I have been a full-time entrepreneur for 10 months and while every single project, experience, trip and challenge has been awesome, money matters is an issue sometimes. I’ve never wanted to be driven by money- neither by the constant yearning for more, nor by the obsessive focusing on its insufficiency. A major part of the reason I quit my job was because I wanted to love what I did every single day so that it never felt like “work”. However, lately I am beginning to wonder if love and passion have to take a backseat so that I can chauffeur a few more profitable passengers/clients to keep the lights on. Sigh.
I saved a good amount of money last year to be able to make this happen and it has kept me afloat. However, my goal was never to burn through my savings. The challenge now, as is the case with any entrepreneur, is to figure out how to establish a steady revenue stream while still remaining selective about my projects and with whom I work.
Paycheck vs. Passion
This is certainly challenging for anyone running a business, but I find it especially tricky for a service-based business model since I don’t have a standard priced widget to sell; every project can have a drastically different margin. I am accepting that I will have to balance paycheck clients (not exciting but can afford me) and passion clients (awesome but can’t afford me) in order to create a sustainable business model right now. In the long-term, I trust that this will not be the case but I guess I need to swallow it now. (Right? Or do I hold out for the dream combo of awesome AND can afford me?)
The projects that I believe will have the biggest payoff are the ones that will barely provide any revenue at first. For example, (first public announcement) my business partner and I will be launching a Concert Series in Philadelphia next year. This will require a great deal of time, energy, work and money. We have no real way of knowing what profits will be until after the concerts happen. We are developing our projections now and speaking with potential investors to get the expenses taken care of but at the end of the day, it really is a gamble. While every ounce of me believes that these concerts will be successful, belief doesn’t pay the bills.
I will never give up on passion clients. If I do, I might as well get a 9 to 5. I have been working on lining up smaller projects- consulting gigs and help with events that can give me some income while I wait for a return on my work in bigger projects. This is challenging because since I don’t have a staff I also have to take into consideration how much I can handle at once. If I didn’t need to sleep, I would just get a part-time job and some side projects, and carry on with just passion clients. However, this is sadly not the case.
Honestly, it has been a bit stressful. I especially feel the shortage of funds now that it is the holiday season. Sometimes I secretly wish I had parents who could generously supply an occasional bailout but those are brief and rare moments of brattiness. I will not get hung up on it. I mean, this is what entrepreneurship is all about.
My faith- in God, my talent, my business partner and my business model- keeps me going. I have never been someone who gets really uptight about money, and even when I haven’t had a clue how rent or a bill will be paid in the past, something always comes through. Things just happen to work out. When it comes to business, however, I am trusting that this “it’ll-work-itself-out” attitude will not be necessary for long. I envision this company becoming so lucrative that I am managing salaries, stocks, and a high profit margin alongside a few losses that I can handle… dammit. While its difficult to see right now, I have to believe it will happen.
I guess I just needed to get that off my chest. These darn holidays rooted in consumerism are testing my entrepreneur fighter spirit but… I’m still here.
12 of the most important lessons I learned in 2012:
Wow. It’s been an incredible year; definitely one of the most challenging, eye-opening, educational, and amazing of my life. To end it, I decided to share 12 of the most important lessons I learned in 2012:
#12Face Hubris: One of the most difficult parts of this year has been becoming present to the detrimental parts of my identity. Not until I was in an environment in which no one was interested in your impressive résumé, number of degrees, or even that you had attended college (let alone which school,) did I realize how much my perception of self-worth relied on the affirmation from others. The music industry was this environment and it was the first time in my life that I wasn’t immediately supported and adored. I never realized how important being impressive was to me until I wasn’t. Being stripped of the very parts of me that brought (and bought) me the greatest pride forced me to reevaluate my motives for hard work and my intentions when doing my “best”. Once I let go of the need to look good, be accepted, and be rewarded, my work ethic took on an authentic and deliberate style that I’d never known was missing.
#11 Let sh*t go: That person who owes me money isn’t going to pay, that woman from the liquor company isn’t going to get any nicer, not everyone will love my ideas, the 1 train isn’t going to move any faster, and that venue isn’t going to make their policies any more practical. It sounds simple but boy do we waste time being frustrated on things that are out of our control! I have gained a new appreciation for the expression, “it is what it is.” So I move on.
#10 People Watch: Grandma was right; people really are always watching! I don’t necessarily consider this a good or bad thing but after being told stories about myself, having heard commentary about other people, and listened to admissions of secret “stalking” on Facebook, I now take into account that no matter what I do or say, someone will be watching. It’s ok because most people are just watching- we tend to think that they place a little more value on us than is the case. No one is planning your demise, thinking of you incessantly, or judging every single thing about you; they’re just watching- and probably more concerned about whether you’re watching and judging them. I’ve decided to use this as motivation to be thoughtful about what I say, post, do, etc. and hopefully serve as a role model.
#9 Balance: I vowed to maintain balance no matter what happened this year and while there were moments in which I lost my footing, for the most part, I have maintained a healthy lifestyle, made time for family and friendships, remained connected to my spiritual self, all while building a business. While it has meant that I couldn’t truly give 100% to entrepreneurship, I believe balance is the reason I have created a solid foundation and a very successful start.
#8 Be Vulnerable: This probably ties back to hubris (doesn’t everything?) but this year helped me see just how often I hold back. Sometimes I feign seriousness so as not to seem too emotionally invested; at times I hold back questions so as not to appear lost; I also have trouble sharing when I feel defeated, unappreciated, lonely or lost. I now see so much power in sharing all the authentic feelings. Even when I am perceived as overly sensitive, I am so empowered by the liberation of not holding back that work, meetings, and interactions are easier and more fruitful.
#7 Be uncomfortable: The moments in which we are most uncomfortable are the moments in which we are growing the most. I have made it my mission to make myself uncomfortable as often as possible. It works.
#6 Self-acceptance: We do a good job of masking self-defecation as humor or “bad habits.” This year I finally became present to the fact that overindulgence in food and alcohol are often the avenues by which we punish ourselves. We veil this reality with a “just having fun” front, but when we follow it up with starvation, guilt, and shame, our true motive is revealed: punishment. Now that my life depends on my daily success, becoming self-aware is integral. For the first time, I woke up to the reality of destructive patterns and just like that, I chose to end them.
#5 Love is a constant decision: One of the hardest parts of entrepreneurship this year was attempting to maintain a relationship at the same time. While I had all hope that I would be able to balance the two (as I explained in Labor or Love) I didn’t realize how quickly love could take a back seat while on this demanding road. I am beginning to accept that I wanted to make my business succeed more than I wanted to make my relationship succeed. As a result, I lost the latter. I’ve been in enough relationships to know that they require a lot of time and effort however, as an entrepreneur, I’ve learned that it requires even more. When love competes with passion, business and livelihood, it must become a daily reminder, a constant decision, and a high-priority item that you place on your agenda each and every day. I didn’t do this and I hope to do better next year.
#4 I can’t do it alone: In the beginning, I had this grand vision of being this rocking She-E-O on top of the world, running every big event in town, arms folded. I hadn’t actually factored in help. (Oh, hubris.) I accepted that I might need a loan or two along the way, that I’d have to call in some favors and that I’d have to do some serious networking. However, I never really thought about who needs to be on the actual road with me in order for it to work. My new business partner has opened my eyes to the power of a team. Working with another person has propelled my ambition, productivity, and visions. I never anticipated working alongside someone but now that I have discovered how much more I can accomplish, I can’t wait to create an even bigger team.
#3 You have what you want: So simple but so powerful. You create everything in your reality- good and bad. If you want it, make it happen. You have everything you need to do exactly what you want to do. If you do not want it, you will not create it, or you’ll find a reason why you cannot. You have everything you want. If you don’t have something you want, you don’t really want it.
#2 People are People: Our society and media tends to exacerbate the significance and grandeur of certain events, people, offices, etc. The White House is portrayed as an impenetrable band of only the most astute and powerful. Celebrities are treated as if they are not human and completely untouchable. I used to think it too but nothing is ever as big as it seems. Being on tour especially taught me this. Everyone is… well, normal. I gained a new appreciation for the struggling artist who is as insecure as you and I; the seasoned veteran who still feigns confidence to maintain an image, the talent managers, and every single stagehand, security guard, dancer, technicians, caterer and every other person who make grand productions that we think are larger than life, actually happen. Despite the moments of infuriating superficiality, ego-driven ridicule and high school-like cattiness, my experience this year has opened my eyes to a very human, delicate, tenacious and normal side of an often-hyperbolized and exploited industry. People are just people. Understanding this rids you of anxiety, intimidation and other stifling imaginary friends.
#1 Entrepreneurs are Spiritual: Faith, God, Higher Power, spirituality, chakras, good vibes, whatever- its all entrepreneurship. No one can take a less-traveled high-risk road without some unwavering faith that things will work out no matter what. Whether we call it God, Allah, karma, or good fortune, this road requires it. Before this year, the concept of surrendering, as it is presented in religious contexts, always turned me off. Entrepreneurship has challenged this. I finally understand that this doesn’t mean losing myself or giving up my identity. Oddly enough, I have found that the contrary is true; surrendering has been the way I have begun to find myself. Surrendering hubris, pride, needs for acceptance, affirmation, and attention as well as other sources of resistance has led to the greatest success. Surrendering is acceptance- of our smallness and greatness, of the immeasurable power and powerlessness we possess, and of our infinite knowledge and ignorance. We must do this so that we are free to do anything and everything we choose without regard to imaginary limits. It is at the very core of entrepreneurship and the only way to be successful. I finally get it.
Happy New Year, fellow entrepreneurs, friends and supporters!
I’ve got a feeling that 2013 will have a lot more than 13 lessons.