Entrepreneurship is Hard: The Truth About Those Peaks and Valleys

Cute photo right? It sums up how I’ve been feeling lately. If I’m being really honest, the only reason I’m throwing this up today is because I’ve received two-too-many angryish emails about the uptick in sponsored/affiliate content on the blog of late and I knew I was long overdue on a check-in. I try to maintain a 2:1 balance here between sponsored and not (we love our sponsors!) But I know that lately this hasn’t been the case and I’m sorry if you’ve felt some authenticity has disappeared. My response? Entrepreneurship is hard and unless you’re in it, you don’t get it. 

Entrepreneurship is Hard: The Truth About Those Peaks and Valleys

The only explanation I have is that since December I’ve been drowning in a sink hole of what I can only describe as business depression, growing further and further behind. To keep up I had to get the sponsored content out (you know, because people pay me for that and when you take checks people expect things…) and the typical LBMT content got pushed to the back burner. This is my attempt at an explanation, as well as my own need to process a few things so here it goes:

This is What Entrepreneurship Looks Like

Screen Shot 2016-03-30 at 4.22.55 PM

 

Another entrepreneur friend shared this on Facebook awhile back and I found it super appropriate. Mainly because over the last year since I started working for myself, it’s been lots of hills and valleys like the chart above.

But around the beginning of December, I noticed I wasn’t feeling like myself. Over the next few months my attention span waned, productivity slowed to a near halt, and I had a hard time feeling and staying motivated. Shortly after Valentine’s Day I saw the photo above and realized, “yeah, I’m in a very, very deep valley.”

And that’s the thing about these entrepreneurial ebbs and flows, you never know how long they’re going to last (previous ones were very short, this latest one lasted for months,) or where your next bout of inspiration/motivation is going to come from. But there is a tiny, tiny silver lining that comes with being totally down-in-the-mouth: those feelings force you to take a look at what you’re doing.

Because feeling that way sucks, and if you’re a go getter (which of course you are if you’re an entrepreneur or side hustler) you want to do anything not to feel that way anymore.

 

Entrepreneurship is hard – more so when you shift your business.

I think I’ve clarified this before (here and here), but when I left my job in April my income was 70% from freelance copywriting and marketing strategy projects and 30% from this blog. I had big plans in the coming year to ramp up the writing side of my business, and I got there.

I had my first five figure month last November and things were going very well.

Until January came and I was “working” from my beautiful, shiny new office downtown. Except all I was doing was sitting there….with writer’s block, and zero motivation. Taking on expenses like an office meant I had to spend more time doing the work that generated the most income, and less time for being creative. One day when I was on a deadline and panicking because I didn’t have anything prepared, I calculated up how many words I’d have to write, how many extra hours I’d have to spend marketing my business to afford all of the new expenses.

It wasn’t a huge number to be honest, but when you’re having a hard time doing the bare minimum, any extra amount of effort feels insurmountable. 

It was then I realized that the business I’d set out to build when I left my job in April wasn’t the one I was running. This discrepancy between what I was doing and what I wanted was likely where the big friction in my creativity was coming from.

I love my clients; there are still a handful whom I enjoy. But I left my job because I wanted more time to create what your eyeballs are reading right now. Honestly? That hasn’t happened as much as I’d hoped in the 12 months since I left corporate life because I was too scared to leave the high paying writing work and bet on myself. 

So back in December I had two choices: I could either stay the course and continue slogging through client copy, taking on projects that didn’t inspire me and grow a six-figure freelance writing business….which I was very, very close to doing.

Or I could buckle down and build the kind of business I’d always wanted, focused solely on this website and doing my own thing.

You can guess what I chose.

But It Hasn’t Been Easy

Actually it’s been really difficult and emotional, which is why I stayed in the valley far longer than I’d anticipated, even after I decided to switch up the focus of my efforts. Whatever energy I previously put into marketing myself as a writer, I put into the blog.

It’s been a lot of trial and error on the back end of things: mostly new SEO, social media marketing, and ad strategies to increase revenue. It’s exciting when things succeed because I’m pulling the strings, but it’s also a b*tch when you work hard on something and only to fall flat on your face. Lots of pity, frustration, stress naps to recover.

I don’t want to focus only on the difficulties because there have been definite wins in the last four months: I (finally) launched the workbook about blogging I’d been writing since 2014, (finally) sent my book proposal out and landed an agent, and implemented a major Pinterest strategy/content re-do, all the things that have been hanging out on my to-do list for far too long.

But in taking a step back, I’ve also been taking more time for me…which has also been scarce in the few months preceding my valley. More yoga classes and free form journaling. I’m doing another play, which is always my big creative reset button for the year, and I exited a relationship that, while loving, was a lot of on-again-off-again drama that (even though I didn’t realize it at the time) took a huge toll on the amount of emotional energy I had to put into my business these last few months. I turned 29 on March 10th.

And that’s about all there is to report. But I’ll leave you with this….

Among other things this year, I’m working on trying to be more content. It’s tough. It feels like as entrepreneurs and hustlers we’re never satisfied; which is good and makes us successful because it keeps us hungry, but it can also keep us unhappy. I think I can now safely say I’m out of my valley, but I want to try and feel content with the place I’m at right now.

If it’s anything like the chart above, I don’t know how long it’s going to last.

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