Real Talk: The Truth About Having Your Own Business

August 4, 2017
Desk with computer

Not long after I left corporate, I became a tech writer contractor. With my IT experience, writing experience and my English degree, it made the most sense.

Then after taking coach training, I decided to try that. It seemed like the thing to do, and everyone I was following at the time was a business coach.

Unfortunately, I kept changing what I was doing to match whoever I was following. As you can imagine, that didn’t work out very well.

I didn’t have a clue about running a business, especially after being in corporate for most of my working life. I made a ton of mistakes and wasted tons of money following “experts.” Not that the gurus were intentionally misleading, but trying to fit into their business model never worked for me. But I didn’t know what I didn’t know.

So, after years of business experiences (and learning the hard way) this what I know for sure.


1. Building a business is hard work.

You will put in a lot of time, energy and money (or investors’ money). That means, if you’re looking for freedom, look elsewhere. Depending on what kind of business you’re running, you’ll be working on weekends, nights, holidays — at least in the beginning.

It’s up to you how you manage your time and build your business. BUT, if you’re looking to work a few hours a week and have your sales funnel or ‘bot do all the heavy lifting — think again.

You’ll have to understand sales and marketing and branding (among a lot of other things). Even though you might hate numbers, you need to come to grips with accounting, bookkeeping and taxes. Or at least know enough to hire the right people (or get the best tools) to help you do it.

It doesn’t matter how many books you read or webinars or live events you attend — the real learning will come from actually doing the things.

“Success is liking yourself, liking what you do, and liking how you do it.” – Maya Angelou

2. Overnight success is bullshit.

You might not have heard of that person or brand until they hit it big, but they WERE working in the trenches the whole time. Believe that.

“Books are cool, but knowledge without mileage doesn’t mean anything to me.” – Henry Rollins


3. Origin stories are abbreviated.

I’ve read my share of stories that usually go like this: “I left my job/marriage/was fired/had a life event then there I was with $2.00 and I couldn’t even withdraw it from the bank.” Or “I was living in my car.” Or, on someone’s couch.

Then — fast-forward — “I hit it big and now effortlessly bring in 6 or 7 figures a year, a month or a week.”

I have nothing but respect for the person who worked their way out of a terrible situation. BUT, please tell me what you did from living in the box/car/shelter to getting your life back on track and making money.

That “in the meantime” part is always missing. Tell me that story. Inspire me with your journey so that I know that the dark night won’t last forever. You’re successful now, I get it. But don’t leave out the gritty parts.

“Doubt everything. Find your own light.” – Gautama Buddha

5. Show me the receipts.

I’m sure you’ve seen emails like this: “I made $100k last month using the proven steps that are included in my new online course.” That’s great and I’m happy for your success, BUT, I need to see receipts.

Not just your monthly income statements. Or your spreadsheet screen prints. Walk me through how you did your thing — how many hours? Did you outsource? If you blogged or wrote articles or whatever, how many did you do and what was your turnaround? What’s your rate range per hour or per project?

How many hours did you actually spend designing? Revising? Tweaking and testing? How many sales funnels did you create, test and trash before you found the one that worked for you?

You worked hard for the money — show me how you did it, THEN I can decide if it fits what I want to do. Don’t just tell me the ending of the story. Show me the journey so I can grasp the actual work that went into it.

“Success is most often achieved by those who don’t know that failure is inevitable.” – Coco Chanel


6. Business is not predictable.

Having a business is not like having a predictable (at least if your company doesn’t lay you off) income from a job.

A product might do very well, or it might tank. You might have a great initial run, then sales fall off. By the time you get to market, the thing you created might be out of fashion. OR someone else got there first with something that makes your product obsolete.

You might have wild, wonderful success or your big idea might fizzle. It comes with the territory. Surveys might tell you people want your service, but when it launches, you only hear crickets. That’s how it is in business.

Anyone who promises you a sure thing, proven results, income that always increases, a predictable path of ease and endless vacations to luxury destinations is leaving something out.

The work that goes on behind the scenes — the machinery that runs to make it all look effortless — won’t run by itself. A.I. (artificial intelligence) is not going to do it for you. If you are the CEO, you are managing that machinery. You might not do all the work, but you had better know what’s going on.

“The two most beautiful words in the English language are ‘cheque enclosed.'” – Dorothy Parker


7. You have to know your worth.

How do you define success? Is it money? Is it love? Is it peace of mind? What is YOUR definition? Forget about what other people tell you it should be.

Are you afraid to charge what your products/services are worth? Are you reluctant to talk to people about what you sell? Are you afraid to risk rejection by putting yourself out there? It could be that the biggest block to your success, is you. Successful people have coaches and mentors. If that’s what you need, do it.

You’ll have to reinforce your self-worth before you can increase your net worth (this can be one of the hardest lessons to learn).

“Some things have to be believed to be seen.” – Madeleine L’Engle


The Business Reality

There’s nothing wrong with having big dreams. In fact, I think they’re essential. But don’t be distracted by the fluff and the airbrushed lifestyles.

Understand that your faves are working hard for the money. And they’ll have to continue to do so if they want to keep it coming in through all the changes and upheavals that happen in the real world.

Some of them might not be sharing the downturns, the doubts or the failures with you because they’re selling the end result. (And let’s face it, the end result looks hella good.)

When it comes to business ownership, there’s work involved. And there’s financial investment involved. And there’s commitment involved.

One of the blog contributors (and Women Entrepreneur Radio guests) the wonderful Imelda Arcilla wrote about evolving through entrepreneurship. It’s true. The entire process will push you out of your comfort zone and force you to grow and evolve. That’s really the best (and toughest) part.

Be willing to do what it takes and understand that there are no easy, effortless shortcuts to anyplace worth going. You’ll have to put in the work. But the reward can be everything you desire. As long as you’re honest with yourself about what it takes.

Copyright © 2017 Deborah A. Bailey

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Deborah A Bailey

Deborah is a writer, writing workshop presenter and published author. She's host of the Women Entrepreneurs Radio podcast.

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