I’ve wanted to write this post for you for a long time now, but I didn’t really know where to start, I don’t claim to know the truth, because I’ve made my fair share of mistakes, but I think I need to take a step back so this post could mature. Without any further ado, I give you this mini survival kit for the life of an entrepreneur!
I’m going to tell you a little story: A long, long time ago, and actually not that long, I trampled the steps of the first company that ever hired me for my first internship. I don’t recall if I was excited or happy but I remember thinking to myself, with fear and exactitude: “It’s going to be so hard to get up to go work every morning for someone else.” And instantly, a little voice came right after, the voice of reason without doubt, took over and concluded with something like “Well, you’ve got your work cut out for you my dear, you are on the road to a long life of working for companies.”
And so I continued doing internships, short-term contracts, odd jobs working in bars, some long-term contracts, and then one day, I was lucky enough to have the good idea to open Make My Lemonade. Why was it a good idea? Because all of a sudden, kind of by chance, this blog became my playground, the place where I wanted to experiment, the winding paths of the web gave me the chance to meet you and continue to see that there are more and more of you with every passing day. I continued to experiment, and my set designs for the blog have become set designs for photo shoots and showcases, and my DIYs have become workshops that bring life to communities supporting brands, etc…
So yes, I am conscious of how lucky I am to have gotten to where I am today, but quite honestly, I think I've never worked as hard as I have been since I no longer have a "real job.” I vividly remember a discussion I had with a friend one weekend to whom I said I wanted to try to do turn Make My Lemonade into my main occupation. I remember she told me to wait six months, that it might still be a little soon to take such a leap. And then, funny how life works, the following Monday, I was laid off and, with a smalI pit of fear in my stomach, I decided to jump in with two feet, and make my little website my life. Without the slightest idea of the fact that I would not being doing what is considered normal and without any perspective on what this new job waiting for me would entail.
Well, you know what? That was the most brave, yet nonsensical thing I’ve ever done: I took a leap, with no safey net. I became my own boss, so that when I get up in the morning, I’m working for myself and towards my dreams. Do you believe it, it was 2 years ago, I was 25, it was like yesterday but I feel like it’s been decades. It’s hasn’t always been easy, but I’ve become an old person with almost 27 years of wisdom, I can try to give you some tips to get you started, just like me, without a safety net.
- Ask for help. LOL super, thanks a lot, no but for real, when you start your own business, get professional advice from an accountant, to whom you can explain your professional activities, and together you can choose the best option for starting your business. Take meetings with several accountants, it’s important to feel at ease with and trust this person, and above all, be sure that the accountant you choose really understands what you do, so as to direct you through the maze of the subtleties of French law.
- Be organized, it’s silly and I love that I’m the one telling you this, I’m no role model of organization but I’m working hard on it and I know that if I could be a bit more organized, it would make my life so much easier. Before leaving for the office, prepare a list of the things you want and have to do the next day in one column labelled “Dream list of the day.” In another column, it’s important and since life is not perfect, you’re going to forget things, you might get some emails, and incoming calls, giving you new things to do, and so write all that down in that other column, I’ve personally baptized it as the “Shit happens” column. But at the end of the day, if I’ve checked off all the things in the annoying column, I feel much lighter, even if I haven’t checked off all the things on my dream to-do list. (No, I am not crazy).
- Manage your time well: for example, instead of accepting lunch dates every day of the week which literally cut your days in half, do short lunches not far from your workplace…And, other tips, set aside one whole day each week for all your appointments, meetings, like Wednesdays for example, and if ever one of your clients can’t make it, set the appointment for the following Wednesday or otherwise, a breakfast meeting or a skype date. But really, set your own rules, because between the time it takes to get to the appointment, prepare what you are going to say, have the meeting, return to the office, and dive into another project, 3 hours have gone by and all that for just one appointment…
- Disconnect. When you start your own business, vacation, holidays and weekends are very vague concepts, but let me remind you (and myself), weekends are very important. Yeah, it’s true, I don’t really take vacation, actually not at all for that matter, but after a certain time of day, I take the phone off the hook, and I reserve at least one day of the weekend, even though it’s hard, even if I have things to do, for myself. Don’t touch your computer, even as a joke, or to take your temperature. Connect to the grid if you must, but try to preserve yourself so that you’re refreshed when you get back to work, and not ready to explode in mid-flight. Because although it’s invigorating to work towards your dreams, your body is a machine and at some point adrenaline will no longer be enough, so take care of yourself and you’ll see how high you bounce out of bed on Monday morning!
- Tidy up. I think this will definitely make some of you laugh, but it’s true, I have become an organized person, “it derails” a bit sometimes because it’s hard to silence your true nature. But it’s a real pleasure to arrive at your office in the morning, spotless, not bits of paper and stress confetti on in your work space. And at night, just before you leave, after your dream list is updated, tidy up everything, to start the process of disconnecting. And another thing is when I am in a panic (it happens) and I have something urgent to do, all of a sudden, I feel pulled towards an irrepressible mission to clean and sort a drawer full of little office supplies. Some would say it’s procrastination, but you’re wrong, would you believe that’s it a sort of survival mechanism, cleaning up and clearing your head help to organize your thoughts, to master a space (control your mind?), you’ll feel lighter afterwards, always in a rush for sure, but more efficient and ready to deal with any situation. So take a deep breath, tidy up and get started.
- Set goals for youself. Not even big ones, but make some excel charts or google spreadsheets and keep track of your progress, month after month, and give yourself challenges to remind yourself of why you work so hard. These can be monetary goals, or goals to do everything it takes to be mentioned in the specialized press, or challenge yourself to find new, more competitive, partners, challenge each other and keep moving forward!
- Accept that you are not a superhero. In the beginning, don’t expect a miracle, whatever your business, you will have to work very hard and do everything yourself, I mean everything, even expense reports, you might have to be the ruthless salesperson, or the genius designer, and even devil's advocate, everything I say. And then one day, I hope it happens sooner rather than later, your finances allow you to hire an assistant! And that day will be a challenge itself. Because you will have to accept Robin (imagine you’re Batman), you will have to trust him, learn to delegate things to him and find out what his strengths are. It will be a transitional period but as Anna Gavalda once said "Being together is all that matters" or the Belgian saying "unity is strength". Basically, one is okay but two is better ... You will be a team, have meetings, all that ... It becomes real!
I do hope this long post has helped you out a bit! It’s hard for me to give life lessons, since I’m right in the middle of it all myself right now, I’ve been getting there slowly but surely for the last 3 years, I feel like my life has never been so rich and even though there are many facets I have yet to master, I get the impression that I am learning more things every day about the hectic life of being your own boss, and reaching my dreams a little bit more each day. I send you big kisses and don’t hesitate to add to my list of tips for the young entrepreneur in the comments!
Translated by Ida Driscoll.