You need to have self-confidence and commitment to your vision to run your own business. The weak willed and whimsical need not apply.
Conflicts of interest
Personal sacrifice is the first requirement when you’re running your own business. Sometimes you’ll have to make choices where the business’ demands take priority over other plans you’ve already made with friends or family.
Unless they really understand what you’re going through, they will feel hard done by and give you a tough time for ditching them. You’ll be feeling worse for cancelling at the last minute, but you’ll know how important it is to not to let your business down when you’ve already made so many personal sacrifices to get it to where it is. And it’s a choice you’ll have to make time and time again as well.
Swings and roundabouts
When you’re your own boss you’ll have tremendous freedom and flexibility to work in a way that best suits you (in theory at least). Sure, you’ll inevitably work longer hours into the evenings and at weekends, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll never see anyone outside work as a result.
When you’re the one in charge of your own time, your work/life balance can be much more intertwined; you’ll no longer need to have a rigid block of time that is for work. As a result, I’ve been able to attend so many more of my children’s school plays, sports days and parents’ evenings than I ever managed when I was working for someone else. It’s much easier to take a couple of hours out of the middle of your day and make the time up later when you need to.
I often choose to work at home, so I can see my kids off in the morning and catch up with them as they arrive back from school. It’s these snippets of family life that make up for when you’re not always available at more conventional times.
Tips on how to keep going
At times, success can feel a million miles away, and this will be depressing. My wife calls these ‘the dark cloud days’. You’ll get them too, it’s hard not to. Working long hours without always getting the recognition or achievements you hoped for takes its toll.
At first my answer was to work harder, longer, to try and get more done and reach the goal sooner. You can do this for a while but you’ll suffer; your state of exhaustion will get worse, which will drive productivity down and result in more of these ‘dark cloud days’. It’s a downward spiral that no amount of coffee and energy-boosting sugar snacks can get you through (and ultimately these just make it worse).
I now take the following steps:
Better to back off and take regular breaks, coming back reinvigorated and much more productive.
A good diet with regular, strenuous exercise also plays an important role in all of this. Exercise is a natural stimulator of the body’s ‘feel good’ hormones: serotonin and dopamine. They will help to improve your mood and give you back that positive mental attitude you’ll need to succeed.
Stay in regular contact with your friends. Maybe through social media posts, as interactions like these through the day keep your spirits up, helping you avoid feeling isolated. And do make sure you re-schedule those dates you had to cancel as a result of work, so you maintain a social life.
Regularly keeping my wife, family and friends updated with a high-level business progress update helps them understand my current state of mind, making it easier for them to know what I’m going through and when I’m going to need their support more than ever.
It’s important to discuss ideas and strategies through with someone not involved directly with the business. I have a good friend who acts as a mentor giving me his objective point of view on the plans and decisions I’m making.
Being your own boss is all about choices. Remember that ultimately you’re the one who’s chosen this path so don’t let it get you down. But also remember that no-one is an island and you need friends and family behind you.
Simon Horton is the founder of ShopIntegrator, a hosted shopping cart e-commerce solution.