The emotional side effects of running your own business

02 January 2020 -

RollercoasterStarting your own business can be exhilarating, but if you’re used to full-time employment, it can take some adjustment. Here’s how to mentally prepare

Mark Rowland

Sherry Bevan wanted to start her own business for years, but never quite had the confidence to take the leap. She finally did in 2012 – using her own experiences to launch the Confident Mother, aimed at empowering women in similar situations to follow their own entrepreneurial goals.

Despite the nature of her business, Bevan still found working for herself to be a big adjustment. In particular, the mindset change took some time – Bevan needed to free herself from the constraints set by working in full-time employment.

“When I first started, I got cross with myself and didn't allow myself enough flexibility in when and how I did the work,” she says. “If you want to start work at 11am or keep working past midnight, it's your call.”

As a self-employed person, you have to really understand and own your strengths, she says. You are the only one in the business who can appraise your work. “It's up to you to shut up your inner critic sabotaging your confidence and acknowledge, and appreciate and really value what you're good at.”

Build resilience

Della Hudson has helped several entrepreneurs set up businesses over the past decade, both as a freelance FD and as the MD of her own advisory firm. She has since started another business advising finance professionals on how to be better leaders.

Having experienced the transition into self-employment herself and through observing her clients, she says the biggest hurdle that new business owners hit is building enough resilience. “I always worry when someone says that they’ve set up on their own because they found employment too stressful. Generally, employment is less stressful than working for yourself, though it’s a different kind of stress.”

In employment, you only have one person to satisfy – your boss. In self-employment, you have lots of different clients to satisfy, who all want slightly different things, she explains. “They all want a piece of you. When you bring on staff, you then have even more responsibility.”

You effectively need to split your time between two things. The day-to-day work needed to keep your clients or customers happy, and the overall running of the business. You also need to be prepared that lots of things might not work out, says Bevan.

“I guess it's a bit like acting; you go for lots of auditions but you don't always get the part. That's not necessarily a reflection on your ability, simply you weren’t right for that role or that production. You need to build emotional resilience. Self-care has a huge part to play there."

Developing structure

If you set up on your own, you lose a lot of the structure that you have in full-time employment. You need to create your own structures and routines in order to keep your focus, maintain productivity, and ensure that the business overall is moving in the right direction. “If you can’t do that yourself, you could try working in a serviced office or hotdesking at a co-working space,” says Hudson. “The big difference is that the buck stops with you, so you live or die by your own decisions.”

Know your value, and learn to say ‘no’

You need a quite sound commercial head to succeed when running your own company, says Hudson. “I’ve often told my clients to blame their accountant when pushing back on a fee or a piece of work.”

Set yourself some targets to help you focus on the commercial side of the business, and ensure your price is right. You need to get to grips with the numbers you need to keep the company going, and how much work you need to do in order to meet your targets.

Connect with people

“Even if you are an introvert like me, you're likely to miss the coffee break chats or the passing banter at the photocopier,” says Sherry Bevan.

Connecting with other business owners helps with your own mindset, particularly as you can offer mutual support. “Working on your own means that sometimes you might take negative feedback far too seriously because you don't have a work colleague or manager to talk it through.”

Remember the why

Simon Paine is the co-founder and CEO of the PopUp Business School, which helps people from all walks of life to start their own businesses. He explains that one of the best ways to keep your head when starting a business is to remember why you did it in the first place.

“Our brains work through stimulus from our senses,” he explains. “We can build a really strong vision of ‘why’ by paying attention to – and then amplifying – the ‘data inputs’ from our senses. It helps you build the inner desire to get things done and create your business.”

In order to focus your mind and declutter your thoughts, Paine recommends that you picture that you’ve made a success of your business, then ask yourself the following questions:

  • What would life be like for you?
  • Where would you be living?
  • What would you be wearing?
  • How would you be spending your time?
  • What would your holidays be like?
  • What would it be like working in – and on – your business?
  • How would your friends and family react to your success?
  • How would you give back and who would you help?

This will help strengthen your focus on what motivates you. As long as your reasons for starting the business are strong enough to push you through the inevitable obstacles you will face in the early days of starting your business, you will get to where you need to be mentally more quickly, says Paine. It’s also easier to articulate why potential clients or customers should engage with you. “‘Why’ is far more compelling than ‘what’.”

To see how the future of work is changing and what you need to consider if running your own business, read blueprints for tomorrow’s leaders.

Image: Shutterstock

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