Thursday, December 24, 2009

Reflections on 2009

It's been almost a full year since I took the full-time plunge with my business and I'm actually still alive. I was terrified that I would fail miserably and wind up begging my old employer for a contract in a matter of a couple of months. Of course, that is never outside the realm of possibility, but so far, I have managed to pay my bills without the help of the government for (going on) 5 consecutive months.

Being self-employed is a big adjustment, but I've gained a few nuggets of wisdom in the past year.

A. There are a lot of naysayers out there. People like my grandmother, who, after learning that I was going to focus on my business rather than find gainful employment in the corporate world, asked my mother when I was planning on getting a "real job." I am not upset by this mentality. Even I think I am still crazy for making this choice sometimes, but I have learned not to let other people project their fears and insecurities on me.

B. Entrepreneurship is a huge risk. Especially for a person like me. My boyfriend makes a modest income as a proofreader, but I am still responsible for exactly one half of our household bills, along with personal bills (like my stupidly huge car payment). I see this as a HUGE positive. If my partner made enough to cover all of our bills, I might be tempted to lighten up on my work load and not be as aggressive or serious about growing my business. I believe that complacency can work against you.

C. I have become quite educated regarding taxes. Both from a self-employment stand-point, as well as tax collection and payment. God, I wish there was a nice, Cliff Notes version of this out there for people just starting out. Unfortunately, the IRS has made it difficult (as well as individual state governments) to outline your responsibilities. I personally think this is done on purpose, so that you are naively non-compliant with some-such thing and forced to be fined later on. The IRS isn't stupid.

D. Ok, this is really cliche and corny, but I believe that there are no limits to what you are capable of. The only obstacle is you. If you let the Negative Nellys occupy the real estate in your brain, you will never realize your own potential. Life is short and, despite what other people might suggest, you are in control of it. Of course, I say this as a person who has no children. But I am also able to balance my budding business while helping to care for my mom, who battles stage-four cancer. I believe that I have found something that I am terrifically passionate about. I don't know if I will ever find anything else that gives me such satisfaction, so you bet your boots that I will do whatever is necessary to keep my business afloat, even during this crap economy.

I am really excited about the new year and what it brings my little soap business. I hope I can continue to pay the mortgage with suds!

I should also add that I believe that a certain amount of luck and positive connections have brought about wonderful things this year. A great deal of strength can be gained when you join forces with other small business people. From actual, profitable ventures to encouragement and Chicken Soup for the Soul type conversations. It's been a great and rewarding journey so far. And this is really just the beginning.