Once upon a time, when I was more naïve, I would fantasise about running my own business. I’d imagine I’d casually arrive at my ‘studio’ around 9:30am, after picking up a tray of oversized coffees. Everything was blindingly white, and there were mood boards and large desktop macs and far too many staff running around. I didn’t know what the company was or what it did, I just knew I started it and I was very important.
Fast-forward a few years and needless to say, the reality is *slightly* different. I still get a tray of coffees, except they’re all for me because I’m so tired all the time. I do try and decorate my office with mood boards and an oversized desktop mac, except my office is actually just my spare room and it doesn’t really have the same effect because there’s a clothes horse of washing behind me drying the household knickers. I’d like to say I have a whole team of staff, but really it’s just me makin’ all the big decisions on my own, like what I should get from Uber Eats today for lunch. Occasionally my ‘remote colleagues’ (friends) will assist via group text.
Here are some other hard truths I’ve learnt about running your own business, so far.
Tax bills are nasty
And they come often. Every quarter in fact, which in bill time feels like every 10 days. At tax time, everyone will be talking about how they’re going to spend their refund, or share their disappointment for only getting $3000 back this year and you’ll want to slap them a little bit.
You’ll constantly feel like you should be working
It will become really, really hard to have a day off, and even if you do have a day off, you’ll still work anyway. In fact, you’ll constantly feel like you should be working – while on the bus, making dinner, watching tv, being completely asleep etc. etc.
Most of your time will be spent ‘running a business’
They say owning a business is only 30% actual work and 70% running-a-business work, like paying staff, compiling your business expenses and other soul-crushing activities. I always thought it was just a cute little pie chart until it actually came true. I like to shake it up by adding wine to the mix, so it looks more like 30% work, 50% boring jobs and 20% wine.
You can say goodbye to regular pay
When you own your own business, the paychecks are real mysterious. You never know when they’re going to show up or for what amount. Sometimes, they are a nice surprise, when you receive an unexpected sum in your account at 3pm on a Friday. Sometimes, they are a bad surprise, when… no wait, there are no bad surprise pays.
You gotta be real disciplined
So it’s Monday morning and you’re hungover AF. A normal person would either A) call in sick or B) go through the McDonald’s drive-through on their way to work, eat 100 hash browns and casually dodge their boss all day long while they have micro naps behind their sunglasses. When you own your own business, you have to be much more disciplined than this. You can’t just take a random day off anymore and even if you do, you’ll end up working anyway (see item #2). Also, it’s much harder to get up and going when you have no start time and no boss. Go figure.
You’ll probably (definitely) get lonely
If you’re running a one-man freelance company, or you’re in the initial stages of building your empire, it’s likely you’re all on your own all day, every day. Some of the ways you can increase human interaction throughout the day include: scheduled and regular coffee runs, stalling the conversation with the postman, keeping daytime talk shows on in the background, attacking your spouse/housemates with tales of your entire day as soon as they walk in the door.
Your staff will earn more than you
If you have staff, you’re either boss enough to afford them, or you really need their help and therefore have to pay them minimum wage which takes all of the company’s money leaving you with 10c at the end of the week to live on. Try to keep focused on the dream though.
You’ll question every decision you’ve ever made
Whenever I see teams of colleagues having a great time together, I always want to go over and just awkwardly laugh along and include myself in the group. I’m not gonna lie, I miss the social aspect of working in a place that’s not my house and has other people in it. It will be these little heartbreakers that make you question your decision to go solo, but just remember you obviously did it for a reason. Also, no one can steal your lunch from the fridge anymore.
Wine will fix everything
Whenever you have these moments of regret, just drink wine. Problem solved.
It’ll be your baby and you’ll love it
At the end of the day, after all the ups and downs of owning your own business, you’ll know deep inside that it’s yours and that you love it and that you wouldn’t go back to a stinky office for anything. You’ll feel a teensy bit proud that you did it all by yourself and you’re working towards your own goal, rather than someone else’s. You might even throw yourself a staff party and get a little crazy but just remember, you’re disciplined now, so you have to be back at your desk by 9am.
Illustration by Twylamae.