I’m not usually one to focus my time and energy on things that aren’t working because I’m acutely aware that “What we focus on grows” and all of that.
And yet, I also think there’s enormous value in sharing our vulnerability and real-life struggles so that we know we’re not alone and so that we can help each other through them. And sometimes we have days where it all just feels really hard. Running your own business can feel like a lot of hustle for little return at times. Sometimes it sucks. And it’s OK to feel that way every now and then. It’s part of the natural cycle of things.
Today I had one of those days when I sat down at my desk and I couldn’t find my ‘mojo’. I’d had a couple of deflating incidents; some people unsubscribing from my email list, very little engagement on an offer I put out that I’d been really excited about. All a very normal part of doing business, but sometimes those things feel deflating nonetheless. My head was full of thoughts like “Who’s going to care if I don’t coach or publish or offer anything today. Maybe I should just go back to my old corporate job.” … and a tirade of other unpleasant thoughts.
It can be hard to pull myself out of those moments.
Because starting your own business is hard. And there are days when I just want to give up on my dream.
My dream for the past six years has been to run my own thriving coaching practice from home, while being a Mum to our two young boys. I quit my previous corporate career in 2011 after more than fifteen years in the field of water process engineering. I’d chosen my field of study for mostly the wrong reasons; trying to please my parents and live up to the expectations they had for me to be a successful professional woman in the technical fields. And I chose it for the stable financial future that everyone told me I would have if I followed Science & Engineering. Which I did have, but that financial freedom failed to make me happy. I had mostly ignored the gentle pleads from my heart to follow my natural joy; languages, social connection, and writing.
But in 2011 I was finally forced to my knees and I had no other option than to step out of my profession.
I’d been through a very long ‘dark night of the soul’ (which I write about here Authentically Me: My Journey of Coming Home to Myself). I could no longer ignore the whispers in my heart that had now turned into a loud roar.
I remember the mixed emotions I felt when I finally made the decision to quit my job after almost 15 years of intense sweat and tears poured into my profession. Enormous relief, exhilaration, freedom, joy. Followed closely by lots of fear, self-doubt, and anxiety about what others would say and think. And many questions and doubts about what I would actually do going forward. I had never contemplated ‘going it alone’ before or being a business owner or entrepreneur. Those words had never even been inside my head in relation to ME.
But I’d been through so much struggle and inner turmoil to get to that point that I was determined to make my own way on my own terms.
After much soul-searching, I decided I wanted to save others from the struggles that I had been through, feeling off-track and miserable in my career for so long, to help them find their authentic and joyful professional path. I was determined to make it work.
I was lucky (or was it synchronicity?) that at the time I decided to quit my corporate consulting engineering career, my husband was offered a job overseas and I had finally fallen pregnant with our first baby boy. And so I took that to be a ‘sign’ and decided to throw myself wholeheartedly into pursuing a coaching certification while simultaneously becoming a mother twice over (our boys are now aged 3 and 6). In 2014, I finally became qualified as a Certified Coach and I’ve been busily working away at building my business ever since.
I feel fortunate that I’ve had so much passion and purpose to fuel me through the start-up phase because it hasn’t been easy.
It’s not an easy task going back to ground zero, starting out in a new field in which you know nothing, building connections in a field that you have none, developing new skills and competencies completely outside of what you’ve always known.
Not to mention the difficulty of setting up the actual nuts and bolts of a business, or the many costs of setting up and running one. There are so many little things that add up over time; business name registration, domain name purchase, building a website and everything that goes along with that, branding and logo design, purchasing graphic design tools, email list building software, online course platforms, social media/content scheduling tools, business insurances, legal documents, office set up … and the list goes on.
One of Sydney’s rising start-up entrepreneurs Jon Westenberg said recently:
“If you don’t have a plan to make money, all you have is an expensive hobby.”
– Jon Westenberg
And sometimes that’s what it’s felt like, an expensive hobby. Especially in those early years. Over the past six years, I’ve completed countless courses and programs from some of the biggest ‘gurus’ in the industry, trying to figure out MY plan to make money. Everyone seems to have a different idea or opinion on what it takes to “make it happen”. And I’m slowly realising that there’s no “one-size-fits-all” approach and each business and person is entirely unique and as such requires a unique approach. I’ve tried several different approaches; some have worked, some haven’t. But with time I guess you could say I’m slowly figuring out the best business model for my personality and services.
I’ve been extremely fortunate that my husband has been able to pick up the slack financially, especially in the beginning, because it certainly takes a long time to develop anything near a ‘sustainable income’. It takes time and a lot of patience to build a sustainable, functional business foundation. And it takes a lot of time and patience to build visibility and a platform of followers interested in your message and your work.
There is no quick fix, no overnight solution. It takes a lot of consistent, hard work before you begin to see the fruits of your hard labour.
And some days it feels like I’m putting my work out into a vacuum. Those are the days when it’s hard to get motivated. It’s hard going it alone. It’s hard being the sole person responsible for generating income from your business. If you slack off, no money comes in. I’ve read all the promises of the 4-hour work week and ‘passive income’ and while they sound great, it’s much harder to implement in reality.
If you ever get into one of those downward spirals of despair and negativity, here are some tips on how to pull yourself back up and out of it. These are some of the things that help me on a regular basis when I get into a funk.
1. Force yourself to step away from the desk and take a short break.
Because any action you take while in that negative frame of mind is not going to be productive or inspired. It’s important to get yourself back into a good frame of mind before attempting to do anything at all. Do whatever it takes to re-center and re-align yourself.
2. Get yourself out into nature and do something nourishing for your body, mind or soul.
Get outside into the garden, or go for a walk, or do something uplifting, comforting and nourishing for yourself. If you need some inspiration on how to do that, I wrote about 10 ways to do that in my blog article:
Soul-Care – 10 Ways To Comfort Your Being In Times of Overwhelm.
3. Focus on what you love about working for yourself.
Take some time to remember the reasons you decided to work for yourself. Write them down. For example, I remember how much I love the complete freedom and flexibility of my schedule and my pure freedom of creative self-expression. I love the ability I have to work from home, to be there for my kids, and to focus my time on what I want, when I want. What is it that you love about working for yourself? I wrote about mine here: Quitting the Rat Race: 5 Reasons Why You Should Break Free and Follow Your Heart.
4. Remember WHY you’re doing it. And get inspired again by your goals.
When you’re in this state of mind, it’s important to reconnect with your PURPOSE – your ‘big why’. I remind myself how much pain I felt when I couldn’t find my professional purpose and joy for the longest time. And I think of all the people who have told me how desperately they want to find their joyful career path and to live a life more aligned with their heart and soul. I take the time to go back and read my Business Inspiration and Vision. And then I go back to the exciting goals and vision that I set for my year ahead, which I do each year through Quest with Jeffrey Davis at Tracking Wonder.
5. Re-read some of the positive feedback from your clients and appreciate the areas where you have traction in your business.
Go back and read or simply remember some of the positive things people have said about your work and the impact you’ve made on them. And spend some time appreciating those areas of your business where you ARE experiencing flow, traction and momentum. Find a way to remember that your work matters and that people need and appreciate what you have to offer.
6. Remember that you’re making progress, even when you can’t yet see the fruits of your labour.
Building a business requires us to continuously plant seeds and they don’t always germinate when we’d like them to, or sometimes they don’t germinate at all. Some days I can feel disheartened when I feel like I’m not seeing any results of my hard work. But then I experience an unexpected surprise or breakthrough and I’m reminded that progress is ALWAYS being made, even when it doesn’t feel like it.
7. Don’t give up. You just may be on the verge of making a breakthrough!
No matter how bad your day is feeling, don’t give up. You might be just about to make a touchdown. Keep your thoughts and energy focused on the vision you hold and how good it feels to be living your dream, on your own terms. If you need help staying tuned in to positive energy and the flow of abundance, take a look at my article How to Attract More Abundance & Joy Into Your Life.
And if all else fails, take a day off, go and do something you love and tomorrow is another day. But most importantly, hang in there. The world needs your precious gifts! And if you ever need to reach out for some moral support, I’d love to connect with you. You can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In service to helping you live your brightest life,
Katie De Jong, Ph.D
Global Career Coach for Thriving Professionals
Inspired Careers International
Need help finding your unique professional path and purpose? Get your FREE copy of my E-Book PATHFINDING: HOW TO FIND YOUR UNIQUE PATH AND PURPOSE here.