As I have journeyed through this financial “clean up” project of mine, I have had to make a lot of sacrifices and change many of my habits. I have had to wake up much earlier, meet strict deadlines and maintain positive and open communication with everyone around me (even when I’m in the 10th hour of the work day, with my eighth group of discontent, hyperactive students).
No matter how tired I get, though, I have noticed that I feel better about myself. I feel competent and professional about what I do and how I do it. This has even started transferring to my work at Five Seed. I’m continuing to realize how essential it is to treat my business as seriously as I treat my jobs.
In the past, I have had so little confidence in myself as a businesswoman. Those feelings of insecurity and incompetence dictated my actions. For a long time, I worked in a messy, ill-designed office space because I didn’t think I deserved a beautiful, functional workspace. I never kept regular hours*, and in fact, often rolled out of bed whenever I felt like it (though never later than 9). I usually worked in pajamas or sweatpants. When business took the normal downturns, I’d lose my confidence and abandon the projects I had begun (like my poor e-book that is awaiting my attention!). And when it came to business deals, like consignment accounts, I was extremely unreliable about keeping my eye on things. I would bring in items and leave them for months at a time, without checking in. If I didn’t receive payment for a while, I would make an appointment to go to the shop and check on the merchandise, but really, I look back now and see that checking on consignment accounts any less than once a month is just unprofessional.
There is a definite attitude that comes from acting like a professional. And the awesome thing is: You don’t have to literally be a professional to act like one, to become one. This works both ways. For instance, I am a licensed teacher in the state of Oregon – I’m considered a professional in my field. However, in the four years since I acquired my license, I had not felt like a professional. What changed? My jobs demanded more and more from me and I stepped up to the task. It’s as simple as that. Conversely, while I have no professional/official qualifications in the herbal healing world (or the blogging world, or the small business world, etc.), I can choose to become a professional by acting like one.
What would it take for you to become a professional? Here are some ideas:
1. Dress for the job. Don’t wear your pajamas. No matter where you work or what you do, when you are working, you should feel polished enough to greet your boss – if you don’t have a boss, pretend you do!
2. Set your alarm and create your schedule. It is super tempting to fit in work for your small business in any pocket of time you have, but I’ve found it to be so helpful to get up earlier and designate a couple hours of the morning (and sometimes evening) to my business.
3. Support yourself. Get a life coach or business mentor and broaden your horizons. Always be on the lookout for educational opportunities. Take business classes from your local college, or those offered online (there are so many!). Go to seminars and conferences in your area of expertise. Network. Learn. Grow.
4. Make the best of your space. You deserve to have a beautiful, functional workspace. Make this an ongoing project that you work on each month.
5. Take the leap. Act as if. Be tireless. Do not quit.
This is just the tip of the iceberg. If you own a small business and work from home, mostly by yourself, then it’s time to step it up, ladies. Whatever you did to maintain your professionalism at your former or current job, it’s time to apply that to your home business, as well. Says author Steven Pressfield, “What we get when we turn pro is we find our power. We find our will and our voice and we find our self-respect. We become who we always were but had, until then, been afraid to embrace and live out.”
What are you going to do to become a professional?
*I do not believe that small business owners who work primarily over the internet necessarily need to keep regular business hours, but I do think it’s wise to have clear expectations for ourselves about when and how long we work, even if the actual hours change from day to day.