The Truth About Being an Entrepreneur
Pop that bubbly!! It's #NationalEntrepreneursDay and I'm taking a moment to celebrate 🍾 and to be REAL with you guys. Along with owning Bonnie Bryant Creative, I also have a side business, Foster & Flourish, with the best biz partner ever, Tessie Reveliotis.
I've always wanted to own my own business, and on the good days, entrepreneurship is everything I've ever dreamed about and more - hanging on my sofa in my PJs, with my dog and my laptop, with HGTV or NPR on in the background. Not having to ask for time off. Not having to deal with a jerk boss or difficult coworkers. Not having to fight for recognition or a raise, because I have the control over my own destiny.
But it can also be really hard. It's worth it, but it's hard. It requires self-discipline. It requires an enormous amount of self-confidence that I haven't always had - a skill I'm working on with a fantastic support system and an equally fantastic therapist. There can be a constant sense of urgency - you need to always be finding work, because when you finish all your freelance projects you won't have any more money coming in. The sense of accomplishment at building a successful business is unparalleled, but there's a lot of hard work and heartache to get there.
I want to be real with you guys, and to show you the truth behind the pretty pictures. I'm doing this because sometimes we only talk about the success, and not the blood, sweat, and literal tears that went into it - and I feel like this can discourage people from becoming entrepreneurs.
"It's so easy for her," I always thought when I was grinding at a 9-5 that I hated. I thought that I'd need a really rich husband or a trust fund, neither of which I had, to become an entrepreneur and own my own business. I literally could not envision how I could make it work - how I could make enough money on my own to cover my half of our living expenses.
But my job was slowly killing my soul - I had a toxic manager and the work environment had become untenable. I couldn't eat or sleep due to the stress. I started to have panic attacks, and to slip into a deep depression. I realized that I couldn't live like this anymore, and sent in my resignation letter, with a few thousand in my savings account and not much of an idea of what I was going to do next.
A year and a half later, I'm running a successful business with steady work. My passive income, my online shop, is KILLING IT. I'm building a very special, meaningful side business with a fantastic business partner, my friend Tessie. Things are really good right now, at this moment - but, again, let's be honest. A few weeks ago I was majorly stressing out because I had finished up all my projects and needed new work. Things worked out, like they always do, but entrepreneurship is a roller coaster ride - and not always a fun one. It's like the rickety old wooden ones that are really fun when you're going down and enjoying the ride, but terrifying and you feel like you're gonna die when you're going up.
I wanted to share some more honesty, especially for the other aspiring boss babes who are struggling. Or who hate their 9-5 but don't know how to make it out. So here we go:
I come from a place of privilege: my husband's job provides health care and enough money to cover half (and sometimes, when work is slow for me, more than half) of our bills. I'm so lucky for this and without it, I'd have to have an office job because I wouldn't be able to afford to live! I also have retirement savings set up - nothing extravagant, and I can't access it till I'm 65, but the compound interest means I don't need to worry SO much about a 401k or pension. So if you're working the 9-5 grind along with your side hustle - RESPECT. You gotta do what you gotta do, and it's important that to me to acknowledge the many privileges (socioeconomic, racial, "invisible backpack" stuff for all you sociology majors) that allow me to be where I am. This would really frustrate me when I worked my 9-5 jobs - I'd see girls who came from major family money and who had husbands who worked at hedge funds start their own interior design firms, and act like they had pulled themselves up by their bootstraps when really they had been born on third base. While I'm not a trust fund baby and my husband works a regular middle-class job, it's still important for me to acknowledge the privileges in my own life and be honest about them.
I started my Etsy shop 5 1/2 years ago. Every month since September of this year has been my best month yet, and it's awesome that my passive income is killing it - FINALLY. But it took FIVE LOOOOOOONG YEARS to happen. Months where I got no orders. Times when I was like, "Maybe I just suck at this?" There's no such thing as an "overnight success." If anyone tells you they were an overnight success, they're either lying or not acknowledging their privilege.
I have the best clients EVER - by design. I politely say, "Boy, bye" to people who aren't a good fit. My policy is to not take on clients that I wouldn't want to get coffee with outside of work - so ZERO creeps, jerks, etc. But I didn't always! My first year of business, I just needed money. So I took on everyone, and learned some major lessons about types of clients with whom I DIDN'T want to ever work again. Basically the formula in a nutshell is 1) trust your gut and 2) raise your prices so the people who truly value you will hire you, and the cheap jerks will walk away. I have some former client horror stories, but I like to see them as lessons learned.
All those cheesy platitudes that seemed lame before now ring SO TRUE since I've owned my own business. I'm kind of embarrassed to admit this, as I've never really been into "inspirational quotes" or anything, but now when I see them I think, "YES." But seriously - you need to have faith (not in a religious sense, unless that's your thing - more of a "This will work out" type of way). You need to have confidence. You need to believe in yourself. You're worth it. You deserve happiness. You can do it. Like seriously - the other day I felt emotionally moved by the Nike "Just Do It" slogan. It's true! You DO just need to "Just Do It!"
I honestly don't believe in the concept of failure. There's no such thing as failing - just learning a lesson. I strongly believe this 100%. Did my Etsy shop "fail" because I stopped offering the same things I did when I started, things that never sold? No. I learned that I couldn't make seed bead necklaces or painted wine glasses (don't judge me, I was 23 and it was 2012) and sell them for x amount when Target or Pier One were selling them for 90% cheaper. I had to learn a lesson and readjust my business plan, and now my shop is really successful. Give me any "failure," and I'll tell you a lesson learned. The worst thing isn't failing, it's being too chickenshit to try something. Another dumb platitude that I truly believe in now ;)
I could keep writing about this forever, so I'll spare you (or save it for the book I'm currently writing!). But while I celebrate my success today, I also wanted to share some truth bombs, too. It's not all pretty Instagram pics and positive cash flow - but if you have faith through the crappy, hard times, it'll all work out.