Well, ta-da! Ask and you shall receive.
So let's jump right into it and drop this biz bomb: here are the 5 BIGGEST misconceptions I had about running my own business and how to avoid them:
1. You'll have ultimate freedom
Well, sort of. In a way you do – you have the freedom to choose your schedule and what you focus on at what time. Maybe one day you want to work at 7 am. You can do that. Maybe another day you want to work at midnight... you can do that too. But what I realized after getting started is that the concept of ultimate freedom in owning my own business was my fantasy.
What I've found is that owning my own business and time schedule does mean ultimate freedom, along with... ultimate handcuffs.
When I worked for an agency I never woke up at 2 am and couldn't get back to sleep running through my clients' needs in my head, or trying to remember the last email I sent, or worrying if such-and-such was going to be taken care of. Now when I'm on vacation or even trying to relax at home on the weekend I often can't get business off my mind or can't stop checking emails.
So as a business owner, you do have ultimate control in many ways, but perhaps not ultimate freedom.
2. Owning your own business is a constantly rewarding experience
Don't get me wrong, in many ways it IS! I've never been so proud in my work life as I am running my own business. When things are successful, there's almost nothing else like it... The pride that you have in making your own success a reality is so incredible.
But I would also say that when it's going badly you see the other side of the coin. So, when things go badly at work – when a project prints incorrectly, or I miss a deadline – the stress I get from that is so much more intense than I experienced in my pre-biz-owning work life.
3. You'll get to focus on being an expert in your field
When I initially started my own design firm, I thought I'd be able to focus the majority of my time on design – I thought, "I'll get to go to design conferences, I'll get to spend hours doodling a logo design, I'll get to focus purely on the field that I love" – but that's really not been the case as a biz owner. As a business owner, you spend your time first and foremost running a business.
If that's something I would have really understood going into the biz world, I would have approached things very differently.
I would have tried to focus more on business skills from the get-go, and I would have tried to look at the 10,000-foot view – the long-term business strategy – more from the beginning, rather than just trying to keep my head above water and taking the business hurdles when they came. In reality, as a business owner you devote your time to running the backend of your business much more than I anticipated.
4. You'll be able to achieve an amazing work-life balance
I think maybe this should have been #1 on this list. When I first decided to start my own company, I imagined I'd be able to achieve the ultimate work-life balance because I would have so much control over my schedule.
However, as a biz owner I've found that for me it's almost been the opposite. You're so driven to be successful running your own company that you may really have more of a challenge to be able to "turn it off" when you're at home. It's definitely been a tough experience to find a work-life balance between running a successful business and maintaining my family and personal life.
The fuzzy balance between work and life that owning your own business entails is something that I would tell any potential biz owner to be aware of: to maybe start, from the beginning, to really compartmentalize between your work and your personal life. Consider setting enforceable boundaries for yourself for home and work, or perhaps really educate your spouse or significant other about what you expect to be doing on the weekends and in down time at home (as in: a lot of work!).
5. You'll be able to clearly separate yourself from your brand
I'm about to drop what's perhaps the biggest #bizbomb of all: As a biz owner, you are your personal brand. It's a daily reality.
For me, embodying a personal brand has been pretty natural because I've always been a designer. I've always been into the arts. So it's not something that's new for me or a different part of my life... It's who I've always been, so it's natural to be representing the creative mindset and attitude behind Hoot.
Really embodying a personal brand is something I've become much more acutely aware of living in a smaller town where you see a lot of the same people again and again. It means that I am always representing myself and my brand and that my brand and my individual person are always going to be interwoven in people's minds: Kristen is Hoot Design Co. – and vice versa.
So in starting your own business, you have to sit down and prepare yourself for that reality.
One story I always tell people to illustrate this concept dates from when I first moved here, to Columbia MO: I had my logo on the back of my car. After about a year I took it off entirely because I realized that while yes, I was promoting my company in a highly visible way, I didn't need every potential client to know that it was me (and in their minds, my brand) that just cut them off, or sped by, or that I may have been on my phone while driving or something like that. That's the sort of situation where you are your brand out in the community, so you want to be able to control that fact and manage people's impressions.
Is there something I missed? What are some misconceptions that you had about owning a business? What's the best advice you've received as an entrepreneur? Join the conversation!
Yes, I really do want to hear what you have to say! Leave a comment below letting me know YOUR experiences running your own business... The ups, downs, and everything in between. Or, as always, connect on Facebook or tweet me @hootdesignco with your advice.
As I said in last week's video post, I've made it through the past 6+ years building HDco by learning from my past mistakes and refocusing my business mindset, and I think it's time to start reaching out to each other as entrepreneurs to share our successes, struggles, and best advice. Come join me :)
Thanks, guys! That's all for now.