Chances are pretty good that you’ve dreamed about starting your own business at some point in your life. Running your own show is attractive in so many ways, especially for us creative types. Maybe you want more control over how you spend your time; maybe you need more creative fulfillment in your career; maybe you see a huge gap in what’s out there, and you think you could fill it.
All three of those were true for me. When I decided to start Colette Patterns, I was working in what I thought would be my dream job. After I finished graduate school, I’d been hired by the company I most wanted to work for, a high-profile silicon valley company with a mission I believed in and a reputation for treating its employees very well. Not only that, I was doing work that had the potential to really help people in their day-to-day lives. It was great, and I learned a ton.
But after a few years, I realized that it wasn’t meeting all of my needs. I spent hours every day commuting. Most of my time at work was spent in meetings or writing reports. Worst of all for me, I felt like a lot of my talents were going to waste in the hustle and bustle of a large corporation. So I decided to try something else, something completely different.
Maybe you’re in a similar situation. My main impetus was the belief that life is too short to waste my time and abilities. I knew instinctively that I could do better and make myself happier, and that’s what I set out to do.
That said, you should probably take a good look at your motivations before investing too much, and think hard about the downsides to working for yourself. There are some obvious, practical challenges that probably spring to mind immediately. For example, you might wonder if you can make enough money to live on. Or if you’re in the US, you might have to think about buying your own health insurance. But there are other pitfalls you may not consider when painting a picture of your new venture. Here are some of the questions you might ask yourself (many of which I never thought about before starting this whole crazy small business thing):
- Are you able to manage heaps of small, mundane tasks?
- Can you deal effectively with incompetent or dishonest people that might crop up? If not, do you have someone who can help you? (I’ve had some doozies and I’m not very good at yelling at people, but luckily I have someone to help me manage hairy situations)
- Will thinking about work all the time be too taxing for you? Do you have ways you can cope with that?
- Are you willing to sometimes work long hours?
- Can you deal with feedback in a constructive, fair way?
- Are you excited enough about your business idea that you can imagine working on it every day for years to come?
None of this is meant to discourage you. I honestly think that if you’re interested in starting your own business, it’s something you should try at least once. Personally, it’s made me enormously happy, and I know it has that potential for a lot of people.
And if you’re not ready to make the commitment yet, don’t fret! That may mean that you just give yourself more time to plot and scheme, or it could mean you start with an ultra-small side project and don’t focus immediately on making it bigger. There’s no need to jump into it until you’re ready. Don’t pressure yourself.
With a passion for your business comes a big sense of responsibility, and that can be a lot to deal with. It’s great to be in control of every aspect, but it can also be tough. Later, I’ll write about some concrete strategies I have for dealing with that.
In the meantime: welcome to your own crazy adventure, it will be fun and you will learn more than you ever have. To paraphrase a friend of ours who works for himself, “I’m working harder than I ever have in my life, and I’m loving every minute of it.”