A Year Later // reflections of a rookie entrepreneur.

A year ago, after several months of freelancing, a few weeks of pro/con lists and indecisive pondering, and a somewhat ceremonial purchase of a $20 Moleskine notebook, I decided to make it a thing. I decided to start my own company and go out on my own. The past year has been challenging, stressful at times, but overall a really positive experience. It's been everything I expected, and it's just as good of a fit for me as I suspected. Following suit, everything I learned is everything I expected to learn, or at the very least, nothing shocked me.

from "The Man in the Arena" speech by Teddy Roosevelt.

from "The Man in the Arena" speech by Teddy Roosevelt.

SHOWING UP AND BEING SEEN (and the ass-kicking that sometimes follows)
"...not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles..." One of the most important things I learned was that entrepreneurship is absolutely vulnerable. I had an experience where a client was not satisfied with the work I produced, but wouldn't communicate that to me until it was too late. The first time the client mentioned this, I was shocked, and honestly, bordering on irate. I took a step back and recognized that this client knew my expectations, my process and what they could expect because I outlined it in the contract they signed. On the other hand, I knew that the work I submitted didn't reflect the typical quality that I usually present to my clients. Here I was, my face marred by dust and maybe a little blood because I stepped into the arena, and I got my ass kicked. From the day I started this, I knew I would have to be courageous, and I knew I would eventually fail. This client, even though they chose the cheap seats, showed me that I can get back up, and go back out into the arena. The experience showed me that I'm not afraid to fail and that I can recover. To stand up and go back out there after failing only gives me courage to keep going.

With running your own company comes a strong sense of personal responsibility and the understanding of what is yours to take responsibility for, and what is not yours. If you take it personally every time a client or customer is unsatisfied, or a potential client chooses someone else, or assess that situation as though it was all because of something you did, you're going to burn out very quickly. It's one thing to look for places where you could improve your approach, but if we own everything as though it's our responsibility, we will end up taking responsibility for things that we can't control. This unnecessarily sets us up for failure and misdirects our focus onto things we can't control. It's wasted energy. You can't successfully run a business that way. That is why setting boundaries with your clients is important. It's your responsibility to lay out your expectations in a way that your client can understand them. It's their responsibility to understand those expectations. Not being afraid to hold your clients accountable and not being afraid to be held accountable is key to healthy client relationships, and as a result, running a business.

I've always hated the phrase, "Fake it till you make it." I'm not really a fan of faking anything. One thing I learned in the past year is a variation on faking it till you make it. A lot of people aren't 100% sure what they're doing when they first start their own company, and no matter how much training or education you have, there is always a certain amount of swimming that you have to learn by jumping in the pool. I don't necessarily know a lot about running a company, but I have those things about myself as a creative professional that I am confident in. Instead of faking that confidence, I learned to embellish till I make it. It's kind of like when you come across a mountain lion on a trail, you're taller than the mountain lion, but warding them off is about making yourself appear bigger than you actually are by making loud noises and extending your arms out and moving them around your body. I learned to take what confidence I have and make it appear bigger and louder than it actually is. Over the past year, I've grown into that confidence, and it's just going to keep getting bigger.

These are the most important things I've learned since I decided to go out on my own. They're things I've always kind of known but not so much the way I do now. I haven't regretted my decision one bit, especially because it's something I've known I have wanted to do for 5 years now. Year one is in the books. I hope you join me for year two.