So many conversations I’ve had recently about Being In Business.
“I don’t feel like a proper businesswoman.”
“I don’t feel like the word entrepreneur describes me.”
“My day job is ok.”
“I don’t want to give up my job entirely.”
“I want to do lots of things.”
“I like the steady income.”
“Am I broken?”
Oh, loves. Sometimes it seems like there are two sides at war out there, and we are somewhere in the middle – valiant, determined, but also frightened, doubting of ourselves and so confused we don’t know which way is up.
The Beige Army
What Marianne Cantwell calls the Beige Army is on one side. It’s the corporate world, the suits and long hours and office culture; the cubicles and fluorescent lights and office gatherings; the jobs and careers which consume you.
It’s the people in those jobs and suits and offices, the ones who cast instant doubt on you whenever you voice your opinions or plans for doing something different.
It’s everyone who has ever said “art doesn’t make money” or “do you seriously believe that will work?” or “it’s time for you to settle down now – reality is that no one likes work”.
The Online Business ‘Gurus’
On the other hand are the people who have, loudly and visibly, “made it” in the online space.
They are the six figure mentors, the people selling courses and workshops to help you get there, the ones who went from homeless to millionaire in a week and a half… or so their spin says.
They work four hours a week, or an hour a day. Sometimes they travel while working, and sometimes they have massive houses and beautiful, blog-worthy spaces to work from.
Their mantra is essentially stick it to The Man. You are supposed to want to quit your day job, jack it all in, only ever be answerable to yourself for ever more. You are supposed to hate the daily grind of the 9-5, and despise offices and their culture.
And you are definitely not supposed to find friends for life at your workplace!
It’s all a mix of spin and bullshit.
With just a smattering of truth – I like to believe none of them intend to lie to you.
But for starters, your definition of success is the only one that matters.
The life you are creating and living should be one that reflects your own values and nourishes the things that are important to you – not the markers which other people consider as success.
No one works for three hours a week and has a six figure business that flies at the same time, without help & support and a team of people.
Outsourcing your admin, social media, blog uploads, product photography – anything that you’re either not good at or find too time consuming in the limited time you have available makes a huge difference. But it’s not often talked about openly.
Steady income, particularly if you are single or have debt, is also not talked about enough. Yes, it can be frustrating as fuck to have to go somewhere and do a job for someone else when you are feeling inspired to create, or when you have been up till 3am writing. But knowing that payslip is on its way every month is a comfort, and sometimes essential.
Myself, I can’t create when I’m worrying about money. So in order for me to create my best work, and have the energy to share it with the world, I need to be able to forget about how I’m paying my bills and focus on creating.
And the office environment has its perks. I’ve met some of my best friends there, which was unexpected but a wonderful bonus. Even without close friends at work, there is a community and opportunity for idle chat which you might not realise you would miss until you work alone, day after day.
There is altogether too much focus for my liking on having to choose one or the other. From one tribe, the choice is corporate wage slave or six figure digital nomad. On the other, is a proper career or messing about with those little hobbies. If you’re a multipod, you’ll be familiar with also getting comments of the “can’t you just settle on one thing” variety.
(Though you don’t have to turn your hobby into a business unless you want to, either!)
Though I can see that both sides are speaking from fear, and hiding their fear of the Other with scornful words, I dislike intensely this need to belittle the choices that fall outside of our own.
If someone’s life choices make you uncomfortable because they make you question your own, that’s a conversation you need to have with yourself and possibly your significant other, rather than pouring open scorn on the other person’s chosen lifestyle.
The Spaces In Between
My clients, and my friends, tend to fall in between these two extremes.
I know people with tiny businesses which just about pay for themselves, and people who wanted to focus on a high paying corporate job for a short time, to boost income.
I know people with day jobs they actually like, and things they love on the side.
I know people with full time businesses who scrape by, and people with full time businesses who make more than they did in the City. People who run businesses in lieu of hobbies because self employment can be all-consuming – and they like it that way.
I know people who are happy to work in a job for the steady income, but dream of being able to afford to go part time (or of the job being flexible enough to allow part time). People who love the idea of the freedom, but are also scared of losing themselves to the business.
I even know a few who work 50-hour weeks at corporate jobs and love every minute!
I run my own businesses around a full time day job at the moment, and would love to drop some hours so I have a better balance.
Every single one of these choices is valid, and a million other combinations too.
It doesn’t mean you don’t have a proper business, or you’re not a proper businesswoman, or that you have no ambition because you’re not pursuing a proper career.
It means you have a proper grasp of what is right for you, and really, that’s all that matters.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on this, it’s one of my pet hates, that people can be made to feel sad, or small, or inadequate, for choosing what’s right for them, rather than what’s expected of them.