It is really easy for anyone who has never been in business, to assume that owning a business is all profits and glory.
It seems so glamorous, and like the money is always flowing. Let me tell you. IT IS WORK!
Look, anyone who has EVER built anything, successfully or not, will tell you that it times time, energy and resources (money and otherwise).
And just when you think you have it all figured out, there's another level! It's like a never ending game of candy crush that keeps you thinking you're getting somewhere, when all the while there are more levels coming! If you listen to "How I Built This" then you know that even the mega-successful huge CEOs have all the same doubts and fears that we all have when we launch our ventures.
If you're in business for yourself, or thinking about doing it, I'm sharing a little bit about my journey and how long it has taken to get to this still EARLY part of my business.
Fall 2015 - In the fall of 2015, I was on a maternity leave with my first child and looking at the possibility that my career could drastically change in the next year. So my goal during the leave was to figure out what was next, to make a plan. I work in politics and my career always follows campaign cycles and elected officials, so I wanted to take charge of my own future and sort it out. Also, my husband was in the midst of a career change and buying into a practice.
December 2015 - By December, I had gone through the process of looking for my own career coach, and interviewed a bunch with no luck. And that's when the seed was planted to become a coach myself. BUT I DIDN'T DO IT YET.
November 2016 - My boss got reelected and my job got extended for four years. Phew. OK, so this was when I started thinking again about coaching and taking ownership of my own future. I started thinking about branding, and was told to start providing the content people wanted, so I started pushing motivational stuff through my own Facebook page.
June 2017 - I gave birth to my second child. And while on leave, I finally decided to do it, and signed up for a four month coaching certification program. Within a couple of weeks, the program had us decide on a business name, register our business paperwork, sign on with our own coach, and start meeting with clients! I was SOOOO not ready! I remember thinking who do I think I am, I haven't even finished this program, yet!
But they emphasized that doing was more important than perfection, and thankfully they did! I could not be where I am right now, if I hadn't gotten started! There was no education I could get by reading or listening to other people that could replace what I've learned by just getting started and figuring out what works (and even more what doesn't).
August 2017 - So around this time, I was probably at about $3,000 invested. (mostly the class) I met with a design firm in town, but decided I couldn't afford the pros yet and designed my own brand/logo and other stuff, ordered business cards, and letterhead and a few office supplies. Borrowing my husbands laptop (My computer had crashed, and I didn't have a laptop), I started doing stuff mostly from my phone. I had class every week for 1-2 hours and homework including client introductions to equal about 5 hours a week. And then transitioned back to my full-time job in September.
Early 2018 - I was stumbling. I didn't totally know what I was building, except what I wanted to do. I hosted an event and had one person show up. I was meeting with potential clients, but no one was buying services. I hadn't invested a ton more money into the business, but I had about $20-30/month in expenses and the money spent was starting to creep up. I told my boss what I was building and started trying to plan for a transition, but with no clients, it made no sense!
May 2018 - My first ongoing client took the leap! She signed up, and started scheduling sessions regularly. We would meet in public, by video or in my home office. And it was everything I knew the business would be. She was excited and energetic, I was firing on all the stuff I had learned in my certification and offering the services I knew I could. I also graduated from my certification program around this time, and started getting a few other one-off sessions booked.
Fall 2018 - I grew to a handful of clients, some from my own network and some from referrals. I also started getting invites to local meetings and events to share my services with others.
Early 2019 - We were neck-deep in the Legislative Session (which means long-hours, stressful workloads for you non-politicos), so I had to slow down the energy I was giving to my business. To be fair, until here, I was really only giving about 5 hours a week between new client meetings, paid meetings, blogging, social media, research, etc). So it really slowed to about an hour or so each week. I just didn't have the capacity with a full-time job and two young kids at home. As we wrapped up that spring, I had planned to grow over the summer and fall, but I was seeing more interest. So my husband pushed me and said to do whatever it takes, and I did.
April 2019 - I grew by a couple of clients, and key, I met someone who helped spark me into my next level. I had been planning to get professional photos and redo my website and she sorta just pushed me into it. It was amazing. I had made "just" enough money recently to start paying for some of these things and took the leap.
June 2019 - From here the business grew to about 6-7 clients, and I went full-force into getting an office space who I now share with some of my clients who have become even better friends. I continue to grow my business and meet with new potential clients on a regular basis.
TODAY - So now, where is the business today? It pays it's own bills (most of the time), but I haven't paid myself back yet for my investments, nor do I pay myself for my time. I dedicate about 5-10 hours a week to it now. I meet with current clients, do business administration work and meet with potential new clients.
TOMORROW - I plan to start paying myself, and am about 2/3's the way towards my next professional certification (billable hours). I will grow my clientele (36 clients replaces all my current salary and benefits) and will work towards it so I can transition full-time into my own business when my job is over in January of 2021. And I would like to do some things more consistently (events, blogging, videos, client meetings, etc) and get to a point where I have a marketing plan to grow.
So what do you think? Where are you right now? I'd love to hear from you, because there are no secrets here and it is important that we are honest about how these things grow.