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6 Struggles and Lessons Learned Starting a Small Business

In my last post Take the Risk or Lose the Chance: Starting a Small Business, I shared the story behind starting my small business and invited you to join me on this journey. Now it’s time to share the struggles I’ve had and the lessons I’ve learned in the first few months running my own company.

The Biggest Struggles

1. Putting myself out there.

Branding is what I do. But when it came to branding my own company it was tough. Not just creating a visual identity, but developing my brand story.

I had to come to terms with the fact that I am my brand as an entrepreneur. I have to share about my company. I have to put myself out there not only in person, but through social media as well. I can’t keep everything to myself.

Here’s an example: It took me weeks to launch my Facebook page publicly because I wanted to do everything strategically. I wanted my messaging to be powerful. I wanted people to understand what I do. I wanted my website done so they could learn more.

I realized…

The fear of putting myself out there was holding me back.

This fear still holds me back, but I’m working on it. Here’s a mantra I keep reminding myself:

“Be fearlessly authentic.”

Remembering this helps me accept that not everything I do will be perfect, nor will it be right. I’m going to make mistakes. As long as I stay true to myself and to my mission that is ok.

Be fearlessly authentic

2. Showing respect for the company I had worked for previously, while forging my own path.

I didn’t want it to look like I left the company I was at and just started a competitive company. Most people didn’t know the story. The company I was at downsized. I had to decide what was best for me. After considering my options I chose to start my own company.

My decision was in no way a vengeful move, though it may seem that way to outsiders. It was a decision made with consideration for how I want to live my life, and how I can best serve others.

In these first few months I’ve realized that most people and clients have no idea I am no longer with my former employer or that I started a company. Navigating the waters was, and continues to be, tricky for me. I was proud of where I had worked. I loved my clients. I felt cut off from people I had spent years helping, but didn’t see it as my place to inform them of the change.

I did inform my former boss of my plans—even though many people told me it was not a necessary courtesy. I would want someone to show me that respect, so it wasn’t a decision of “if” to share about my company, just “when.”

I’m establishing myself in my own niche. I’m taking the chance. I’m going after what I want. I’m bulldozing my own path.

3. Valuing my talent.

While I’ve never been accused of being the most humble person in the room, starting my own company had a way of really bringing me back down to earth.

I’m confident in my skills. I’m confident in my ability to learn. I’m confident I can be successful (whatever I choose to define that as).

Nonetheless self-doubt creeps in…

What is my skill set worth to others? Do people value what I do? Will people take me seriously? Can I do all of this?

I’m getting used to the ups and downs that surround owning a small business. I keep people in my corner that are just a phone call away to talk through things with. I find resources and inspiration to keep me motivated. I keep notes from people that give me a boost when I need it.

Lessons Learned

4. Surround myself with good people.

I knew I was starting a business alone, but I wouldn’t be alone as I did it. Whatever you choose to call it—your squad, tribe, support system, peeps (does anyone say that anymore?)—I’ve made it a point to keep my people close.

They help me keep a healthy work/life balance. They serve as a sounding board to problems. Sometimes they just listen, and that’s all I need.

They are my cheerleaders, confidants, and inspiration.

Every text, phone call, and coffee date has helped me focus on the path I want to take and evaluate the business decisions I make.

5. Take care of myself.

It’s only me now. I have a great support system, but when it comes to getting things done, it’s my responsibility.

To do the best job I can helping others I need to make sure I’m on my “A” game.

Living a healthy lifestyle has always been important to me, but now it’s even more important. Being healthy not only gives me energy, but it gives me confidence.

Here are a few ways I make my health part of my daily routine:

•  I built a standing workstation. I would say that 90% of my workday is spent standing. It helps my posture, and keeps me alert, and it’s an easy way to burn a few extra calories.

3 Woodworking pictures

•  I plan my meals and snacks. Working from a home office leaves a lot of temptation. I do my best to not even buy junk food, and have easy snacks and meals available that don’t interrupt my workday.

You may be thinking: this isn’t new advice. Nope, but it is worth repeating because it is so easy to eat for convenience. Remember convenience can be healthy.

Here are some snacks I always have around: baby carrots, peanut butter, granola bars, popcorn, and apples.

• I schedule workouts into my workday. It isn’t about having time, it’s about making time. I know I’ll be more productive if I step away from my computer for 30 minutes and go running than if I stayed and forced work.

One of my favorite workout websites is fitnessblender.com. The options to select workouts based on different filters gives you so many options that it’s hard to come up with an excuse to not workout.

Note: I’m not perfect. Some days I just want pizza. Some nights I have trouble getting to sleep. Some days I don’t stick to a structured schedule or any sort of schedule! These are all areas I’m working on—except the pizza one, some days you just have to eat pizza.

6. Be open to whatever comes next.

I’ve learned more about myself in the past three months than I have in the past three years.

I don’t know what each day will bring. There is a huge level of uncertainty. It’s really scary and incredibly exciting all at the same time.

I do believe that everything happens for a reason. Life doesn’t have to be perfect to be beautiful. I realize I don’t have to know all of the answers, I just need to be open to learning and having new experiences.

Change can be empowering if you make the choice to see it as an opportunity.

This is just the first step in my new journey. I don’t know where the finish line is. And you know what? I don’t want there to be a finish line. I just want to keep going, and keep growing.

What struggles have you overcome or lessons have you learned in the last three months? Share in the comments below.

Subscribe to the Gevelinger Design blog to join me on this journey. Upcoming posts will include everything from thoughts on business, to branding and marketing advice, and business happenings.

Dana Gevelinger

Dana Gevelinger

Dana Gevelinger is the owner and designer at Gevelinger Design LLC, a company that helps companies build their brand through strategic graphic design.

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