Somebody asked me an interesting question the other day; “Did you ever consider giving up on your business or doing something more traditional work wise?” It’s interesting because I think in a lot of respects, everyone wants to quit their job at some point. I really hate the idea of a 9-5 day job, I did work experience as an artist and, while it was great learning and a fun time, I could not stand the 9-5 work hours. I love having the flexibility of being my own boss and I love being a part of everything (even the finances, which aren’t the worst thing in the world) that being a business owner brings. I can break up the monotony of my day with trips to the shop or writing a blog post all day, it’s not always the same.
In short, yes I have thought about quitting. I started the company during the middle of a lockdown, we had 4 lockdowns in the UK, each tougher than the last. The ever growing boredom and the desire to be outside with your friends walking around the city center was evident near the end of the second lockdown. Gaming conventions were constantly being canceled, my friends had moved back home, my family was living in the states, and I couldn’t even go outside to walk longer than an hour (I live in the valleys so no one actually regulated that rule, but there was nowhere to actually walk). It was really difficult to get anything started with the company. I had set up a website and I was taking business courses whenever they were offered, but it was very difficult.
I had a break in September when I finally had a client that needed artwork done. Things were great! I had provided them with another designer to work for them and the company was growing. And then Omicron hit and we all went back into lockdown. I started having panic attacks and I couldn’t sleep at night because everything was closing again and I only had 1 year left on my visa. I cried myself to sleep many nights and I would sit in the bathroom with the tap running so I could cry without my flatmates hearing. It was bad. On top of that, it was winter so I couldn’t go outside for walks because it was so cold, the ice and rain was constant, and I had no desire to work in the freezing cold living room. No matter how many blankets I had on or how much we turned the heat up, I was always cold.
Not a lot of people realize that I take naps when I’m depressed or sad, but last winter (2021) I took a lot of naps, more so than my 3rd year of uni. I had no clue what I was doing and I was so overwhelmed by everything I thought I needed to do as a business owner. I missed my family and I just wanted to go home for a break. I was trying to develop a company that relied on other people and face-to-face interactions that were being regulated and restricted by the government. I was terrified of getting Covid, especially with no family around, and I felt so alone. I really didn’t have anyone to talk to about any of this because my flatmates weren’t start-ups (they are freelancers now), and my mom and dad weren’t a service based company.
On top of feeling absolutely alone, my spark for creativity was dead. I had no desire to paint, write, draw, 3D model, anything during lockdown. I was walking the same hiking tails so taking my camera out wasn’t fun, I had no ideas for environments I could make, and every time I dragged my paint boxes out (yes I have many), I would sit there staring at them and the blank paper for ages until it was bedtime and I had to put everything back. Lockdown was brutal, and it wasn’t a good time to start a company, but it gave me a lot of time to learn, research, take courses, and grow as an individual. It also gave me a chance to learn about who I was/am and what I’m capable of doing and how far I can, and am willing to, push myself.
I don’t think anyone realizes how incredibly lonely being a start-up actually is, apart from those who have done it themselves. You are constantly trying to figure things out. You are constantly on the computer, managing a team, networking, editing social media, making new content, AND on top of that you are expected to maintain friendships, go out and have fun, and take time to relax. But how can you relax or have fun with your friends when you’re always thinking, “Oh, I forgot to edit the banner on the website, I forgot to post to Instagram stories today, I need to download the analytics before they reset next month.” and so on. I know there are people out there who are always offering help, and there will always be people to help. I don’t know how to take stock photos for my website, but Luke does and has done a fantastic job. I don’t know much about accounting, but my mom does and she can help me find a good accountant. I know there are people to help me…. But if this whole business fails, it doesn’t impact them as much as it will impact me. I am putting my time and energy and mental stability on this entire business.
All that being said, I’m still here. I am so passionate about what I do it’s crazy. I am constantly on my phone researching ideas or looking through social media for influence. I am always networking with people and looking for ways to help others with my skillset. I love what I do. It’s not at all easy, and I constantly feel like I’m alone or that I won’t make it, but I’m going to try my hardest while I still can. I do have really bad days where I can’t even look at the computer. I have to be outside with my camera or on the couch reading my book. It’s how I reset from stress. And I have really good days, where I bash out all the e-mails I need to do, I’m early in delivery for my social media content, and I’ve completed work for whichever project I’ve done and I want to keep working after dinner. Those days are my favorite! I love productive days. But I appreciate my rest days so I can have more productive days.
Being a start-up is a balancing act between working hard and being productive, maintaining your personal life, and resting. For anyone looking to become a start-up, my biggest advice is find yourself a support group. Your family, friends, partner, like minded start-ups, or a business coach (oh my gosh, please find a business coach, they are the greatest thing for you as a start-up). You really need support, not just at the beginning, but always. Surround yourself with people who will cheer you on from the sidelines, message you to ask if you’re ok, take you out to coffee when you can’t be in the house a second longer, or something as small as read your blog. I have friends who let me rant to them over lunch. They know every aspect of my company and have heard me rant on multiple occasions and they are always there to listen to me. I don’t even know if they understand half the things I say but they listen and that's what matters to me. (I have facetimed Gabi multiple times just to cry and just having her there, usually making her lunch, is all I need. We were each other's rocks during the first lockdown so she really is my comfort blanket when things go wrong. Thank you Gabi). Everyone needs cheerleaders in their lives, so surround yourself with as many as you can, and don’t forget to say ‘thank you’ to them.
As well as finding your cheerleaders, cheer others on yourself. Share facebook posts, instagram stories, etsy store pages. Leave a comment, hit the like button, it all makes a huge difference. Take someone out to lunch and let them rant to you. We all need a chance to speak our minds and clear out whatever emotions we’ve been bottling up inside. It may seem simple and small to you, but you never know the impact you’re having on small businesses and the people who run them.
Small business owners, you’re not alone, please reach out if you ever need anything, even if you just want to bounce ideas around with someone, I’m always happy to listen.
I hope you all have a fab week, and go check my Instagram for some fun updates in the stories. Ok, it’s just a photo showing off Frank (my palm tree) and his new pet frog. But I would love to hear from you all, what have you got planned for the weekend?
Thanks for reading, see you next week!