In the midst of establishing my own freelance marketing business, the much debated phrase ‘your business is your baby’ has popped into my head on more than a few occasions. The experiences of setting up a business and having a baby have a surprising number of similarities and they can both be rewarding and exhausting. Here are some of the key ways ‘your business is your baby’ may ring true.
There’s no ‘off’ switch
Several of my entrepreneur friends have told me the same: having your own business means you’re never ‘off duty’. You may become a little bit obsessed with your ‘baby’ and find it taking over your life (for a while). Like a child, your business may wake you at random times of the night, popping up unexpectedly with elaborate ideas or questions. The only way to get a break is to set your own limits, for example, you won’t work after 10pm, you’ll only work Saturday OR Sunday afternoon, you’ll keep going to your Yoga class and seeing your friends for dinner every week.
You can’t sit still for long
Change is inevitable. Just when you think you’ve nailed something important, like four hours of uninterrupted sleep, babies go and change their routine. Likewise, the business market is always changing. As a business owner you can’t afford to be complacent; you need to keep up to date and be ready to roll with the times. It’s all a learning curve, so don’t be afraid to change the way you’re doing things based on new information.
You have to wear many hats
As a parent, a business owner finds themselves needing to be an expert at pretty much everything overnight. Parents who rely on rotating the same three meals and have never administered so much as a plaster have to become chefs, masseuses, nurses, chauffeurs and teachers all at once. Similarly, when starting your own business you’ll find yourself taking on diverse new roles: director, business development manager, accountant, researcher, marketer, lawyer, designer, assistant etc. There’s a great deal to do – and quickly. Although, if (when) resources allow, it really can pay to outsource some of it to real experts.
You need a support network
Trying to do everything by yourself is a recipe for burnout. In the absence of a team of colleagues, you need to build a strong support network to help you through the myriad of challenges and emotions starting a business can bring. Many mums say they wouldn’t have survived maternity leave without their NCT group or new mum friends; it really does take a village to raise a baby, and it takes one to build a business too. Networking with other small businesses or getting involved in a co-working space can help you connect with other like-minded people.
Life gets a lot busier
They say entrepreneurs work an 80 hour week so they don’t have to work a 40 hour one – for many it’s short-term pain for the dream of long term life-work balance and more time with their little cherubs. You may find yourself wondering what you used to do with all your spare time. Why didn’t you go out more? What did you do with all your evenings? Why didn’t you learn a 2nd or 3rd language or trek the Great Wall of China when you had the chance?! Often, sleep and healthy habits can take a back seat. Carving out a bit of time away from the desk/baby is essential to keep perspective and take care of yourself.
You need to be decisive
Parents and business owners have to make a lot of big decisions in a short space of time – researching options, choosing between brands, making long-term investments etc. All of this can be nerve wracking and/or exciting. You may find conflicting advice being offered in abundance – as a parent, this is is often unsolicited by people without children or those who have blissfully blocked out the memory of their own newborns. It’s always worth listening as you may receive some useful ideas or suggestions that can benefit you, but you are accountable for your choices. When it comes down to it, you need to trust your instincts; you know your ‘baby’ best.
It’s not about you
Ultimately, your purpose should be to satisfy the needs of your baby/ clients. Their requirements come above everything else; without understanding them properly you will fail at the first hurdle. Taking time to research your market and seek feedback from prospective or existing clients will help you build and market a successful proposition. And if it takes you 3 hours to discover that your baby only wants to sleep lying on your left shoulder, being rocked whilst having twinkle twinkle little star hummed to them, well, you’ll know how to meet their needs more quickly the next time!
Becoming a parent and starting a business can both be challenging and life changing experiences; there will be elation, disappointment, and lessons learned along the way. You’ll be pushed out of your comfort zone and discover new strengths and qualities, all of which bring a greater sense of purpose to what you’re doing and offer you opportunities to learn and grow.
Perhaps you’ve experienced some similarities between setting up a business and becoming a parent yourself. If so, I’d love to hear them in the comments.