9 transformative lessons I've learned from a year of entrepreneurship!
Updated: Oct 30, 2020
This blog post is a monumental one because:
🎉Today I'm celebrating my 50th blog post!!! WOOHOOO!
🎉This also marks one year of me being full-time* in my business.
*I know some people describe being "full-time" in their business as being when they no longer have any side-jobs, but for me going "full-time" with my business meant leaving my 9-5 and devoting full-time hours to my business. I still had side jobs in the morning and at night to help make ends meet financially.
This blog post is a reflection of 9 key takeaways I have from a year of being out on my own with no health insurance, no boss, no structured work hours, and a whole lot of blog post writing.
If you're new to my blog, Welcome!!
👉Be sure to check out all my posts related to Intuitive Eating here, body image here, and mindfulness here!
👉If you want to stay in the loop about future blog posts and get lots of love, inspiration, and tips from me, then...
Okay, let's dive into 9 big lessons I've learned this year!
1. I have to believe in myself and be my own cheerleader.
Running my business is just me, myself, and I.
I don’t have co-workers. I don’t have a boss. I don’t have someone cheering me on or anyone to brainstorm my ideas with. Which means, I have to cheer myself on and hash out all my ideas in my journal.
Thankfully I’m married to a therapist who understands mental health and has great business instincts (who knew?!). Having Chris to run big decisions by has been instrumental in my first year of going full-time in my business. So, I'm not 100% alone.
But any relationship expert would tell you that our partners can't be everything for us and it can become stressful when they try to satisfy many roles in a relationship. I try to use Chris sparingly, which means I do a lot of decision making and pep-talking all by myself.
The truth is, being an entrepreneur is a mind game. It’s mental work. I wake up every morning and recommit to my purpose, tap in to why I’m passionate about the work I do, and then I figure out how to mentally overcome any objections or obstacles I encounter throughout the day.
I miss saying “hey” to coworkers. I miss bouncing over to someone else’s office when I need a distraction or a break mid-day. I miss being able to get immediate feedback… “Do you think I handled that well? What would you have done?”
I DO NOT miss having to run all my ideas by a supervisor. I DON'T miss having to get approval for every thought and decision I make. Not. at. all. I'm SO grateful for the independence I have even though it requires a lot of self responsibility and motivation.
Going into this, I didn't realize how much of a support system I had to be for myself.
I have my days where I doubt my path, but overall, I'm here trusting my gut, believing in my vision, and reminding myself of my purpose every day.
2. I have a business and businesses have values.
It's currently 2020. A year of protests, the presidential election, a pandemic, and all the suffering, injustice, and controversy that accompanies this.
>> If you could use some support right now, you're not alone. Check out my blog post with 10 mental health tips for navigating the Coronavirus and social distancing <<
With very little preparation or foresight, I’ve had to publicly take a stand on very important issues. I guess I didn’t have to. But that was a decision I had to make in and of itself.
What is my role as a business owner right now?
How, where, and when do I declare that Black Lives Matter?
How do I make sure marginalized populations know that I’m doing my own work without it coming across as performative?
How do I embody the loving and nonjudgmental presence of a counselor while still standing firm in my values and declaring unwavering support for social justice movements?
As the sole face of my business - a white, thin, cisgendered face - what is my role right now?
How can I keep serving my clients, gaining new clients, AND amplify the voices of BIPOC, fat positive activists, and trans people with eating disorders?
SO MANY QUESTIONS swirling through my brain. Many of which don't have a clear answer. I've had to take some leaps. Show up boldly and proudly for what I stand for while listening and learning a lotttttttt along the way.
My eyes are continually being opened to racism at work in the eating disorder, wellness, and intuitive eating communities. I’m reminded of all the ways weight bias exists even in places that are supposed to be safe (like ED treatment centers). These are things that I can't be silent about.
As a white, thin, cisgendered business owner, I have (unearned) privilege and power. I have the power to choose who I give money to, who I hire, and who’s voices I amplify.
>> You can read more about my business values, statement of privilege, and action steps I'm taking on my anti-racism journey here <<
I didn’t realize that becoming a business owner would come with such a responsibility and duty to show up publicly in my values, but I’m grateful for this awakening. I don’t think being an advocate or activist should be optional. And until running my own business… it was. Now it’s a core pillar of the work I do.
3. I’m in business mode 24/7.
I preach boundaries. I preach self-care. And I stand by both of those things.
But there is no separating me and my business at this point. We are intimately connected. I wake up with ideas. I fall asleep thinking about my clients. On vacation I daydream about new organizations I want to network with or the book I want to write one day.
This work, this business, is a product of my passion and expertise. Essentially, it’s an extension of me.
👉I don’t get to clock out at 5:00pm or take weekends off.
I work from the couch. From bed. And occasionally at a table. :) Always with cats nearby.
I set boundaries around when I’ll get on social media (I delete the Instagram app from my phone every weekend) and I only check my email at certain points in the day, but that doesn’t mean I can turn off my thoughts and dreams about my baby (my business).
I’m okay with always dreaming. I enjoy being able to turn to Chris in the middle of a movie and say “I just had a great idea for a blog post” and then go run to write it down in my notebook. That’s the nature of being creative and that’s why being an entrepreneur suits my personality!
But I want to worry less. Am I saying the right things? Will I make enough money? When will I get my next client? I want to stop worrying about my business when I "clock out" at the end of the day.
Working from home can create blurry boundaries for work time vs play time vs relax time.
Throughout my next year in business I hope to create some routines and rituals for transitioning out of my work day so that all the worry and stress from my "day at the office" can be dropped and I can be more present in my home life.
4. Growing a business is a marathon, not a sprint.
Okay, okay, I’ve heard this from SO MANY other business owners, but it’s different to actually experience it first-hand.
A small percentage of businesses succeed. For a reason.
👉Growth, heck... even just survival, takes PATIENCE. DETERMINATION. And MONEY.
Mentally, I have to be in this for the long haul. I have to trust that all the blog posts, IG posts, networking calls, public speaking, and clients I’m working with are seeds being planted. I have NO IDEA who is seeing my content and who might have me in mind for future services or might want to tell their network of therapists about me.
There are times when I wonder if I should quit and Chris keeps saying “but what if you’re right on the edge of making it big?”
Great question. And the answer is… there’s no way of knowing. There’s no way of knowing when my business might tip from being in it's "early stages" to "holy moly I'm booked out and can hardly keep up with the growth!"
I have to keep waking up every day putting one foot in front of the other. Keep creating and producing content. Keep meeting new people.
It’s impossible to know what blog post might go viral or which client might turn around and refer me to all their friends. All I can do is wake up, show up, and not give up.
Money is another reason many businesses don't make it. I learned early on that I need to make sure my business expenses are covered well beyond the present moment. I don’t want my business to collapse just because I have inconsistent income.
I’m writing this in October of 2020 and I’ve already allocated and budgeted my business expenses through March of 2021. This means I don’t have financial pressure to “stay afloat” and I never feel like I'm "pushing a sale" from a place of scarcity and financial need (um... also this would be unethical...)
5. It really helps to focus on what’s working and celebrate the wins
The day I started celebrating the "little things" was a GAME CHANGER. And honestly, the "little things" are hardly little. But it’s so easy to have a glitzy and elaborate idea of success like...
"Being a 6 figure business owner."
"Being booked out with clients and having a waitlist."
"Getting interviewed by someone famous."
Sure. those things sound exciting to me. But...
1) that's not in my near future.
2) that totally discredits all the amazing work and success I have right now.
I have a big piece of paper I hang in my office titled “Microbursts of Encouragement.” This is where I write down every single win or success I have in my business. And there are a lot of them!
👉I get emails from people telling me a blog post changed their life. Or clients who write testimonials that make me cry. Or IG DMs from strangers telling me they wish they’d found me sooner.
These are real humans lives that are being impacted by the work I’m doing and That. Is. Noteworthy.
Honestly, just having one person emailing me telling me my blog post changed their life should be enough motivation for me to feel inspired for the rest of my life.
But our critical minds can be loud and so it’s helpful to have a sheet of paper I can look at and see every happy moment, every win, and every cool opportunity I’ve gained all in one place.
This seriously keeps me inspired and moving forward. As long as I know I’m touching lives and
cultivating a space for healing, I will keep going. No six figures or celebrity interview required.
6. The flexibility is real.
Okay. Hands down the best part of running my business is the flexibility. Ya know sometimes reality doesn’t live up to expectations? Well, when it comes to the flexibility I have… that did NOT disappoint. It’s everything I dreamed of and more. :)
I am endlessly grateful that I’m able to work from bed when I have a pain flare or period cramps from hell.
I love being able to pick up the phone and talk to a friend mid-day because I am in full control of my schedule.
I can go to doctor’s appointments and take a walk around the block without having to ask permission.
Independence, freedom, and flexibility are HIGH VALUES for me. Working a desk job from 8-5 every day was VERY hard for my body and mental health. I need nature, I need movement, and I need the ability to adapt my schedule to my mood, energy level, and pain flare.
I'm able to honor my body and my needs in a way most Americans can't. The 40+ hour workweek doesn't lead to optimal health and wellbeing. Other countries know this.
I have a lot of privilege that makes it possible for me to step away from more traditional jobs and for this, I am truly grateful. I hope to never take my freedom and flexibility for granted.
7. I’ve grown as a human.
I thought that since my business was a blend of all my gifts and talents, I wouldn't have to learn many new skills. I thought I’d be exempt from all the training that’s normally involved in a new job because… I went to school, have my degrees, feel passionate about a topic, and am ready to serve/work.
But it turns out that using my degrees and pre-existing expertise is only a small portion of what it takes to run a business.
I have learned SO MANY new skills I didn't anticipate learning when starting a business.
Website design, video editing, photo editing, graphic design, systemizing my workflow, using features of Gmail I never knew existed, lotssss of writing, public speaking,
bookkeeping, and becoming an LLC... just to name a few.
Now that I've started a business, I’m qualified to apply for a lot of jobs I previously wouldn’t have been qualified for because of all the knowledge I’ve gained.
I’ve also developed parts of my personality which I didn’t expect going into this.
I'm more confident meeting new people and introducing myself. I've quickly gotten over the fear of talking to strangers by doing a large amount of networking, coffee dates (pre-COVID), and phone calls with fellow professionals.
8. “Selling” mental health is in a category of its own
It's taken me a while to realize this, but most business coaches don't know how to coach someone who works in the mental health field.
I've hired a number of business coaches and only a select number of the tactics and strategies they've taught me are useful for someone working as a professional in mental health.
Every business coach out there says the best way to get clients is to be good at selling. But I hesitate to call what I do "selling."
I've tried "selling" to some potential clients. A few took me up on the offer and some didn't. I don't think what I did was wrong or sleazy, but I do think that in the mental health scene people are only going to get the results they're looking for when the motivation is internally driven.
Doing inner work isn't fun or easy. It's not like signing up for business coaching or an expensive photoshoot or hiring a floral designer for your wedding. Those are things people can sell with an ethical sales pitch.
But mental health? I can't tell you that working with me is a good idea. Only YOU know that. Only YOU know when you're ready. Only YOU know when you're ready to face old wounds and shift core beliefs.
👉Do I think that healing your relationships with food and your body will change your life for the better? ABSOLUTELY.
👉Do I think that I'm a qualified guide to help you get there? FOR SURE.
But it's not my job to try to convince you that my program or my coaching is the next, best step for you right now. Because it might not be.
I know the nature of therapy and coaching. I've been on the receiving end of these services for the majority of my life. I know that people get the most out of these services when they sign up because it's what THEY want. Not because a parent, partner, or therapist convinced them to go.
And yet, it's still tempting to try to "sell" my coaching because I truly do believe in the product and know it can help a lot of people.
This is a mindset shift I've made over the past year. Rather than trying to sell my services, I just make sure people know they exist. I try to talk about them in a way that creates an invitation for joining or signing up without feeling like I'm trying to sell you something. This is an ongoing learning experience for me!
9. Running a "heart-centered business" isn’t sexy
I'm not saying I'm the best person out there, but I do consider myself a good person who's trying to run my business with honesty and integrity. I do my best to lead with my heart.
And the unfortunate truth is that often times "heart-centered businesses" aren't the ones driving in the big bucks.
"Sexy businesses" often align with and promote society's values. Values like power, fame, thinness, beauty, wealth, success, intelligence, etc.
My "sexier" competition is weight loss and fitness coaches. These people, who I would argue are doing harm, charge an arm and a leg and people pay it in a heartbeat.
I'm amazed/appalled at how expensive some health coaches' or personal trainers' prices are. But, because their values align with mainstream values, aka diet-culture, and we still live in a world that places more emphasis on appearance than mental health, people dish out money.
I've learned that mental health isn't sexy. It's not glamorous. I don't post before/after pictures or recipes for green smoothies. I'm not selling the "wellness" products and services that so many are eager to buy right now.
Instead, I'm over here fighting for fair treatment of people in larger bodies, movement accessibility for all body types, and trying to offer my services at equitable pricing.
This isn't the type of work that's screaming millionaire or fame or IG influencer.
I don't care about the fame or the money. But I do feel sad and discouraged some days.
I see the ways people are willing to dish out big bucks for a new diet plan or Noom subscription, because the diet industry is still booming.
I see how quickly people are willing to invest in business coaching or a new laptop or a fancy hair cut, but when it comes to mental health services it's easy to deny ourselves that investment.
Running a business with heart isn't always sexy. I'm learning to trust that people will find me when they need me and that doing good, honest, ethical work is more important than anything else. ♥
Working for myself and running a business has been a learning opportunity of a lifetime. I am SO grateful for all the friends, family, and clients who have supported me along the way.
🥂 Here's to 50 more blog posts and many more years of chasing our dreams!!! 🎉
Are you a business owner or know someone who is? Leave a comment below with your favorite takeaway or share this post with a friend!