Last week, I was asked what it feels like to own my own business.
And while I think the person asking was looking for me to say something profound and deep like "It makes me feel so free! I don't know why I ever had a job before! I wish everyone could feel this way!", I instead said:
"It feels like I'm participating in a freaking fire drill every day."
Which is not at all glamorous. And probably not what most people want to hear when they're looking to take the leap into biz ownership.
My own story starts out with me moving to Montana and deciding that I was going to "make it" as a business owner in 6 months (*cue the laughs and the eye rolls*).
Fortunately, I'm a little more wizened to how difficult business ownership can be, so I thought I'd share the FOUR key pillars that have kept me in business over the last few years.
Grow Your Network
My network is the only thing that I can consistently rely on the bring me good business referrals, good clients, and good leads. Which means I put 95% of my marketing effort into building that network, providing value to the people in the Boss Lady Facebook group (which is AWESOME and if you drop your email below, you can join!).
Ways to Build: Reach out to one new person a week or a month that you may loosely know. Ask them to coffee or to make a real connection with them. Be sure this person is someone who a) has a good network and you could mutually benefit each other or b) you feel like you have some things in common with. If you reach out just because they're a local/online celebrity and you want to "pick their brain", they're going to be instantly turned off.
Find a Mentor
I have three amazing mentors from a bunch of different areas in my life and these women have not only helped me with more practical career advice, but they've been my biggest advocates when it came to me asking for a raise, charging clients more, and going out on my own in the first place.
The HARDEST part about this is actually asking for mentorship in a more formal or structured way. Most of my current mentors are old bosses, or peers of mine who started their entrepreneurial journey far earlier than I did. BUT I do think there is a way to ask for structured mentorship.
Ways to Build: Identify 1-3 females in your community that you want to learn from. Ask the first person you've identified if she'd engage with you in a structured mentorship relationship, meeting about once a month for coffee or a meal. Sweeten the deal by offering to buy them lunch or coffee. She may say no, and if so, move on to the next person on your list.
Many women LOVE mentoring others (especially if it's a direct ask like a personal email), so don't be afraid. And most women who would be good mentors may say no BUT will recommend you to someone else.
Seek Out Accountability
Holding yourself accountable for your own goals is awesome but frankly, not the strongest method of making sure you get shit done.
Finding a group (hello, Boss Lady Alum!) of women that are peers and that you can form a relationship with where you share your goals weekly or monthly is an amazing way to grow your business, your network, AND your productivity.
Ways to build: Find a Facebook group or reach out to someone you already know and ask them to be your accountability partner. Set up a consistent time to meet (once a week or once a month) either via the phone or in person. Structure it so that you can talk about a) what went well since the last time you met, b) what didn't go so well and c) what are the next steps for you to take to grow.
My accountability partner has CHANGED my life and has helped me push forward in ways I never thought I could. Highly recommended, just sayin'.
Make Growth a Priority
A great accountability friend once told me that business doesn't get harder, it's just that old things become easier and new things are always popping up for you to learn.
For me, blogging and sending a newsletter was HARRRRDDDD work. And then I did it almost every week for a year. And it's not that hard anymore.
This year, marketing, promoting and executing webinars is HARRRRRRRD work. But if I do it every. single. freaking. month. then it won't be so hard next year, right? Right.
Ways to build: Pick ONE thing in your business that is really hard (for me, it's webinars). Then, make it a point to do that thing every week or every month until it gets easy and you feel like you've got a handle on it.
Or, decide that you're going to go to a business building conference or event this year. Take notes. Learn a new skill. Use that new skill. Do it again next year. Be conscious of that fact that business ownership is A LONG GAME, not something that happens overnight.