I wanted to share my experience of my first 12 months in business because I think there are learnings here that can help other people. At first I was trying to package it up into a neat post: 12 lessons from 12 months in business…but as I started writing this post, it came out as a story. So, here it is. Perhaps by sharing it this way you can take your own lessons from the parts that resonate with you most.
I share this with the hope that if at any time, whether in the past, right now or at some time in the future, you are feeling like I have then you know you’re not alone. There is nothing wrong with you. You do not suck at this business thing. It can be really hard sometimes.
Everyone’s journey is different.
Yet we still put so much pressure on ourselves to follow a certain path and tick all the right boxes: have a certain number of clients, recurring five figure months, and a suite of online courses before we have ‘made it’. I am not by any means saying it is wrong to want those things. But what I have learned, this year especially, is that we will never feel as if we have made it if we are not living what is true for us and reflecting that in our actions and in the way we set-up and run our lives and businesses.
This ‘living my truth’, is one of my highest values, biggest learnings
So, I am learning to trust, to listen for, acknowledge and to share what is true and right for me. And as I live more deeply into this the more my experience of the world and my relationships deepen too.
I want to live what’s true for me, even when it’s scares me. I want to build my relationship with myself and with others on what’s true for me and I want my business to reflect that.
In how I show up in life and in business I want to reflect the WHOLE of me, because the more I do that the more I experience the value that showing up in this way both for myself and for others gifts us.
And so, if, by reading this story you can see the value in showing up, in doing life and business in a way this is aligned and true for you too, then I have achieved what I am hoping for in sharing this with you.
Let’s start at the beginning…
I have been working to grow my business to the point of it supporting me to work in it ‘full-time’ since
As well as working in my corporate job and working on my business my husband and I had renovated our house and sold it (doing all the work ourselves), I had trained for and competed in a half-ironman, we got married and bought an old school bus to convert into a moveable home. In short: life was full and although I worked consistently on my business there were many times I was doing a lot less than I wanted to, or expected myself to be able to do. I put a lot of pressure on myself and constantly judged myself for not showing up in my business ‘enough’.
At the beginning of 2017 Jade McKenzie from Event Head approached me after I had been in her mastermind. She asked if I would be interested in doing some work for her, using my corporate skills and experience to help grow her business. I jumped at the opportunity to work for Jade, and in doing so was able to decrease days at my corporate job so I was working 3 days/week.
That year was amazing and very full on. I would work three days for my corporate, checking in with Jade and any coaching clients I had before and after work. Then I would spend two days working for Jade. We travelled a LOT, both in Australia and overseas. I was traveling on average twice per month, sometimes more. It was such a fantastic year, but some weeks I would finish my corporate employment at 6 pm on Wednesday night, be at the airport at 5 am the next morning, deliver an event for four days with Jade then fly home either late Sunday night or first thing Monday morning to go straight to the office.
Towards the end of 2017 it got to the point where I couldn’t keep juggling everything. At that time I was offered some ongoing contract work in strategic management that had flexible hours and allowed me to work from home, so decided to take the leap and leave my corporate employment.
So, finally, on November 23, 2017 I swiped out of my office one last time. I had been working in ‘corporate’ employment for 15 years.
Because I had been growing my business while working I thought I knew what was coming. I was used to working from home a few days each week, I knew between my work with Event Head and the new contract I would have enough money coming in to cover the bills so I could grow my coaching clients.
Even though the contract I had taken wasn’t my ‘dream’ in terms of client-type or work it was the deciding factor in leaving my job. I had it all figured out: I’d put in 12 months or so, get settled in this ‘working for myself’ bizzo and slowly transition into working with more aligned clients so I could finish the contract at the end of the term.
Here is what actually happened:
Between Christmas and the end of January 2018 I burnt out. All I could do was the bare minimum, which was the work I had to do for clients. Apart from that I could do nothing. I couldn’t social. I couldn’t exercise. I could hardly function.
Then at the end of January we were straight back into it. Event Head delivered a national tour at the end of January, then went straight into a big two-day event in February. Not long after that we were involved in a series of events around the country. During this time, even though 12+ hour days of travel and running events was the norm I was also still working for my other clients.
The contract I had taken to leave my corporate job turned out to be quite different from what it was originally intended. Although I could see why the Board had hired me and that there was a need for my skillset, there was a lot of other work that needed doing that, while I could do it, wasn’t my zone of genius and doing that work drained me.
I started having panic attacks, which I had never had before.
I was working 7 days a week, between 60-80 hours a week.
I would wake up stressed. Before I even opened my eyes in the morning I would feel sick with stress and anxiety. I would literally roll out of bed, into some clothes and sit down in front of my computer where I would stay for the next 10-12 hours.
One weekend I had gone away up the coast with my parents and husband. I had to attend an event on
A big deadline was due for a client on
I couldn’t get hold of the person I was working on the project with and I was so worried about letting the client down and the sheer volume of the work that I sat in a tent on my laptop for 8 hours trying to pull this information together while my husband spent the day with my parents.
That was my lowest point.
I remember sitting in that tent thinking: this is not why I wanted to work for myself. This is not my vision for myself, my life, my business. In fact, this is about as far away from my vision as I could get.
So, I knew things had to change, but I didn’t know how I could change them. I felt trapped, by obligations, I felt trapped by the expectations I had set through my lack of boundaries, I felt trapped by ‘rules’ I had imposed on myself (like how long I had to commit to contracts or projects for), and I felt trapped by needing the money to pay my bills.
Even though I am a coach, could I coach myself through this? Partly, but only to a certain point. I needed someone to hold space for me, to hold me accountable to changing how I was thinking and doing things and to help me see things I couldn’t see because I was right in the middle of it.
Even though I have tools I use with my clients ALL THE TIME to identify and change beliefs, to identify and change the patterns or strategies that drive our habits and behaviour, did I use them on myself? Nope.
Just because you have the right tools, it doesn’t mean you always use them. If you are a stylist and your house isn’t perfectly put together don’t beat yourself up. If you are a PT and your diet isn’t perfect, go easy on yourself. If you are a coach and you can’t always help yourself, be ok with that. It’s called being human.
I was putting everyone else’s needs before my own and I thought I was doing the right thing. I was showing up for everyone else, but I wasn’t showing up for me. I was ignoring my needs and ignoring or changing my boundaries and behaviours to meet other people’s.
Big lesson: This serves no one. If I’m not showing up at my best then no one is getting the best from me.
I was ignoring the truth about how I felt and what I *truly* wanted because I thought it was wrong or selfish to want it, that I would be letting people down by doing it, or that I straight up couldn’t have it.
I remember when my coach said to me: “Laura, I want you to not start work until 10am tomorrow morning and see what happens. See what your clients say, if they even notice.” I almost had another panic attack. I could not imagine not opening my emails at 7am to see what needed to be done. I thought I would be letting people down, they would think I wasn’t working hard enough and that I was ripping them off.
And then…I actually didn’t know what to do with myself. My husband had to hide my phone and my laptop and I actually felt lost. I didn’t even know what to do outside of sitting in front of my laptop anymore.
And so, with the support of my coach I started to work through all of this. To acknowledge what I *truly* wanted my life and business to look and feel like and what I *truly* needed to show up and do my best work.
I started to lean into and express my truth.
Not what I thought other people expected of me.
Not how I thought I had to show up to be a good coach, or consultant, or contractor.
Not what I thought I had to do to have a ‘successful’ business.
I started to set boundaries. I started to get clear on how I choose to work and live and to communicate that. To actually live and work like that.
I started to define and measure success on my terms.
And I started to get ok with failing. With being messy. With not knowing the answer or having it all figured out.
It was SCARY. One of my biggest fears that I am working through in this lifetime is the fear of disappointing people and letting them down. It seems I work through one level of this fear, start to show up in an up-levelled, new way and then – BAM – the next level pops straight up.
I had to have hard conversations with people I love, admire and respect where I was terrified that I would disappoint them.
But deeper than that I knew I couldn’t keep going the way I had been.
I had to change. I had to live what was true for me.
My coach set this challenge for me: ask yourself, every time you are making a decision or taking action what would 10% more Laura do.
I still ask myself that question now. That’s how I am living into my truth right now.
I knew I wanted to create more freedom and flexibility in the way I worked. I wanted to be able to choose the hours I work from day-to-day, week-to-week, month-to-month.
That looked like success to me.
I knew I wanted to (in fact, I needed to for my health) work less hours.
I knew I wanted to work with clients where I was helping them in my zone of genius: exploring what the next level or evolution of their lives or business looks like and helping them to live that in a way that feels good. Working on their mindset and designing and implementing strategy that gets results and feels good. Taking action that is aligned with their truth, their values and their vision
And so, like the famous saying “If you want something you’ve never had, you have to do something you’ve never done” I started changing things and things changed.
I resigned the contract, even though I didn’t know where the money would come from to replace it and then, seemingly out of the blue, some coaching clients approached me to work with them.
I started talking more about the work I wanted to be doing and the clients I wanted to be working with and new clients started approaching me.
I acknowledged to myself that I wanted to do less longer-term consulting and working in other people’s businesses so much and start working with more coaching clients and over two months, mainly through word of mouth referrals and having conversations with people I started working with eight amazing, aligned and truly inspiring coaching clients.
It was scary and uncomfortable and messy at times.
It still is.
I slowed down. I decreased my hours. I raised my rates. I said no to opportunities that weren’t aligned, that didn’t tick the boxes of what I now know is important for me in how I do life and business.
And here I am, just over 12 months of being in business for myself.
I remember saying to people when I first took the contract that was the decider for me to go full time in my own biz ‘This isn’t my ultimate vision for my business but it’s a great opportunity so I’ll just settle into working for myself fulltime then start to evolve to where I want to be.” HA. I can only imagine the Universe busy lol’ing about that.
It has been an ass kicking. A rollercoaster. There have been tears of frustration and tears of joy. I have met the most amazing people, had so much fun and at the same time felt bone-deep exhausted, overwhelmed and scared.
I have never been so grateful.
So grateful that I have the opportunity to do this, when there are so many who don’t.
So grateful for the lessons I have learnt.
So grateful for the discoveries I had made.
So grateful for the relationships and support network that has evolved and deepened around me.
And, I’m proud of myself.
12 months ago, I wasn’t capable of showing up for myself the way I do now.
12 months ago, I didn’t know myself the way I do now.
12 months ago, I didn’t believe in myself the way I do now.
12 months ago, I wasn’t living into my truth, living into 10% more Laura like I do now.
I don’t always get it right. I make mistakes. I let myself down sometimes and I let other people down sometimes too and I’m not proud of that. I’m human and that’s what I’m working hard to accept about myself and to share more of. The messy parts that are just as much my truth as the shiny, easy parts.
That’s why I wanted to share this story. It’s so easy to look at people’s lives and businesses from the outside and think it’s all going dreamily. The travelling, the working with incredible clients, living the ‘laptop lifestyle’.
And that truly is all amazing. I have had so many opportunities and experiences and moments of ‘pinch me, is this my life now’ and joy on this journey. But I wanted to share the other parts of it
I know so many people I talk to and clients I work with who are growing their business and I hope that in sharing my story you can see that we’ve all got ‘stuff’ we’re working through.
I want to encourage you to show up in your life and business 10% more YOU. In how you do life and business. In the
decisions you make about your life and business.
The more I coach clients – whether in a life, business or corporate context – the more I realise how important it is that we do this our OWN way and the more passionate I become about helping people figure out and do it their own way. Don’t try and force yourself, your life, your career or your business into something because you think that’s the way it has to be done to achieve ‘success’.
If you had asked me at the beginning of the year if I thought I would be working the hours I’m working right now and earning the money I’m earning right now, the answer would have been a definite no. I didn’t believe it was possible for me to work
If you had asked me, even six months ago if I thought it was possible to have the number and calibre of coaching clients I have, without sophisticated funnels and a huge following I would have said no. I straight out didn’t believe it was possible.
If you had asked me at the beginning of the year to tell you how I work I would have asked how you work and then tailored my response to that, fitting in with you. Now, I have clear boundaries and I know that having these means I show up and give my best to my clients and everyone around me.
If I was still showing up the way I thought I had to, to get the results I wanted; if I wasn’t willing to lean into what 10% more me would look like; to acknowledge what I wanted and to be willing to try and fail and mess up along the way to seeing if it could work, I’d still be where I was 8-12 months ago, and that really wasn’t a great place.
What I’ve learnt is this: it’s entirely possible to achieve what you want to achieve; to get the results you want in business by doing it in a way that is true to you. In a way that feels genuine, and good AND that gets results.
It’s entirely possible to achieve things beyond what you think is possible for you, but first you have to acknowledge you want more that what you think is possible for you.
It starts with the truth.
So, what is yours right now?