Here's the thing: what they don't tell you about becoming self-employed

what they don't tell you about being self-employedI was having a conversation with a wonderful client this week, and we both agreed: there is a lot they don’t tell you about becoming self-employed and starting a business.

Now, I know there are plenty of blog posts and articles and books out there telling us about the late nights and how you’ll have to get used to not having paid holidays and regular income. That’s all true. But they miss something out. Something big. Something that I’ve had to deal with, and that I help clients deal with every single day.

They don’t tell you how being your own boss will act as a giant magnifying glass, making you so much more aware of your habits, beliefs and attitudes to everything.

You realise what it means to be in charge of (and responsible for) your own life, actions, decisions. There’s no one else to blame. You’re not fighting a system or a boss or a culture. Everything is down to you.

You learn about your routine-making habits. Are you good at planning your time and sticking to a routine? Or do you find it hard to stay focused on your own? You gradually, over time, learn what kind of routine works for you. You keep learning it, and re-hashing it, because it changes.

The giant magnifying glass will blow up your beliefs about self-care so that they’re the Empire State Building. For months, I let exercise – even a walk in the park – become less important than emails or social media or just “getting ahead”. I let my work become more important than my body and wellbeing. I’ve had to examine that habit, because it doesn’t reflect what I actually believe.

Being self-employed will highlight every single thing you believe about money – how you earn it, how you spend it, what’s worth investing in. You’ll start to see where your fear crops up around investing. If it’s there, you’ll discover that you’re not naturally inclined to keep track of your expenses. Or perhaps, like some of my clients, you worry about every investment decision and keep yourself blinkered to what’s possible.

You will uncover a whole host of beliefs about your worth and your work’s value. What to charge? How to market? What have you been secretly believing about what marketing means? That you should just magically get customers without putting yourself out there? That you find it excruciating to put yourself out there? That you’re afraid of pissing people off by trying to make money doing what you love?

This is a particular area I’ve been thinking and learning about as part of my Playing Big training with Tara Mohr. The transition from “good student” to being out in the world of work, where the rules are very different. At school, we can quietly write essays and learn the rules and get good grades. It’s not easy, but we don’t have to put ourselves out there. In the world of work and business, we have to do the good work, make the good stuff AND talk about it. A lot. More than might feel comfortable. We have to get good at talking about it, so people know about our work. They don’t tell you about this discomfort and deep well of self-belief you have to build to combat it.

You’ll ask yourself questions like: Where are your boundaries? Are you worth the effort it takes to build, maintain and grow a business? Are you even capable of it? Can you ask for help? What if they (anyone) discover you’re not coping well? What does failure even mean?

You’ll find out that a lot of things don’t feel comfortable, and you’ll figure out how to deal with them.

I feel grateful that I had been working on my beliefs about my work, my worth, about money and time and quality and authenticity for years before I started my business. But even with the years of work and shifting beliefs, the enormity of the magnifying glass has still thrown any lingering doubt and fear and shame into bright and shocking light.

And I feel proud of myself for continuing to dive into all these beliefs and work through them. It’s absolutely essential to my work as a mentor, coach, consultant and retreat leader. It’s through looking through my own magnifying glass that I can guide my clients through working on their own stuff. I have the empathy and experience to have the conversations, question the beliefs, look at things differently. But I didn’t get here overnight.

So. If you’re reading this before you become self-employed, don’t be put off, but know that you’ve got a road ahead of you, and it includes some steep bits!

If you’re reading this as your own boss already, note which bits still stand out for you.

Either way, know that this magnifying glass business is a LOT easier and healthier when you have good, strong, appropriate support. A mentor or coach. A supportive network who truly gets it. A friend who can truly listen without sticking their own stuff in there.

The best, best thing you can do for yourself and your business is to be really honest about what’s going on. Struggling to keep up with your profit and loss? Explore the beliefs and old habits that are holding you back. Finding it difficult to share your products and market your business? Maybe it’s not just about it being ‘time-consuming’ – maybe you also have some beliefs about making your voice heard.

You may need someone to sit with you while you realise that you have these beliefs and habits holding you back. Find the right person, and while you do, hear this from me: It’s okay. You’re going to be okay. We all have limiting beliefs and struggles. They’re not the end of the world. You can get through them, even if it’s not today.

Deep breaths and cups of tea help.


Comparison and recovery: a reminder for the new year

Comparison and recovery: a reminder for the new yearIn the last couple of weeks, there’s been a theme to my client calls. I’m going to call it The Late January Blues. Perhaps you know it?

We’ve all rushed into the year, full of hope and possibility, and then we’ve hit a wall. And, in the world of small business, where the Christmas season can really take it out of you, hitting the wall looks like two things:

  1. You’re looking around at “everyone else” and seeing unprecedented success and unwavering energy for new projects. And, of course, you then imagine yourself as coming up lacking.
  2. You just can’t get motivated. You know there’s loads to do. You’ve got big vision for 2016 and your business, but you’re finding it hard to get out of bed.

These are the things plaguing my clients at the moment. So, I want to revisit two key business practices that will keep you sane. They are Comparison Combat and Self-Care Of The Highest Order.

Self-Care Of The Highest Order

If you’re a gift-based business, likelihood is you had to work pretty hard in the run up to Christmas. And I want to be really clear about my definition of “working hard”: it’s not about working to 150% capacity or even hitting 14 hour days. There is no blanket one-size-fits-all definition of working hard that applies to everyone. If you worked a lot, worked hard, juggled work and family commitments, worked hard in an emotional capacity, worked hard at worrying about working hard, then you’re in the club.

You’re the only one who can decide whether or not you worked hard. It’s your own standard to create. But please don’t make “working hard” something that other people say it is. Don’t make it about 14 hour days and working in your sleep and resulting in 10,000 sales a day. Sometimes, I work hard and only work 4 hours a day. But I still work hard.

So, let’s say you worked hard. And then you had a few days off between Christmas and New Year. You spent time with family and friends (not always restful) and it was nice to not be working. Now, the truth is, for the majority of people I’ve spoken to of late, that was not enough rest to replenish your energy and enthusiasm.

And this is the economics of self-care: sometimes we have to rest FIRST in order to work hard later, especially if we’ve been running an energy deficit.

If you’re feeling unmotivated, or like you’re hating your business, or you start resenting the orders that do come in (while simultaneously worrying about money coming in), you need restoration. You need pure, unadulterated time off. You need to re-engage with the things you’re passionate about. You have my unconditional permission to take a day (or a week) off to take baths, read for pleasure, take slow-paced walks, avoid the washing up, write all your thoughts in a journal and nurture yourself. This isn’t catch-up-on-housework time. It isn’t “I could box up all that stuff for the charity shop and landscape the garden and bake 10,000 cakes” time. If you are worn out, you need the purity of self-care.

As a client told me last week, taking a day off (at my suggestion) on Friday made her Wednesday and Thursday more productive so that she could really relax at the end of the week. Taking the Friday off allowed her time to herself, without family commitments, to get back on track. I highly recommend it.

Comparison Combat

Unlike self-care, Comparison Combat is a more active practice! Self-care is often gentle and nurturing. Comparison Combat requires discipline. It’s still loving and ultimately nurturing, but because comparison comes from a fear-based place, it needs a firm hand, and it needs regular exercise to move away from it.

A quick reminder of comparison: checking Facebook, becoming obsessed with what other people are doing, seeing Instagram as an accurate representation of perfect homes and lives and businesses.

For me, it doesn’t just manifest as comparison to similar people or businesses. I can also get caught up in imagining what clients and potential clients want from me, rather than what I want to offer. Yes, of course I like to think about what would be most helpful to me clients. But it can also be a huge distraction, because people want and need a whole load of stuff that I’m not in a position to offer, either because I’m not qualified or not inclined.

When I get stuck in a spiral of doom (my original name for the comparison trap), the only way out is for me to shut it down. To switch off, log out, go for a walk, do whatever it takes to bring myself back to what I care about and what I’m focused on. A little check-out to then check back in.

So, what do you need?

Ah, my friends. What do you need? Self-care? Comparison Combat? Both?

Take a deep breath, maybe a piece of paper and pen. Reflect on what you might be feeling at the beginning of February. Have you been unconsciously unmotivated and blaming it on something other than burnout and over-working? Have you been caught in comparison, rather than focusing on your aims for the year?

A wonderful question from Tara Mohr: Are you being more faithful to your dreams or your fears?

Then, what needs to change?

Do you need more rest, more sleep, more free time?

Do you need to re-focus on your dreams?

What do you need to feel good?

How could you combat comparison in your day-to-day life?

I can’t wait to hear. I can’t wait to see you thrive.



Enter The Forge

Life's too damn short to chase someone else's definition of success. I'm here to give you the courage and tools to forge your own path.