5 Lessons Learned in 3 years of Running My Own Business

Running my own business over the past few years has been a roller coaster. There have been many times where I felt like throwing in the towel and taking another route. I couldn’t be more grateful I never gave up and kept pushing, but it hasn’t been easy. Pushing myself through uncomfortable situations, learning how to be productive and not just busy, and realizing that rest actually is vital are some of the lessons I’ve discovered during my journey so far. I wanted to share them with you — especially that hustler out there getting started who might be feeling discouraged and scared. Yes, running your own business is one of the hardest choices you could make, but it’s also one of the best.

Lesson One: We get one life

I often hear people say they regret this or should have done that. The worst you can hear is “no”. If you have a question, if you are debating sending a bid to someone, if you’re calling and really worried about something, keep this in mind. The worst they can say is “no” and if you don’t ask, the answer is already “no”. The best they can say is “yes”. If you don’t put yourself out there, if you don’t go for “no”, you’ll never know what you can achieve.

You only get one shot. You only get one opportunity to design a life you love. If you’re waking up every morning and there is something you’re not happy with, you need to change it. It’s your responsibility, not anyone else’s. Your life, your attitude, your destination, it’s all in your control. It doesn’t matter if you’re 20, 50, 80. If you’re unhappy with your life, you still have the opportunity to change it.

I recommend you take an action every single day take that will move you in the right direction to be the the person, the business owner, the spouse, and the friend you want to be. The first step is to take action. Success looks different to everyone. Being a millionaire might not be your version of success. Maybe being able to stay home with your kids is your version of success. Making just enough money to supplement your husband’s or wife’s income might be your version of success. Remember success looks different to everyone and no version is supreme, which is really a beautiful thing.

One of the biggest mistakes we make in life is not clearly defining your own version of success. What does success look like to you? When you think of your life in 5 years, if you want to be known as a success, what does that mean? You have to detail and map it out.

Money doesn’t make you happy. Time freedom does not make everyone happy. A big house does not make everyone happy. What makes you happy? What is going to be the thing that floats your boat? What is going to allow you to sit back and when someone asks “How are you doing?” you can say, “Exceptional,” and you really mean it. “Everything is going great, I’m living the life I designed.” What is that for you? If you don’t know, that’s the first step. Know that someone else might be extremely successful, and it might look completely different than you. Make sure you’re not measuring other people’s success on your scale.

Lesson Two: Rest is just as important as hard work

I used to not believe this, but I believe it now. As a creative, especially, I tend to prefer keeping my mind busy by listening to podcasts and educating myself. But I have learned my mind needs quiet, too. Silence is where the creativity grows. Rest is where the new ideas come and if I’m always pushing new knowledge and learning, my mind doesn’t have time to cultivate creative ideas. Rest can be taking time to let your mind be still, letting your body relax comfortably, and even letting your business rest. Being busy does not equal success. We are striving to be productive, we are striving to balance rest. There is no such thing as perfect balance, all we can do is try our hardest and do better the next time. Combining rest with productivity is going to get you as close to this balance as possible.

Lesson Three: You have to learn how to be productive

We all have a lot going on in our lives and short attention spans. It’s very easy for us to get caught up in social media, the next like, or jump from project to project. In business, I have learned that functioning at a high productivity level is incredibly important. I can’t just be busy, I have to get stuff done. By “get stuff done”, I have to get those emails sent, do the things I don’t want to do that I know will move my business forward. I used to be the type of person who let things linger on my to do list day after day after day. Now I can write a to do list I can truly accomplish all in one day — and it doesn’t happen every day. I’m not perfect. I also know I cannot multitask (here’s a secret: no one can.) Stay on one task, get it done, move on to the next.

Lesson Four: You need a community

You have to have a community in more ways than one. I used to think I could just run a business from the living room of my house in small town Montana and that I could be successful without surrounding myself with other people. I was to a large degree successful. I met my measures of success. But I wasn’t the person I wanted to be. As soon as I started surrounding myself with other very successful people in community based activities such as Bozeman Professional Women, my life began to change. I got a public office where people could meet me. I noticed I learn so much more when I surround myself with people who do good in the world.

Collaboration is the next new big thing in marketing (it’s already happening A LOT). You have to start collaborating with businesses, people, and influencers you love and admire. If you don’t have a tribe, you don’t have a community. You need someone to say “I’m having a really rough day. Can I bounce this sales page off you?” Or “Can you read this email I’m about to send for a big project and make sure I’m not missing something?” You’re going to miss the beauty of owning a small business if you don’t take those opportunities. On the other hand, you also need to surround yourself with people who are not in the business — friends and family who don’t ask you everyday about how many projects you booked that day. You need to surround yourself with incredible people. It is true. You become like the 5 people you surround yourself with. I want you to just think about who are those five people you spend the most time with and do you want to become more like them. If not, then why are you giving them so much time in your life?

Lesson Five: Scary things shape you.

Growth comes from the uncomfortable places. Uncomfortable places could be hiring your first employee, getting an office space, giving a bid to a client you think is out of your league and much more. The scary things shape you. When you push yourself to be uncomfortable, that’s when the growth happens. It’s really important to make yourself uncomfortable and grow from that area. It’s so easy for us to get caught up in being comfortable and going through the motions. I encourage you to do one thing every day that scares you just a little bit. Try that 5 seconds of courage a day. You could call someone and asking them to hire you or do a cold call, send an email, outsource a project, etc. Your business will grow exponentially and you’ll become a better person. Soon those scary things will be different and will continue to be tougher. In return you’ll become a better, more successful person.

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Comments 3

  1. I definitely needed this today. As someone who just embarked on this journey, it has been a rough time the past several months. I launched in January and realized yesterday that I hadn’t taken one day off work since! I decided it was time for a mental health day and I was able to dive in today feeling refreshed and better than I have in weeks. It’s nice to hear that the struggles will be worth it!

  2. I love love love these tips! Affording yourself time to rest is something that so many people overlook, but if you’re exhausted and worn out, your productivity/motivation is non-existent. Also, surrounding yourself with like-minded individuals who “get you” is such a game-changer. Thank you for posting this!!

  3. Wow! So true. I’ve experienced all of them and realize thd struggles are good knowing that your experiences shape you and your business. Definitely need to continue to work on the rest portion

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