What it's really like starting your own business and doing what you love
Once in a while, an old friend or acquaintance reaches out to tell me that they've been following my journey and are so proud and inspired by the path that I'm taking. Oftentimes, they share that they have also been considering taking a career leap but haven't quite mustered up the energy or resources to do so yet. This blog post is for those who are teetering on the edge, nearly ready to embark on an adventure and start something new. Below, for those who are curious, I'll share a bit about what my journey over the past 9 months has felt like for me.
Almost two years ago, I made a new years resolution to be braver. I started making music again and actually sharing it with my friends and family. I stopped letting my fear of public speaking prevent me from seizing amazing opportunities. I went to India with my sister and spent the last week there by myself. I gave my heart, wholly and fully, to a new partner after having been deeply wounded by the last one. And I quit my full-time job to start my own business.
I've never been called 'brave' more often than I have this past year, and I've never felt more scared. I believe that bravery and fear often go hand in hand, because bravery leads you into situations that are scary and new. Bravery is about embracing fear rather than running away from it.
This picture is a perfect example - we were at the top of a mountain in India. Beyond that grass was a straight drop down hundreds of feet. Was I brave for sitting on the edge? Or not brave because I was clutching a fistful of grass to keep me from falling? I'll go with brave.
Every day I wake up and have to make a million decisions that directly reflect who I am as a person & business owner.
When I make a mistake, I can't blame it on an over-demanding job or a flawed corporate culture. I have no one to blame but myself.
The money is definitely scary, too. I'm lucky that startup costs for running a doula business are low and that I have a lot of money saved from my time working at Epic, but I'm constantly weighing pros and cons of where to invest my money, which additional trainings & marketing strategies are worthwhile and which are a waste of money.
Some days I wake up and feel driven & excited & free to follow whatever moves me that day. And some days I wake up with nothing on my calendar and no idea where to start.
I know that the work I'm doing can have such a profound impact on the families that I work with. I genuinely, deeply want to be the best doula & friend to my clients. And I know that I do my absolute best every single time. But I am learning, and every birth I have attended so far has taught me a valuable lesson that I will carry forward with me. After every birth, I take notes & reflect on what I could have done better to prepare that family for unexpected outcomes. So far, there's always more to learn.
It's a rollercoaster.
The highs are high and the lows are low. I am an empath, always have been. I was the kid who cried for hours after "King Kong" and tried to save all the washed up jellyfish on the beach. I feel it when my clients are thrilled about the way their births turned out, and I feel it when they aren't.
In my business, I celebrate even the tiniest of successes. I literally jump up & down when I get a new client or a new message from my website. I still have notifications turned on so that every time someone is on my website, I get a little "ding" on my phone so I can recognize even that tiny achievement of someone visiting my website.
And when I have a slow month without many clients, I worry about how that will impact my future & how long I have until I run out of savings and have to go back to getting a "real" job.
I am constantly working. When I take a bath, I listen to birth podcasts on my phone. My Facebook & Instagram feeds are filled with birthy news & pictures & stories. My bookshelf has a long line of books about postpartum depression & midwifery & parenting styles waiting to be read. As I'm falling asleep at night I think of an idea for a new blog post and have to get up to write it down. I even dream about birth - I can't tell you how many times over the last 9 months I've been pregnant and given birth to a baby.
Not to mention that as a doula I am on-call most of the time, which means that I have to be very careful about always having cell phone reception, keeping my phone charged, and staying in the Madison vicinity. I have to plan my vacations 6 months ahead of time to make sure that any clients who would hire me around that time are informed of my outage before hiring me.
I know that this level of commitment isn't sustainable, so I am working on trying to unplug more when I can. But right now, it feels like every day will make or break my ability to make this work as a career. So I soldier on.
That being said, I have never felt more like I was on the right path than I have this year. I've taken so much time to heal and process grief that I never had time to deal with before. I have come to know myself in a new and authentic way that feels powerful & enduring.
I am learning to open myself up to new experiences and relationships in a way that I never thought possible. My intuition, which I had never really spent much time thinking about before, lights up almost daily and has guided me in very cool and interesting ways.
I am learning how to connect with women in a way that feels increasingly rewarding, honest, and important.
I have discovered creative parts of myself that I never knew I had.
Someone the other day said that seeing a woman in labor must be seeing her at her worst. But I think it's quite the opposite. I get to witness women being their truest and most unfiltered selves, which to me is such an amazing and rare experience.
While working at Epic, I was in a constant state of stress to the point where the stress started manifesting into physical illness. I started getting crippling migraines that made me vomit & weep. I had chronic pain in my back and shoulders. I had stomach pain so severe that I ended up going to a GI specialist and had an endoscopy to make sure it wasn't an ulcer. I got sick constantly. I didn't feel good. And a few months after quitting, I realized that I hadn't had a migraine or a stomach ache in a long time. And I felt good again.
More and more, I get thank you cards and gifts from my clients, or just kind messages here and there to let me know how much my support has meant to them. And that's really what it's all about for me. I want to help. And I think I've finally found a way to do so.
Are you ready to make the leap?
I spent so many months and years beating myself up for knowing I was unhappy but not being brave enough to make a change. But I really think that for me, things unfolded perfectly (to steal a mantra from one of my clients) and right on time. So do me a favor - if you're one of those brave souls mustering up the energy to make a leap, know that you will do so when the time is right, and not a second before. And it's not because you aren't brave. It's because it's not time yet. And when it is time, you'll know.