Yes, that question mark in the title was intentional. After 10 years of being in business full time (16 years total), not every week or month or year has been great. And I want to talk about it…and keep talking about it. There’s too much toxic positivity out there and not enough talking about the struggles that we all face as business owners.
This week on the podcast, I’m celebrating 10 years of business and reflecting on why I’m still here, why it’s okay to not be okay, and some of the reasons why I left my teaching career in the first place.
This is not your typical celebratory episode, and I share a little bit of my story and the conversations I’ve been having with others about business being a bit of a struggle right now.
Listen in, and let’s keep this conversation going.
Mentioned in This Episode Podcast
Welcome to episode 234 of The Content Experiment Podcast, a podcast for service-driven business owners who know that content is important but there’s so much more to marketing and business growth.
Here we talk about showing up for your audience in a way that they want to hear, in a way that’s sustainable for you. This might mean publishing a weekly podcast or blog, but it also means paying attention to your email list, leveraging other people’s audiences, building relationships, and getting over the limiting mindsets that often hit when we’re reaching for the next level in our business.
I’m Abby Herman, fractional marketing officer, content strategist and podcast manager for business owners who want to make their marketing feel easier and more streamlined so they can get back to serving their clients and making those sales. I’ll show you how OR do it for you, while you do business in a way that works for you–I can help by supporting you through building and implementing a content and marketing strategy, taking care of the podcast management for you, or giving you the tools and resources to take this on yourself.
If you’re listening to this in real time, TODAY is my 10-year anniversary of leaving my day job and running this business full time. Incredible, right!?
It’s been a long road and I want to spend a little bit of time reflecting here. One of the best compliments I’ve received about this podcast and my business in general is that I don’t really sugar coat things. I’m going to be real and say it like it is. So if you’ve ever been curious about my journey or where I am in business right now, this is a good one to listen to.
These last few years have been some of the most interesting years yet, and I want to acknowledge that it’s okay to struggle a bit, even many years into your business journey. I think this is where a lot of people are right now, and while I do see some change on the horizon that doesn’t make it any easier in the moment.
A bit about my back story: I actually started my business 16 years ago as a side hustle. I was a teacher and a single mom and I needed extra cash. I didn’t want to put my daughter into day care (heck, I couldn’t afford day care) and didn’t want to be away from her more than I already was, she was in kindergarten at the time, so I started doing some freelance work from home. I worked on educational curriculum and edited books and it was okay…though I hated editing books… Eventually I found some work in the online space, writing content for and updating school and small business websites. I did that for a lot of years, making $9 an hour as a contractor (which I know is ridiculous and unfair but hey…I needed the money). This work was with one particular company and I worked as much as I could, learning as much as I could.
I started finding clients outside this company and built a small bank of clients. Most definitely not enough to sustain me on a full time basis, but I was so discontented with the education system that I quit anyway in 2023.
If you’ve heard my story, you know that I was pretty broke then and had a huge amount of debt. It was just a few months before my 40th birthday but I knew that if I didn’t change something, I’d continue being the miserable, unhappy person I was at that point.
You can’t keep doing what you’re doing if you want something to turn out differently, right? That’s important to remember in every stage of business. And life too!
Over the years, my business has changed a lot. Every iteration builds on the last. I haven’t had a massive launch or a hugely successful group program that elevated my business overnight. I’ve never had another income in my household to lean on over the years, allowing me to pull back and gather myself to push forward. This whole time it’s been about making ends meet and growing slowly. And honestly, I’m really okay with that. I treat my business like a job, and not the negative J – O – B that people talk about. I truly enjoy my job! Which is this business, in case that wasn’t clear.
Now over the years, I’ve had times of bitterness that things have moved slower than I wanted. I’ve struggled with the fear of success, which has also held me back. I’ve experienced a TON of imposter syndrome and I’ve questioned why I’m still here all these years later.
This episode sounds pretty womp-womp downer, right? Not very celebratory, right?
This morning as I sat down to write out this episode, I looked at Facebook first, as I usually do. It’s a great distraction/time suck when I don’t actually feel like working. (It’s horrible.)
Someone posted in a group that I’m in about things just being a slog. We get up, do the thing, don’t love it, don’t hate it, just try to get through it. And we don’t always talk about that part. This person was talking about life, not business, but it 100% applies here too.
Don’t get me wrong: I love what I do. Not everything, and not every day. But in general I couldn’t imagine doing anything else. But that doesn’t mean I don’t feel tired by it sometimes. That doesn’t mean I don’t dream of some rich relative leaving me billions so I can move to some remote tropical island somewhere! I think we all have those daydreams sometimes.
When we look at social media, I see two things.
On one side, it’s the big launches, wildly successful people (to the public, at least), extreme positivity, and so on. It’s the celebrations, look at the cool things I’m doing and how awesome everything is. There are many veiled posts around business, like “hey here’s what happened in my home or business or life…and I can help you have this success too.” And this is great. I have some of these celebrations and excitement too. We NEED posts like this. But it’s a filtered view of reality.
On another side, we have rants. Which aren’t as common these days, thank goodness. Maybe that’s because I’ve unfollowed people and I’m more careful about who I interact with.
But even 10 years into doing business full time, or wherever you happen to be right now, it’s OKAY to not be okay. It’s okay to be frustrated with where your business is. It’s okay if all your clients aren’t 100% ideal clients. It’s okay to have space in your calendar to fill with new clients. It’s okay to have down months.
And quite honestly, it’s okay to talk about it. We don’t have to be positive all the time. It’s exhausting.
Ten years ago when I quit my teaching job and went into business full time, I was not a fun person to be around. I was really unhappy in my job, I had a very difficult relationship with my ex husband, I was constantly scraping together pennies to pay the bills, I spent most of my time complaining and being a victim to all my life circumstances. I cried a lot and drank way too much.
I’m a far cry from that today, but I definitely still have my moments. This week happens to be one of them. And so I’m talking about it because I would guess that some of you feel like this too. Maybe not today, but maybe yesterday or next week. And it’s okay to talk about it! Life and business don’t all have to be sunshine and rainbows. Frankly, it’s some of the really challenging times that have helped me grow and become a better person.
So this week, for my 10 year business anniversary, I’m going to remember all the reasons why I left my day job in the first place. All the reasons why I’m still here and plug along, even in the difficult seasons. Because even when things are hard, it’s still 100% worth it.
Here’s my list. I would love to know if these reasons resonate with you or if you’d add to my list at all.
Flexibility in my schedule. Sometimes I work from 6 a.m. to 4 p.m. Other times I work half the day. Or I take a Friday off. Or whatever. I’m not stuck at a desk all day, every day.
I get to show up as the expert I am. Yes, I’m still an implementor and still cross things off my list for clients. But I also get to help make decisions on marketing and content strategies for clients and support them in a deeper way. This has been a process over the years and a role I don’t necessarily hold with every client but I work toward it every day. And if you know me, you know how much I love talking about things I know and telling people what to do! Ha!
I get to control my own destiny. That means I get to decide who I work with and who I don’t work with. I get to align my pricing with my expertise and the value I provide. I get to walk away from or let go of things (clients, projects, even tasks within projects) that don’t feel good to me. A few years ago that meant letting go of my biggest client ever. And to be honest, that was a HUGE hit to me financially, one I’m still recovering from, but I could no longer work with someone whose values were misaligned with my own.
I feel more empowered financially than I ever have before. Not every month is a great month but I have systems in place to help through slower times. Systems that I also use in my personal finances. As a teacher, and even working in PR before that, I never felt like I had control over my salary. It was always up to someone else how much I got paid and when, no matter how hard I worked. As a business owner, I get to make those decisions.
And finally, as a former teacher, this is probably my favorite thing and the funny reason why I loved leaving the classroom to run my business full time. I get to go to the bathroom and eat my lunch whenever I want. And I don’t have to rush through either. That definitely wasn’t the case when I was stuck in a classroom with 30 8-year-olds.
Of course, there are probably a ton of other reasons that I keep plugging along here. And to be honest, reasons why I consider throwing in the towel from time to time. (As of now, I do not plan to do so…I honestly think I’m unemployable now, after 10 years of entrepreneurship.)
But I do think we should keep talking about the suck a bit. The day I recorded this episode, I had three calls, two with current clients and one with a former client. On all three calls, we shared about the slog we all feel like we’re in right now. We’ve all gone through life transitions in recent months and years and all our businesses or visions have shifted a bit. And talking about the suck and slog helps to validate what we’re all feeling right now. It’s okay. Let’s keep this conversation going.
If you’re on my email list, I’d love to hear from you. Or you can email me at email@example.com. If you follow me on social media, send me a DM. Tell me where you are in business right now.
And if you’re feeling inspired, I’d love it if you’d leave this podcast a rating or review on your favorite podcast player.
And share the podcast with your favorite business owners. The more you share this podcast with others, the more we can get it into the hands of more business owners, just like you, who need to hear the message that they are not alone.