In my recent conversation with Lauren Sapala, we talked about our journeys 'into' entrepreneurship, and why it felt a bit different for us compared to "the narrative" that's out there.
This conversation took place just a few days after I confessed here on the blog that I have always found the word 'entrepreneur' a challenging one, and that how I picture 'entrepreneurs' neither represents me nor who I want to be.
This week, I've decided to reflect on what my version of entrepreneurship looks like. I've been thinking about the ways in which my journey and experience as an entrepreneur has been different, the sorts of stories I come across inside the INF community and what entrepreneurship more closely looks like for us.
Truth be told, I don't feel that the mainstream narrative out there is ours, and in my experience it usually doesn't serve us. Films like The Social Network are entertaining (I've seen it more than once), but not aligned to what most of us truly want.
I've been on a journey of discovery in uncovering the sort of entrepreneur I want to be, and I wanted to share it with you today. Here are my notes on my adventure into 'entrepreneurship' (did I mention it still feels weird using that word?), and how the entrepreneurial journey has been different for me:
Startup/tech/funded = not for me
It was startup books and movies like The Social Network which represented most of my perception of what 'doing your own thing' was like. It was only a few months after starting my first business, Thriva, that I realised that big business was not for me. If I'm being honest, I was doing what I thought I should do and feeding my ego by trying to "go big".
It was stressful, it was overwhelming, and it otherwise wasn't the right fit for me.
Smaller was the way to go. Amongst those 'big business' books, I had also come across the stories inside Chris Guillebeau's $100 Startup and Escape the City's The Escape Manifesto. These documented the stories of freelancers/solopreneurs which were definitely more my jam. I probably knew that then, I definitely know it now.
Perhaps this'll change in the future, but I feel like more of a 'company of me' solopreneur than a 'company of several employees' entrepreneur. A lifestyle business is the way to go for me.
Figuring it out as I go
I tweeted this last week. I read story upon of career-changers (see above) to try and figure out how they did it and find the path that was meant for me.
Little did I know this was waiting to be discovered by taking small steps and seeing how they felt. (See Thriva, above). All you need to do is try something, and your intuition will tell you if you're on the right course or not.
Literally, trying something. Seeing how it feels. And continuing. Or trying a new t(r)ack.
There was way too much reading and researching in between the 'trying something new', but it's a muscle that's slowly developed.
Slow and steady wins the race
'Hustle' was never my thing. Every time I've tried it I've fallen flat on my face - or rather just felt really sh*tty before I've gotten to that point. Having something take over my life, with no sense of balance, wellbeing or self-care just doesn't work for me. Gary Vaynerchuk and those other motivational/business gurus... each to their own, but their energy is not my jam.
Perceptions around becoming a 'full-time entrepreneur'
I assumed I had to "cut the cord" on everything else and go all-in to entrepreneurship. Even though it's mostly been that way for me (circumstances like living at home have helped me a lot), I know many people who work fulltime, or part-time, before going completely 'all in'.
In fact, the majority of 'entrepreneurs' I know in the INF world are multi-potentialites working on more than one thing, more than one stream of income, and are not working full-time on a business.
The ones I do know (like Lauren) who are sustaining themselves from their venture were doing it for a while before it make their full-time thing; Lauren started her blog in April 2013 and went full-time on her online business in mid-2019... that's 6 years!
Your thing won't be full-time overnight, or perhaps you don't even want or need that to be the case. Certainly in my experience, I'm taking it slow and steady, being open to what happens, and trusting the process. That may sound kinda woo-woo, but it's true.
It's also worth bearing in mind that any online business will take time to build (see Lauren's example, above); think months and years, rather than days and weeks.
What you read online...
Lots of the reading/research you do is either unhelpful or unnecessary. Before you know it (like me) you'll know all this stuff that doesn't apply to you because you're building that kind of business, or is irrelevant because you're literally starting to build your business and you don't need to worry about all the bells and whistles.
I seriously wish I had stopped myself from reading so much (it came from wanting to feel safe/sure - a fallacy) and just gone out and done it.
It's only from going out and starting Thriva, from starting my freelance marketing business, (I made pretty much zero from both, btw), from blogging and slowly-but-surely adding more things and coming up with a way of charging for it when I felt I had landed on "the jam" that was me, that I received real feedback and information for my intuition.
Because here's the thing. The business you're going to build is going to be entirely unique to you.
Most 'mainstream businesses' out there are probably far-removed for what's going to work for you. A handful might be more of the kind that you'll end up doing.
But your business is still going to be utterly unique and it's by trying and experiencing how it feels, and then adjusting and tinkering and figuring things out, that you'll get closer to something that works for you and then - before you know it - you'll be charging for something (that's a big milestone, those first dollars, and it'll feel scary) that feels good to you on a soulful level (your intuition will guide you) and is the right thing for you.
Before INF Club, I had started a bunch of blogs for introverts all of which didn't quite feel right. I was passionate about the subject but probably trying to write about what I thought others wanted me to write about based on what I was seeing from other introvert/life advice blogs online.
If I'm being honest, I continue to figure things out and discover my unique voice and the things I want to share on here, but I'm mostly just letting things unfold and doing what feels right for me and listening to my intuition to guide me re: what feels right.
Even in this very blog post I started out trying to make it all neat and list-like and as I've gotten towards the end on this last point I've just let it all out in stream-of-consciousness format.
So remember, there is no right way - the only way is the way that feels right to you at the time. Get started on something, see how it feels, treat it like an experiment.
Oh - and that's another thing...
You'll put way less pressure on yourself (seriously) if you treat it as an experiment that may or may not work out, that may or may not lead to something. This runs contrary to the 'hustle, hustle, hustle, and make it work' mindset and I'm not saying don't put in some effort and consistency, but for INFs having the freedom to move forward and explore without too much pressure, especially when you're 'doing your own thing' for the first time, tends to be helpful.
This is also why it's helpful not to have your new venture as "the only thing" you're doing, when you're starting out. Or, you might like to build up a safety buffer of savings, like Amanda did, for example; she left her job to be an author full-time and has been honest in saying that it has been a slow and steady journey, helped by the fact that she had savings behind her which meant that she hadn't put herself under a ridiculous amount of time-pressure to make X amount of money as an author.
As with most cases, the mainstream narrative is not the way it works out in reality.
As INF, "the way" is for us to find out, discover and decided... with gradual steps, iteration, and checking in with our intuition to ask "hey, does that feel right for me?"... "Okay, let's keep going" or "Okay, let's try this different thing", or "Okay, let's try putting this product/offering out there".
Whether you're 'doing your own thing', or are thinking about doing so, it's one of the most rewarding, nourishing and growth-inducing journeys you can take. So I salute you.
Just take it slow, take it one little step at a time, keep listening to that inner knowing... and be kind to yourself. Meaningful journeys happen over months and years, not days or weeks.
And as cliched as it sounds, it really has been about the journey and who I've become in the last 5 years, rather than the destination at the end. Remember, that destination might just end up changing, or being different to the one you expected.
Trust in the process. Put one foot in front of the other. And just let things unfold at their own, gradual pace.
A final note
Do remember that there are no hard and fast rules here. These are just things I've experienced in my own entrepreneurial journey, and noticed in those journeys of other INFs. You might go slow and steady alongside a day-job, or you might go all-in. Just keep moving forward at a pace that feels right for you, and check-in with your intuition along the way. Your journey will be unique, and that's incredibly exciting :)
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