What It Takes to Become Your Own Boss
When my parents asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, my answer was most certainly not 'a ladyboss’. Granted, I had a whimsical childhood and largely lived in my head as my parents and sister would tell you, so giving any realistic answer was an unlikely prospect at the time. I was a child with a great imagination and wide interests, and luckily into my adulthood that hasn’t changed too much. However, because of this wide set of interests, as I neared college graduation, I was still at a loss for answering that question of what I should be when I grow up.
I firmly believe that throughout the course of one’s life, it is possible, and even a good thing, to go through a handful of career changes. Over the last year, I can say that my transformation into a ladyboss has been the best career and LIFE decision I have EVER made. After working as a public servant for the majority of my career, some of that life and imagination and light I once possessed as a child slowly dimmed. It was like when you put a candle out by just recapping the lid and the flame slowly disappears. But now that I’ve ventured into the world of ladybossing by co-founding an amazing company with the best business partner one could ever ask for, once again, I feel inspired and creative. Of course, this joy doesn’t come without its fair share of doubt and challenges, but it is a decision that I am so glad that I made.
If you’re on the verge of moving in a new direction and are wondering if becoming your own boss is a good idea, here are a few traits that I think are necessary to embrace and cultivate in order to make that dream a reality. These are the attributes that have helped me, and I hope they can do the same for you.
Determination - Having the determination to start your own business is critical but staying focused and persevering towards that goal over the long-term can be a challenge. It can be incredibly overwhelming, especially if you are making a transition and working part or full-time in another industry to stay financially afloat while you work on developing your dream career. In my opinion, the key to keeping your eye on the prize and not burning out too soon is to celebrate the small wins along the way. It doesn’t matter how small your ‘win’ may be. It could be something so little as taking pride in the email signature that you finally formatted and set-up correctly or the amazing little stickers that you ordered with your logos. Accomplishing small tasks, and celebrating them along the journey will help you to feel less defeated and more energized over time, and it will help you see your goals through to completion.
Optimism - Throughout life and any important venture, being an optimist is essential. If you’re not looking at the glass as half full or at least trying to see the positive in every situation, you’re going to struggle...a lot. If you’re considering running a business of your own, you’ve got to be resilient and able to take the good with the bad. In order to do that, you’ve got to believe that the good will outweigh the bad, if not now, then at least at some point in the future.
Confidence - You’ve got to believe that what you are doing is honoring your ‘gifts’ and that you are an expert at what you offer; you have to be confident in the face of others who question your decision to become your own boss and offer whatever you have to show the world. If you don’t believe in yourself, who will? And just a word to those of us who have trouble touting themselves or who are averse to self-promotion - now is not the time to be shy. If you truly believe that you have a skill or can offer a service, enough to start your own company, then you need to embrace the idea of promoting yourself. There is nothing wrong with having some confidence and letting others know what value you have to offer.
Growth mindset - Two of newest buzzwords are ‘growth mindset’ and ‘fixed mindset’ and it’s important to establish that everyone has both of these mindsets. Without fully understanding these, people immediately make claims to be of a ‘growth mindset’ because clearly the alternative sounds limited and closed. You don’t solely function under the guise of one and not the other; rather it depends on the context of the situation and the development of the person and his/her career. What I want to say about the growth mindset is that it is important to work towards embracing and strengthening this frame of mind. Growth mindset refers to a belief that one’s talents and skills can be developed; whereas a fixed mindset refers to the belief that one is born with the skills that one has (and there isn’t much one can do to change that). By engaging in this mindset and seeking opportunities that develop and reinforce it, you will grow as a professional and be able to take your business to new heights. Read more about what it means to actually embrace a ‘growth mindset.’
Flexibility - I think that it goes without saying that flexibility is a virtue to anyone wishing to become self-employed, and particularly of anyone wishing to start a business that will offer services to other human beings. The irony is thick here because creating more flexibility in one’s life is a huge motivator for becoming self-employed, but in order to become your own boss, you first must be incredibly flexible. If entrepreneurship is something you are striving towards, and you want to make it happen, you will need to make sacrifices and change plans a million times over to reach your goals. Take it from me, I can’t live without my four letter word - P-L-A-N. However, I’ve had to learn to become more comfortable with redirecting and modifying my plan in order to accomplish my objectives. The sooner you can embrace an attitude that allows for more flexibility, the sooner you can begin to enjoy the creativity and freedoms of entrepreneurship.
Patience - Along with flexibility, patience is something that you’re going to need to develop if it isn’t already one of your strengths. When you set out to become an entrepreneur, you probably picture the benefits that come to business owners much later in their journeys such as a flexible schedule and having more financial freedom (if they are some of the lucky few). What you don’t see, is the consistent effort that businessman or businesswoman took over a very long period of time to reap these benefits. No, that ladyboss isn’t lucky. She worked around the clock for two years to develop her client base and deliver a service and product that no one else could match. No, that salesman isn’t lucky. He has been planting ‘seeds’ of ideas and connections and networks throughout his community and now - five years later - he is finally beginning to reap the benefits of that hard labor. Networks, connections, and success in business take time. If you’re not in it for the long haul, you should probably begin thinking about another option.
Support - I don’t want to ever say that something is impossible - because I truly am an optimist, but really - you cannot - or better yet - should not - go this road alone. You will find that the hills are far less steep if you have a light push from time to time. A network of family, friends, and potentially a business partner or mentor that will allow you to share ideas, spitball, and be a shoulder to cry (a little) on when the going gets tough is imperative to your success as an entrepreneur. You don’t need a wide net - just at least one other person who is your champion with whom you can share your insecurities, wild ideas, and dreams. After all, you are building the career of your dreams, so you would be wise to surround yourself with a tribe of people who are dreamers or at least can share in part of your vision. In my journey as a ladyboss, I didn’t share with many people around me for a long time. Just like a writer guards his ideas and is sensitive to critique, I was preparing myself for the judgement or perhaps misunderstandings to come. Despite this fear, I have experienced nothing but an outpouring of interest and support in what it is that I am doing now. Sure, my friends are surprised, but they couldn’t be more supportive. And then again, I am reminded of why they are my friends. The greatest personal champions I have to date are my business partner, her husband and my own loving better half. Without these three people, I know I would not have come as far as I have along in this journey. And if for nothing else, I am so incredibly grateful for these individuals and a chance to let my light of creativity burn a little brighter.