I recall the very first day of self-employment.
Well, to be fair all I can really recall is the weird feeling in the pit of my stomach which had been doing back flips since I quit my job but was now sinking into my pelvis like quick sand…
What should I do with myself?
All this freedom and determination and I hadn’t really considered how I was going to actually run my business or what the day-to-day would look like.
And the next six months weren’t much different. Let’s just say there was a lot of winging it and “building the plane on the way down”.
Luckily I survived, but not everyone I’ve met who are started on this path gets through the first six months. Those tentative months are tougher than expected and not for the feint of heart.
So how did I get through? Or, more importantly, how can you get through those first six months?
I’ll let you in on some of my secrets…
After my initial mind-blank on day one… I quickly grasped the concept that I needed to have clients to make money.
I know, groundbreaking.
I didn’t have a ready-made audience to sell to, but what I did have was lots of family, friends and past colleagues who might need my services, or know someone who did.
So I emailed them. Texted them. I picked up the phone and I told everyone I knew that I was working for myself and these are the services I’m offering.
And I got work!
The people who knew me best and wanted me to succeed came good and helped me secure my very first customers.
When I started out, I spent as little money as I absolutely possibly could for as long as possible.
I held back on splashing cash on anything unless I absolutely had to.
I DIY’d my website and marketing.
I made the most of ‘first go free’ at networking meetings.
I used the cheap business card printers that everyone thinks are naff but do the job.
I even made my own logo.
I swear being stingy saved me from going under because cash flow is some mythical holy grail in your first few months and unless you source alternative means of funding you will need to hold on to it.
When the first few moments of “what on earth was I thinking quitting my job for this?!” occurred I tried to ignore it and pretend like I wasn’t freaking out.
That didn’t really work. In fact, it made it worse.
I quickly embraced the meltdowns and once I did, they passed a lot quicker. A brief sob on my husband's shoulder at the end of a defeating day worked miracles.
Hey, did you know when you work for yourself you don’t get paid time off?!
Yeah, that didn’t click until I needed to take time off after 2 months of pushing hard setting up my business.
I felt so guilty taking a long weekend but it was exactly what I needed. After that, I booked in my time off just like I did when I was employed and stuck to it.
All work and no play makes for business burnout and will have you crashing way before the 6-month mark.
I think this TED talk makes a great case for why you can't ignore you're own happiness.
I know I’ve made it sound like the first six months of running a business are hell. Yes, it’s really damn hard and you can’t really prepare yourself for how much endurance you need to get through but its also the best fun. You’ll get such a sense of achievement and freedom you’ve never tasted before and you’ll know that when you pass that six month milestone, you’re the master of your own fate.
Jen Smith is a freelance writer and content strategist. Follow her @_JenSmith
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