I get to choose my hours! I don’t have to listen to anyone barking orders at me! I can do what I love, every single day! I can finally be appreciated for my talents and hard work! When you daydream about owning your business, I’ll bet these thoughts swim through your head as you picture yourself swivelling in your office chair, your name on the sign outside, proud owner of your very own establishment.
…Of course, that is *mostly* true. I started my own graphic design firm because I wanted flexible hours in order to be the dominant care-giver while my children were young. I ultimately make every decision about what direction my business will take, day to day. And I do do what I love, at least most of the day.
But the realities of owning your own business also poses some issues that I think most people don’t consider when they set out down the entrepreneurial path. Choose your own hours? Do you think I turn down a job just because it happens to be a rush project that falls on the weekend, and the sun is out? Heck no! I don’t know if next month is going to be slower than this month so when a client says “jump!” I definitely say “how high?”
Being the boss of a company where you directly interact with clients or customers every day means listening to them and their concerns, and ultimately making sure they are thrilled with your work or product. This doesn’t always mean deciding how and when to do things. My projects with clients are very much a collaborative process. They are informed by both my creative design, my marketing experience AND the need for the client to make money, so I can hardly sit back and just do what I feel like.
The ultimate eye-opener for most people who set out to work for themselves is that, sure, you get to do what you love most of the time, but you are also the customer service department, accounting, and marketing, all rolled into one. This means that sometimes as much as 50% of your day can be swallowed up by “non-work” work. In truth, I’ve enjoyed the learning curve in some of these areas but not every business owner is happy about interacting with a wide variety of personalities every day or the mundane task of having to keep track of gas receipts.
Possibly the biggest lesson I’ve learned about owning my own business for the last 12 years is that it really helps if you stay focussed on your passion. You can be so busy with the day to day that you forget to pop your head up once in a while to redirect your ship to ensure it is still heading toward the horizon you’ve envisioned for yourself. As Gary Vaynerchuk, entrepreneurial internet millionaire declares: “Passion is an unmatched fuel. Add being happy to that and you have a wonderful formula for good health.” Eyes on the prize!