Last week, I hopped on a video conference with a client, and the first thing he said to me was that I looked tired. As a career consultant, that’s never the first thing you want to hear from a client you’re supposed to be motivating and energizing. I actually was exhausted after a couple long nights with our 11-month old struggling to sleep with her cold.
However, it reminded me that when you’re the face of your business, there often isn’t room for you to look tired, even when you are. Your business’s survival and growth depends on your ability to show up at every single client engagement full of energy and enthusiasm so you can not only get the job done but also give your clients the confidence to know you can get the job done.
Being self-employed involves more than just building a business from scratch, bringing in clients, and delivering a useful service or product. It involves maintaining a positive mindset and firm belief that you absolutely will succeed so you can always bring your A-game to everything you do.
While running my own business has been incredibly rewarding, and I wouldn’t trade it for a stable full-time corporate job like the one I used to have, self-employment has also been the most challenging professional endeavor of my life. Building my own personal brand, managing all aspects of my business, and figuring so many things out on my own without any sort of roadmap to guide me can be exhausting, both physically and emotionally.
Unsurprisingly, the majority of small businesses don’t survive beyond the first few years, a statistic that always looms in the back of my mind. So here are two principles I’ve kept in mind that have helped me stay productive during the more challenging parts of my own journey when I felt like stepping off the gas.
Don’t Celebrate Too Soon
Last year, I was invited to be a presentation skills trainer at the European headquarters of a large corporation. After a few discussions over the phone, I eventually traveled to meet the team in person, and after my initial pitch presentation, they seemed impressed. They even went on to ask me whether I could share a proposal to roll out my public speaking workshops to several more of their offices in Europe. They agreed to my fees, and we even booked tentative dates. Everything looked promising.
When I was confirming final details, I literally never heard from them again.
The workshops never happened. The opportunity fizzled out. Just like that. To this day, I still have no idea why.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had a big opportunity come up, just to have it fall through later. Or to get excited about a new collaboration, only to later find out about some catch. Or to feel like I’ve finally found the perfect person or team to hire, only to later realize it wasn’t meant to be.
These days, I make a point not to celebrate too soon. I, of course, remain committed and engaged through to the end, but I try to detach myself from an assumed outcome to avoid a bigger let down in case things don’t work out.
This mentality also forces me to ensure I’m still working hard to earn business, create other content, or nurture other client relationships so I’m not dependent on any single engagement necessarily proceeding.
Remember That Seeds Can Sprout At Any Time
When I look out into the sea of independent business owners and solopreneurs, it’s hard not to notice those who have built a huge following or achieved enormous growth, especially because these exact people tend to be the ones featured in the popular press.
On the other hand, having run my own business now for five years, although it’s grown steadily, I’ve never felt like I’ve achieved a similar level of explosive growth. When I put out my first podcast episodes, I had hundreds of listeners, not thousands. When I posted my first career change videos and blog posts online, I got a handful of views, not millions.
I sometimes wonder if my efforts will eventually bear some real fruit.
Sometimes they do, but sometimes, they don’t. So I just try to remind myself that you just never know when the seeds you plant will finally sprout.
I’ve had former colleagues whom I worked with over a decade ago become clients. I’ve had videos I posted online years ago lead to a big keynote speaking opportunity. I’ve had article pitches initially fall on deaf ears, but eventually get published months, even years later.
You just really never know when you will turn a corner. Keeping this in mind can help you keep going when you feel like throwing in the towel.
Maintaining A Positive Mindset Is Critical To Growth
I’ve had plenty of times when I didn’t gain the traction I wanted to after a ton of work. Remembering that business ownership is indeed challenging and doing my best to be persistent during these inevitable moments of frustration has helped me stay on track and remain in the game through the tough times.
I certainly don’t have it all figured out, but five years in, my business continues to expand, my work remains incredibly fulfilling, and I can’t imagine walking away from this dynamic, rewarding ride as a self-employed business owner anytime soon.
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This article was originally posted on Forbes.