When I worked in a small business about ten years ago, I witnessed the owner make an impressive decision. She ran a professional organising business and had been gearing up to grow and expand across the country. She had all the processes and procedures down pat, and she had made quite a name for herself. She had investors all lined up and ready to support it then... she slammed on the brakes.
Not exactly the story you were expecting maybe?
She often likened it to being about to drive off a cliff at full speed and screeching to a stop before hitting the edge.
It was a great example of someone recognising that exponential growth may not be what she wanted. And instead of letting it carry her forward, she said no. I completely understand this. It's easy to imagine your vision and watch it be built. But then to realise the reality of it would not be what you really want - especially when it goes against the idea of growth - is contrary to most business advice and is a tough call to make. I always find it interesting that people assume that because you're self-employed, you MUST be after all the big bucks and set on creating an empire.
I've had this conversation set against the backdrop of my business at least a few times this year. When I was getting a lot of writing and social media work, naturally I thought about hiring people to carry out the work so that I could continue to bring on more and more work. This is, of course, the current dream being shared across the business blogs - passive income with others doing the work for you.
The people around me and advice they were giving all supported doing more, more more! Because my business is still quite young, I was definitely influenced by this advice.
But for me, I did not find joy in managing the work, or checking on the work that others have done. The joy came from doing the actual work! Another case in point - that I should be developing online courses to capture more people and more income. Again, managing a course and keeping it up to date isn't that appealing to me. Sure, I like working alongside people giving them the "how-to" advice but it's a much richer experience in person and I wouldn't get the same enjoyment out of it if it was an online course.
So I struggled for a while, trying to decide how much growth I really wanted and how I would keep up with it! I was torn between the mainstream advice which backs earning "easy money" and the feeling inside that I just didn't find all those tips were for me. Recognising it wasn't for me was difficult. But it was also freeing. It reminded me that I can make the choices - one of the main reasons I work for myself - and I can shape my work life to be what I want it to be.
I had to bite my tongue last week on this topic though. I was going to a new osteopath (thanks to a new phone that's proven to be too big for my hands to manage without tendon issues!) and they have just set up their business a few months ago. Of course, I asked about growth and whether they were planning to hire other practitioners! Oops. There I was making the usual assumptions people had made of me.
It turns out I'm not the only one looking for a business that is sized "just right" rather than pursuing endless growth. So, I'm just trying to put some other perspectives out there that you can support yourself successfully without constantly getting more clients and having new income streams.
Self-employment has many draws, and the control over how you operate is a biggie. And for me, that means keeping growth manageable and keeping stress levels low.