A lot of people get excited when you talk about the idea of working for yourself or being your own boss. “Wow,” they say. “I bet that’s great! That’s so exciting and romantic. You can go wherever you want to, do whatever you want, wow. I want to do that.”
It’s true that a lot of wonderful things are tied to having your name on the door. However, before you decide to start your own business or build your own personal brand in order to build a business, there are a few things I would add to the mix. These are things I have learned just from being the daughter of people who own and run their own business. This comes from working at a place where my last name is on our door. This is not at all to dissuade you. I think the entrepreneurial spirit is fantastic, and it might even be essential during uncertain times like these. Consider this a bit of a reality nudge.
That’s YOUR name. On everything.
How much do you value your name? How much do you value all of the people in your life who share that name with you? Those thoughts are perpetually on your mind when your name is on the door. Everything that comes out of your office is a reflection of your name. It is branded as your name, just like you are. This is very beneficial when something goes well. However, this also means that if there’s a typo, it has your name on it. If a client or customer is unhappy, it has your name on it. The amount of care and loyalty you have for and to your name is exactly how much passion you will put into every single thing you do.
Business IS Personal.
Having your name on everything and throwing your heart and soul into everything you do makes it hard to divide the professional from the personal. Sure, maybe that person was “just” commenting on your idea. But you know what went into that idea. You know that you sacrificed time with your kids. You know that you skipped watching a movie with the rest of the family. You know that you were kind of preoccupied during the holidays because you were working on that idea. The person is just commenting on a business concept. To you, it feels like they are commenting on how you spent your life while working on that particular thing.
No One Can Care as Much as You
If your new business grows and you bring in employees, they will never be as passionate as you. They will never be as obsessive about the quality that goes into everything they do. Not unless their name also shows up on the door. No one can ever care about your name and what goes with it as much as you do. This can be hard to understand at times. It is just the nature of things.
There are no kudos
You see a lot of people tweeting about their work days. “I just wrote 17 blog posts, had 5 meetings in a row, and won 2 new clients today.” The reason you see a lot of these tweets is that a lot of people are self-employed, and when you are self-employed you don’t get kudos for going over the top or over what is expected. If you are working hard, it’s understood that you are doing so because it’s your company and your name. It’s only when you lighten the pressure that people start wondering at and about you. Nobody thanks you for choosing to eat an apple instead of an almond-filled candy bar. It’s assumed you want to be healthy. No one will thank you for working hard on behalf of your company either. And again, that’s just the way of things.
There are no vacations
A common assumption is that if you work for yourself, you get to go on vacation whenever you want. In fact, it’s hard to ever feel like you’re on vacation when your name is on the door. A lot of your traveling happens for business. Vacation type trips are tied into trade shows or meetings. Your phone doesn’t leave your side during the work day, no matter where you are. You are always ready to spring into action, whether it’s on the beach or on a boat. You must always be accessible. For some people, limiting accessibility means losing money. If you don’t work you don’t get paid, after all.
These are some of the realities my family has always dealt with since we own and run our own agency. For folks who own their personal brand, this is the daily reality. It is a perpetual balance act of excitement and fear. It is a mix of passion and trying to distance oneself to maintain a professional perspective. It’s rewarding and painful.
Many times in Social Media, you just see the fun and exciting parts of owning a business. And there is all of that. But it is a struggle too, and that part often goes unseen. Before you knock the fact that someone is going on a nice trip or has bought themselves something nice, remember that those are the good, or even the great, parts of having your name on the door. For every good thing that you can take credit for, there seems to be a shadow lurking that you must always own. Until you experience that weight, or even part of it, you’ll just have to take the word of folks like me. Having your name on the door is a great power, and with it comes great responsibility.