The first year of self-employment can be brutal.
“I’m frustrated and overwhelmed and scared!” she huffed on the other side of the screen. “I know things take time, but I want it all to happen NOW!”
I smiled. “I know exactly how you feel. I was the same in my first year of starting my business. I wanted to have the clients and the cash-flow and the numbers and the success, immediately.”
“In hindsight, I wish I had been more gentle on myself and enjoyed the journey more. The wealth at that time existed within the giant learning-curve that I mastered by showing up day in and day out, even though I hadn’t made it, yet. I had so much to learn, and so much to understand and so much to stretch and grow, in order to be able to have the life I was trying to create, but I couldn’t see that at the time. All I saw was that I wasn’t there yet. And it destroyed the enjoyment of where I was at, at that moment.”
I’m on a call with a private client who has just started her business. It’s been 2 months. She’s putting a lot of pressure on herself, and comparing herself to all the women-in-business she sees online and on Instagram.
I understand.
The first year or two can be brutal. Everyone I know that has some level of success now, have a number of “failures” behind them. Myself included. I write about my career story in more detail here. Those failures happen to be the key of our successes. There is no faster way to learn what doesn’t work, which brings you closer to what does work, than failure. And it’s the one thing that most of us fear.
I often quote the saying “Fail fast and fail often because it’s true. I continue to fail and I don’t mind (too much) anymore. I don’t take it personally because when something doesn’t work it’s not about me or my worth or value as a person. It just means that this particular thing, at this particular time, in this particular way, didn’t work. Maybe try it a different way or at a different time or change the approach entirely.
I remember that first year in business so clearly. The uncertainty… “Is it really supposed to be this awkward and messy behind-the-scenes?” “I have no idea what I’m doing!” “What if this doesn’t work!!!” The imposter syndrome and fear of not being good enough… “Who the hell am I to be doing this?” “What if I don’t know enough?” “What if people figure out that I’m bluffing my way through this?” The lack of return on energy investment… “Only 30 people read my post today!” “No-one has signed up for my new offering…” “I’m not making enough to cover bills but I’m doing everything I can to make this work!!” And the impatience… “I want and need this business to work now.” “Where are all the results, I’ve been doing this for two months now!” “It’s not working out, I am such a failure!”.
We’ve all been there at some stage.
I sometimes wonder if I could go back whether I would have done things differently. I’m not sure I would have had the tenacity to keep going though in some ways I wish I hadn’t taken it all so seriously and stressed myself out so much.
I bounced between surrender and trusting that this business entity of mine would show me the way as long as I stayed devoted and kept showing up, and almost having a nervous breakdown because I wasn’t where I wanted to be yet. I remember making $2k consistently for a while and wondering if I’d ever get past that number. I created every stressor and every piece of tension in my business. At the same time, those stressors and tensions lit a fire behind me to go do uncomfortable things outside my comfort zone that I don’t think I would have done otherwise.
My business has been the most intense personal development program I could have ever taken because she has (and continues to) point out to me where I need to grow, evolve, expand, take leaps of faith and work on some blocks, inner beliefs and shadows. It takes a completely new and changed mindset and way of seeing the world to be entrepreneurial and I literally had to rewire my brain (and continue to). I now take these things in my stride and enjoy the opportunity the keep growing on all levels through the stern headmistress that my business is to me.
My 3 pieces of advice for anyone in their first year or two in business are:

  1. Be very patient with yourself. All those success stories you see might look like they happened overnight, but trust me, they are all years in the making.
  2. Take advice and get support from people ahead of you in your field. They have made a lot of the mistakes and “failures” already that you can learn from. Hire a coach, get mentoring, do a business course. Whatever works for you.
  3. Make sure you have some kind of “fuck-off” fund (which I teach about in my course Affluent) to take away some of the practical stressors of how you are going to support yourself while you invest yourself into your business.


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