I felt a little hurt earlier this week.
I met a friend and she asked me what I’d been up to. I figured she didn’t just want to hear about my toddler’s ear infection, or my eldest’s Swashbuckle addiction, so I told her it had been a good, but busy week and I was pleased that my next swaddle order will arrive soon and I’m really making headway with my new product.
She made some vague noises of agreement and then said, “So, in September, will you be getting a real job?” (September is when my eldest starts school and my youngest – currently at home with me all week – starts at nursery for a few days.)
Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t going for ‘ooh look at you, aren’t you wonderful with your business and your orders, etc’, but wasn’t that a little harsh? I said, “Erm, no, because I have a job,” and moved on before things were said and feelings (probably hers) got hurt, but it has been playing on my mind. I’m not sure I want to confront this directly and potentially lose a friendship I value, but I do need to get a few things off my chest.
Firstly, since when is running your own business not a ‘real’ job? Do you need to be employed by someone else to make it valid?
If I was working for someone else and I’d almost sold all of their stock and was working on launching their latest product, is that any better than doing it for myself? If so, is the person I’m hypothetically working for (the person right at the top) not doing a ‘real’ job, because once upon a time they set up something on their own?
Or, does not real mean not successful? And how do you judge success anyway?
I think we all have our own reasons for starting a business – and our own goals. Whether it’s about building a business empire, making money to pay for holidays, shoes, school fees, etc, or anything in between, I’d say success is meeting the goals you set for yourself. And maybe it’s not even about money. Maybe it’s just about being able to be there for your kids while they’re small, or about not having to commute every day.
At the moment, I’d say I was successful. I’m in profit, I just about manage to fit everything in and I’m enjoying it. Right now, that will do. As my situation changes later this year, and I have more dedicated time to work, my aspirations will change, but, for now, I’m happy.
I think that matters so much more than being ‘successful’ in someone else’s eyes. Everyone’s idea of what that means will be different anyway and you can never please everyone.
Does not ‘real’ mean not getting up and going to a place of work every day?
For me, working for myself, is partly a lifestyle choice. I’m know I’m very fortunate that I can drop my kids off in the morning, pick them up in the evening and, attend every sports day, parents meeting, etc. I chose this. However, it’s not a (very expensive!) hobby and there are compromises too.
I am lucky in that so far I’ve been able to fit my work in around the kids without needing childcare (for both) – but that has meant sacrificing naptimes sitting in the sun and evenings relaxing. It’s meant getting up early to work before anyone else is up (sometimes before the sun is up) and sometimes working well into the evening.
I still work hard – whether I do it from my home office, or from a table in a coffee shop. Perhaps more so than if I were employed, as it can be hard to transition from work to home when you’re working in your home. (This isn’t a great thing and I’m working on improving my work-life balance.)
It can be lonely out there.
I’m sharing this experience not just as a way to let off some steam (although it is helping!) but because I started this blog to help and inspire other people who might be thinking of starting up on their own. It can be really scary and I hope people can learn from my mistakes (and the things I get right). I mainly just want people to realise that if I can do this, so can they.
It can be lonely working by yourself. Sometimes other people don’t really understand the choices you’ve made and question your decision, when what you really need is support. Constructive input and feedback is always good, but what none of us need is knocking down.
I’m lucky enough to be a member of a few mums in business networking groups, which are extremely supportive. If you’re reading this and you have a business, are starting a business, or are even thinking about starting a business I would definitely recommend joining one. It’s so good to be able to spend time with a positive group of people who all completely get what you’re dealing with – and have faith that you can succeed.
If there’s nothing similar where you live, perhaps you can set up yourself? I love the saying, “If opportunity doesn’t knock, build a door”.
There are plenty of virtual groups you can join too. Amazon FBA Competitive Edge (Facebook group) is one I recommend if you’re also into selling online.
It is a real thing
I’m not sure if the person who inspired this post will be reading. I, sadly, suspect not. I really hope that this has come across as intended, which is just to say that we all deserve to be taken seriously.
I know being employed isn’t always a walk in the park either (or being unemployed for that matter). Whether you work full-time, part-time, are employed, self-employed, or a stay-at-home parent, I’m not saying that any of these is ‘better’ than any of the other situations. It’s a very personal decision.
What I am saying is that whatever someone has chosen regarding their job or career, it is valid and their decision should be respected.