Modern magazines and newspapers and TV shows like Shark Tank make owning a business look like the most glamorous thing on Earth.
Oooh, look at that hustle! Oooh, check out that drive! Wow, sales QUINTUPLED after being on the show, and now she’s the most fulfilled chocolate-pretzel-dipping factory owner on Earth!
Making your living through business is all fine and dandy, but no one is talking about the sidecar.
If owning a business is like riding a motorcycle, all the shit that comes with business is the sidecar.
(We’re not talking a cute sidecar like the one Sean Connery rides around in during Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, either.) The sidecar holds all the stuff you didn’t sign up for when you daydreamed about being paid to do what you’re good at: bookkeeping, accounting, social media management, time management, e-mail management, boundary-setting, promotion-making, cashflow projections, tax filing, client communications, employee hiring and firing, independent contractor management, conference attendance, and networking, to name a few.
Here’s the thing: the sidecar is unavoidable.
You can’t ignore too many of the things in the sidecar and reasonably expect to run a decent business. Burying your head in the sand and hoping social media will JUST STOP ALREADY doesn’t work. Ignoring your taxes until the second week of April will only lead to misery. Calling yourself “busy” and failing to return e-mails for six weeks will inevitably backfire. Refusing to market your work because you hope people somehow find you, love you, and book you with no incentive whatsoever will lead to an empty bank account.
The things in the sidecar have to be managed in an active manner. To some degree, they’re all a pain in the ass. You just want to write or paint or take photos or teach classes or do yoga or coach your peeps or whatever it is you do, and the sidecar activities aren’t your favorite. But they’re not going away.
You don’t have to do the work in the sidecar, but someone does.
Permission to outsource: granted.
Where can you get yourself another hour a day? Can you hire someone to help you blog, someone to take care of accounting, someone to help you master sales so you don’t have to hustle so freaking hard?
Where can you get yourself ten minutes a day? Would adding an e-mail autoresponder that says you check e-mail at 11am and 3pm mean you’d let yourself ignore your inbox every evening? Would scheduling your social media posts every Tuesday make it easier to keep up? Would writing canned responses for your top ten most-asked questions lighten your inbox load by 80%? Would admitting that you DON’T WANT EMPLOYEES, EVER, free up mental space for something else?
Start there — by getting your time back in small chunks. Then actively search for a peep or two to help you.
Permission to get yourself a partner or seven: granted.
Haunani has been making me fill out paperwork, booking my travel accommodations and flights, talking to my accountants, managing my payroll, making cashflow projections, and handling vendor relationships for me from the very beginning of Brand Camp. She takes on all the ultra-left-brained, no-wiggle-room type tasks that drive me insane.
You want me to call our merchant account people? On the phone, to talk about negotiating better credit card processing rates? AHAHAHAHAAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAAHAHAH YAH RIGHT. Haunani is on it.
You want me to wrangle all those documents, print them, review them, sign them, scan them, and fax them back to you? You’ll be waiting until Miley Cyrus is President.
I have help. You need help, too.
Don’t tell yourself the sidecar items don’t suck, or that you’ll be fine without them, or that you can do them all if you just try a little harder and wake up a little earlier and double down in your efforts to be Super(wo)man. (Yah, I know all about that, and it doesn’t actually work. You can’t do all the things AND cook three meals a day AND hit the gym for an hour AND keep the house spotless AND return your library books on time AND get the dog walked four times a day AND keep up with the latest Buzzfeed articles AND maintain your sanity if you plan on sleeping in this lifetime.)
You don’t have to do this whole being-in-business-and-dealing-with-bullshit-tasks-that-suck thing alone. Promise.
Finally, it’s okay if you can’t accept the sidecar.
Though it might bring you angst or freak outs or panic attacks, it’s okay if this entrepreneurial thing isn’t for you. Just like not everyone can do ballet and not everyone likes to read books and most people over the age of 30 aren’t good at skateboarding anymore, running your own business isn’t a requirement of living in the modern world.
Sure, our culture paints owning a business as a glamorous route to freedom and never having to get out of your pajamas again. (How many Facebook ads have you seen that feature the word ‘freedom’ and show someone typing away on a laptop near a beach?)
But all of business exists on a continuum. Sometimes we get mired in the spreadsheets, sometimes we get to do the sexy stuff like traveling and speaking and hobnobbing with truly awesome people.
Sometimes we get hate mail, sometimes we get loving snail mail.
Sometimes we’re facing a season of meager sales, and sometimes we’re rolling in dough.
IT’S OKAY IF THOSE CYCLES ARE TOO MUCH FOR YOU.
Permission to quit your business: granted. Even if you’re thousands of dollars in debt and you’ve spent eight years building it to where it is now.
Permission to scale back your business: granted. Even if you’ve been waiting until the kids go to school to ramp up, and now they’re in school and what you wanted is here and actually, you’re miserable.
The time you’ve put in as an entrepreneur isn’t wasted.
You’ve learned shit-tons of stuff. You’ve grown. You’ve mastered certain tasks, you’ve learned to deal with massive uncertainty, and you’ve taken matters into your own hands with varying degrees of success. You’ve got nothing to be ashamed of.
Just like you would leave a marriage that makes you want to hurl yourself from the top of the nearest skyscraper, you’re allowed to leave behind a business that no longer meets your needs.
Yes, really. It’s okay if you want to go back to your corporate job, or give up on trying to push your business into a full-time income, or take a year off to figure out what the fuck you actually want to do. It’s okay to stay home with your babies and enjoy them. It’s okay to pursue the other things in your life that are calling to you much more seductively than your current enterprise.
It’s okay. And it’s time to make peace with all of this.
P.S. I’ve recorded a whole podcast about the sidecar and these very issues if you want to dive further into this goodness — check out That’s What She Said, episode 4. (Because YES, I do have a podcast, and it’s awesome. Go listen now!)