I appear to have taken a few long blinks and 12 months has flown. Lightening speed. Warp speed. Really flipping quick. I’d always wanted to work for myself, particularly in the space of maternity returns (and beyond). I went from a standing start, a welcome beginning but a surprise one nevertheless and the last year has been incredible for lots of reasons. So many highs, crappy lows but building my business and finally making a positive impact with lots of women – well that’s the start of something really special.
The learnings were probably inevitable, some I expected and others have been a shock. I thought I’d take the time to sit and reflect on what the last 365 days has brought me and in case you’re in a similar position to where I was at the beginning of 2018, I hope it helps!
There’s always a reason not to…money, time, someone already doing it, not enough experience – you can fill in your own reasons I’m sure, but what about the reasons FOR doing it? They’re there too, sometimes a bit more hidden, but from what I’ve seen it’s often ourselves doing the hiding. You can take small bites, test the water and research, all from the comfort of your current situation. Protecting time to do it is a biggy, and if you’re juggling a job, kids, life in general, it’s easy to push it down your list in favour of something that looks like it needs your attention right now. You have to have time to think though, because all those internal narratives that feature you talking yourself out of a change or going it alone, well they thrive off your cycle of doom. They get bigger when you don’t make head space for the positives. So, finding an hour or so to take yourself off to research your target audience, what training you might need, anything voluntary you can get involved in…all of those small steps will add up.
Imposter syndrome and comparison…and aren’t they just a delight! Just this morning Lucy Sheridan, who is the worlds first and only comparison coach described phones / social media / online shenanigans as the Las Vegas of comparison. It’s an epidemic really isn’t it? I don’t mind admitting that when it comes to my business I’ve spent far too much time slipping into comparison mode. The dialogue ranges from ‘they’re better than me, they’ve got more qualifications than I have’ to ‘oh they’ve got such shiny website and write much better captions than I do’. Some of it was quite ridiculous, but at the time it was as real as anything. The biggest reminder I give myself is something I often talk about with my clients – nobody is you. Your unique blend of strengths, values and experiences make you a perfectly imperfect version of who you’re meant to be. You’ll be some peoples cup of tea, you’ll be marmite to others. Lucy also talks about time zones – we’re all in our own one, just because LA gets up after New York nobody describes them as ‘behind’ – they’re doing it at the time that’s right for them.
Collaboration, asking for help and showing vulnerability…from day one my mantra was ‘collaboration, not competition’ and I’m happy to say it’s not steered me wrong. Of course not everybody has the same outlook and there have been times where I’ve had to stomach some hugely hypocritical behaviour from other people, however – they’re not me and there’s very little I can do about their actions. I’ve also had some incredible conversations with old friends, new friends and perfect strangers about my business, working solo and how on earth you tackle technology! I’m pretty honest about my ‘journey’ (blimey that’s an overused word) and the last year in particular. In most cases those that I’ve dropped a note to, sent a DM or text asking for advice, they all appreciate honesty and cutting any sort of BS.
You will be someone else’s trigger…on the other side of imposter syndrome etc, the chances are you’ll also ping at someone else and cause some unintended comparison for them or competition. It’s hard to take when you’re in a vulnerable place yourself and it’s unlikely you’ll anticipate it happening – I mean, how could I trigger someone who’s confident in their business, been at it a while and looks to have a good client base? Well, easily. Not because you’re trying to wade in and take their work off them, not because you’re trying to position yourself in a stronger position than them, but because they’re filling in gaps, making assumptions and deep down have their own insecurities and hang ups. When those things happen, it could hurt and of course you take it personally. However, you can’t control other peoples reactions – you need to let them have it, let them work through it and come out the other side.
Document…successes, lessons, invoices, how you’ve spent your time – everything. Time will slip through your hand and suddenly a week will have gone by and you’re not sure what you’ve achieved or learnt! And there will be loads. Taking 10 minutes everyday to scribble down what you’ve taken away from your latest project, what you want to do differently or what you’re grateful for – they’re all brilliant reminders when it comes to progressing your business or in those times when you need a little pick me up.
Celebrate…however small it is, celebrate it. I’m not saying pop the champers every time you tick something of your to do list, but taking a moment to give yourself a pat on the back (and maybe a cheeky biscuit with your brew?) is in your hands. If you’re working solo you are also Head of Happiness – there are so many times I should have been high giving myself a high five or getting just as excited as my husband when I’d share some good news, but I’d dial it down and not want to get too giddy. I’m definitely on the cautious side but I also recognise that can make me miserable if I don’t say ‘yay!’ when I’ve achieved.
Remember your why…when you falter, remember why you’re doing it. If you begin to panic about your product or service, ask yourself if it’s going to help you achieve your goals and meet the needs of your customers. Write down somewhere WHY you want to do it, you can follow it up with your ‘how’ but you need to start with your reasons. Those reasons need to be grounded in your values and strengths, because when you get to live and breathe them everyday you’re more likely to stick at doing something AND enjoy it.
So that’s it! I’m sure the next year will bring an entirely new list of learnings and hopefully non of the same mistakes…in the words of my four and a half year old ‘mistakes are good because we can learn from them”. Giving it a go, asking for help when you need it, celebrating the small wins and keeping the biscuit tin stocked up are also brilliant strategies in my book!