Confessions of an Entrepreneur: Five Ways to Manage the Tough Seasons When You Feel Like Giving Up
As a visionary creative, I know you dream big. With a vision for yourself and the world, you’ve got a lot of world changing on the agenda (plus a lot of brunch).
Big picture thinking is one of your greatest strengths. When you close your eyes and imagine your business in 5, 10, 15 years, you can feel exactly how you want it to be.
But day to day? That’s a different story. You gain 5 followers on Instagram only to lose 8 the next day. You pray that people sign up for your latest training (because you know it’s gonna blow people’s minds), but they slowly trickle in and haphazardly follow through.
How are you supposed to build your legacy when you can’t even build a following? Of people who aren’t your mom.
How to do you make your mark as a creative entrepreneur without overwhelming yourself or getting so frustrated you want to give up?
Trust me friend when I say that I’ve totally been there! You are not alone in this struggle. And let me add that the problem isn’t your lack of luster or ability.
Fortunately for us, there are ways to combat the overwhelm, massive to-do list, and emotional exhaustion of seemingly slow growth. You can totally get back in your groove of world changing. These are my top tips for how to cultivate a purposeful brand while staying in good spirits and not collapsing from exhaustion.
One | Set Expectations, Practice Patience, Exercise Self Compassion
One Saturday, I was sitting on the couch venting to Jeramia about the stresses of my entrepreneurial journey. I was panicking that I hadn’t made any sales yet. Eek!
Consumed with self doubt, the worst of the worst fears started creeping my head. Am I cut out for this? Can I make it? Did I make the biggest mistake leaving my 9-5?
As I worked myself up into a tizzy, I took a moment and paused. Slow your roll, Melanie. Let’s think about this with an analytical perspective. I opened my computer and looked at the calendar.
TWO WEEKS. That’s how long it was since I left my 9-5 and started my new business. Ten entire business days.
No wonder I didn’t have thousands of subscribers, Instagram followers, or dollars of profit. I was just in the beginning stages! When I thought about it, I actually DID accomplish so much. It just wasn’t in terms of dollars in the bank.
And while I wasn’t going to ignore the financial need (and right) to make money for my work, I was able to take a step back and exercise some self compassion.
Yes, I’m going to have a profitable and fulfilling business. Yes, I’m going to change lives. But right now? I’m laying the foundation. And the work I’m doing now is vital to my future success - not matter if I’m bringing in the cash flow.
We always hear the rags to riches stories because they sell well. How she made $5,000 in her first month of blogging. How they made multiple six-figures in their second year of business. But when we compare ourselves to these tales, we're compare our beginning to the someone else’s middle (one of the unfairest of comparisons we do to ourselves).
While we can use these stories to inspire us (in small doses), we shouldn’t play the comparison game. Comparison-itis only breeds self doubt. And I’ll be damned if that’s how you’re going to go down.
You are too great to let yourself succumb to the cruelty of your inner critic and insecurities.
You’re the boss and visionary here. Which means that you get to set the expectations and milestones - not the story of someone else. Be kind to yourself!
Two | Identify Your Current Behavior
First things first - are you acting out of fear? Fear of not making sales. Fear of failure. Fear of having “too few” Instagram followers. Fear of success.
Fear is a great catalyst in that it initiates action from us.
But what happens when we act out of fear? We panic. We put on the pressure. We attack ourselves. And to add it all on top, we ignore the first item on this list and set terrible expectations.
We don’t behave rationally when we’re running away from our fears at lightning speed.
But we CAN accomplish some pretty incredible things when we are working towards something - a specific goal.
Afraid of being broke? Set a goal for the number of packages you sell that month - which further breaks down to find X number of people who need and love your services (it’s way easier to focus on connection than selling).
Afraid of failure? Then what does success look like? See #5 for more goodness on that topic.
Afraid of not enough Instagram followers? Why does that scare you? What does that number mean to you and where are you getting that standard from? Does it address an additional fear like not having anything worth saying or being a person worthy of connection? (Yeah, we’re getting super deep here)
Afraid of success? See #5 to understand what success really means for you. Spend some time digging deep to understand why this is so intimidating for you.
Understanding our fears gives us control of our experience. Instead of running away from them, we see them for what they are - fears and insecurities. Then we can set goals to counter those fears and work towards our desired end and stop running from the monster in the shadows.
And let’s be honest, who really likes running in a state of sheer terror? You’re going to feel infinitely better working towards a single goal.
Three | Don’t Dismiss Self Care
As an entrepreneur, YOU are the most valuable asset in your business. Not your website. Not your Instagram scheduling app. Not your CRM system. No big boss brains, it’s all YOU.
And because you and your delicious brain are so utterly valuable, you need to act like it. (Little bit of tough love coming your way). Because your business cannot flourish if you are running yourself into the ground.
Be honest with me (or at least yourself). How often do you put yourself last in your business (and life)? How often do you work 12+ hours and forget to eat? How often do you check social media first thing in the morning and right before you go to bed? How often to you tell yourself you want to workout or meditate more, but it’ll happen when your schedule clears up?
(Raising my hand because I’ve done ALL of these)
Don’t get me wrong. As a creative thinker, I totally understand getting taken away by the muse and working a long day because you’re just so damn inspired.
But you cannot sustainably maintain a working lifestyle (work-style) where you are putting your needs as a human being and as a woman at the very bottom of the priority list.
(For more on why you can’t afford to dismiss self care, I’ve this blog post all wrapped up with a bow for you.)
Self care isn’t about bath bombs and facials. It’s a lifestyle in which you create the space where you can live your fullest and most authentic life.
The better you feel in yourself and your life, the more you can give back to your business, your loved ones, and yourself. Seriously, self care is not to be taken lightly.
Take care of yourself as a human first. Then master your business.
Four | Know Your Vision, Why, and Purpose
You are the CEO of your business - the chief executive officer who is responsible for all big picture decisions (even if you’re a business of one). As the CEO, it’s your responsibility to have a clear vision for the future. Your vision is your muse for the direction of your company.
Similarly, you have to know your why in business. Your why is a statement of belief about the world that explains why you are doing the particular work you’re doing. Your why is what you broadcast as a beacon to attract other people who believe what you believe, to connect on an emotional level with clients and peers, and inspire action from your audience.
Your vision is what you want to do with your business. Your why is why you are in business in the first place. Your purpose is how you plan to execute on your vision and why. It’s the cross section of your skills, natural abilities, interests, and passions. To boil it down simply, your Instagram bio might be a simplified template of your purpose.
When you know your vision, why, and purpose, you have the ultimate roadmap for moving forward. Your vision guides you to your next step. Your why fuels your heart to keep pressing forward. And your purpose is exactly what you should be doing to make your vision happen.
Knowing these for your business will provide just the clarity and focus you need to overcome your biz overwhelm.
Five | Define Success
My biz bestie started questioning if she should give up on her wedding planning and design business. She absolutely fell in love with weddings years ago. But she felt like they lacked luster and wasn’t totally motivated to turn it into a profitable empire.
She said other coaches told her it would be a shame for her to shut the doors on her wedding business after putting so much energy and work into it.
But I asked her, what did she really wanted from this business?
She wasn’t interested in turning a massive profit, being a thought leader in the industry, or any other large “typical” version of success. More to her heart, she wanted to run her wedding business to help a few of her friends and then plan her own wedding.
Feeling fulfilled in her work, serving her friends (while still getting paid for the work), and using her experience to bring her wedding to life is her version of success for this business.
Once she defined success for herself, she created an overall plan for reaching those goals. And she didn’t have to put on the pressure of raining in the dolla dolla bills to feel like she was successful - at least successful according to someone else’s definition.
What does success mean to you? Is to serve others while making a full-time income? If so, what is that full-time income that enables you to live your fullest life? Do you want to retire your spouse someday? Do you want to use your current business as a stepping stone to a bigger one? Do you want to work for a few years in this business to satisfy a personal desire?
You define what success looks like to you. Don’t worry about the external pressures of what success looks like to others (usually it’s totally different person to person). What matters is what you want from yourself, your life, and your business.
Once you define success for yourself, you can lay the groundwork to move towards that goal.
Why spend exorbitant amounts of energy chasing after a dream if that dream isn’t yours?
Now, if you’re looking to build a purposeful business that fuels your passion and desire to serve, my free training Build Your Legacy: Foundations of a Purpose Driven Brand is just the dose of inspiration and clarity that you’ve been looking for! I’ll even send it right to your inbox with a virtual happy dance just because I believe in you THAT much.