In an age of uber motivated and creative women, it’s more common than not to know someone who identities as an entrepreneur or small business owner. Our generation is brimming with females leaving the corporate world to be their own boss lady, and to more importantly, follow those career #goals. As someone who made that leap a couple years back, I can confidently say I have no regrets — but I won’t lie and say I didn’t completely bomb many aspects my first year. Here are six major lessons I learned in my first 365 days.
1. You don’t make as much as you think
Ahhh, the naive days of getting paid without taxes being pulled out… until they are. From the jump, get yourself a CPA who can guide you through quarterly payments, deductibles, and everything in between. They’ll be able to help you set up a budget, figure out what you’re actually taking home, and pay taxes little by little so you’re not hit as hard come April. Throughout the first year, you’ll become BFFs with your CPA, so make sure to choose someone you vibe with.
2. There will be highs and lows
Quitting your corporate job is one of the most liberating feelings in the world, especially if you’ve been planning your side gig(s) for a while. And while it’s filled with lots of highs, there will also be times where the stress is higher, you mess up a project, you lose a client or business, and you don’t shower for a few days in a row (so I’ve heard…).
Being a business owner or entrepreneur is glorious in a way, but not all ways. Prepare yourself to feel unmotivated, confused, and scared — without falsely expecting to feel on a high every day. It’s normal!
3. The anxiety never goes away
Whenever someone asks me the worst part about owning my own business, it’s an easy answer: ANXIETY. I like to use the analogy of an iPhone, actually. Though you’re not on your phone 24 hours a day, most of us keep that phone on 24 hours a day. Tabs are open and systems are running, even though it’s not technically in use. That’s kinda like the brain of an entrepreneur!
Even when you’re not working, there’s a buzz of anxiety that lingers in your head. Anxiety about how long you’ll be able to keep this up, how you’ll afford life if your business fails, is X client or project in a good spot… and the list goes on. The first year seems to be the worst, too.
But here’s what’s gotten me through it. If you think about it, no one has guarantees with their job. Companies fire and lay off people every single day, even in the corporate world, so you’re actually in the same spot as before you quit. Maybe even better! Your work is entirely up to you, and you likely have more than one gig or client — whereas corporate security is tied to one job and one job only.
Also, red wine helps.
4. You must have a comprehensive bookkeeping system
Google docs or your iPhone notepad might seem fine for bookkeeping your first few months, but they’re not. Unless you’re a finance unicorn, a legit system is necessary.
I personally love FreshBooks, where I can track my time for the day, invoices, and expenses. Get in the habit of opening the app daily and tracking everything as you go. It’ll not only help majorly with taxes, but you won’t spend hours invoicing and adding up hours or inventory each month either. More time to spend building your empire, of course!
5. You have to teach yourself to unplug
I was so excited my first year that I almost took pride in being available 24/7. Being a work horse didn’t matter because I was freaking pumped! There wasn’t a weekend or night where I didn’t “check in” on work… or work.
Unlike being in a corporate setting, your work and home life blur together, and it’s actually addicting to build your entrepreneurial career… but don’t let it take over completely!
You’ll eventually hit a burnout and your work will suffer because of it. Plus, it’s simply not healthy to give all your attention to one thing. Entrepreneur or not, things like spending time with family, friends, and self-care are just crucial for happiness and health. It’s easy to isolate yourself in a “work first” mentality, but make sure to take time to recharge that passion!
6. Quality over quantity
When you see the dollar numbers attached to a project, it’s human nature to say “yes” and jump right in. Unlike a salary, you’re able to see specific monetary numbers shift based on how much work you’re doing. And the thought of more money makes most people happy — especially in the beginning. But what I learned was, like most aspects of life, quality trumps quantity.
I took on a few projects that I didn’t have time for in the beginning, and quite frankly, wasn’t excited about. The work suffered and I ended up essentially failing with those clients.
Moving on, I worked on a more limited task list and made sure I was truly interested in whatever I was signing up for. It was some of the best work of my career and my clients were ecstatic. Which led to glowing reviews and more ongoing work from those clients — and their friends.
In the end, just because you have the chance to say yes to more things doesn’t mean you should. Continue to go back to your values and goals you set out when making the jump to entrepreneurial land with every new opportunity. And remember, money can always be made up for, but time and quality of work can’t.