I've been a blogger since 2010, but when I started out I never expected that my side gig would turn into my main revenue-generating business. Yet here I am, building my own company and working with clients from all over the world. I'm living what many would consider “the dream.” I appreciate where I am today, look forward to the future and like to look back on where it all started.
The Journey to Full-Time Entrepreneur Status
When I started freelance writing, I meant it as a means to generate spare cash and pay off some of my student loans. It was a way for me to learn new skills, amplify my network beyond my full-time job, and become an even better employee for jobs future and present. I always knew that I would become an entrepreneur, but not for at least another decade, when I was mentally ready for that next step, had the perfect business idea, years of experience, zero student debt and deep pockets of savings.
Because I had always assumed entrepreneurship was something for an older, wiser, financially stable me, it took awhile to see what was right in front of me: a content company that was experiencing triple digit, year-over-year growth.
What was I waiting for?
I knew I would never feel 100 percent mentally ready to start my own business, and would always feel like there was more to learn. Yet, it was hard to argue with what I did have: a stable, revenue-generating, and growing, company. As I came to the realization my side-hobby was a viable business, I had to fight back my fears and make the leap to full-time entrepreneurship.
In November 2013, I quit a job that I loved to found Elate, a company that produces niche content for B2B brands. I work with a team of marketing consultants and freelance writers who are experts in their fields. I work on projects for high-growth startups and Fortune 500 brands. I am learning and growing every day, and I have no idea where this journey will take me. But I'm learning a lot along the way.
Lesson 1: Embrace Who You Are
I'm not a stereotypical, gutsy, "knows-no-boundaries" entrepreneur. I'm as risk averse as anyone else. I think through decisions with painstaking precision. People have told me that this risk aversion would be my biggest weakness as an entrepreneur. But I have positioned this part of who I am into my biggest strength.
My first day as an entrepreneur, my business was already profitable. I had a 3-year runway building it while working a job. I wasn't in a position to give up my income, and would have never quit a job to start from zero. Can you really consider that a weakness?
This “weakness” gave me the time and the patience to grow my company as a side business first, slow and steady, while working a full-time job. If I hadn't embraced who I was, I wouldn't have had a profitable company on day one.
Lesson 2: Prepare to Be Exhausted
The transition wasn’t easy. I worked 12- to 15-hour days for three years straight. I would work incredibly hard at my full-time job, come home, work on my full-time job some more, and then start blogging.
I worked almost every night and weekend to meet my deadlines. I had almost no free time. I put myself on a rigorous schedule and stuck to it. I put a dollar value on every moment of my free time.
People told me that I'd eventually hit a wall. But I didn't because I enjoyed what I was doing, I was passionate about it and knew my hard work would pay off.
Lesson 3: Channel Your Intensity
To say that my friends and family don’t get it would be an understatement. I don't have time to answer every email, goof around or waste time. There’s a lot to do, and the success of the business rests on my shoulders. That said, I realize I need to tone down the intensity when I’m with them in order to preserve the relationships that are most important to me.
Yes, it's frustrating that nobody understands how dependent and dedicated I am with my new venture. But that's on me, not them—and it's better that way. When it comes to your friends, family and clients, you don’t need to let every stress shine through. Let the work you do define who you are, not the stress and all-nighters you pulled to get there … and if there's anything these last three years have taught me, it's that learning how to smile through it all is truly an art form.
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