The Terrifying Truth about Owning a Small Business

by | Business, Personal Development

The entrepreneurial spirit is something that has always been prevalent in the United States. Many eventually give up on that dream, but nevertheless, some part of it lingers on.

In this day we see many quitting their full time jobs to freelance in the field they desire to serve in. Stay at home moms are turning into a force of nature, putting their creative juices to work and selling products online, in consignment shops, and at trade shows and festivals.

Not long ago a good friend of mine left a steady job with a comfortable salary and went out on his own to start his small business. He will more than likely tell you that has not been easy; but, it has been rewarding.

What I want you to see is that owning a small business is incredible. Whether it is your full time gig or you work it on the side, it can be so fulfilling to be your own boss, work on your own terms, and possibly even have others working for you one day.

But for all its glitz and glamour, there is something terrifying about it. There is one thing that, as a small business owner, you will have to face and deal with.

The terrifying truth is both extremely bad news and extremely good news. In fact, this same truth pops up in other areas of our lives as well. Here it is: The success or failure of your small business will be 100% determined by you.

For many, this is a liberating thought. There are those who have the utmost confidence in themselves and what they can accomplish. However, there are many (myself included!) who just do not feel that way.

Many struggle with feelings of inadequacy–feeling like if the success of my business is determined by me, we might as well be setting sail in a sinking ship! This is not uncommon.

Here are some things we can do to deal with this terrifying truth:


#1. Establish a network. Many small businesses will start out as a solopreneurship. Before there are employees to delegate work to or to be responsible for, you will first have to find out how to stay afloat on your own. In some cases, the spouse of the individual will be knowledgeable and can be a great help; but it’s not always that way.

I love my wife to death, but she doesn’t really know about the web design and marketing business. She does a great job with Photoshop and sometimes helps me in that way, but right now all of the work and the “business” is tended to by yours truly.

One way to help overcome this is to establish a network of people around you that you can not only confide in, but that will be willing to share with you. They don’t have to be in the same business as you are, but, that would be helpful! Real small business owners will always be willing to help one-another, rather than always having the competition in view.

If nothing else, look into starting a Meetup group in your area. Join a few Facebook groups related to your industry, or create one! There is no excuse in this digital world we are living in not to be connected to a group of like-minded individuals that you can easily tap into when you have questions.

Just remember the unwritten (and, sometimes written!) rule of most of these groups and relationships: You cannot be a value-suck! You must also be willing to contribute whenever applicable and necessary. Don’t be the person who shows up to have their questions answered and then never returns the favor.

Once you start to learn, get in on the action! It is really fun to be involved with a community like that, and it can sometimes even lead to more work (though that should not necessarily be the goal).

#2. Collect, create, and organize resources. This one has been huge for me. There is so much content floating around on the Internet today. If you’re reading this, you are reading some of it! When something really resonates with you, you need a way to capture that for later reference.

Lots of the email lists I am subscribed to came with some sort of eBook and/or free tool that is helpful either to me or to my business. My system for storing those things and many other things is Evernote. I can’t lie–I am borderline obsessed with Evernote.

Evernote has become my trusty sidekick in almost all areas of my life, and my business is no exception. In Evernote I can save, create, organize, and even share resources that have been helpful to me, and that I believe will be helpful to others.

We will go into more detail about Evernote sometime in the future, but for now, just know that you should get in on it! Your first few notes won’t make sense. You’ll think, “Why, Apple notes will accomplish this just fine.”

Don’t believe that for one second. When you first get started it looks like any other note taking application, but the beauty of Evernote is its usefulness in scale. By the time you have thousands of notes floating around, you will be thankful you had a system like Evernote to organize them all!

Pro tip: Download the Evernote Web Clipper extension for your browser. You will thank me later.

#3. Overcome imposter syndrome. This is something I deal with on a regular basis. I have big dreams, but as big as my dreams are, I fight with myself tooth and nail as to wether I am capable of such accomplishments.

Even in writing this blog post I faced it! “Well, there are plenty of others who have covered this topic–what value can I really provide anyway?” I ask myself little things like that all the time. It’s amazing I get anything done!!

In dealing with imposter syndrome, something I have studied quite a bit, my research has always led me back to two things that have helped me to overcome this more than anything else. As I mentioned, I still fight it–but by remembering these two things, I am usually able to push past it and get to work:

  1. Some of the biggest and best in their industry fight it. Does the name Jimmy Fallon mean anything to you? How about Mariah Carey? There are PLENTY more examples, but just know that many of the biggest household names you have ever heard deal with this on a daily basis. Many of our past U.S. President’s have fought with this as well.
  2. Shift your mindset–think of it as an opportunity for growth. Next time imposter syndrome rears its ugly head, remember that you would likely not even be facing it right now if you weren’t stepping outside of your comfort zone to accomplish a task. Imposter syndrome normally sets in when you are trying to accomplish something new, or something you do not have much experience with. But the fact is, that’s an AWESOME thing! It means you are not stagnant; you are not waiting for opportunity to come to you, you are charging it head on.

If you’ll put these two thoughts in your mind before getting started on your next meaningful task or project, you will likely have a much easier time overcoming imposter syndrome.

#4. Spend time in prayer and/or meditation. I really cannot stress this enough. I have no shame in saying that I am an evangelical Christian, and I just don’t think my business would even be possible with out my relationship with Jesus Christ.

You need to spend time in prayer and in meditation. If you are not a religious person, you should at the very least spend some time in silence where you can clearly organize your thoughts.

Prayer helps me to become a better business owner. It helps me to lead my business in the direction that I believe God would have me to lead it.

There is a lot more to business than just doing the work. I’m sure you’ve heard the teaching that you must work ON your business as well as working in your business. This is true, and this often requires knowledge about subjects you may not be as knowledgeable on.

In my own life, prayer has helped me to more clearly understand the decisions that needed to be made at that level. My business has a lot more at stake than just the websites and marketing plans of my customers; it has my future at stake, and the future of my wife and my children. That is a tremendous responsibility!

It is a responsibility that I can not bare on my own, and thankfully, I don’t have to. 1 Peter 5:7 KJV – “Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you.”

#5. Maximize downtime. Lastly, you must make the most of the downtime you have at your disposal. There will be times when client work is bustling and you will not feel like you have time to breathe. Embrace those times! They are awesome!

But, what happens when the client work is experiencing a slow season? During those times, you must not sit still!

This is when you can really begin to work on your business. Go ahead and get some marketing and outreach done. Take a look at your processes and maximize them for efficiency. Follow up with a few leads that have gone cold over the past few months.

One thing that I do is keep a running task list. I use an awesome web application called Asana to track my to-do’s. It has calendar integration with Google which is awesome, and allows to create projects and even project templates.

I have a Project set up that is simply called “NorthMac Website.” In it, I have listed things that I need/want to do to maximize my website (and really, my business as a whole). When I have times of no client work, I can go ahead and work on some of the items on that list.

Trust me, it is a worthy investment. Whether or not you realize it, you are going to need this time in order to come up for air and evaluate what is going on with your business. If your client work is drying up, perhaps you need to implement some inbound marketing tactics such as starting a blog or a social media campaign.

Eventually, you may be able to hire a team to help you with this. But for now, it’s all up to you, remember? This IS the terrifying truth, after all!

The goal here, really, is to maximize your downtime so that you have less of it. If you are in a place where you have no downtime, then it is time to start looking at outsourcing some of that work, or bringing on a team member who can help you with it.

If you are not making enough money to do this, even though you are swamped, then it is time to consider raising your prices or re-evalauting your business model. More on that at a later time.

[bctt tweet=”The success or failure of your small business will be 100% determined by you.” username=”northmacsvc”]

Final Thoughts

Right now, it may be hard for you to get a handle on this. You may either be so swamped with client work that the thought of everything depending on you to succeed has not even crossed your mind.

Or, you may have so much downtime and so little client work that this truth has become exactly what I have said that it is, terrifying.

I have addressed both of these situations here in this post, but I am sure you will have questions. Feel free to leave a question in the comments below! I will be happy to answer if at all possible.

That’s all for now. See you in the next one!



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