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Today, I hit the three years in business mark. I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: the decision to open and run my own business has been one of the most transformative decisions of my life. I started the business during an incredibly challenging period of my life, both personally and professionally and while I’ll spare you the gory details, I am incredibly proud to be where I am today.

As with everything in life, being a business owner has its pros and cons and it’s definitely not for everyone. For where I am at right now, it’s a great fit for the lifestyle that makes me content – will that change? Maybe (if I were psychic, I’d be using my talents elsewhere). What I know for sure is that you can never really know what something is truly like until you’ve walked the walk. Reading and hearing about something is very different to doing it day-in, day-out and the grass always looks greener on the other side. So to celebrate my business’ third birthday, I’m going to share a few hard truths about business life that you can either hopefully relate to, or use to make an informed decision about whether this career choice is for you if you’re standing on the brink.

 

When I wake up in a cold sweat at 3am in the morning, one thing comes to mind…

 

My business. Honestly, as soon as my eyes open for whatever reason, something business related pops into my head. It could range from thinking, ‘did I pay that invoice?’ to my mind completely racing about how to deal with a certain situation. During super stressful times, I find it almost impossible to switch my brain off and the number of hours I’ve lost to insomnia, mostly because of this business, is likely to be scary. Like the final scene of The Blair Witch Project scary!

 

The pressure is always on when it comes to money

 

I look back on the days when I knew my wage would hit my bank account on a certain date each fortnight or month, rather fondly. When you run a business, all bets are off. Some months can be exceptional money-wise and others, well, let’s just say that things didn’t go to plan. Unless you’ve mastered completely detaching from your situation (I certainly haven’t), the ebb and flow of financials will take you on a rollercoaster of emotions. Some months and especially after tax time, I often question my life choices… if you’re starting your own business so that you can roll around, marinating in money, take a step back. Sure, if you get all of your ducks in a row, there’s no reason you can’t make a good living but in my experience, it’s not easy to make exceptional amounts of money in business. And considering all of the hours you put in – remember, this ain’t no 9am to 5pm gig – it can be very deflating when you get real with yourself and ask the kind of questions you might expect from a nasty relative:

 

  • As a woman flying solo, how am I ever going to be able to afford a property given the current market?
  • How many ‘bad months’ am I going to give myself before I take action?
  • What am I going to do if x,y,z happens?

Being good at what you do won’t necessarily translate into a successful business

 

I’ve written about this one before and experienced some pushback but I stand by my thoughts. Of course, you need to be talented at whatever you’ve chosen as your expertise but business demands more of you. On every level. Unless you’re in a partnership or you’re coming into business with a decent amount of funds behind you, consider yourself promoted. You’re now not only the Communications expert but the admin lead, the bookkeeper, the salesperson… you get the drift. You also need to have a holistic approach to business and have a good balance between being a risk taker and being logical: ultimately, it’s not about what only comes into the business, it’s also about what’s going out and what you’re left with at the end of the day. You can’t operate at a loss forever.

 

Contrary to popular belief, your business isn’t solely about what you want to do

 

Your business is about the problems you solve for your target market. The value you provide with whatever product/service you’re offering. While business does involve experimenting and validating your offers, there are times when things you genuinely enjoy doing, won’t be in demand within the market, forcing you to pivot. You can spend epic amounts of time being disappointed and frustrated or you can move onto something else, the choice is yours.

 

All of the above makes running a business one of the most mentally taxing things you’ll ever do

 

To be completely honest, these are the paragraphs I struggled over for the longest. I highlighted and deleted them so many times but hey, I didn’t go down this path to be half-arsed about how I do things. All of the above results in a lot of pressure on any one person’s shoulders and there are times when I’ve really struggled to cope. Nothing on an extreme level but I’m very well aware of the anxiety and dips in my mood, which is largely dependent on my business. We’re all human – load anyone up with this amount of stress and if they weren’t struggling, I’d be surprised. As an ambitious woman, even when I achieve something, my mind defaults to, ‘okay, what’s next?’

In recent times (and also, I’m now 30, I can’t get away with what I did at 20), my health has forced me to make self-care a priority. What’s the point of having a highly successful business if I’m not healthy enough to serve my audience and to enjoy the journey? All of the stresses and pressures are still there but by being mindful of them, I can do some really simple things to help me stay sane. Going for a walk, breathing exercises for 10 minutes, reading inspirational quotes… these small, manageable things really do make all the difference. Finding one or two trusted people (emphasis on the word ‘trusted’) who can listen to you through the tougher times is also invaluable. Just be careful who you pour your heart out to.

Running a business is incredibly rewarding and it’s seen me meeting and working with some truly inspirational and phenomenal people. There’s something special about building something from scratch, largely by yourself. It is, however, integral that we communicate the business owner’s journey in a transparent fashion so that we’re not playing a part in depicting a glamorous lifestyle that frankly, is not real.

Are you a business owner? Thinking of starting a business? Share your thoughts below.

Sarah Cannata

Founding editor at This Woman Can
Sarah Cannata is the founding editor of This Woman Can and is the author of the picture book, Willow Willpower. She's a self-confessed introvert who believes quality storytelling can change the world.
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