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When I hear the word entrepreneur, Mark Cuban’s face pops into my head.
I can’t help it!
Without even realizing it, I associate being an entrepreneur with being a millionaire…and Shark Tank.
Although having owned my own business for nearly four years now, I can say entrepreneurship is pretty much nothing like that. Not yet, anyway.
In my experience, the first few years of working for yourself are the hardest—especially if you’ve never run your own company.
In addition to building a business and marketing to customers, your brain is inundated with things you’ve never had to worry about before. You worry about things like managing the books, fixing your own computer when it breaks, and learning how to be self-motivated when you really don’t need to work today, do you? (After googling, “I need motivation” too many times, I finally bookmarked this article by our friends over at Fizzle. I usually get to number three before I’m ready to start working.)
So today I want to share a few lessons about being an entrepreneur and growing your business that I wish someone would’ve told me back when I started my first business. Because Lord knows I hadn’t a clue what I was doing.
1. Growth doesn’t mean every day was better than the day before.
One afternoon I was looking at our books, confused.
I expected to see steady growth month over month.
But allow me to show you what our income has looked like since June 2014—our first month of marriage and entrepreneurship:
Instead of growing steadily, everything was jumbled up with a few taller peaks, and way more valleys than I wanted. It was up and down and then down more, and then a promising spike and then down again. Why was I not getting that steady growth that I imagined? Wasn’t the business doing well? Aren’t we growing?
If I’ve learned anything these past four years, it’s that business growth is unpredictable and volatile. Sometimes there’s no correlation between effort and income, between hours worked and revenue. (The true challenge of being an entrepreneur!)
While you can see a steady uptick in our income with each year, the month to month is less predictable. There is one month on this chart that I need to point out to you: November of 2017.
This past November was our least profitable month of income in four years of working for ourselves. We made less in November than we made in September of our first year on the road—affectionately known to us as the month our bank account hit $67.
You expect that day after day, month after month, you’ll slowly earn more money. You’ll be able to charge more, you’ll create more products, you’ll become more well-known. While those things are true, they don’t mean that every month is going to be better than the last.
We had our two worst months of income in 2017 (November and April). But we also made the most money we’ve ever made and started making a livable income off our website.
I didn’t realize I had this preconceived notion that each month should be better than the last until I looked at this chart and felt a little disappointed.
When your business isn’t growing the way you thought it would, it’s easy to get frustrated and disheartened. Heck during our first two years of entrepreneurship, I threw in the towel multiple times. (This is where having a sane business partner is key!) Everything about starting a business, finding clients, delivering on your work, and hustling to make money was 100 times harder than I thought it would be. But of course, here I am a few years later, still working for myself and still blogging about how much I love it, despite the stress and headaches it may cause.
Some months will be horrible. Some months will be amazing. One bad month for your business won’t kill you, though it may make your job a million times more stressful. Mentally (and fiscally) prepare yourself for the ups and downs. They are a part of business and nothing to stress over. Keep at it!
2. Entrepreneurship is a 24/7 thing.
If you want to grow your business, you need to show up every day. Creating launches, throwing big events, and signing on big clients are great highlights in your business, but you’re running a marathon. You need to show up all the time, not just when you’re motivated or when you feel like it or when it’s easy.
For our website, this means creating 2-3 pieces of weekly content and sending newsletters every Wednesday. It means getting the website live after it crashes and staying up late to meet deadlines. For our production company, it means pushing out videos on time and replying to edits and comments quickly.
With Heath’s startup, Campground Booking, it looks like hundreds of support calls and daily iterations to improve the software and make it better. One launch with a campground doesn’t make or break the company, showing up daily to improve the product and the service does.
Entrepreneurship looks like showing up every day, whether or not you feel like it.
It’s not 9 to 5. It’s not Monday through Friday and you can’t clock out and hand it over to someone else (well, I suppose you could, but we aren’t there yet).
It’s an always on the clock, always in the back of your mind kind of thing. You can’t turn off your brain and check out mentally and still expect things to move forward. Somehow you have to blend your work with your life without letting one take over the other (something we’re still working on). You have to figure out how to balance it without letting it take over your life or burn you out.
Creating Work/Life Balance, Blend, or Whatever You Want to Call It
This is the eternal struggle, especially when you live and work next to your business partner within a small box 24/7.
I know a lot of entrepreneurs and no one has an answer to this. But I love what my friend Kyle says. He doesn’t say work-life balance. He says work-life mesh. It’s not about two separate parts of your life balancing on a scale. It’s about two things blending together to create the kind of life you want.
I love the mental imagery with that. Your work and your life are not two separate things anymore. They blend and overlap and affect each other. If you try to separate the two, you’ll get burned out working too hard, or your business will suffer from lack of attention.
Create a work-life mesh. Find a way to focus on your business and blend it into your life.
For me, this looks like working 5-6 hours a day and doing work that is centered around my lifestyle. All of our clients and products are centered around RVing because that’s what we love. Our travel and experiences inform our business and also get me away from the computer and out in the world living life. That’s my perfect blend.
3. Your goals will grow with you.
As an entrepreneur, there is no point where you’ll feel like you’re content or done growing. You will always want to learn more, be better, grow bigger.
Last year our goal was to hit 100K views a month on our website. But guess what? Before we even hit 100K, my brain already re-set a goal for 250K. So when we hit 100K, it was anti-climactic because I was already onto the next metric. Mentally I was disappointed because I knew I still had 150K to go!
We all love the chase (also known in business as the hustle or the grind). We’re always looking for something bigger to achieve. Don’t feel bad if when you hit that goal you were dying to achieve just a few months ago that it doesn’t feel as amazing as you thought. It’s because you’ve seen what you can achieve and you’re excitedly moving onto the next big goal.
Do not forget to celebrate your wins!
You landed your 10th client? You made your first $50,000? Hit 1,000 subscribers?
Even though you have a bigger goal in your head already, don’t forget to celebrate the milestones.
This year, Heath and I have made this a priority. We’ve popped champagne, eaten out for dinner, and once ordered multiple desserts from room service all to celebrate the wins…of course, those meals ended up becoming strategy sessions for how we could hit that next goal. When we went out to dinner to celebrate selling 2,000+ books the day my book launched, we ended up taking notes on strategies for hitting 10,000 books sold. That’s another entrepreneurship truth I didn’t expect—you’ll end up talking about your business a LOT. Especially when your spouse is your partner.
The more you grow, the more your goals will grow with you. Make sure you enjoy the journey and celebrate the wins along the way.
Being an entrepreneur has been my greatest source of stress and my greatest source of joy these past few years. I love that the lifestyle allows for us to travel full-time and meet amazing people in beautiful places. I love the freedom we have to go to new places and try new things.
But one of my favorite parts is how owning your business forces you to always be growing. I’m always learning new skills, researching new things, and thinking about ways to be smarter, faster, better. As my business grows, I’m growing too.
Entrepreneurship isn’t at all what I thought it would be, but it’s pretty stinking amazing.
If you want to start your business, check out our RV Entrepreneur Podcast where we interview fellow nomadic entrepreneurs on how to run a mobile business.
Awesome post, Alyssa!
I totally agree with you – business is volatile. It’s a roller coaster ride that almost matches those peaks and valleys on your income chart. Even from someone who has recurring revenue through contracts with clients, some months are still much better than others. Consistency is very hard to achieve. But you keep going and learning and growing. And everything works out in the end. 🙂
Thanks Bill! 🙂
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