The 7-Year Itch: Things I’ve Learned as an Entrepreneur
You’ve probably heard of the seven-year itch. It’s a psychological term that refers to the idea that after seven years of marriage, you simply won’t be as happy as you were in the beginning.
But what about other things besides marriage or even a romantic relationship? Does the seven-year itch apply to our professional lives? Since 2019 marks my seventh year as an entrepreneur, I decided to explore my own professional life. Here are some of the things I’ve learned along the way in this relationship with myself.
Give yourself time.
This is probably one of the hardest, but also best lessons I’ve learned along my journey as a marketing consultant.
When I parted ways with the marketing firm that I had believed to be my “dream job,” I decided to try to make a go of it as a one-woman marketing band.
Using that analogy, imagine trying to pick up four or five different instruments and learn how to play them all at the same time. Not possible, right? Of course not!
It takes time to hone your craft, and it takes time to get really good at anything. It also takes time to get to know yourself and figure out what you are good at, and what you need to work on.
And along those lines…..
Find the intersection of talent & passion
Not everything you’re great at will be a passion for you. And not everything you feel passionate about doing will come easy. I’m certainly not saying this is the only thing to do, but finding the intersection of talent and passion has helped me get direction and new focus in my business.
The areas where I’m naturally gifted don’t really feel like work, and when they overlap with things I really love to do, it’s just awesome.
As you find these little intersections in your work, it helps to guide you in the direction you want to take your business. Marketing and public relations encompasses a LOT of things. While I can do all sorts of things, that doesn’t mean I should.
I know my way around WordPress, but I don’t really want to build websites. I’m a good writer and I love creating content, but I don’t particularly enjoy writing copy. That doesn’t mean I won’t do these things from time to time, but I don’t want them to be the bread-and-butter of my business.
Do the right things that matter most
Again, this is a tricky one because it often comes with time and wisdom, but it’s so important to do the “right things” that matter most. Just what are the right things? It’s going to be different for every client. And in turn, the wrong things will be different too.
For one client of mine, doing the right thing meant no small-talk at meetings, and getting right down to business. For another client, it meant allowing for 30-45 extra minutes of chit-chat and catching up before we ever even started working. What matters most to one client may not matter at all to another. But you have to figure out what those things are and try to provide them as best as you can.
I’ve seen so many people I’ve worked with spinning their wheels and using up all their mental (and often physical) energy on the wrong things that the bosses ultimately didn’t care about. I’ve watched staff members get burned out and quit, and I’ve seen them get fired for simply putting their energy into the wrong areas.
It’s fine to be helpful, but spending all your time doing things that aren’t directly tied to the value you provide for your clients simply isn’t worth it.
If you can figure out what the “right things” are and do them with gusto, you’ll be successful.
Speaking of gusto….
Do ALL THINGS with Enthusiasm
I think I’ve said it before, but I’ll keep saying it. Sometimes, enthusiasm is the thing that can really set you apart. I’ve gotten clients simply for showing up and doing it with enthusiasm.
By being enthusiastic about things other people might roll their eyes at, I’ve helped my clients find a renewed sense of enthusiasm too. My clients are business owners just like me. They wear a multitude of hats and struggle to keep all the proverbial plates in the air.
Sometimes just being a cheerleader for them helps to create a nice departure from the daily grind. I try to be that cheerleader to create momentum and support their efforts.
Accept that Some Relationships End
Just like other relationships in your life, sometimes a relationship with a client will end. People grow and change. Business goals evolve. Marketing budgets sometimes balloon and other times they get slashed.
This has also been a tough lesson for me to learn. Especially when a client relationship is tied to your monthly income (i.e. being able to feed yourself and pay the bills).
I had a client who decided to turn her store’s marketing over to a person on her staff, who was on-site every day. We’re still friends and I tried to assist in that transition.
I’d like to be able to say that when a client truly recognizes the value you bring, they will want to keep you around forever, but you really can’t. That doesn’t mean I won’t keep trying to bring value each and every day, but I can’t take it personal when things happen to go in a different direction.
And the flip side of this, sometimes it is GOOD when a client relationship ends. I’d rather have some really amazing clients and strong relationships with them, than a whole bunch of random or mismatched clients I barely know or understand.
In the beginning of my adventure as an entrepreneur, everything was rosy. Just like in a new relationship, it all felt new and exciting. And I really put myself out there to network and connect, attending conferences, going to lunch & learns, etc.
Over time, the daily grind sort of swallowed me up. Because I can work from anywhere, I’d hole up in my home office, and not see anyone for days at a time. It got really lonely.
I have learned that staying connected to a community (like The Southern C!) is vital for success in life and work. And I challenge you (and myself) to share authentically the struggles you are going through.
Through highs and lows, ups and downs, mountaintop experiences and dark valleys, we’re all in this together. The best kinds of relationships are the ones where we put in the work and stay committed. It’s important to be open to the possibility that everything won’t always look the same or happen like we thought it would.
These are the lessons I’m carrying with me as I enter my next seven years of entrepreneurship! I hope you feel encouraged too.