In addition to May 1 being International Workers’ Day, when we recognize the power of laborers as the foundation of economic stability, it also happens to be Women Owned Business Day. This was a surprise to me as I never knew such a day existed. It turns out this celebration is quite new. Created by UrbanGirl exec Hannah Diamond to raise the awareness of women business owners and increase consumer traffic to women-run websites, more than 400 businesses from around the world participated. While a great effort to draw attention to those of us in the driver’s seat can only help, I am optimistic that a time will come when a business is simply a business, whether it’s run by a man or a woman. I am a few days late to this year’s celebration, but wanted to provide a few thoughts for other women out there like me yearning for the independence, excitement, joy and wonder of working for yourself. With that, my Top 5 Lessons Learned in just 4 short months at the helm of Connective Impact:
1. Working for yourself is empowering. It is tremendously freeing to make decisions entirely on my own. Everything from how I budget to how I draft client proposals is determined by moi and only moi. This feeling of autonomy is unlike any I have felt before. In my fifteen years of working for someone else, I always trusted my decisions but never felt empowered to make any on my own. Those days are gone and it feels really great.
2. You can operate on a shoe string. In this day and age of technology and constant interconnection, if you are in a service business, what you need is an internet connection, a device to tap into the world of social media, emails and Google, and your brain. Having a budget for other items will be critical down the line (i.e. conference travel, taxes, administrative costs, perhaps staff) but until you start bringing in a large income, a shoe string is perfectly acceptable. For me, having a presence on social media has been the most valuable investment. Having a navigable website, a twitter following and LinkedIn connections have allowed me to reach a broad audience at the touch of a button, leaving much of my time spent on ensuring I have the right content to provide them.
3. Utilize your network. Having an extensive network of solid contacts and strong relationships from my last fifteen years has proven tremendously valuable. I have made great friendships over the years and my network has been able to vouch for me and my ability to provide a service. Without a strong network, I could not have gone out on my own. Spend the time to make good relationships. They will serve you well for eternity.
4. Trust your instincts. When I started the brainchild of Connective Impact, I was neither scared nor unsure. I simply believed that my mission would guide me and my drive would sustain me. I was right. Although only 4 months in I am more convinced than ever that this decision was 100% right for me and will be viable as an income generator for me and my family. I have always been a believer in trusting your instincts and that is as true with running your own business as it is with anything else.
5. Take risks. It may sound cliché but nothing gained has ever come from sitting around and waiting. I have always considered myself an aggressive decision maker (in other words I am borderline rash) but by taking a few risks, speaking from the heart, trying new methods or working with unconventional partners, the brilliance of independent success can be won.
6. Ask for help. I am incredibly lucky to have a very strong support network keeping me buoyed and positive through the transition as I get Connective Impact off the ground. I have also had to let my guard down a bit and ask for help at times. This can be uncomfortable for me as I am one of those women who thinks asking for help makes me seem weak. It doesn't! There are things I cannot do alone, no matter how much money I may make, knowledge I have or people I know. We all need help sometimes. And it’s ok to ask for it.
7. Just do it. If any part of you is looking outside of yourself, wondering what ‘could’ be if you put all your energy towards making something better, go for it. Don’t hold yourself back. Take the risk, jump off the diving board and watch how big a splash you can make!