8 things only small business owners will get
Hands up who loves their business? You’ve nurtured it from an early age. Sure, there have been growing pains, but now it’s walking on its own. Your business is your baby.
As with any relationship, things can get complicated. There are pleasures and pains that only business owners know. You know what we’re talking about, right? Sure you do!
Working as an employee in the bubble of someone else’s dream might mean managing their problems, budgets and teams. But it won’t prepare you for self employment. Nothing will.
Your friends and family think working for yourself is a luxury. That you clock off at 3pm everyday and head down the pub. This sparks a volcanic eruption of emotions on your part. Explain as you will, and nobody but you will ever get it.
From the mad pressures, constant bombardment, and sheer responsibility of running your own business, it’s a boat that constantly needs keeping afloat.
Whilst everyone’s story is unique, rest assured you’re not on your own. In fact, there’s a shared set of experiences all self employed people go through.
So here’s 8 stories from your peers that only you, the business owner, will ever get.
1. Taking calls in weird places
You always wake up at 5.30am bang on. Your body clock is your alarm clock. Today is different, though. You’ve slept through. It’s 9.00am. Your mobile rings and wakes you from a heavy slumber.
“It’s the client,” you say, clearing your throat, sound testing how awake you actually sound as you accept the call.
“Did I wake you up?” asks the client.
“No, no, I’ve been awake for hours,” you respond, “I have a really bad cold.”
After the call ends, you fluff your pillows just like you fluffed the conversation.
Downside: You can’t remember what the customer said.
Upside: You got a few extra hours of sleep.
2. There’s no friends in business
For the typical full-time employee, 5pm and Friday night are finish lines they strive towards. And, because many of your friends work to this ethic, they assume you do too. In fact, because you set your own hours, surely you’re free whenever you choose!
Your phone lights up with a call from your bestie. Anxiety strikes. You know they are poised to invite you to the cinema for the 10th time and, for the 10th time you’ll have to say no.
“Let me just check my diary” has become your go-to refrain – even though you know there’s nothing specific in it. And, when they push back, you insist: “It’s not my little hobby. It’s a proper job.”
Time, of course, is money. And when you’re self employed, time is all you have to sell. If you get behind tonight, you’ll be behind tomorrow and the rest of the week.
Downside: Angry bestie.
Upside: They wanted to watch a rerun of Captain Corelli’s Mandolin.
3. Faking it till you make it
You’re awesome at what you do. A real expert with passion and drive. A prospect lands on your desk through a referral. It’s a major brand. The one you’ve been waiting for.
You know for a fact you’ll blow them out of the water; that you’ll work harder than anyone else to exceed their goals. Problem is: they have a history of only working with big companies and want to vet your digs.
Vet is the optimal word as you’re a one-man band, working from home with only a pet dog for company.
“We’re currently in between offices,” you say on the fly, in an attempt to keep the interest alive. “We’ll come to you.”
Downside: The client is already at your door and you get busted for trying to hide how small your startup is.
Upside: You save money on fancy offices.
4. Working for free
Should you ever work for free? Your mates don’t, so why should you? But, the reality is, getting your business started can mean you have to speculate to accumulate. You have to do what it takes.
Showing value now can generate dividends in the long run. It can also create an unfavourable culture with legacy clients.
“Can you do me a quick favour,” asks the voice on the other end of the phone. You know there are no quick favours, but your customer expects the awesome service level you always provide. It’s also 10pm at night!
As defined by the Oxford Dictionary of Business Experience, you know ‘quick favour’ really means ‘for free’.
Downside: No money.
Upside: You’ll never set such a precedent with future customers.
5. There’s never enough hours in the day
Being your own boss and keeping your own hours can be a blessing and a curse. That thought crossed your mind at 8pm when you’d finally finished for the day. It was time to go and remind your family what you look like. Then your phone rang – and it’s your oldest client.
“Not busy are you?”
Switching the lights back on, you sat back down.
“No, no, what’s on your mind?”
And, let us not forget telling your American clients (who have no idea about time difference) how happy you are to hear from them. Even though its 10pm and you’re sitting in your car outside the pub, watching your friends having fun inside.
Downside: No party time.
Upside: You don’t have to waste time going home to bed.
6. You’re always thinking about work
Is it really work if you love what you do? Well, yes it is. It takes time, energy and sacrifice. The people who really love you, will understand and support you. Remember, you too need to comprise from time to time and show the same support in return.
Here’s the thing though: when you’re in the game, you’re always playing it. This means work is constantly on your mind, even on holiday.
“This sushi is amazing,” you partner says over the dinner table. The sentiment doesn’t register – your eyes currently shipwrecked on your forehead in thought.
As you envision the ‘next big thing’, your dinner mate prompts you back to reality… “Don’t you agree?”
Waking from your dreams, you respond: “Yes, blue really brings out your eyes”.
Downside: You’ve been rumbled and the floor isn’t comfortable to sleep on.
Upside: It will give you more time to think.
7. You’re involved in every area of the business
When you start a business, invariably you’ll end up wearing more hats than a procession at the Grand National. Sure, you’re a Jedi master at your core skill, but you’re also going to need to master sales, marketing and finances.
It’s a classic. The client rings to talk about the project.
“So, I have some new work for you guys.”
“Great,” you say, “but we’re still awaiting payment for the last round of work.”
Talking about money is always difficult. With time it gets easier, particularly when you can create distance between you and the accounts. Somebody else can chase the money and be the bad guy, whilst you focus on what you do best.
Downside: You have bills to pay and seriously need to get that money in.
Upside: You’re learning business inside-out, which is making you a better manager of people and delegator of tasks in the future.
8. Seeing your friends’ Instagram holiday photos
There was a time, not so long ago, that you would have joined your friends on holiday. Then it happened. You went into business. As though it wasn’t bad enough, they’re tagging you in.
Perhaps that had something to do with this conversation:
Friend: “Come on, you always say no. What happened to you?”
You: “It’s not like I have a choice. I can’t remember the last time I gave myself a day off, let alone a week.”
Friend: “Exactly, you deserve a break. Your hobby can wait.”
You: “Hobby? It’s not like I can work part time like you.”
Phone goes dead…
Downside: All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.
Upside: By saying no you’re saying yes to success. Give it five years, and you’ll be able to rent a yacht.
You’ve put everything on the line, so over to you…
Self employment – the pursuit of your dream – means daily sacrifice. We get it. You get it. Those who share your mindset get it too. Not everyone will, though. Tolerance is key.
So forget about early clock-offs, if you’re going to win it, you need to be fully immersed in it.
Every business-owner has stories to tell. Successes and failures. Disasters and triumphs – they all produce stories we can learn from.
Share some of your stories. Help other business people learn from your mistakes.
Then they can go off and make all different mistakes… And share what they’ve learned with you.