8 years ago, I set out to create my own design and animation company. It was always a dream of mine to start and run a company. Even in middle school I would make and sell things to my friends and other classmates like Magic the Gathering decks or custom CD’s. While having the entrepreneurial spirit came easy to me, starting a real business was much harder than I thought it would be, but not for the same reasons that I prepared myself for that everyone else always says.
If you’re hoping for another “work/life balance” conversation — I’m sorry, I honestly don’t think we need more of those. Work/life balance is hard but it’s not in the top 5 or even 20 for me personally. The way I see it, you essentially only have two possible answers in the work/life balance problem, More work, or more life. there are much harder things that have thousands of possible answers and those are the really hard things. So, here’s my list of the top 5 hardest things that I’ve experienced while starting my business:
1 - Naming a company
No matter what name you choose, you’ll want to change it in a year. Naming my company was incredibly tough and was a project in itself. When I was running my business on nights and weekends, it was called “Running With Scissors Designs”. There were 4 main problems I had with this:
- It was too long
- It made people think my business was just a design company when I also did animation.
- I could only get the .net domain and that confused people that went to the .com.
- Search results for Running with scissors designs went to several other creative businesses as the name wasn’t as original as I thought.
There was so much wrong with this but it took just picking something to find out what the real name should be. Once I went full time with my business 3 years ago, I evaluated and spent even more time on finding the new name of Zwelly Co.. It’s not perfect but it solved many of the issues I had with the previous name. I still have urges to make changes to the name but at this point, recognition is more important than constantly changing to a name to something that I personally like.
2 - Knowing when to pay people.
Another struggle I have is knowing when it’s time to pay someone else to do something or saving the money by doing things myself. Up until a year or two ago I was the accountant and Lawyer and web developer of Zwelly on top of all my other jobs. While, I clearly didn’t train in these areas, I’m glad I at least found out how they work and the importance before letting the pros take over. There’s several times every week where I do tasks that I should probably have someone else do, but truth is if I had someone doing ALL the things I hated doing, I’d closed my business several times over the last 8 years.
3 - Deciding when to get an office
Another constant struggle I have is debating on when/if to get a separate office outside of my house. Since Zwelly is just myself and remote contractors, I currently work out of an office in my home. I feel a lot of people really rush into this step because it’s part of the perception of how a business has to run. But, what I keep reminding myself is that working from home or an office doesn’t make your work better and should only be considered when absolutely needed. It may look better to potential clients, but the cost savings makes it pretty difficult to take the leap without a good reason.
4 - Imposter Syndrome
This is a big one, especially for a creative business. Day one of starting your business, you’re really excited, motivated and confident. Day two, you immediately think that you’re not at the same level as others in your position. You constantly look around at what others are doing and you simply don’t believe you’re capable of doing certain things or at a certain level of quality. You assume others know exactly what they’re doing and compared to you knowing little, you believe you have no chance of making this work.
This is something that lowered significantly over time for me. It still pokes it’s head out every now and then, but the big turning point for me was when I stopped focusing so much on others and more on my clients, my work and other things in my control. I also came to the realization that there’s more than one solution to the same problem. While one company might do something one way and it’s very good, I saw that my business could produce the same results for people in a completely different way.
5 - Appreciating the journey
When you start a business and have a clear goal, it’s easy to keep pushing every single day without taking a step back and appreciating and enjoying the pursuit of that goal. It’s really easy to get down on yourself when you’re not reaching those goals as easily as you hoped.
It might sound weird but thing I do that helps me change my attitude when I’m in these negative moods — is to run. There’s something about an exhausted body that makes your brain a little more appreciative of what you currently have and how far you’ve come.
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