So September 1st was the fifth anniversary of me being an entrepreneur and many milestones in that timeframe.
– It was 5 years ago + two weeks that I quit my day job and embarked on an adventure in wedding planning and the launch of Southern Fete.
– It was 4 years ago that I added another brand and started Butterscotch Press with my then best friend Tyler Woerner.
– It was 1 year ago that I started Val Marie Paper and made plans to go full time with it after my last wedding as a planner, in hopes of starting a family soon.
Being an entrepreneur has brought me the biggest blessings as well as biggest challenges I could have never imagined. Maybe you are thinking about starting your own business and looking for an honest look at what all you can expect. I want to share with you the 10 things I’ve learned these past five years.
1. No matter how glamorous it looks, a job is still a job. It’s not a hobby where you pick and choose what you’d like to do. There are some jobs that look more fun than others and probably are, but being an entrepreneur means you where all the hats, at least in the beginning. It means you get to go to cake tastings and floral meetings as well as looking at measurements, logistics and table cloth sizes. It means you deal with the happy brides and the angry brides.
2. My business is a direct reflection of what I choose and what I don’t choose. When you realize the power behind this, you don’t take it lightly. The fact that I shape the direction of Val Marie Paper is so inspiring to me. It gives me ownership and a sense of pride to take time and see how I want my business to inspire others. When you own a business, you are completely invested because it represents YOU, not a bigger brand. My favorite small brands are made up of hard-working people who have a vision besides simply to make money. They have a way they want you to feel when you use their products.
3. The amount you work, rarely directly reflects what you make. You could work days and days and not see any immediate return from it. There were times early on that I used to wish I was back at a normal job where I was guaranteed a paycheck for all the work I was willing to put in. The is uncertainty with working for yourself. This could mean you make more than you could at another job or less.
4. Creativity takes discipline. It seems counterintuitive. Shouldn’t creativity be a bit more spirited? Creating on demand for a job though is different. Figure out a great system to make even the most creative ideas happen. And all within the deadline. One book I loved reading on this topic was The Accidental Creative.
5. Social interaction takes more work as a solo entrepreneur. I am definitely an introvert and enjoy the time I have to work alone, BUT it can get old. Going from being around people 8 hours a day to working alone can be quite an adjustment. If you can swing it, working in a creative space with other entrepreneurs is ideal, especially if your businesses complement each other. I used to share an office with a photographer and web designer and it was the perfect setup to bounce ideas off each other or just chat throughout the day. With Vivi on the way, I made the decision to work from home. I’m working on scheduling more lunches with friends and days working at the coffee shop to break the quietness.
6. Flexibility is a blessing. Although you might find yourself working at midnight or even having to answer emails on vacation sometimes, the flexibility of working for myself is something I really treasure. It means I can run personal errands during the day if necessary, or stop by my husband’s office to bring him something he forgot for the day. This has been incredibly helpful during those rough months of pregnancy and I don’t take it for granted at all!
7. I don’t do the work I do to take home a big fat paycheck. I do it because I love it. I love getting to design. I love being my own boss and so many other aspects of it. The goal is obviously to grow your business to make a nice living, but sometimes you have to choose. I could get a job working for someone else making more money with tons of health benefits, etc. but I don’t. Figure out what is most important to you and what you may need to sacrifice to make your dreams come true. Should you save up for a little while before leaving a full-time job? Should you move back in with your parents? (I did this my first year!) Can you take part time jobs to help supplement your income? (Did this to!)
8. No one is watching you to make sure you finish your tasks. If you’d rather stay in bed till noon, technically, no one is going to stop you. You may lose a few clients in the process but ultimately, you’ve got to be disciplined enough to work. The hard part can come when it’s time to technically get off the clock and you’ve still got tons of work to do. Discipline is so important and one of the biggest challenges to most entrepreneurs. I just found out about this handy app, Concentrate, that helps you stay disciplined with your tasks, and am testing it out now.
9. Communicating and sticking to boundaries is a necessary aspect of being a happy entrepreneur. One thing that can affect whether we become burnout on even our most exciting passions in life is whether we can find balance and boundaries. It’s incredibly tough to not pick up your phone after hours or say no to things you know you shouldn’t do, but it’s so important. If you can strike a balance and work hard for your clients while keeping your boundaries, you will be a happier entrepreneur, which means you will deliver a better product and therefore have a happier client.
10. You can never stop learning. I think this applies to any job whether you are an entrepreneur or not, but as soon as you get comfortable that you know it all, something comes that reminds you that you don’t in fact know it all. Everyday I feel like I’ve got to keep growing and learning. My business needs it to grow and I personally need it to grow. If we are open to the possibilities that there is knowledge out there that we don’t have yet, we can be unstoppable. That thirst will inspire us and fill us with a hope to work harder and smarter.
What I’m hoping to learn this year?? How to work with a little one at home!! Mom entrepreneurs, I’d love to hear your tips for how you make this work!
Val! Your posts are always so inspiring! It’s so wonderful when you discover that someone else’s journey is in-line with your own! I can relate to all of your lessons learned! Those are all things that I’ve experienced as well and it’s refreshing to see it in words and reaffirm that I am not alone. I can’t wait to follow your journey as Vivi arrives. 🙂 Great post lady! You are such an inspiration!
Thanks so much Rita!! I appreciate you so much!
Val, great list! I agree with all! Your working world will definitely change when that little bundle of joy arrives! I remember when my maternity leave was approaching, I had a HUGE list of things I couldn’t wait to check off as done. And then Lily arrived and my 12 weeks zoomed by with nothing but cuddling, bonding, and resting checked off! My biggest advice is to set realistic expectations for yourself, don’t get disappointed when things don’t go exactly by plan and take the time to enjoy those special first few weeks! Things will settle down and you’ll develop a routine and schedule that will allow you to balance all the joys of motherhood with the demands of owning a business. Take advice from others with a grain of salt and figure out what is best for you and your family! Everyone does things differently and there are 100s of ways to do it right! You are about to embark on such an amazing journey! Enjoy every minute!
Thank you so much for the advice!! It is so comforting to hear and know we’ll eventually get a routine and that it it will be workable! : )
Wow! Great advice – thank you! I feel like I’m in the before phase of where you were over 5 years ago. I’m still in my day job but trying to set the stage to move into a more creative, entrepreneurial situation. Starting my blog this summer was me dipping my toe in the water to start out-and when I read advice like yours, it gives me both confidence, and a little fear- but probably more confidence! Thanks for sharing- best of luck on your new venture(s)!
So glad you enjoyed!! Everything is baby steps so I think it’s a lot more manageable going through the process rather than seeing it as a whole! Best of luck and enjoy the adventure!! : )