Picking up where I left off in early December, I've been meaning to write this update since the new year! To summarize, I left full-time employment 5 months ago when my daughter was nearly 11 months old. I did this for several reasons - first, so that I could spend more time with her and try out being a stay-at-home parent. That is the primary goal in all of this, and I have to remind myself of it from time to time. So far, I've truly loved it despite the learning curve and hardships.
Second, I wanted to take the opportunity to reassess my career path after 15 years. And third, or second-and-a-half if you will, I wanted to more seriously pursue starting my own business. I had a runway in the form of personal savings, and a mind full of ideas that I had been unable to bring into reality in my career so far.
The first month or two were pretty heady as I started putting ideas to paper and making them come alive! Everything was a possibility! Every idea was worth pursuing (oops!). I also landed a small part-time gig for 10 hours a week which would provide a small but steady, guaranteed income. What more could you ask for?
While savings and ideas are a precursor to most any business launch, what I quickly found was that these were the easy parts. My self-directed crash course in starting a business met its first major bump in the road when it came to marketing. As it turns out, I am a terrible marketer. I have very little interest in writing persuasive copy - I prefer direct explanation instead. I do not have the mindset, willpower, or determination to "hammer" at marketing channels day after day with little to no response. I'd rather be exploring new ideas or refining my product, right? And perhaps most egregiously, I am prone to giving away my product at any cost (even free) just to get someone in front of me and get some feedback.
Now that last one may be necessary in the beginning, especially for an education-based business. But there is a lot of advice out there saying to never do that. To address that aspect, I did some research and decided to implement a "pay what you want" sliding scale for my workshops, trainings, and classes so that I can provide an affordable product with multiple pricing options. This lets me avoid the game of discount codes, special last minute discount codes, super special super discount codes, email and social media blitzes, and all the other marketing techniques that utilize discounts in one way or another.
To address the more fundamental issues, however, I had to do something more drastic. The runway was shrinking quicker than expected due to some unanticipated costs (shocker!). I was finding it hard to juggle parenting, family, part-time work, and business activities (surprise!). My focus and productivity felt like it was at an all-time low with all the task switching. Perhaps not surprisingly, I have finally recognized the luxury of a single full-time position with a steady paycheck! But that luxury certainly comes at a price.
So, in order to keep my options open and my business ideas alive, it turns out I had to do the opposite - spend less time on the business! Instead, I picked up more steady part-time work, enough to cover living expenses and break even on the budget. To me, there are several benefits.
First, it relieves the pressure of relying on income from the business in its early stages. For investor-funded business ventures this may seem obvious, but for self-funded businesses it seems like the primary issue. If it's true that the number one reason small businesses fail is lack of perseverance, as I've heard on multiple business podcasts including How I Built This on NPR, then problem solved! I'll get money from somewhere else.
Second, by cutting down the time available for me to spend and work on the business, it allows the business to exist and grow organically, at a slower pace than I would be comfortable with if this was my sole source of income or focus. Obviously it also means I can't offer my product as frequently, thus slowing down the rate of growth further. But based on these first few months, I don't think frequency of offering is the problem.
Ultimately, it seems to boil down to a combination of marketing, persuasion, and probably the economy - whether people are spending freely or conserving. At 35, with a toddler at home, I am choosing to take a different approach to starting a business than the hard-hitting, no sleep, high-stress high-gain route that you hear espoused by many 20-40 year old entrepreneurs. If that's your energy level and lifestyle, if that's what comes naturally to you, then by all means go for it! But I'm not convinced that's the only way it works, and anyway that way simply won't work for me.
Perhaps I'm just describing the tortoise approach vs. the hare. But regardless, new businesses apparently take a lot of time to get going and become profitable! So if the race is long, I'll take the slower route and imagine I'm wiser than all those hares zooming ahead.