Being in business for yourself is scary

I love working for myself. I came to the conclusion many, many years ago that I am essentially unemployable: I’m a big challenge for an employer. For a start, I’m really driven. Secondly, I have high standards – often so high that they outstrip everybody else that I work with, which inevitably leads to discontent – if not among my colleagues, then definitely amongst management. Thirdly, many find my ‘take no prisoners’ attitude, where I don’t take anybody’s crap, a bit too challenging in a communal workplace. Fourthly, I’m hard to keep from getting bored. And so on. I could go on and on and on.

We, that is Foss and I, went into business for ourselves literally one year and three months ago. It’s been a big year. Hugely successful in some ways. Terrifying in others. Our big successes were our first book, which we released in January this year, and the launch of Metal as Fuck in March. Then, we took over Adelaide Academic Press at the beginning of July 09, which, pending one more form, will be final and official. Our next success will be our second book – an anthology titled Passionate Hookers. Our other big successes have been those clients who say to you, ‘I’m so glad I found you’, or ‘you’re a fantastic editor’, or ‘we love having you on board’. Those things you put in your glory file.

But while all of the success is great and brilliant, you still have those days when you become totally and utterly terrified. Like, the day you look at your finances and realise that you’ve been blithely mismanaging your cash flow – and then struggle to get everything back on track – whilst also remaining positive, on the right track, and trying to build your client base. Or the day when you realise that a lot of micro business independent presses don’t pay royalties for a reason, and you finally understand why. Or the day that the big promising job that had been coming your way for months disappeared over the horizon without so much as a wave. Or, perhaps most confrontingly, the day you work out that you have to sack a client in order to maintain your sanity – and that sacking them means writing the job off as a loss.

We hit all of these benchmarks in just on twelve months. What a learning curve!

When you actually sit down and think about all the things you get terrified about, it’s so easy to become disillusioned, dissatisfied, unhappy, or just plain old flat-out stressed. Part of that, I think, is that when you work from your own home, you don’t have the context of the Cube Farm, the so-called ‘water-cooler’ chat and gossip to keep things in perspective. Instead, you start to get introspective, your mind wanders, and pretty soon you realise that you’ve not been keeping the right balance, and nor have you managed to look after yourself very well. That’s when you realise that your biggest walk for a week has been to the letter-box, that you work until 3 am and each lunch at 4 pm, and you wonder where your beautiful work-life balance went.

But as an entrepreneur – it sounds arrogant, sure, but I always think of myself as an entrepreneur – you can’t let this get to you. The day you accept the downward slide as inevitable is the day you kiss your business goodbye. Instead, you have to sit up and tell the universe that you’re not going to take it (thank you, Twisted Sister!), and that you have enough pride not to let things go.

Entrepreneurs are generally defined as positive people, as risk-takers, as people who go out on a limb to do something. Well, in just twelve months I’ve launched and continued to grow an exciting new web development in Metal as Fuck: something for which there has clearly been a need, and which many people thought we were mental for doing. Like, as an example, the development costs alone for the site were in the double-figures of thousands of dollars. It’s a big risk, but where’s the fun in life if you don’t put everything on the line to achieve your dreams? Then again, I’m not one for taking personal risks through things like drugs, so maybe running close to the line is my version of methamphetamine!

It’s easy to draw your eyes to the dark side, but it’s beyond that and over on the sunny hill where you need to keep your focus. As this article mentions, for example, the next person to mention the ‘R-word’ is going to get slapped. That word is not in my vocabulary, and nor should it be in any business owner’s vocab. It’s a sure-fire way to convince yourself that nothing you can do will help you if you find yourself back-pedalling. Which we all know is bollocks.

So being in business for yourself is hell scary, and at the same time the biggest and most wonderful adventure of them all. Would I have it any other way? No. No way. Would you?

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