The Reality of Running a Business
We're all hearing stories of companies permanently closing, small businesses pulling the plug because they have no choice, and the rest (like me) are struggling to keep up as we continue to pay rent for spaces that can't be open.. all because of this pandemic. For those of you that don't live anywhere near me, I should share the fact that we've been in our 3rd province-wide lockdown since early April, and only if everything continues to look promising will I be able to re-open my room sometime in July (a good 3+ months later). It's been a hard pill to swallow for so many reasons because I'm actually not that well off to mindlessly pay for my room, but I also don't want to give it up. Here, I want to talk about the struggles I've had with my business and what it's taken to get it up and running.
Running your own business isn't easy, and I know I'm not the first person to share that. I started this in my spare time back in January of 2019, and it was very slow going at first - such as it is for any new business. That's why I turned to more training under mentors and kept up by working temporary jobs... a reality among many as they start out. Every time I talked to a small business mentor, I was always told that it takes tens of thousands of dollars to get your business up to a successful point - and I now completely believe that! Depending on what you decide to do, you may find instant success with the appropriate outlets or people, but that's rarely the case. And it's true that this pandemic has added to the struggles and costs of owning a business, as it's more or less like being put back at the beginning.. with a year that was a complete write-off.
Sometimes, it makes you want to scream...
I had hope that things would go smoothly enough to not face this again,
but it's also true that I took on renting a room knowing we may go back into lockdown.
If you've been reading this blog for a while, you'll know that I was just about to hit a "new height" right before the pandemic began. Going into my 2nd year (2020), I was taking a renewed approach and voila - I was being invited to have a booth at charity events and expos. This is a very appropriate move for any business within an industry where there's yearly expos, because it gives you the opportunity to be face to face with hundreds (if not thousands) of people. Here I was, having designed and ordered big banners, brochures and a table cloth - all things to decorate a booth space - when the pandemic news came. Hundreds of dollars worth of items needed to just be packed away.. and of course, the events themselves were both postponed and [eventually] cancelled. It was a big bummer, but I know these feelings are shared with many others.
So I had to eat that cost, knowing these events wouldn't happen for at least a couple more years. But this isn't the first time I've had to eat costs... There's another reality that many may not think about - which is the fact that as a business is always evolving with the times, their messaging and imaging changes.. meaning that yes, a lot of that stuff will never be used. Similarly, like with every lockdown and re-opening we've experienced, I've spent an unimaginable amount of time & money updating my website, updating my listings that are on other websites, and creating new advertisements for pivoting. It doesn't seem like much to others, but when you're a business owner, you recognize that you spend A LOT of your time working for no pay. This is a very fact that you have to get used to, because without being willing to do so, it's hard to continue doing it.
|All of my in-person services are on hold until we know we can re-open..
I don't like complaining since I understand the situation, but it's tough playing the waiting game.
In light of all that, I want to share all this insight for those that are considering running their own business in the future. For starters, you need to be crystal-clear on what you're doing/offering, and make it clear through your messaging, because without that, people won't find you - and this step alone takes time. You also need to have patience and persistence; it's said that it takes seeing [on average] 19 social media posts before a follower will decide to take you up on an offer.. but they also want to know you first. Another thing I learned early on is that you may need to EDUCATE your following so that people know if they want your services. This is why you see me talk about myself, my ways of doing things, and my experiences on social media - which is interlaced with the actual advertising of my services.
But this is only one measure to consider. In my experience, less than 50% of my clients follow me on social media; as many clients came to me through word of mouth or by seeing another form of advertising. This is why I've done everything from networking with other businesses to carry my business cards, having myself advertised in the newspaper, having listings on regional directories & healing group websites, to running paid online ads. Limiting yourself to one advertising option just isn't enough these days, and offering things for free while you're building up is yet another option you should consider. Anytime I get an email for something like an online interview or joining a new networking website, I jump on it because these are the best building blocks you can come across!
|The evolution of my business cards since I started!
Top: 2019. Bottom left: 2020. Bottom right: 2021.
... and I'm in the process of designing new ones!
And even though I feel like I'm going backwards right now because of the pandemic, I know I can't let myself feel bad about that -- the same goes for YOU. The pandemic has changed everyone's business, and not all for the better. I recognized that many people don't have the money or willingness to do spiritual work right now, which is why I'm confident in holding out for a better time. I don't want to give up because this is the only thing I want to do with the rest of my life, so I'll do whatever it takes to make that possible. This exact sentiment is what you need to hold on to when you start a business, because it's what will keep you going. To say it takes blood, sweat, and tears is completely true, and sometimes that feels like an understatement. This just adds more truth to the fact that you HAVE to love what you do!
Lastly, I want to share some figures for those that are wondering about the costs involved. I know many people start this endeavour in their spare time and with a limited budget - which can work! Some (like your website hosting, domain, email, etc.) are yearly, some (like paying for ads, rent, etc.) are monthly, and some come up a couple times a year (such as business cards, brochures, etc.). It's easier to have a credit card for these purposes, but if you can't get a business one, then just make sure you're on top of your bookkeeping. If you're not inclined to do bookkeeping, then just keep in mind it'll be another cost to consider. My rented room aside, I spend approximately $750 per year on these "basics". On top of that, you have to consider insurance, any space you're operating out of, and any equipment you may need. Even just setting up shop out of your own home likely requires a permit, so be sure to contact your local government's office to get this process started before anything else - it will help you to figure out where to begin.
At least knowing all this and coming up with a plan will help you to get started! Work on it in steps, know that it'll all take time to come together, and know it's honestly just a journey of its own. As long as you remain vigilant, open to feedback, open to changing whenever needed, and can tap into your creative juices to use on everything you do... than you'll be ready to do it. :)
#selfemployment #entrepreneurship #runningyourownbusiness #pandemicbusinessstruggles #whattoknowtogetstarted #empathconfessions