Feast or famine, and other lies we tell ourselves when we're first starting out

I was asked by the gals at Evolve and Succeed to write for you on the topic, What advice would you give first year business owners? Oh boy! I’m so glad they asked. They must’ve known that talking to fresh-faced small business owners is one of my favorite things!

I feel like we hear a lot of the same advice over and over. I certainly did when I was first starting out. Some of the advice I got when I first started my business was actually just wrong. I still hear these things, though, so let me tell you about some common advice that’s worth not taking.

3. Go all in

When I first started my business, I heard a lot about how it was impossible to really get off the ground without investing all of your time and attention in the thing you were building. I understand where this is coming from, but for a lot of us, that advice is annoying at best and reckless at worst. I didn’t have a backup plan — I was single and didn’t have much of anything in savings. As such, I had part-time things the first two years of running my business. I had a part-time nannying job the first year, and a part-time work-from-home development job the second year. (I was also going to school at the same time – oy!) The nannying job didn’t eat up much in the way of mental resources, which was good for me and my business. The coding job certainly did, but I also learned a huge amount about running a small business as a result of being on the inside of a successful one. Eventually, I was in the position to “go all in”, and I have made a lot more money since making that leap — but the money I’m making now won’t retroactively pay the rent I would have missed if I’d been so resistant to the idea of a part-time job in the beginning.

2. Anything involving the words “four-hour workweek”.

It’s not going to happen. Well, okay. It’s really, really unlikely to happen. On the off chance that you’re doing this because you hope to someday not be doing it, let’s stop and reconsider. Building a small business is hard. It might be the hardest thing you ever do. (It’s certainly the hardest thing I’ve ever done — I haven’t tried parenting yet.) All of that energy and those tears may as well be poured into something you LOVE. And maybe you will someday get to the point that your lil’ biz is such a finely tuned machine that it barely needs your attention – but then? It will be a business you love so much that you can’t imagine not spending time in it.

1. Feast or famine

That’s a phrase you hear a lot when you’re first starting out. It might even be a phrase you say a lot. “How are things going?” “Oh, you know. It’s slowed down a bit. Feast or famine, right?” This is the biggest lie we tell ourselves. There’s no such thing as famine if you’re pouring yourself in to the growth of your business (provided you’re doing the right work and serving the right people). Looking back, any time business has felt slow for me, it’s because I’d taken a step back. I wasn’t engaging enough, usually in the form of blogging or keeping in touch with my list.

To further shatter the myth, I’d like to say this: It’s okay to step back. If my first two points didn’t make this clear, let me do so now: running a small business is really hard. You absolutely SHOULD rest. You need slow periods — but those periods are within your control, and calling them “famines” makes them sound like periods of suffering, when they can and should be the exact opposite. My advice isn’t “always be marketing” — my advice is to recognize that the ebb and flow is in your hands. You will need to rest, and not planning for periods of slow working will lead to burn out, which will lead to that “famine” feeling. Instead, plan a slow month once or twice a year. Go on vacation. Spend a couple of weeks reading books (business or otherwise) and write blog posts (or re-write your site copy) based on what you learned/what inspired you. Enjoy long lunches. (I’m just telling you about my ideal slow month now. It sounds dreamy, doesn’t it?) The point is to take the time to reinvest in yourself and your business.

Thanks for listening, and good luck out there!

Check out the links below. It looks like Halley and her team are up to good things.

Laser Launch blog party is a collection of stories from online celebrities about their second year experiences. Brought to you by: Laser Launch Package – a double whammy of expertise to get your next launch sold-out because your second year should be fun + profitable.

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