I longed to start my own business for years. I wanted the freedom to build something new and create without the constraints of working for someone else. The trouble was I found it easy to come up with ideas but hard to follow through on them, sabotaged by failing to plan well, doubting myself and not seeking the right support. In the past couple of years I’ve been through a cycle of learning, experimenting, succeeding, failing, stepping back, trying again and, occasionally, burning myself out. Here’s what I’ve learned from my messy, challenging, exciting journey so far.
It’s not a tidy process
When the neat ideas in your head hit the ground they get reshaped in ways you didn’t expect. What looked straightforward in imagination can turn out to be way more complicated in the real world, but then comes the satisfaction of learning far more from making it real than you expected you would. I went around in circles at first, trying to control everything and match reality to my imagination exactly. This was exhausting, because there were times when my ideal was simply beyond my current abilities. I had to let go of perfectionism and focus on what was good enough in order to move forward without wasting all my energy on details.
For example I had a very clear idea of how I wanted my homepage to look, but it turned out that without knowing coding I couldn’t get it looking just right. Instead a readjusted my ideas to fit what I could manage. The result is different to my original vision but it works well and I’m happy with it (oh OK, yes, I know I’ll probably never finish fiddling with it!)
There will never be enough time
I have to confess that I’m still in the habit of telling myself I’ll tackle big tasks when I have the time. But big chunks of free time, where I feel alert and focussed are few and far between, and when I do have them they’re too precious to squander. Instead I’ve learned to break down every big task into tiny tasks, then chip away at them in small chunks of time; maybe an hour before the day job, half an hour in the evening or a Saturday morning. It doesn’t feel like much at the time but it allows me to get lots done.
It helps me to track my progress, so I can see that I really am getting things done. I do this by keeping a Small Wins List in my bullet journal, and I add every small achievement to it as I do them.
The perfect circumstances will never come along
You know that advice of “Start before you’re ready”? There’s some truth in that. Planning and learning are important but you don’t build expertise and skill until you start doing something for real, and you can only do that by making a start before you feel perfectly ready. You’ll never feel like enough of an expert, have enough time or energy, or feel certain enough if you’re waiting for circumstances to be just right. There comes a point where you have to accept that and just do it anyway.
There’s no such thing as being 100% ready to turn your plans into reality, but there is such a thing as being ready enough to start doing it, so that you can learn and develop as you go. The experience you gain as you take your ideas out into the real world will build your experience and confidence, and will shape and refine what you’re doing.
There’s planning, then there’s effective planning
Making a To Do List isn’t a plan in itself, it’s the start of one. I’ll share my technique more fully in a future post, as it’s transformed how I plan and take action, but they key is to figure out which tasks depend on each other. This allows you to figure out the logical order to do things in, because you get clear on which building blocks need to be in place before you can build on top of them.
And the really good bit is – it takes off some of the pressure. You know which tasks you need to focus on now and which can be kept over until later. This has made a huge difference to me, knowing that I’ve parked those future tasks and that there’s no point worrying about them as I ned to do other things first.
Self-doubt is normal
I’ve found that as I’ve tried things out and taken action my confidence has grown more than I every thought it would. But – self-doubt is still an unwelcome visitor at times. I now see it as an indicator that I’m either too tired and need to rest or that I need some moral or practical support from people who get what I’m doing and why it matters to me.
Sometimes self-doubt pops up when I’m trying out something new, like when I ran my first Virtual Reiki Retreat. The self-doubt wasn’t there because I wasn’t capable of running the group, it was there because running a self-healing group was totally new to me. New things can be scary but it’s worth doing what you can to get through and do them despite self doubt because…
Confidence builds with experience
It’s that thing again where you’ll never feel totally ready to take action. In fact as doing something new often triggers self-doubt it’s more likely you’ll feel lower in confidence than usual, but don’t let that stop you. Confidence isn’t a fixed character trait; it fluctuates over a lifetime, and in different situations. Don’t be hard on yourself if your confidence is low when you’re starting out, just focus on trying things and seeing what happens. Experience builds expertise, and expertise grows confidence in yourself and what you’re trying to achieve.
It’s worth it
As you go along transforming your business goals and ideas into reality you’ll have ups and downs and your own lessons to learn. There will be times when it feels like you’ve bitten off more than you can chew, but for my part I believe it’s worth it. I get to help people, work with interesting clients, write, design and try out new things. I’ve never been able to do these things when working for someone else. Despite the risks, the doubts and the obstacles I believe it’s worth it all to have the freedom to do things my own way and to experiment and learn new things all the time.