The day had finally come - I was working for myself. No more corporate politics, traveling, steady income, talking on the phone all day, mentoring others - I was on my own. It was finally here, what I had worked so hard for. Three years of keeping a full time job and trying to build a business, and I had made my dream come true.
After leaving my corporate job in December 2014, once the holidays passed I was ready to face the challenge head on of growing and maintaining my business. I was nervous, but I also realized that I had just jobs before - I was now building a career for myself. I had tried to time this perfectly, as wedding season begins in January, and it ended up being a month that I did not expect.
What I did not see coming
Thankfully, January ended up being the largest month ever in sales. What I didn't see coming was that I was overworking myself. I was so excited and constantly thinking about my business, doing emails and research in bed, that I wasn't sleeping. Since I had been working two jobs for so long, I didn't have set boundaries for when my business was open because I often answered emails first thing in the morning and well into the evening. By April I was exhausted, and needed to make a change. I started enforcing my 9-5 hours (no client emails after 4:30 pm) and probably the biggest change I made was removing my work email from my IPad. I now only accessed my emails from my computer in my studio, or on my phone when I was out. This also helped with not working in my kitchen and living room, which are places that I spend with my family.
While I knew this well in advance, my finances became a bit more complicated since I didn't have a steady paycheck. Also, my tax situation changed dramatically when I stopped working my corporate job. Thankfully, my accountant suggested that I set up payroll for myself - a huge tax savings, and it also gives me an actual paycheck, which is a better budgeting tool for me. Even nine months into this journey, this is still a work in progress, so patience is key.
While going to college at night, and then working two jobs, I had not allowed much of a social life in ten years. I struggled even more with this once I was focusing entirely on my business. My husband was asking me on the weekends if I had time to do things with him, and I started to realize that I didn't have work-life balance. With the help of setting boundaries, scheduling time for yourself and your loved ones is a crucial component to staying mentally balanced, and it does attribute to success. The article 7 Habits of People Who Have Achieved Work-Life Balance has wonderful tips on how to do this and still be successful. For small business owners, you must work hard and wear many hats, but this doesn't mean you need to put in 70 - 80 hour work weeks to achieve this. This was probably the best lesson I learned this year, and I continue to work on this today. It really helps with time management as well, and making decisions on what is the best use of my time.
I have never been a morning person, and once January came and I was only working for myself, this all changed. I started waking up much earlier naturally, so much that I shut my alarm off and haven't used it since. I was finally getting out of bed and doing something that I had passion for, and this made all the difference in the world. To this day I am still shocked that I wake up so early during the week, but this is one of the changes that I certainly didn't think would happen. I didn't realize that this was more of a mental state, and it has been a refreshing change for me.
Working From Home
Thankfully, during my last year at my corporate job I was working from home anyway, so I had plenty of practice doing this. I do feel that this lends to one's personality, and not everyone will be successful at it. It takes strong dedication, and the will power to not do other things around the house. I have heard from a few of my friends that they could never work at home, because they would be in front of the TV and would be unproductive. For me, I knew that would not be the case because my desire to succeed would trump wanting to lay on the couch and do nothing.
Have a Routine
I am going to dive into this deeper in another blog post, but having a routine is very helpful. I also recommend getting dressed - I never come downstairs without getting dressed on a work day. I don't dress how I used to when I had a corporate job (I wear what is referred to as "dressy sweats") but I do change my clothes and look presentable. Some of my other friends who own their own businesses do get dressed up, put on makeup, etc. just as they would if they were leaving. On days when I will be just in my studio I don't do this, but I do recommend not working in your pajamas, as you can be more productive if you are up and ready to face the day.
If you have children, pets, roommates, etc. these are all things that can distract you. Make sure that the time you have set aside for working on your business is just that - you are working. My biggest challenge is when my husband works from home on occasion, as I am used to working in quiet. After working in busy cubicles for years, I didn't realize that I had changed and needed to work in silence to be productive.
Words of Wisdom
Start Off on a Positive Note
If possible, if you are planning on quitting your corporate job, look at your business and the industry that it is in. Try to coordinate this when you think you will be the busiest, as this helps financially and mentally. For example, wedding season is January - July, so I chose to leave my job in December to catch the rush of orders, and not worry as much about finances.
I recommend strongly that if you lay in bed with one of your devices and have a tendency to check email, remove it from the device. Set your office hours and stick to them so clients know what to expect from you. Your customers will rarely be angry if you communicate and set expectations in advance.
Understand Your Finances
Remember, you will have ups and downs, months that are fantastic and months where you didn't sell as much or book clients. Having a solid savings plan helps with this, for when you may not be able to carry all of your monthly expenses. Hire an accountant, and know how many sales you need to make ends meet, and strive to achieve that as early as possible each month.
Whether it is sweats, or a full face of makeup, get up and get out of the pajamas! This one thing can set your entire day for you mentally, and can give you energy. If you love watching TV on the couch, this also helps with not laying around and being unproductive.
Don't Forget About You
Schedule fun events and things to do on your days off to keep you occupied and maintain a work-life balance. Also, make time to exercise, to keep yourself healthy and energized. It is easy to get caught up in building your business and forgetting about your health unless you make it a part of your daily routine.
I also strongly recommend if possible that that you have a separate room for just your business, such as an office or study with a door that can be closed off from the rest of your house. When I leave my studio every day, I shut the door and it signifies that I am done with work for the day - the other areas of my home are meant for spending time with my family, sleeping, etc. Make sure that you do not utilize your bedroom for work purposes, as this may not be enough boundaries to make you relax after a long day of working.
This will be another blog post I will write more in depth about, but having a clean, organized workspace is great for productivity. While I use my calendar for reminders, also having a desk planner where you can jot down ideas and to do lists is crucial. Here are a few great planner systems that I have used: The Simplified Planner, ShePlans, and The Day Designer.
Be Ready For The Unknown
Everyone's situations are different, as some will struggle more with working from home, others with finances, etc. Unexpected changes will occur, but remember that being the boss is one of the greatest achievements you can possibly do for yourself.
Starting your own business is life changing, even more so when you leave another job and change your routine. So many things will happen to you that will be unexpected, personally and professionally, and it is how you face the daily challenges that will define you as a business owner. It is a part of this exciting journey known as entreprenuership.