Start small. Start somewhere. Start.
You never know what’s on the other side of the door…
So much business advice is designed to give you the biggest bang for your buck. What that advice discounts is the journey and learning along the way.
I was recently having brunch with a friend I hadn't seen for a couple years. I was reflecting back on my first years of business and all the little jobs I took on to make ends meet. Now, more than seven years later, I have to luxury of saying how I'm so happy to have moved on from that. Then she pointed out what an important step it was: "you can figure out what you really like."
Such a simple statement, but very true. While I've completely moved on from the kind of project, that time did let me figure out what I enjoyed and didn't all while learning the ropes. No one says you have to keep doing the same thing your entire life. It’s completely normal a business will evolve or pivot.
Also, sometimes when we get caught up in money or financial goals we completely forget that all the little gigs really do add up. While, yes, everyone would love to be valued more for their time, it's good to have the smaller projects to learn from. There's a lot of adjustment that happens, and a lesson to be taken away from every project.
There’s a lot of talk of failure in business. I don’t know about you, but I’d rather fail on a smaller job than my biggest job to date. (As an aside, failure in your mind still likely will look like success to someone on the outside. When you’re at the helm, it’s natural to be harder on yourself.) You’ll never know until you try.
But really this is not about the possibility of failure. It’s about testing your ideas. These trials and tribulations hold clues to the direction you’ll go. As Marie Forleo says, “Clarity comes from engagement, not thought.” Translation: you can think about something forever, but until you start doing it, you won’t have the clarity you need. On a coaching call, Jen Carrington told me “confidence comes through doing.”
I may not have been rich in my early years of business, but I was doing something that made me proud. And I was paying all my own bills and making it work. That's an underrated accomplishment to be frank.
I often give the advice to learn to say no. Saying yes to everything early on is also what wore me thin and gave me tinges of burnout. It's important to recognize that there is a certain privilege that comes with saying no. If you want to see if business is really right for you, sometimes you may need to say yes.
It's much easier to determine if something is a good fit for you when you have the actual experience under your belt. Otherwise, we risk projecting our expectations, that may or may not match reality. The best way to learn is by doing. Just do it.
Often one job will lead to another. There's a network of people looking for someone just like you, they just may not know you exist. A smaller job may snowball to a bigger job with the same person/company, or with the next one you get connected to.
Don't underestimate the power of small. It's an important stepping stone along the way. Also, I can't go without pointing out that even a few hundred dollars/euros is more than zero. Everything adds up.
If you need another reminder, listen to Debbie Millman talk about the speed of achievement on the podcast Hurry Slowly. Debbie is a designer whose style is that of a marathoner (not a sprinter). She reminds us “anything worthwhile takes time.” That that not only means you have to start, but you can’t always expect instant gratification.
Start now. It will pay off later.
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