This week, I celebrated my one year anniversary of self-employment (this time around). For the previous decade, I spent my days leading human resources and recruiting teams for corporations and I’d gotten pretty used to the warm embrace of the corporate paycheck. But, on May 23 of 2011, I decided that it was time to set free my entrepreneurial spirit and make a go of it as a consultant and speaker–no safety net.
The past year has been an amazing journey. Not only did I make this professional move, my family and I made a physical move to a new home and my wife began to more earnestly invest in growing her own small business as well. Two entrepreneurs under one roof means a lot of dreams, a lot of hard work and no regularly scheduled paychecks. We love it (most days).
So, this is my self-reflective, self-indulgent post about what I’ve learned during the last year.
- Everything takes longer than you expect. Despite being small and agile, things just don’t happen as fast as you expect.
- Part of working for a company is belonging to the tribe (for better or worse). When you start your own business, you must learn to belong to yourself and your customers. That’s a change of mindset that takes a while to make.
- I am spending about 95% less time in meetings. When I have meetings now, they matter.
- Being an entrepreneur can be pretty lonely at times.
- I never take this for granted, but I’ve been reminded over and over how important a great network can be.
- There is no value you can put on a supportive spouse who believes in you and supports your dreams.
- It takes at least a year to deprogram your thinking about what “work” looks like when you leave the corporate realm. On the outside, there is not starting or stopping time and there are no rules for how things get done. This lack of rules takes a while to adjust to.
- Despite working more than ever, I have flexibility to be where it’s most important to be. In the past year, I attended Donuts with Daddy, every conference, and the last day of school picnic at the park for Bailey’s preschool. These happened during the middle of the day and I didn’t have any issue making time to be there.
- Managing stress is a critical component of starting a business. If you let it, the stress can eat you alive. If you manage it, you can turn it into energy that propels you forward.
- Creating deadlines is important. When you are responsible for your own work, you have to set your own deadlines and create accountability for meeting them. Otherwise, it’s easy to let things slide.
- Following your calling helps take some of the fear out of the transition. I think that if I was just chasing an opportunity or a dollar, I’d probably be a lot less settled. Because my work is so entwined with who I am, it gives me the peace to know that I am doing exactly what I am supposed to be doing. That makes a big difference on the hard days.
- Asking for help is important. People want to help you succeed. And they will help if you let them.
- Social media can provide a great support network, but it also provides a great place to hide when you are avoiding doing other work that isn’t as fun.
- In the beginning, you have to let go and trust the process. Squeezing too hard before you have anything to squeeze is unproductive. There is no certainty, there is just probabilities and optimism.
I’m not sure if this list has any practical value as I think this is more a commentary on my own journey than it is a list of useful insights, but maybe you will disagree. The underlying point though that I would share that I think spans beyond my own journey is this. If you are considering making the transition to start your own company or to become a freelancer, make sure you are following your passion and pursuing what you are called to do. Know with certainty that the transition will be harder, take longer and be more scary than you expect. If you aren’t all in on living your work and chasing your dreams, it will be hard to complete the journey. But, if you are following your passion and living your work, blazing out on your own can be the most rewarding and amazing experience of your life.
On to year two. Thanks for your support.