When I created Little Leaf Copy Editing in December of 2016, I had little idea of what the path to entrepreneurship would look like. I spent the first eleven months learning all I could about business management, but even when I left my 9-5 and began freelancing full-time, I still had much to learn about surviving on my own. Now a little over 2 1/2 years later, after months and months (and months…) of experimenting and networking and fretting, I’m finally beginning to feel that I’ve found my entrepreneurial groove.
The time it’s taken me to reach this point is not uncommon. As Julia Chung explains in a recent article, every business owner goes through similar ups and downs during the first three years. The first year, she notes, is really nothing more than a time to explore. That year is when you discover who you really are and what you’re really about.
By the second year, you begin to gain ground in understanding what you’re supposed to do, but you may not be anywhere close to knowing how to get there. That’s why Chung calls the second year the “terrible twos.” “You have some idea that running a business is unlike anything you’ve ever done,” she explains, “but now you also have expectations, and what felt like a win last year, when you expected nothing (and no one else expected anything from you), now feels like barely scraping by. Yes, it’s a business. But everything—everything—is hard.”
Boy, oh boy, can I relate! I can’t count how many times I considered giving up, only to realize that I had to keep going because of all the work I’d already put in. But if the first year was about exploring, the second year was about defining. During that year, I listened to countless mentors, adjusted my services, tried (and failed) at many things, and forced myself to reach beyond what I was comfortable with. I often joke that I rebranded my business every few months. And while some may have seen that rebranding as wandering or even desperation, I was actually coming into my own.
Now, already halfway through year three, I can say I’m getting into my entrepreneurial groove. The first two years tested my resolve (and sanity), but I’m stronger and more certain. Everything I’ve built thus far is something to build on further. And that’s why Chung calls year three a win. “You may have reduced your expectations, reduced your offering, and reduced your self-esteem,” she states. “But you clarified what you’re really doing, you understand yourself and your business better, and you are now building the business you didn’t know you were building when you got started.”
How true. As I think of where I started and where I now am, I am content with how my business has evolved. I’ve refined my processes and services to the point that I no longer wonder if what I’m offering is right or not. And, so, I no longer worry about the customers who go elsewhere. I know that those customers who need me will find me (and see the value in what I offer).
As Bernadette Jiwa notes, determining who, what, and why we work is perhaps the key to happy living. “It’s true that how we spend our days is how we end up spending our lives,” she states. “We can deliberately choose to spend them wisely.”
As an entrepreneur looking ahead to her fourth year, I plan on doing just that.