only food chain is how hard you choose to work. If you hustle the crap out of your business (and use a little know-how), I am 99% confident that you will succeed.
5. You will have 900 ideas. Pick one. Maybe two. If you start a small business with some success, I feel like your mind shifts. It’s like a little alarm telling you that you did something you once thought impossible, and now nothing really seems very impossible. It’s rad and fun and liberating, but with it, comes the fact that you will now have 5 million not-so-impossible ideas that you totally, definitely, want to do. Picking one or two to pursue can be very difficult, but if you choose carefully, can also be very, very awesome.
6. People may not understand, but that’s ok. Friends and family may not always get it, and I’ve had people assume I was poor or jobless just because my job is a little different from the norm. This can be frustrating, especially when you’re busting your butt and seeing great results. But I’ll tell you something: you don’t have to get a job that other people understand in order to be happy or successful. And if it’s important to you, find ways to share what you do in a way that people get. Usually, they want to understand what you do and they want to support you, they just don’t know how.
7. You have to (HAVE TO) reach out to people. Honestly, working from home and by myself can get a little lonely. I think I’m pretty good at dealing with it because I enjoy alone time, but even I go a little stir crazy if I don’t get out and see people enough. I also find it so soul-enriching to connect with other people who run their own businesses or have similar careers. Sometimes, I really suck at reaching out to people, but it’s something I’ve been trying a lot harder to work on.
8. It’s amazing what a shower and a little make-up can do. Sometimes I work in my PJs, but I feel so much better when I shower and put a little effort into getting ready. I think that how you look can have a direct impact on how you feel and feeling good in your business is important.
9. If you’re thinking about it, DO ITTTTT. I’m a firm believer that things always work out. Even if they don’t at first, THEY WILL. You just have to keep fighting through. If you have an idea and a skill that you’re interested in pursuing, then you can more than make it work. The biggest failure of most small businesses is that they were never started in the first place. If you have an idea, try it out! I’ll be here, rooting for you.