'Navigating a Global Pandemic'- My Experience of Running a Business Full Time... Sort Of.
Just when it doesn't seem possible to talk about this pandemic any more than we already have, I decide to make a full blown blog series about it. Sorry (not sorry). The fact of the matter is that what we have experienced over the past year is too big a deal not to address. It has had a huge impact across the world in so many ways and of course it goes without saying that it has impacted my own business too.
Let's rewind and take ourselves back to the end of March 2020. I was packing up my belongings at my day job and boxing them away ready for my new office when I got the message that a move we were planning in a matter of weeks had now been fast tracked to that very day. The rest of that day was pretty much a blur of goodbyes and dropping off boxes in my new office, an office I am still yet to work in. The following few days I adjusted to working from home only to find out on a Friday morning that it would be my last day and I faced a blind panic to finish up all my current projects.
It was a surreal experience for me and one that I had never found myself in before. I had always had a full time job to occupy me and the idea that all of a sudden my 8am-4pm day was now well and truly out the window was bizarre. I remember chatting to my other half and explaining all the things I'd like to get done in this unknown window I suddenly had been given. Silly things like giving the house a good clean, having a clear out and finally getting round to learning how to use that sewing machine I had stashed away, to name but a few. It was at that moment that he suggested that I treat my business as if it was my full time job. I remember shooting him down pretty much immediately and telling him there was no way that it could sustain me all day, every day for weeks, if not months. I went off to give it some thought and actually it dawned on me that my long list of things I'd like to get done for my business was far longer than the list I had for my personal life. I mean, who actually wants to deep clean their house? For me, running my business full time had always been a dream and I remember telling anyone that would listen, that if ever given the opportunity to do so that I would take it! From that point on that's exactly what I did.
Sure, I may not have set an alarm or had proper lunch breaks but it very much became my 'job' and I can honestly say I have never worked so hard in all my life as I did over that period of being furloughed. I think a large part of that was the simple fact that I had no idea just how long I had to focus solely on my business. I think I entered into this whole situation fairly naively when I look back on what I've been through. I mean, I packed a god damn plant into a box at work almost a year ago and I know for a fact that it is certainly dead by now. Let's not even begin to talk about the stash of food I also boxed up and left there that is definitely past it's best too. I remember seeing colleagues and us almost making light of the fact that we were saying goodbyes when we'd be back in no time at all. Nothing could have prepared any of us for this.
I think another reason why I worked so hard is because I love what I do. I find it hard to switch off and I think I'm at a point now where I can finally hold my hands up and admit that I am a workaholic. I can't sit still. I can't just 'be'. I'm sure it would (and does) drive many people mad (especially my other half) but I have come to realise that this is just who I am and how I am programmed to be.
However, it's not all doom and gloom because that mindset and drive has allowed me to achieve a lot in this gift of uninterrupted time at home and I will forever be grateful for being taken care of by the government, my employer and our keyworkers who did not get this precious time. Looking back on what I have achieved makes me feel unbelievably proud and it has honestly been such a blessing to have something positive to focus on and that it can make other people happy too. I never expected to receive the support that I have this year and I cannot thank my loyal followers enough for investing in me and making it my best business year ever.
So what have I learnt?
1. Well, that a small business, even in a global pandemic, can be sustainable and valued even if it is not necessarily contributing in an obvious way to the fight against the disease itself. There is a lot to be said for simply creating things that bring people joy!
2. I am more than capable of running this business as a full time gig without fear of it not sustaining me each and every day for months. There is always something to do, something to make, something to try, something to update and something to share with the world.
3. Insomnia is real. You can be the best sleeper in all the land but one day, out of nowhere it'll come for you and there's nothing you can do about it. P.S: Sleep, I miss you.
4. I have no shortage of ideas and my brain likes to remind me of this, late at night when I am trying to sleep. Ellen 0, Insomnia 1.
5. People will always struggle to take you seriously when you tell them that you run a small business. They will tilt their heads, give a coy smile and try not to laugh at you when you say that you are swamped and that this business really is doing well. They will have an idea in their head that is unlikely to change of you sipping tea, taking a day off left right and centre and just generally dicking around. That will never change no matter how big or successful you feel your small business has become. You don't owe an explanation to anyone. You're a god damn rock star even if no one else sees or believes it.
6. No one works harder than a small business owner worried about their next pay cheque. Fact.
7. You can't do everything. When you focus on a business full time and the orders keep rolling in you might need back up. You'll appreciate them when they are there for you but so much more when they can no longer work with you. FU restrictions at peak season.
8. There is no patience like the patience of a partner who has worked all day in the office, only for them to come home and have to listen to you outline every aspect of your day including what cute dogs you saw on your only trip out of the house. Richard, you're a saint and I love you. Sorry for all my boring stories the second you walk through the door.
9. Dogs really do make the best companions and colleagues. I honestly think I would have totally lost the plot without them and our daily walks have honestly brought me so much joy and escapism. You're the good-est dogs. Like, ever!
10. Running a small business full time is as incredible as I imagined and hoped it would be. I feel so incredibly grateful to have been given this time to be able to 'test drive' what it would be like without worrying about income, annual leave allowance or being absent from the moments that matter most. I will never forget this year.
Be sure to keep an eye out for our upcoming blog posts in this series 'Navigating a Global Pandemic' which will feature guest writers, sharing their experiences of running a business during COVID.