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Taking the plunge: Swallowing your fear and starting a small business… from scratch

Filed in Small Business, Big Opportunities — July 25, 2023

It all started right here.

“You know that if I push this button, there’s no going back, right?”

Okay, so maybe I was being a bit dramatic, but it certainly felt like a monumental moment. My fiancé (now husband) and I were sitting at the kitchen island, and my finger was hovering over the mouse as I checked one more time that we were good with the “Plan.”

You see, I was about to commission a branding and web design expert to not only build a website for my 2-year-old company but rebrand the business entirely (shout out to Ally B Designs). This, along with a branding photo shoot (thank you, Jillian at B.O.B. Photography) were all in preparation for me to resign my corporate position and go out on my own. Hitting “submit” on the contract with the branding expert meant a significant financial investment that couldn’t be undone.

“Hit it, babe. Push the button, and let’s get this adventure started.”

In all honesty, the adventure started months ago, thanks to a medical leave, some well-timed Facebook Reels that made me rethink my priorities, and a mid-life realization that I didn’t want to build my professional life around other people’s goals. Leadout Communications was a side project that had provided me an outlet for my creative efforts, but the majority of my time was spent working on selling other peoples’ products to nameless, faceless consumers who were counted like widgets in daily reports.

After some serious soul searching and some long conversations at that kitchen island, we took the plunge. (And, yes, I said “we” because full-time self-employment was very much a family decision.)

Now, thousands of other people have written volumes about what to do when you’re thinking about starting your own business. Being a small business owner is not a new concept, by any stretch. But I do have a few words of advice to share that may help you in those early days if you’re looking at starting your own gig – whether it’s a side hustle or a full-time endeavor.

Being the boss can be a bit unnerving.

If you’re like me, you’ve been an employee for, well, let’s just say, a long time. Your workday has been constructed around someone else’s goals, priorities, and corporate culture. When you start your own business, you are the one in charge and that lack of structure (and lack of security in many respects) can be a little scary. Give yourself time to build a schedule and structure that works for you, so that you set yourself – and your company – up for success.

There will be a lot of unknowns.

No matter how much you prepare, there will be things you didn’t know you needed (say, an online invoicing system) and things you never anticipated having to obtain (like membership in the local Chamber of Commerce). Don’t let these challenges cause you to lose focus. Research your best options, get professional help, if needed, and consider each hurdle something that makes you a better strategist and businessperson.

Nothing will be perfect – and that’s okay.

Unlike your previous employers, your new employer has the perfect perspective on the challenges you are facing and what needs to be done to get your business off the ground. The best opportunities to learn come from those moments when things didn’t go quite the way we expected, and starting your own business will offer up some awesome lessons. Give yourself some grace to make mistakes – after all, perfection can be the enemy of progress. And moving forward with your dreams is the whole goal of becoming your own boss.

You get to do something you love – your way.

Starting your own business means you make the rules. How you work, where you work, and the clients you work with are all your choice to make. Once you determine what you want to do, the sky is the limit. Just make sure that it’s something you enjoy because you could be doing a lot of it to get your business off the ground.

Small business owners start their companies for a variety of reasons – freedom to dictate their own schedule, building a stronger connection to their communities, fulfilling a lifelong dream – you name it. Making the move from being someone’s employee to the person calling the shots can be one of the most empowering things you can do – both professionally and personally. Remember to give yourself the latitude to learn as you go and the grace to enjoy the adventure as it happens.

And when you have that moment of hitting “submit” at the kitchen island and launching your own business doing that thing that brings you joy, drop me a note. I’d love to hear about your new endeavor.