If, like me, you have been an employee your whole life, and your immediate family have all been employees, jumping off of the employee treadmill and starting a small business is going to turn your mind inside-out in some pretty profound ways.
In fact, you might spend the first year or so of your new career spinning your wheels with a deer-in-the-headlights look, and therefore not getting a whole heck of a lot done. That’s okay; it’s why God created unemployment benefits and temp jobs. And don’t worry; you’ll get the hang of it.
Here are some of the things that have melted my mind:
Sure, there may be times when you’re tight on cash and have to work at a café or take on some freelance projects for a little while just so you can eat, but this is totally different from thinking of a job as being a long-term “career”. You know that this job a tactical move to tie you over until your REAL career – your business – picks up again.
(Of course, you probably won’t want to tell that to your temporary boss.)
You’re working for one person: YOU. And you’re working to make YOU rich. Not Wal-Mart, not the neighborhood repair shop – YOU. Nobody else.
(Okay, maybe the “rich” part hasn’t happened yet, but the potential is there.)
You may one day BE a crappy boss; and if you are, your business will suffer, so you’ll either learn to stop scaring off your staff or go belly-up. But you can control you. You can’t control your boss or your coworkers.
Why? Because you’re figuring out how to make yourself rich. It’s hard to have that kind of motivation when you’re working for someone else.
When you call up technical support, you’ll realize that the CEO of the company who made the product you’re using isn’t just some faceless goon who might show up in the media now and then if they’re famous enough. No, they’re ordinary, flesh-and-blood people, just like you … who started out small, just like you. In fact, if it’s a small company you’re dealing with – say, an iPhone app developer – when you make that technical support call, you might even end up talking to the CEO herself.
Suddenly, the playing field just got even.
This means that you’re going to become obsessed with two things: marketing yourself, and keeping your customers happy. No marketing or doing a lousy job means no customers, which means that you don’t eat. You get direct feedback from your efforts.
It’s your butt on the line. Nobody else is going to do it for you.
As much as your friends and family may love you, and as much as you may love them back, the ones who are employees are simply not going to “get” what you’re doing. Their butts aren’t on the line like yours is. So while they may offer lip service to supporting you, you can’t rely on them to help you out in meaningful ways. It’s not their fault; they mean well, but ya gotta actually walk in someone else’s shoes to really understand them.
(Don’t be surprised if you start hanging out with other business owners more than you do your old friends.)
Even if the money part doesn’t happen overnight, it’s hard to describe the feeling when you realize that your income isn’t, by default, limited by the arbitrary amount set by the company you work for.
That “glass ceiling” everybody’s always talking about? Gone!
Forget buying $300 sunglasses or blinging out your pickup with fancy chrome wheels. Since you’re not always going to be able to count on a set amount of money coming in each month, you’re going to think twice before spending your hard-earned cash on anything you don’t need.
At first, expect 99% of your income to go toward paying bills, buying food, or covering business expenses. Anything left over, you’ll probably want to sock away for the next lean month.
Economies and governments may collapse, financial systems may fail, but if you’re working for yourself, you know you’ll survive.
Because nothing can ever take away your mind, your talents, or your skills, and there will always be someone who wants them.
Featured photo credit: Steve Jobs painted portrait / Thierry Ehrmann via flickr.com
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