Compare what popular culture says about building a business, and what it actually takes to build one, and you’ll soon find the two have nothing to do with each other.
Over the past however many years Facebook and Instagram has been around, there have been "entrepreneurs" plugging the dream life. Pictures of girls in bikinis on a beach, tropical locations, fruity drinks with umbrellas. And they come with some sort of caption about how you need to live your best life now – and quit your job and start a business because check out this life man, isn’t it awesome?
This is partly a problem with the vlogger culture, right? You might be earning $40k a year making sneaky ads for toothbrushes or whatever, but snap a few pics of you at a party and a luxury car, and well, you look like a millionaire.
I’m sorry to say, a while ago I used to get sucked into these types of posts. The posts that make being an entrepreneur look easy.
Then I looked a little harder at what these people were selling. They were “gurus”, or “business coaches”. “Life guides”, or whatever. They’re going to teach you how to make a million dollars or make your business a success.
Of course, none of these people have ever built a successful business in their lives. But hey, snap a photo on a pretty beach and none of that matters, right?
Social media makes it look as though building a business is luxurious, and easy. It’s not. It is 18-hour day, lack of sleep, utter exhaustion, and sacrifice.
Sacrifice is the one that’s smacked me in the face lately.
I’m trying to grow my copywriting and content business – Stafford Content – and that’s meant a huge chunk of my time is dedicated to work, pitching for new work, establishing relationships, emails, and interviews.
It also means that every single second I spend outside of my full-time role that isn’t spent on my business, (as long as it isn’t spent with family), is being wasted.
Sitting and watching TV? That’s wasted time.
Looking at Facebook? Wasted time.
Reading a book that gives me no value? Wasted time.
It’s been the biggest hurdle for me as the creator of a small, growing business to overcome. I woke up one day a week ago and realised I hadn’t played a video game in weeks. I used to not be able to go a day without doing that.
And yet I’m okay with it, because I know that with time I sacrifice something distracting, I can put that effort into making my business better.
In fact, just yesterday, I installed an extension on my Chrome browser that will block certain websites from letting me visit them. I can’t afford to spend even a few minutes on Facebook when I could be writing emails, or looking for new work. I don’t get that luxury during my first couple of years.
Now, maybe a couple of years down the road, when I’ve boosted my business income and things are going steadily, then I can allow myself a little luxury.
But now? Now is the hard time. Now is when I have to hustle the most – when I have to operate on four hours of sleep. Because if I can out-work my competitors, I actually have a shot at making it.
Fun? Fun is a luxury. If I want my business to succeed, then I don’t get to have fun. At least for now.
I don't want this to sound like a humblebrag. "Oh look at me, I work so much harder than everyone else". And I'm not sitting at a computer 24/7. No. This type of work I'm doing right now isn't sustainable, (unless you're Gary Vanyerchuk - that guy is a machine). This strategy won't last forever, and it's not healthy. I don't recommend it for anyone. I'm only adopting it for a time because I want my business to succeed - it's not going to become my lifestyle. I won't let it.
But when I compare those photos on social media of the “gurus” and the “business builders”, and look at mine, I couldn’t see anything more different. They might be sitting on a beach, I’m up at 5.30am, every day. They’re drinking champagne and driving luxury cars – I’m going to sleep at 1am after creating a prospect list in Excel – and having to get up at 5am to do even more work.
And sure, there are plenty of legitimate entrepreneurs who love showing off the rewards of their good work.
But I think it’d resonate more with people if it was really showing what the grit, hustle and grind of building a business was really like. Because the sandy beach isn’t the reward – the work is the reward itself.
So. Back to work.