Disclaimer: This letter is a collection of thoughts based on my own experiences as a small business owner in year one. It is something that my past self may have appreciated reading and I'm hoping it inspires folks to stick with it, keep going and recognize just how 'normal' it is to be a human being figuring things out for the first time.
Dear first year business owners,
Congratulations! You took the plunge and decided to go into work for yourself! You have always wanted to be your own boss and create your own schedule in order to have the flexibility afforded by the entrepreneurial lifestyle.
At first you may experience the most intense relief/elation/experience of serendipity and things lining up more than ever. Opportunities seem to drop into your lap as if from the sky and you will want to say yes to all of it because your life is your own to curate for perhaps the first time in your life. You will see that everything is happening in perfect timing without even a hiccup. You'll meet tons of new people through collaborations and new groups you are suddenly attracted to and all will feel connected. You will open your heart so wide that love will feel possible in all things.
You will try things for the first time, leading workshops or creating your own website and these experiences will come with them their own set of growing pains. You will learn that you hate the computer and will often fantasize about throwing it out the window. You will feel ashamed of your lackluster computer skills. You will criticize yourself for not making enough time to do the dishes, laundry, and keep in touch with long distance friends. You will notice that your priorities will have shifted to business nearly entirely and it will become obvious that you've been over doing it. But, how would you know what your boundaries were unless you experienced a bit of the imbalance? You are an experiencer after all. You need to try things first for yourself before deciding what to take on.
You will realize the importance of self-care and taking time off for yourself to recharge--and you will--but you will notice that you've become so obsessed with your phone and being available that your time away will still feel too plugged in and you will wonder why you don't feel recharged at all. You redirect yourself and learn to leave your phone at home sometimes---that you won't miss much if you do. This will be an exercise in trust that you will need to learn over and over again.
You'll feel guilty for not being as available as before for relationships and will need to assess where you are willing to put your energies. You will negotiate this with yourself and realize that your friends and family are crucial to keep communication with because they are your support system and no task can be done fully well in isolation.
You will experience ups and downs. At some point you may become depressed because of winter or relationships ending or politics or just the challenges of being a highly sensitive person---and you will want to withdraw. You will spend more time alone and in contemplation and romanticize days that you felt better. You will wonder if you will ever feel that good again---and you may even begin to question yourself for opening a private practice. You may feel ashamed of your troubles with math and the complexity of taxes---and your mind might even beg you to go back to simpler times--when this stuff seemed less complicated. When you didn't have to pay for your own health care plan or track mileage or self-promote. But, you will push through all the painful discomfort of self-doubt because you know in your heart that this is what you were meant to do.
The most important thing to remember is that after the challenges arise and the swirl of negative self-talk flood your mind, there will be a period of relief---and you will realize that you have been doing your very best throughout the whole journey and that there is so much more to do and experience. That inevitably, after a contraction there will always be an expansion. You will discover that the most important thing---all along---was to develop self-compassion---so that you could stick with the program and not get derailed by self-sabotage. You can do it and you are doing it.
Remember to tell yourself you are proud of YOU. That you have come so far. That your hard work pays off and that there is nothing more rewarding than pushing through to achieve a goal.
I hope this helps! Good luck,
-First Year Business Owner