Recently, one of my blog readers asked me, “What’s been the most surprising thing for you as you’ve been in business for yourself?” I spent a couple weeks noodling on that question and the lessons I’ve learned over the past two years. And now, let’s get vulnerable.
In this post I’ll share 5 things I’ve struggled with as an entrepreneur. I hope it inspires you as you work to build your private practice and know you’re certainly not alone.
What Surprised Me The Most: I’ve Had to Work Harder on Myself Than on The Business
I like to consider myself a pretty emotionally intelligent person.
I’m married to a therapist and so we often find ourselves in deep conversations unpacking emotions and experiences.
To answer that question – “what has surprised you the most about starting/running my business?” – is that, man, I’m way more insecure than I thought I was!
Now, I’m one who constantly seeks to be a better human. Things come up and I try and deal with it. I know I don’t have it together by any stretch of the imagination.
But what I didn’t realize was the depth of my own insecurities. Things I’ve thought I’ve dealt with before come into a whole new light as the responsibility of making a business work has rested on my own shoulders.
So let’s dive into 5 areas where I thought I had it more together than I really did.
How many times have I heard the quote, “Comparison is the thief of joy.”?
Too many to count!
I know that comparing where my business is to where someone else’s business is at is a total dead end.
The thing is, in this social media world we get a glimpse of friends, colleagues and others’ lives.
We see these curated photos of someone’s best life and it’s so easy to think, “Man, they have it all together. I wish I could go there. I wish I could do that.”
We use other people’s lives to make up stories about our own – some good stories, but usually bad ones.
Maybe it’s just me, but I’ve struggled at times to silence that inner voice that says things like:
- “I’m not good enough at what I do”
- “Who am I to serve this community?”
- “I’m not doing enough to help my business grow”
Especially during that first year of business. I constantly was putting myself down!
While it takes actively choosing the best thoughts when those moments happen, I’m in process.
But after two years of practice, I’m happy to report I’m doing so much better on this topic.
I’ve learned that whatever someone ELSE is doing in their life or business has absolutely nothing to do with me and my worth.
Those not-good-enough thoughts are just that. Thoughts.
They have ZERO basis in reality. I can actually choose to think better thoughts. Ones that serve me and bring me joy over my business and life.
Now when I see someone doing something amazing or hear of other’s success, I’m choosing to remind myself of what’s possible for ME.
I try and say, “Wow! That’s amazing that person has grown in their business so much. I wonder what my story will look like and where my business will take ME?”
Over time, this has gotten easier and easier. But it does take work.
2: Lack & Abundance
Sometimes it seems like there’s never enough time or money.
At least that’s a story I struggle not to tell myself.
This was something I didn’t have to really worry about too much when I worked a 9-5. That paycheck just kept coming.
Then, I left that job to start my own business. Throw in a baby and it’s been a struggle not to feel tight on funds and the time to keep the family going, let alone a business!
Much of this, I realize has been handed down through my parents and my grandparents to them.
Growing up, I admit we had plenty. My parents worked super hard to provide for me and my brother and I’m where I am today because of their sacrifice.
There were, however, those messages I received growing up.
Things like ‘money is a finite resource’… so you have to hold on tight to it, spend it sparingly and when you do let go of it, it better be worth it.
So when those inevitable slow months come up in my business, I can so easily resort to thinking the worst case scenario.
“This is it! Gotta close the business and get a 9-5 desk job AGAIN because we won’t have enough money to put food on the table and clothes on my son’s back. It’s finally happened!”
While yes, there have been tough months and we’d have to be very intentional with our budget, we’ve always had enough.
Enough food. Enough clothes. Enough shelter. And enough to even have a little fun!
My wife and I decided early in our marriage that money is something we get to use… like any other tool.
We use it to provide for ourselves and to have amazing experiences and we also get to use it to bless others and give it away.
We recently started a giving fund where we put a percentage of income from our business each month.
When we see others with a need or want to give to some of our favorite charities or organizations we can do so without the worry of there not being enough.
It’s there to be given away! And it’s been SO much fun to give money away! That not-enough feeling subsides.
And the crazy thing is, since we’ve been giving more money away, we’ve actually seen our income grow.
I don’t get it but generosity actually works!
I’ve had a similar relationship with time.
And I never struggled so much as those first months we had our son with us. Just being honest.
My wife and I share the duties pretty evenly. I watch him when she’s with clients a couple days a week.
But those first months I often had this feeling like I’ll never get work done again.
“There’s just not enough time to grow my business or even just get my current projects done!!”
I’ve had to really step back and think about what’s actually important in my life.
I practice gratitude daily as I get to just BE with my son, taking trips to the park or just playing in the living room.
He’ll never be this age again and as I put him first, with gratitude in my heart, I’ve found I’ve got more than enough time to get done exactly what I need to get done.
And I can be more present with my family because of it.
3: Believing and Accepting My Role in The Business
“If you want to go quickly, go alone. But if you want to go far, go together.”
This quote is something I’ve been pondering for months now.
When I first started Create My Therapist Website, it was ALL me. I did EVERYTHING.
But I learned quickly that if I want to serve my clients and students well and give them the service and guidance that will truly impact their practices, then I need help.
To be honest, bringing on help in the business has been a very slow process for me.
I often get so hung up on HOW it will all work: where will I find this person? What if they don’t do well? What if they screw it up?!
And I’ve learned that it really all comes down to believing in myself as a leader.
I drag my feet because I sometimes doubt whether I can lead people well and create the business that I’ve dreamed of creating.
That’s it really.
Even though it’s been a slow process, I continue to move forward.
I’ve learned that slow isn’t necessarily bad, especially when it comes to hiring people to help in your business.
I want to invest in people and make sure they are a benefit to the business and to my clients, so taking my time ensures I find the right person.
And sometimes, you just gotta take the leap, push into the fear and believe that things will fall into place as you learn through each step.
4: Knowing What To Do To Grow The Business
You ever just get so overwhelmed by thinking about what the heck you should work on to impact your business favorably?
Yeah. That’s me.
I love to plan out projects and marketing tasks, but until I get all the pieces on the table, I sometimes find myself just staring at my computer.
This JUST happened to me last week!
That feeling of, “what do I DO?”
This is another one of those things that I especially struggled with in the beginning with my business.
I put so much pressure on myself, thinking that I needed to know all the answers right away.
But you know what? I’ve never built a business before!
So I’ve learned to give myself so much grace as I take small steps toward the future.
And I’ve also adopted some practical things along the way, like:
- At the end of each day I plan my next day and block out the tasks I’m going to work on. This keeps me from getting overwhelmed and wondering what to do when I start work the next day.
- I work in 90 day increments, setting goals and projects before each quarter begins.
- I’ve learned that “action creates clarity,” so when I don’t know what to do I remind myself that’s ok and just pick something to work on. As time goes on, I can recognize what I should do.
I’m learning to trust myself and my instincts and give myself time as I let my business and actions tell me what I need to focus on.
5: Fear – The Granddaddy of Them All
There it is… FEAR.
It’s the underlying current I can see has had a negative impact on the way I view myself and my business.
It’s really the one thing I can point to that leads to all the other struggles I’ve had to (and continue to) overcome in my business and life.
Maybe you can relate:
- Sometimes I fear I’m not capable or a fraud
- Sometimes I fear that my business won’t be able to provide for my son’s future
- Sometimes I fear that I’m not DOING enough
- Sometimes I fear that I’M not enough
- Sometimes I fear that giving others control in my business may break something
So here’s what I’ve learned…
Fear is an indicator that you’re on the right path.
If something doesn’t scare me, that means it’s easy.
That means that there’s no lesson to come from it and no growth – be it personal or in my business.
The fear is OK. Fear is the guidepost on the way to your dreams.
So lean in, friend.
I hope my vulnerable ramblings have in some way inspired you as you journey toward building the private practice and life of your dreams.
I really thought I had myself mostly together… and then I started a business!
But I wouldn’t trade it for the world.
While it’s been an emotional rollercoaster at times, it’s also brought about the most growth in me these last few years, and for that, I’m thankful.