Creativity, Purpose, and Employment: When Being an Entrepreneur Isn't for You
Ever since I became interested in small business ownership, I have met several people who have seemed successful in their self-employment. Maybe they still struggled with debt or worried about paying the rent on occasion, but they had the brick and mortar store or home office set up, and the clients came in steadily. (This is how I defined success, but of course it can be different for everyone, and I only had a superficial view into their lives. Maybe they struggled more than I knew.) These days, we hear much more often of people choosing self-employment, with more of them unhappy in their day jobs and willing to do something about it.
However, small business ownership may not be the best path for those who become easily discouraged (like myself). I write this for anyone who is drawing any perceived failure at this into their identity and feeling inadequate for not being able to make it work. If your business did not quite get off the ground or every Facebook post you make for it is met by the deafening sound of crickets, you're not alone. It is not a reflection of your skill, talent, or creativity. I know it can seem so when there are so many books published on how to be a "Girl Boss," or your friend with the yoga studio has a YouTube channel with a million subscribers. Maybe you're in the middle of your second unfinished book or your channel only has a dozen subscribers. (Same here.)
Read on for what I learned during my brief try at self-employment and what to do when you feel like your creativity has no (far-reaching) outlet.
My Background in Self-Employment
In July of 2018, I opened a metaphysical store with a close friend. A lot of work and thought went into the physical location, as well as the website and Facebook pages. We did have some engagement, mostly from people who were my friend's clients from her previous shop. We did our best to stay active on Facebook but quickly learned that, unless we were willing to pay to promote posts, many of them would not show up on subscribers' Facebook feeds organically. We paid to promote some of what we felt were our best posts and noticed a lot of views and clicks, but few of them led to actually having someone schedule a session with us or physically come into the store. At this point in time, we both still had our day jobs. Still, I took the time to post a blog every week or tried to create engaging graphics that would catch people's interest online. I took a hiatus from my day job in September, intending to do more work for the shop, but found that level of freedom overwhelming. I ended up sleeping a lot and rarely interacting with other human beings (and there was a part of me that loved that), so I decided to get a part-time retail job at the bookstore in hopes of adding structure to my life and jogging the creativity that lay dormant inside me. Being around books does something nice to my brain and my physical senses. It worked, at first.
Meanwhile, one Saturday in the fall, my friend and I did readings and sold merchandise at a psychic fair near our shop. We sold a lot of readings and retail that day, but again, it did not result in clients that came to our shop or scheduled with us aside from that one day. We were and still are hopeful that our clients will find us, but there are times when I feel bitter or annoyed that it is so hard to get even one person to schedule something, even when we offer discounts and free readings or materials online.
The most success I've ever had has been as an intuitive reader on Facebook under a pseudonym back in 2015. The readings given then were given with as much care and empathy as now, but I do feel I have developed quite a bit as an intuitive over the years since then. I was paid regularly for readings back then and received a lot of engagement on my posts. The only difference between now and then is that I'm better, and perhaps the number of others going into an online metaphysical business has gone way up so there is more competition. In any case, success as you define it is not easy to predict, so be mentally prepared to spend a lot of time and brain power putting material out that may or may not win customers or even a Facebook "like." (As you already know, it is important for what you do to be something you love so that it isn't quite so bad if an audience does not materialize right away.)
Success is not final; failure is not fatal. It is the courage to continue that counts.— Unknown
The Importance of Putting Your Heart All In
When you're running a business or creating a big project with your name tied to it, it is important that you're all in. This doesn't mean to quit your other job(s), but it is more of a mental and emotional approach. It has been hard for me to put myself out there as a Tarot reader or Reiki practitioner because I know many of my friends and family are religious and don't believe in the Tarot or understand my spirituality. It is even harder for me to call myself a "twin flame" (even though I believe wholeheartedly in the concept) because I worry about what people will think. Since there is still a very big part of me that is concerned with what people think of me, I feel it has been energetically holding me back a great deal when it comes to creating my idea of material success around what I do. I started these businesses and projects before I felt fully okay with the idea of people making fun of me, disapproving, or disliking me. This is something I was not fully conscious of until I opened the business with my friend this year. Now that I understand it, I am doing my best to take my time and not push myself.
Sometimes it can take years before you go "all in." Getting there is a process. You can't force it. Caring what others think when you thought you had "healed" and shed the need for approval can be frustrating, but it makes sense. We are born needing the love of others to survive. It is important to make sure you are prepared in case your work generates any backlash from beloved friends or family members. The backlash may not be in the form of words or observable alienation within relationships; it can happen silently and gradually, but it can still be hurtful if this is the case. It is important to make sure you are in a place where you will not resent yourself or your work if this happens.
Life's Work, Money, and the Bounds of All Types of Employment
There is nothing wrong with being an employee, but I have noticed a lot of resistance to that, or a sense of superiority among those who have created their own jobs. This attitude serves no one and only adds to why we might feel like a failure when self-employment is not for us at this time or it's taking what feels like an inordinate amount of time to generate a response to our work. Someone in my family says how lucky he is to have a job that pays well and that he doesn't mind doing. I am doing my best to adopt this attitude when it comes to my job. Time spent worrying or feeling unhappy with how things are can increase our point of attraction toward what is unwanted.
Acceptance is not about tolerating things we dislike or settling for less, but there is a lot to be said for being okay with what is. It is only from this state (or better) that we can start to draw in the things that will feel like freedom. Similarly, it is difficult to create a successful business when its origin is based in escaping from another job. Your life's work or your greater purpose may not always translate to what you get paid for or what brings significant income. It can, but it doesn't have to. Feeling like it needs to fit this model or look like another person's work life can stunt your creativity or make you feel like you are not living up to your potential. It can be dangerous to derive your sense of purpose from what you are paid for. A lack of income for the work you love to do is not a reflection of your ability, either; a lot of us can hold subconscious blocks to money based on how we saw adults close to us treat it when we were children. If a parent held a lack consciousness or experienced poverty, it is likely that the child will too until any limiting beliefs about money are cleared.
Perhaps your life's work is too variable to fit into a business or employment model. In my attempts at self-employment, I have often gone back and forth between my spiritual work and my writing; sometimes the two interweave. I enjoy flexibility and not feeling tied to any one thing. I am also more fully integrating the lesson of not deriving my purpose from my job. I did not completely throw the towel in on my business, but I am approaching it more as a hobby or something I can do when I am in the right mental space and have the spare time. I want it to feel like fun and not work. Perhaps a more ease-filled approach can help you in your endeavors too.
In any case, I hope that sharing my experience has been helpful! Thank you for reading, and please feel free to drop a comment below if you'd like to share any of your experiences on this topic.
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© 2018 Holley Hyler