A little over six months ago I quit my job at an established high-end interior design firm to pursue my personal brand and redefine the model of interior design. The transition was unexpected, unplanned, and unreal! Just six months after establishing my design blog, I received client inquiries for commercial and residential projects in San Francisco and New York City. I got so busy with side projects that I had no choice but to quit my 9-5 job and take the leap into entrepreneurship. The timing could not have been worse. I had just ended a long-term relationship, I was in the middle of looking for a new apartment in San Francisco, and I was working two jobs and 18 hour days. Somehow I got through it, and here I am six months later, managing a small successful design brand. I even have an intern! Since my departure, other entrepreneurs have reached out asking for advice on how to also take the leap, so to share the love, here are 12 of the most valuable lessons I have learned about successfully quitting my job and starting a business.
- Confidence is everything. When you are starting your business from the bottom, it can be challenging to have the confidence that you can, in fact, do this. You have to believe genuinely in yourself and the possibilities of your company for others to trust in you. There is truth to the statement “fake it till you make it”, you’ve got to start somewhere! When in doubt get killer headshots taken!
- The struggle is real. Living in one of the most expensive cities in the country and not having the stability of direct deposit is risky business, but once you accomplish your first few months and start to feel like “you got this,” it’s an incredibly empowering feeling. I chose to take a pay cut my first year of business to invest more of my earnings into the growth of my company, and I changed my entire lifestyle to fit within my new budget. This way I know that if business ever takes a dip, I have the experience and resources to live within reasonable means.
- It gets a little lonely. It’s no secret that I took a bold leap that required loads of confidence to pull off. Many of my colleagues and friends questioned my decision and seemed unsupportive and doubtful. I lost a few friends and colleagues, but what I have learned that these relationships are short-lived and for a good reason. They say that you adapt the qualities of the five people you are around the most. When you are an entrepreneur you are very vulnerable, so only surround yourself with people who benefit and support you.
- 9-5 becomes 24/7. Although I never truly worked a traditional 9-5 job before starting my business, I have still felt a significant change in my work-life balance. I work late, I work early, I work weekends, I work all of the time, but when your job is your passion, and you love what you do, you aren’t working, you are investing in success.
- Say yes to everything. Right off the bat, I received many messages from people interested in meeting and chatting about what I was doing, what I was planning, and where I was going. I said yes to every request because you never know who might help you along your path. I often think about the connections I have made and how much they have accelerated my growth, and I think, “What if I had said no?”.
- Self-assessment is essential. When you are your boss, there is no one above you setting benchmarks, providing feedback, and giving praise. Motivation is the fuel that drives progress, and I quickly learned how to become my critic, cheerleader, and coach. I also ask for feedback every moment I can from clients, colleagues, and mentors so that I am always growing and learning how to better my business.
- Time is money. I track every single hour that I work and then analyze my time at the end of each week. I have become hyper alert to how long a task will take me, so much that I started to apply it to unrelated work tasks like laundry and grocery shopping. Time and energy are invaluable when you are wearing all that hats, and prioritizing what is worth it and what is not is the key to progression.
- Stay determined. Don’t give up, evolve. The thought of quitting and going back to the simplicity of a 9-5 job creeps into my mind almost every day, but then I remember that I made a commitment to myself. You will never now if you can be successful until you try, and keep trying, and keep trying. Take a lesson from Joy and never give up!
- Under commit and over deliver. As a new business trying to set yourself apart and prove your worth, it can be tempting to state that you can do it all and do it the best. Be honest and humble, and manage expectations by promising to meet their needs and then blowing them out of the water by exceeding their expectations. No one likes to be disappointed, and everyone loves surprises.
- It’s hard to date. I never thought that being an entrepreneur could be a possible turn off, but apparently it can be off-putting. What I learned is that some men can be intimidated by an ambitious, and confident woman. That’s not something I want in a partner, so luckily it made it easier to filter through the contenders.
- Making mistakes is a sign that you are trying. If you work at it, you can turn every mistake into a lesson learned that will benefit the growth of your business. Don’t be afraid to fail, it’s not the opposite of success it’s part of success.
- Don’t compare your beginning to someone else’s middle. I have to remind myself of this every day. Most of my competitors are much older and more experienced than I am and as I look up to them, I often find myself directly comparing our successes. I have to remind myself that every journey is unique, and some paths take longer or different twists and turns than others. Progress not perfection.
If you’re not scared, you’re taking the easy way out. If you’re not challenging yourself, you’re not growing. The most important thing that I have learned is that you, and only you, are responsible for your success and happiness. Take the reins, take control, and take the leap! You’ll never know until you try!