11 things I have learned since working for myself - And Other Adventures Embroidery Co

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11 things I have learned since working for myself

January 22, 2019

 And Other Adventures - 11 Things I have learned since working for myself

I have always had an entrepreneurial spirit.  But since I left my corporate job in eCommerce, I have gained some insights into what it really means to work for yourself.  Some of it is exactly what I expected and some of it has completely taken me by surprise.

1. I work as much (and sometimes more) than I did in my previous job.

Now I must admit that when I was working in corporate, I worked a lot.  A little fun eCommerce fact, most large corporate websites push out their updates right around 2 AM - which means that there is a development team that is up at 2am pushing out the updates and making sure that everything goes smoothly.  I was often part of that team.  So while I do not miss those days of staying up until the early morning hours to do those site updates, I do often stay up late (especially during the holidays) to finish embroidery projects, work on the website, ship orders, etc.  But the main difference - I CHOOSE to do that so that my afternoon hours are spent with my girls.

2. I really miss brainstorming ideas with others.

When you work for yourself, it is all you.   There is no one in the cubicle or office next to you to bounce ideas off of or troubleshoot problems.  This is an area that I have really struggled with because I am such a think-out-loud kind of person and I gain so much energy from other people that are inspired with ideas.  It has taken me a while, but I have purposely expanded my network in Fort Worth and through Facebooks group in order to talk to people that are also pursuing their own entrepreneurial dreams.

3. The boundary lines of work life and home/family life are blurred... and I don't think that is a bad thing. 

While we all like to have these perfectly organized, compartmentalized lives where we carve out time for family and are not interrupted with work and vice versa, that is not reality for a solo entrepreneur.  There are often times where I have push away all my shipping chaos off the kitchen table so that I can sit down to eat with my family.  And there are plenty of times when I need to respond to a customer who has an important question while I am waiting in the school pickup line.  That's just how it goes. And while that crossover bothered me in the beginning, I have learned to embrace the chaos of it.  I like that my girls get to see their mama work hard for something she wants.  And I am very comfortable letting my clients know that I can't answer their question until after 8 when my kids go to bed.  Because this is my business and my life right now - I get to choose what it looks like.

4. It is up to me to educate the value of my work to my audience.

This is a big one that I am focusing on right now.  Without trying to sound too cocky, I know the hard work, technique and experience that I bring to each of my projects.  I know that my attention to detail is top-notch and that I spend so much time getting it just right. I don't do anything in my life half-ass. But so many of my customers don't know that about me and have likely never picked up a needle and thread.  So it is up to me to communicate what they get when they purchase from me.  Some people are able to see that difference right away and some are not and that is completely okay.

5. It is better to say NO so that you can say YES.

I learned this one the hard way.  My first year of business I said yes to almost everything that came my way.  And it was not pretty.  I was stressed out, so very tired and just felt like I was failing on all fronts of life.  So after that first year, I learned very quickly that I needed to say no more than I said yes.  There is a quote out there (I don't know who originally said it) that really resonates with me - "If it is not an immediate Hell Yes, then it is a Hell No." Y'all, I can not stress enough how much of game changer this has been for my business.  As a real world example, I had been dreaming of creating my Bloom Collection for so long, but I never had time for it because I said yes to too many other things.  Once I started saying no, I finally had the time to create it and I LOVE it.  So think about what you could say NO to in order to say YES.

6. If possible, run a debt free company.

I knew from the very beginning that I wanted to run a debt free company.  The truth about running a creative business is that you really have no sure idea of what product will take off and what will not. Sure, you may have a hunch, but there are just so many variables that go into why someone does or does not purchase. So rather than investing a lot of resources and money into something that may or may not take off, I instead took on expenses very slowly as the money came in and I could pay it off immediately.  So I used my 8 year old computer instead of purchasing a new one. I used my outdated phone to take photos. Now I recognize that running a completely debt free company is not realistic for everyone. But it is an idea to consider because it allows you the freedom to worry less about the bills and more about the art that inspires you.

7. As soon as you can, try to pay yourself a monthly salary. 

This is tricky to do in a industry where revenue varies greatly each month.  And full disclosure I did not pay myself the first year and instead reinvested that money into building the business.  But when you are at a spot where you can pay yourself a monthly salary (even if it is small), do it.  It gives you such a mental boost when you are able to reward yourself and your family for all your hard work.

8. Put your blinders on.

In this age of social media, it is so easy to get caught in the comparison trap.  That's why when you scroll through Instagram, it all starts looking the same. So just stop it.  Put your blinders on and focus on the art/work/experience that only YOU can put out into this world.  Be bold and original. 

9. Focus on your ideal audience and ignore everyone else.

I'm sure you have seen that saying "You can't please everyone. You are not a taco."  This sentiment applies to business as well. Attract your ideal customers, repel the wrong ones.  I feel so strongly about this.  Case in point - On my Instagram account, I estimate that at least 30% of those people will never purchase from me and some of them will even attempt to steal my photos/work/ideas. So why waste my valuable time with them? I don't.  Instead I focus all my energies on talking to my ideal clients and making sure that they are feeling heard, supported and inspired. Because, these are the clients that then turn around and support me in my goals.  So I focus all my efforts on building an amazing community with all my ideal people and I ignore the rest.

10. You are going to want to quit (a lot).

Many times along the way, you are going to question why you chose to even go down this route of entrepreneurship.  Let me assure you, that is normal. If you want to read a real life example of when I wanted to quit, go read this really raw post. After that experience, I made a promise to myself that I would NEVER decide to quit on a bad day/month/year.  If I ever choose to quit, I will go out on top.

11. It is so worth it.

And to followup on that last point, let me remind you that it is so worth it.  Pushing through the hard is how you get to live the life of your dreams.  I really do LOVE all aspects of my business.  I LOVE that I get to work with customers who are inspiring and so creative.  I LOVE that I get to create beautiful things with my own hands that bring joy to someone else. I LOVE that I get to earn an income for my family to go on vacations and achieve financials goals that we have for ourselves.  And most of all I LOVE that I get to teach others how to create this time-old craft of hand embroidery for themselves.  Designing a life that you love to wake up in the morning for is not for the weak and those that easily give up.  It is for the dreamers and those have enough grit and vision to chase after the happiness that they want out of life no matter what the hurdles are.



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