The Real Face of the Small Time Entrepreneur (hint: it’s not the one at the launch party or business lunch)

I didn’t really consider myself an ‘entrepreneur’ when I first opened my fairly niche rehab counselling private practice about 7 years ago. I didn’t even consider myself one when I conceived my second business almost 3 years ago. But apparently that’s what the cool kids are called now. Entrepreneurs.

But I don’t feel like a cool kid. In fact a lot of the time, I feel a bit like a lost puppy, struggling to keep my nose of the water in the swimming pool that I’ve somehow fallen into. But no, I’m going to give into the old ‘imposter syndrome’ analogy here…

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You see, I’d dreamed of working for myself for many years, though wasn’t sure exactly how I was going to achieve this or how I was going to manage pivotal aspects of business like cash flow, IT, and marketing – none of which are key areas of strength for me (my family would argue that I suck at all three of these areas). But nonetheless, I knew that it would eventually happen.

I’d enjoyed a great career through my twenties, and had many experiences that I never thought I would have (cue the counselling of the guy who was on his way out of gaol for “you know, a bit of a brawl with my sister….I had a machete”). I just never thought that I would make the leap into my own venture until I was older and wiser. But my life had to change drastically when I became incredibly sick with a life-changing autoimmune disease, as the disease made it virtually impossible for me to continue doing what I was doing. And thank goodness it did – because it forced me to take action and kick-started my entrepreneurial streak.

Like many, I’m somebody that naturally feels more comfortable when I have mastered a skill than when I am learning it, but being your own boss means a LOT of learning. And believe me, the last seven years have been a HUGE learning curve. A huge effing learning curve. Every. Single. Day.

But the funny thing is, that no matter how much time or space in my mind that these questions and learning curves take up (today I learned a new IT trick….WITHOUT TEARS!). I have never questioned whether I want to continue down this path. In fact, in a strange and almost counter-intuitive way the struggles that I have faced have actually reinforced that this is MY path.

And in an even stranger phenomenon, those around me who love me and have had the ‘pleasure’ of hearing my complaints along the journey actually keep encouraging me to keep going. Even those who have been forced to listen me bang on about the evils of BAS. Or worse, my very dear and usually kind friend Sheela who famously said to me with a smirk on her face, “I don’t know how many more computer crises I can sit through with you, Lauren.”

So would I change a thing? HELL NO!

But I have some advice for you brave sisters who are looking at “doing it for themselves”.

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Get comfortable with NOT being the expert

That’s right. Don’t expect to feel like the expert in MANY areas. Sure, you ARE an expert in your chosen field – that’s probably why you’re planning on going out on your own. But there are many areas that you will need to accept help in. And you’ll need to learn to get comfortable with …wait for it… asking for help in areas that you are not the expert! This can be confronting, but without a bit of insight and humility, you can’t succeed on your own. As John Donne once posed “no man is an island”. Well, neither is a woman, which brings me to recommendation two…

Find your tribe

Now I’m not usually one who goes in for the platitudes of modern ‘gurus’ but this one rings really true. Your support network should ideally include at least of the following: someone who loves you unconditionally; someone who challenges you to punch above your weight; someone who isn’t afraid to tell you when you need expert help (see recommendation one); and someone who can switch off when you repeat yourself….which you will.

Get OK with regularly redefining your goals

Getting a good understanding of the difference between immediate, short term and long term goals is essential. Simon Sinek talks about the importance of finding your ‘why’, which is generally the reason you decide to do the hard yards and tread the road less travelled and your long term goal, but it’s also really important to understand that your immediate and short term goals are likely to change, and you need to be malleable and resilient enough to change with them.

Get ready to shine baby

You’ve made the decision to go into business for yourself because you’re passionate. You need to get ready to shine and show yourself to the world! This one sounds simple enough, but the reality of shining means getting better at networking, being comfortable telling your story, and deciding whether you’re going to be the ‘face’ of your business. All of this can be confronting, and you need to be ready for it.

And the rest of it

Read the fine print. Get a hobby outside of your work. Stay true to yourself. Never feel pressured into saying ‘yes’. Remember that it’s ok to take on employment as well as unemployment. Even during those periods where you feel like a failure (and there will be those times) remember that YOU AREN’T – you are a woman brave enough to take on the business world… and you ARE an entrepreneur!


Lauren Maxwell is an expert in women’s career development and an active ‘mojo seeker’. Her dream is to empower women everywhere to live the life they want, and develop confidence in their career and themselves. She is the founder of Headstrong Women, a writer, speaker, and a chronic over-thinker.