The hardest thing about owning a business
I got stood up yesterday. A wedding cake tasting consultation I had got all ready for was never attended. The day before, I had baked a batch of cupcakes in amongst my other orders and then decorated 8 of them with 4 different fillings and toppings while my kids were in the bath yelling for me every 2 minutes. The day of the tasting, I cleaned the room, laid the table, lit candles, put flowers out, got all the paperwork ready and prepared refreshments. And then waited.
It was all for nothing. And stupidly, I hadn't charged up front for the tasting, which will never be happening again. I also kissed goodbye to the idea of that wedding booking, which would have been a really helpful order for me to get at this point in time.
It felt so personal. But this is only because I am a small business. It's just me, baking my own cakes, in my kitchen, running my own show with no colleagues, no big office, no impersonal company to be part of. So when things like this happen, which to a big corporation would just be a run-of-the-mill occurrence, it feels so much worse.
Owning your own business can be really, really hard.
For every up, there's a down. And every down is your responsibility and no one else's. I made a mistake recently, which could have been really significant, but thankfully in the end was just a huge wake up call.I had to change some of the way I worked as a result. I felt cripplingly guilty, incompetent and wanted to pack the whole thing in. Me, myself and I had to drag myself up, give me a talking to and get on with the work I needed to do.
The people you know may sometimes assume they know how you are doing and how business is going, because it is so visible on social media. But the website, the Facebook page, and Instagram are just marketing. Of course they're just the good news stories. They're the successes, the edited photos, the gloss. So it can be rare that someone actually asks you how it's going (and I'm supremely grateful for those who do) because it looks like it's obvious how it's going. They can't see the emotional rollercoaster you're on, the worry you won't have enough in the bank account for your next payday and the boring drudgery of filing receipts and filling in fridge temperature after freezer temperature after fridge temperature. Oh, and the endless washing up...
Putting a price on your own work is hard. Feeling insecure about your worth and cringey when you work out how much you need to charge, with no one else there to reassure you, is difficult. It takes huge courage to crunch the numbers and hit 'send' on a quote when it's your own handiwork that you're trying to put a £ sign on. Imposter syndrome is constantly knocking on my door.
Making all the decisions on your own sometimes feels lonely. It's all on me. I could be making the wrong call. I don't have ready access to someone else's brains and creative input and talents.
But for all this, it's so worth it.
For that wedding client that didn't show up, there are countless others who did, and booked their cakes with me (me!). And unlike working for a corporation, every sale is a personal. It's a bubble of joy, it's confirmation that someone likes my creativity and that I get the honour of being a part of their celebration. It's proof that this thing I'm building is standing up on its own two feet. It's a sense of achievement that being a tiny cog in a faceless machine would never yield.
For every mistake I make and work hard to solve, I know I can fully own the sense of growth and change and accomplishment that came out of that experience.
For every person who you feel has forgotten to ask you about such a big part of your life, there are many who cheer you on untiringly, constantly comment on your pictures, remark on how talented they think you are, and unfailingly recommend you to any and everyone they know.
For every quote you feel terrified about sending, there's an acceptance of another that sends you into paroxysms of joy that someone actually wants to buy what you can make at a price that helps you and your family put food on the table and keep your business running.
For every enquiry that leads to nothing, there are others that mean you can be part of someone's life at a significant moment of celebration and making something that's a part of the memories for years to come. You feel like it's worth something.
For every decision you feel is a lonely one, you get to call all the shots. All the time. You can take all the credit, go in whatever direction you want, choose your working hours and, eventually, pick and choose what work you take on.
I don't think I can ever work for anyone else ever again.
It's more than worth it. Even if some days it feels really, really hard.
I'd love to know your own experiences of working for yourself. What do you find hard? What do you enjoy about it? And would you change anything?