I want to talk about the reality of entrepreneurship – or at least of getting started with that whole “quit your day job and build your own empire” thing.
About a year ago, when I moved to Albuquerque, I got on Tinder for the first time.
Initially, I was just curious what all the fuss was about. But when I started matching with guys like crazy, it turned into an addiction to validation.
Then I started actually talking to my matches.
I noticed a theme with a lot of them, possibly because I’m that asshole who goes on a hook-up app and asks you what your dreams are.
They were twenty-something, usually kind of directionless, with a healthy-but-misguided sense of ambition. I asked what they do for money.
Some were working retail jobs. Others were in school. A couple overachievers – my soulmates – were doing both. But a lot were either “between jobs” or “self-employed.”
See, Albuquerque is this place where it’s really easy to be broke. Like it’s dirt cheap. I worked a job that paid kind of decently (after a few months, when I finally broke down and negotiated a raise because I was literally going broke working there), but I didn’t get a lot of hours, yet I still managed to afford to go out drinking wayyy more than I should have (Don’t judge me. I was married when I was 21).
I started to realize a couple weeks in that “self-employed” was often a euphemism for “not just unemployed and broke, but unemployed, broke, and racking up an insane amount of debt with no focus, direction, or business know-how.”
Because everybody and his brother claims to be an entrepreneurial business owner nowadays, and that’s only increasing according to every study done on millennial work habits ever.
I judged. And then I joined.
I bought into the dream
A couple months ago, I got tired. I was totally over working for hotels, because the hospitality industry is a fucking nightmare and I was still going broke working two jobs (probably because alcohol, but we’re going to pretend that it’s the rat race’s fault). So in a moment of clarity/weakness, as I was sitting outside the hotel, baking in Albuquerque’s summer heat, chain-smoking, and talking to my best friend on the phone for just a few moments’ peace, I had the brilliant idea to quit my job and move to El Paso with her.
“We’ll start a fitness blog!” I shouted.
She squealed and said she’d call the realtor on Monday. “We’ll look for a three bedroom.”
Everything was great.
And then the move came.
For the first couple weeks, we were intensely focused on our content. We decided our perfect launch date would be my birthday, because then we could pressure everybody into following us. I wrote posts, as did she. We brainstormed. I developed a social media plan and started following people like crazy on Twitter. She started texting people to ask if they’d be interested and what kind of content they wanted to see. I joined Buffer chats.
It was great.
We hit 100 Likes on Facebook in less than 24 hours. We had blog subscribers weeks before launch. It was amazing!
…And then August 3 hit. It’s only been a week, but it’s been a hell of a week. And everybody who’s ever struggled to get their shit off the ground knows exactly what I’m talking about.
On August 3, we’d lost our high from our launch, and our numbers had dropped. We got 57 page views on our first day live, even more on our second, and then 3 the next. August 3 left us with none.
And then my car insurance decided to auto-pay itself about 10 days early, so my checking account balance dropped. $700 isn’t a lot of money. It really isn’t. Or at least it shouldn’t be. But when that $700 is the difference between you having until October to find an income vs. having 30 days to find an income, you shave a few years off your life.
Cue the stress sweats and minor panic attacks and me flopping around on the floor tragically.
No problem. I just need to focus.
But focus is hard to do when you’re faced with sink or swim.
It is exceptionally hard to focus when you already feel yourself drowning.
The reality of entrepreneurship
It’s a long and winding road to success. It takes years to build a successful business. Decades, even. But what happens when you only have 30 days to do it before you become incapable of paying your bills? And what happens when you’re signed on a lease with your best friend?
I cry a lot. Sometimes. Late at night.
The reality of entrepreneurship is that I stay up until 4 o’clock in the morning writing blog posts to try and clear my mind just enough to get a few hours of sleep. I make 7 shirt designs on Zazzle in 24 hours, hoping that one will go viral and give me some breathing room. A couple days ago, I made several instant downloadable blog kits to sell on Etsy.
But I also troll Craigslist gigs and start sending emails to start-up publications looking for graphic designers and hoping that they can actually pay. I signed up for mock jury panels and became an Uber driver. Five times tonight, I’ve read an ad in casual encounters that’s seeking a person to come over and “clean house.” The reality of entrepreneurship is that tonight, instead of rolling my eyes, I actually considered responding.
I’m debating whether I can go to the food bank, since I probably make less money than most of the people there, but then I will just go home and sit on my laptop and plan out world domination.
And I suppose that these are the moments when success is born. This is like rock bottom for ambitious people. Hypothetically, if things go well and I get really lucky, this could be the worst month of the rest of my life.
But I could also be screwed.
I’m a risky investment. I don’t know how much I like the odds.
But I don’t have much of a choice at this point. That’s the reality of entrepreneurship. This is the beginning. It’s painful. I’m miserable and unhappy and terrified. And dear god I hope I make it.
With all that said, let me know if you’ve lived a similar story. I could use some more success stories from people who were at the absolute scariest moments of their lives. They comfort me.
Feature photo credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/quinnanya/4707607718