I’m sure all of you can relate to the statement that this last year went nothing like how we planned. I feel that. A year ago, I worked as a copywriter at one of the biggest sportswear brands in the world. I was one of two digital copywriters in all of North America on the team, which meant my words were seen by millions and millions of people. It was a writer’s dream.
Deep down, I always had a feeling that I’d start my own business one day. It was just a matter of when. Around this time last year, I wondered if there was more out there for me. I began to explore the idea of starting my own business even further. I worked on copywriting projects here and there for clients on the side for several years. So, why couldn’t I get enough to sustain my own business? Slowly but surely, one client grew into several, and within a matter of months, I had a full-blown business. All the while balancing my corporate 9-5, a pandemic, and a growing roster of clients.
This fall, my business outgrew its status as my side gig, and I decided to leave my stable, well-paying job for full-time entrepreneurship. But after a year juggling the two, I learned a few things about what it takes to build a successful business online and continue to show up and thrive at your day job. If you feel like you’re just trying to stay above water, balancing the two, here are a few things that helped me stay afloat and avoid burnout.
I’ll be the first to say that investing is scary, especially when you don’t have steady revenue from your business coming in just yet. But, I would not be where I am today without going out on a limb and investing in mentors and educational courses. You don’t know what you don’t know and entrepreneurship can be lonely! Having someone who has been there and done that can make a huge difference.
This doesn’t mean throwing around money without intention. It’s about figuring out what support you need and finding the right people, courses, classes, etc…that can help you fill in the gaps to reach your goals.
Find your people
In the corporate world, you may be used to having a team around you. You have superiors, peers, and people below you, so it’s easy to feel that sense of camaraderie (depending on the workplace, of course). When you set out to do your own thing, it can be super isolating. Friends, partners, family, and coworkers may not understand or not take you and your new venture seriously. So I urge you to seek out people who can relate to your experience, be a source of support, and hold you accountable.
Start networking locally, go on coffee dates (virtual or IRL), or even join online networking communities to meet new people. When you have a rough day, you’ll be glad to have them in your corner.
It’s ok to say no
I’ve been there. Someone wants to work with you; you are giddy and want to jump in right away. But, maybe it’s not the right type of client, project, or you simply don’t have the time for it. The same goes for your personal life and your 9-5. You don’t need to go to every happy hour or volunteer to head up a new committee at work.
It’s important that you’re selective about where you spend your time and energy, especially if you’re juggling both! Remember that saying no is just as important (if not more) than saying yes.
You don’t have to do it alone
This point ties in with your community, knowledge, and mentors, but I’m taking it a step further. Pretty early on, I realized that my services’ demand was beyond my capacity, so bringing in support and outsourcing became extremely helpful for me and my business. Starting by looking at all of the tasks you have to do in your business and identify which ones you love doing and which ones don’t necessarily light you up.
Whether that’s accounting, legal, writing for social media, client management—you name it. You’ll be surprised how much time you can actually free up in your business by outsourcing the right tasks to the right people.
Define your priorities
It’s okay if you don’t have a 1, 5, or 10-year plan, but you should have a clear idea of what your priorities are in your business. Aka…what’s your ultimate goal for starting your business in the first place? The only way you’re going to manage the juggle of your 9-5, business, and personal life without wanting to pull your hair out is by understanding what’s driving you in the first place.
Who do you want to help, and why? What are you passionate about? Is it all about making extra income or about the potential impact you can have on someone’s life?
These may feel like big questions to be asking yourself upfront, and your answers to these questions may change along this rollercoaster of ups and downs in starting a business, and that’s okay. But it’s important to be checking in with yourself and understanding why you’re putting your energy in this direction in the first place.
Show up, perfect or not
Many entrepreneurs (even me!) feel pressured to have everything tied up with a bow before they get started, but you can’t get started until you take action. I had my first clients before I had a full-blown website, a logo, and honestly before I knew what this business was or what I wanted it to be. What helped me move the needle in my business while juggling a million other things was taking messy action and showing up every day.
For you, perhaps that means going face-to-camera on Instagram Stories, sending a weekly newsletter or connecting with someone new online every single day, find what feels right for you, and show up no matter what.
Entrepreneurship is challenging no matter how you slice it
However, when you add on a full-time job and all of your other commitments, it can quickly become overwhelming, to say the least. These lessons helped me feel more confident and in control. Without learning these lessons and implementing them, I wouldn’t have been able to grow my business to where it is today and to be able to leave my 9-5 comfortably.
With all that said, going full-time as an entrepreneur was about much more than leaving my 9-5 and the freedom that comes with it.
It’s about working with impact-driven brands and entrepreneurs and helping them share their stories with the world. It’s working on dream projects every single day and being in control of the work I create. It’s what lights me up in this new chapter of my life. I hope these lessons help you navigate your next chapter, too.