“But they don’t know what it’s really like.”
A friend made that one simple comment, and things unfolded in a way I could have never anticipated.
She was talking about you, and how you don’t know what it’s really like for me to run my business. (By the way, she wasn’t being mean or critical. She was simply stating a fact.)
When she said it, a mixed emotional cocktail of truth, sadness, and fear sunk deep into my belly. The thought stuck with me for months.
Should I say something? Should I not? What do I say? How do I say it?
Running a business has been an emotional rollercoaster ride unlike any other I’ve been on.
Skipping with glee as I left my corporate job. Illness-invoked fear from not having any money coming in. Overwhelming relief in replacing my previous job’s income. And day-in, day-out delights and mega frustrations that are always with me.
The more I sat with her words, the more I felt called to talk about what it’s really like, because you tell me, time and time again, that you appreciate when I tell you the truth — the truth no one else dares to say.
Even after the words were on the digital page, when someone on my team read today’s post, she asked, “Are you sure you want to tell them all of this?”
I hesitated. Then got an internal, resounding yes.
That doesn’t take away the fear in sharing these dark secrets.
I’m afraid of your reaction. That you’ll slam your laptop shut, stop accepting clients, and give up your dream of running an online business.
But I’m saying it anyway because I want you to know this:
I know what it’s like. I know what you’re going through. And… (You’ll have to keep reading to get that last one.)
So if you want to know what it really feels like to run this business, I’m baring all today.
Let’s dive in.
What It’s Really Like…
There’s no doubt that running an online business has some seriously awesome perks.
I get to be my own boss, take time off whenever I want, eat homemade lunches every day, work with people I love, and have my work schedule flex around my life schedule.
But, as I’m sure you’ve realized, there’s a lot more to running your business than revelling in all those perks.
Sure, I work fewer hours, completely bypass a daily commute, and don’t have to play office politics, but…
This shit is fucking hard.
And even if you diligently tackle your tasks, fear is still there, riding right alongside you every step of the way.
The fear that it won’t work, they won’t like you, they’ll say no, you’ll get criticized, you won’t measure up. There are mental demons waiting to show you the ten thousand ways you are going to flat-out fail.
It requires more mental and emotional grit than you’ve ever needed to keep pushing ahead in the face of all that noise.
When you run a business, your mind is always in “work mode.”
At my corporate job, when I left for the day, work stayed at work. I didn’t take my laptop home, I didn’t have work email on my cell phone, and I didn’t try to solve work problems on my personal time.
I knew that as long as I did a good job when I was at work, everything would get done, I’d get paid, and life would keep sailing along. Those days are long gone.
Now, no matter what’s happening, work brain is ON or ready to turn on at any given moment. That thing a client said, that idea that popped into my mind, that challenge I can’t seem to tackle… it’s all waiting right there for my brain to dive in and think about it.
As awesome as it is to work from home, it can get incredibly lonely.
One upside of running my business is I love the solitude of working from home — most days.
As someone who suffers from misophobia, I’m grateful that I don’t have to use half of my energy tuning out the office noises that make people like me lose their minds, like the clickety-clack keyboard typing, spring-allergy and winter-cold sniffles, all-day-long coffee slurping, or the incessant sunflower seed snap from my previous cubicle neighbor. (I feel anxious just thinking about those memories!)
There are days where I feel isolated and lonely. I crave connection and hunger for simple water cooler talk, but it’s just me and my dog.
So I sit in the loneliness, knowing that this is one of the dark sides of working from home.
The pressure gets greater the bigger you grow.
The more “successful” you become, the more pressure there is. The fall is greater. More eyes are watching. And it’s scary as fuck.
…and I’m not even that far “up there” yet.
The pressure comes in all sorts of varieties.
Let’s talk financial pressure. When I first started out, I thought I just needed to replace my corporate income and I’d be set.
Then I realized that I loved working with a team and wanted to stop doing administrative tasks and other things that weren’t in my zone of genius.
To hire people, you need to make more money. That was fine, but once I started growing a team, the pressure increased. I have team members’ families who count on me to work my magic month after month to pay their salaries.
No longer does a bad month mean that my husband and I skimp and save and eat beans and rice. Those were the “good old days” when I was starting out!
At this point in my business, there is no room for a bad month. Too many families are on the line!
Beyond financial pressure, there’s creative pressure, pressure to create, pressure to perform, pressure to excel, pressure to keep growing, pressure to stay calm under pressure.
Plus the constant pressure to keep “upping your game.”
Nike, Apple, and Crate and Barrel or any of your favorite companies don’t keep running the same marketing campaign year after year, and they aren’t selling the same products they sold when they opened.
Top performing companies are constantly reinventing their advertising, creating new products, and finding new channels to connect with customers. Our businesses aren’t an exception to this rule.
You must be constantly creating, reinventing, and improving. There is no point of “set it and forget it,” no matter what any self-proclaimed “expert” is trying to tell you.
This pressure brings you to your knees. It tests your resilience. It makes you question your strength.
Yet each day, you get back up and do it again. You keep going. Even when you wonder why you put up with it.
IT’S ALL TOTALLY, 1000% WORTH IT
For all the pressure, frustrations, heartache, and incessant fear, I tell you, without hesitation, that it’s 1000% worth it.
Yes, many days I want to quit and go back to a “stable corporate job” (as if those even exist anymore).
Yes, most weeks I feel like I’m losing my mind.
Yes, I go through more tissues, journals, and self-help books than the average human.
But given the chance to go back in time, I’d choose this path again — every single time.
I’d choose the struggle. The fear. The pain. The frustration. The pressure. The worry. The moments full of panic.
I’d choose this person I’ve become and the life I created because of this business.
I have no regrets. I have no doubts. I have no hesitations.
Running a business has made me stronger, more resilient, braver, smarter, more compassionate, kinder, and aware.
I’ve grown on more levels than I knew there were to grow through… and I see how much further I have to go.
There’s so much to run from in business. But there’s so much more to run toward, even on the hard days.
No matter what you’re bumping up against, how hard it feels, how quiet your home office is, and whether or not you think you can make it, know this:
It’s worth the stress and the struggles.
It’s worth the pressure and the fear.
And if you keep at it long enough, fully committed to making it happen, you’ll see that it’s even better than you imagined.