“How do you stay encouraged to keep going in your business?”
The easy and non-truthful answer to this question would go something like this: “Oh, I am encouraged all the time! I LOVE having a creative a business; I just can’t wait to jump out of the bed at 5am to get to work every.single.day. And yeah, my shop, its exploding. I’m pretty sure West Elm AND Anthro are calling right now to ask if they can carry all my goods in their stores around the globe… and I practically have clients begging me to be their branding designer too. Begging! And did I mention that I am perfectly balancing all these areas of my life, my house is spotless, I cooked an eighteen course dinner last night from scratch with vegetables grown in my own garden and by the way my children and husband adore me?!” (Insert: sarcasm.)
The interesting thing is that in our culture of mass amounts of social media where we are constantly projecting our best selves, best work and biggest accomplishments, there is no reason for us to think otherwise. The problem is that when it’s just you at your desk staring at your mile-long to do list and an empty business bank account all you can see is all that is not perfect in your life and business while at the same time being able to see all that is perfect in everyone else’s life.
For the most part we aren’t posting pictures of our endless laundry that needs to be done or the pile of dirty dishes in the sink or the to do list that never gets anything crossed off… and we are certainly never discussing the failures. The times we cry really hard for days because we fear we made the wrong decision in pursuing this business and the times we are legitimately afraid we won’t be able to pay our taxes… or our babysitters or the times we admit that we have absolutely NO IDEA how to run a business. You see, in those dark moments I am comparing my worst, my messes and my failures against the perfection I see displayed all around me. In those moments I want to give up. I certainly have walked away from my desk too many times to count because I am convinced I have nothing good to offer, nothing of value and I believe the crazy lies that it should not be this hard… because of course when I look around it seems to only be this difficult for me while coming so naturally and effortlessly to others.
Here is the truth: owning and managing a small business is HARD.
And it takes TIME.
And sometimes the process is VERY discouraging.
On September 17, I celebrated (in my head :)) the 1 year anniversary of the new Ashlee Proffitt.
It has been one of the hardest years to date.
I have learned so much this year and I can say, today, that I am SO grateful for the process.
So, how do I stay encouraged?
- Stop Looking Around. (It is just too easy to become distracted by others’ successes when you feel like you are just one big failure. This does not mean we do not rejoice with others in their great accomplishments. It just means that sometimes you need to get off social media. Feel the freedom to step away.)
- Be Grateful. (Make a list of all that you are grateful for, what you are learning and have learned over the past few weeks and months. Pursuing a thankful heart is a quick way to be reminded of all the ways you are blessed and brings perspective to the rainiest of days.)
- Be a Blessing. (Chances are, if you are feeling discouraged another creative business owner you know is probably feeling the same way. Send some encouragement. Be a blessing. This is an amazing way to escape the pity party you have been throwing yourself, make new friends and build lasting relationships in the creative industry that are arguably more valuable than any time spent networking via social media. We all know the value of true friendships but do you have them within your business? Within your business true friendships can serve as accountability, an honest place for feedback and also provide constant reassurance that you are on the right track.)
- Set Reachable Goals. (Make a few reachable goals followed by action steps for those goals. Action steps help you identify how you will actually make those goals happen. Be specific. Be precise. Think through the details. We are killing ourselves by expecting to0 much at the beginning phase of business ownership. We expect a number of sales or a number of clients and when that does not happen we become discouraged. So, be a dreamer but be realistic too. Make goals that are attainable. That doesn’t mean goals should not require work, your goals should require work, a lot of work and they should stretch you… otherwise they would not be goals; but they need to be attainable.)
- Get to Work. (Stop being paralyzed by the discouragement and constant comparison. Get moving. Pick one of the action steps you wrote down from your goal setting and make it happen. Right now.)
- Pray. (Ask God to lead, direct and guide you and your business. This is putting your business in His hands while we reminding you that you are ultimately not the one in control.)
I have this verse printed and in plain view at all times. It provides an opportunity for my focus to be shifted back to God when I become distracted by what is happening around me. Whatever I am doing and have been called to do, let me do it with all that I am, for the glory of God. Not the glory of me.
How do you stay encouraged in your day-to-day? Please do tell as I am sure it would be helpful to us all!
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The Ask Ashlee Series features your questions and focuses on bringing honesty, transparency and encouragement to the believer, wife, mama, and small business owner. I would love to chat about your questions so send them my way! [email@example.com]