What Running a Small Business is Really Like

A few weeks ago, I was hanging out with a friend chatting about work and the blog, and she mentioned that she would really love to read about what it can REALLY be like running a small business behind the scenes. While I love running a small business, it is definitely not all daisies and sunshine. It can be really hard; and some days you sit at your desk wondering 'what the heck am I doing with my life?'

But then there are some days where it all comes back around and you remember why you started this to begin with.

That said, there are definitely pros and cons to running your own business, especially ones that I didn't really think about until I was already a ways into the business. And that's what I'm going to talk about today.

Financial Security vs. Happiness.

Let me preface some of this with my experience with full-time jobs. My first salaried, right out of college, full-time job in northern Virginia was a disaster (particularly for a creative-minded person like me). I clocked in and out every day (if I was 1 minute late in the morning, 15 minutes of my pay was deducted); I had to track everything I did in 4 separate programs by 15 minute increments; I had to fill out 2 reports for every project I did; I was told I was fat; I was told I had too much color on my desk (I used Lilly Pulitzer folders and had a handful of markers there) and that was looked down upon; and...well that's all I can remember right now. Mostly I try to block out a lot of it in my memory. 

Going from a full-time, salaried position with benefits, it was really hard at first not to get a regular 'paycheck.' It can be very hard to predict or calculate income as some months I've barely made anything and other months I've made more than I expected. For most small businesses, the financial aspect can take a little while to become steady or to make money. I've been full-time with Twila & Co. for well over 2 years and I am just now becoming more stable and comfortable with income. 

Despite being on a budget, I am so much happier working from home and working with my own schedule. I love being able to watch TV while I put together an invitation suite or taking a Tuesday off to be with family and working on a Sunday instead. While running a business is definitely crazy and can run you ragged, it also gives you a whole different peace of mind that no matter how crazy things gets, this business is YOURS. And that is something to be proud of.

Health Insurance sucks and 401(k)s aren't fun either.

This was the part that I hated the most: having to find individual health insurance and set up a new 401(k). Unfortunately, there's not a manual for this. I now understand more about health insurance than I ever really wanted to, and when it comes to 401(k)s...woof, this still makes my head spin, but that's what advisors are for. Fortunately for either of these, there are no 'wrong' answers persay. You may just find that you need to change your plans later as you figure out what you need and what works for you. 

You may give up one dream for another.

Ok, so maybe 'give up' is a little harsh, it's really more like 'put on the back burner' for now. We just talked about finances, and how it takes a while for all of that to really even out. Because of that, I found that I had to put a lot of my other dreams in my back pocket for now so that I could pursue this dream. What it really comes down to though it which dream is most important to you? I decided a long time ago, that my dream of running a small business was bigger than any other dream I had and I wanted to pursue that first and put the rest away for the time being. 

It can be really lonely.

It can be really lonely in your office by yourself day after day. I mean, don't get me wrong, working from home is amazing and I've gotten very used to it, but some days, I wish I had a co-worker to rant to or talk shop with or even just complain about stupid things. 

I've gotten very lucky in this industry, that I've found some amazing stationers who I can go to for these things. Through Creative at Heart, Tuesdays Together and blindly reaching out via emails and Instagram, I have met so many amazing people. The Community over Competition Initiative is the best thing that could have happened to me this past year, and I am so thankful to have such a strong support system.

You are your own manager.

Truth be told, after a series of jobs in NOVA, it really came down to the fact that I don't like to be managed. I know that's a really weird thing to say, but it's a personal thing. I like motivating myself, scheduling my time, and choosing my projects & clients. I am very much of an individual and to be honest, I don't always like people telling me what to do. So being my own boss was really a no-brainer to me.  

This is really the crux of why I own a small business: the freedom. The freedom to be who I am, a creative with big dreams and big ideas. The freedom to run my own schedule and manage my own time. The freedom to wear yoga pants all day while I am working my butt off trying to meet a deadline. The freedom to be really proud of what I do and what I accomplish.

Sorry for such a novel today! When I started this blog, I did not mean for it to be so wordy, but there was a lot on my heart. I know I'm not the only one who has gone through this, and that's why I wanted to share it; in case someone else WAS feeling alone.

What are some of your small business truths? I'd love to hear them! 


Johnna HetrickComment