This special small business series is sponsored by Brother. Brother is committed to being “at your side” with the best in technology for small businesses from printing, scanning to labeling and more.
Long before the pandemic, I found myself mired in self-doubt and negative feelings about my business and my industry in general. I started to feel stuck and unhappy, unsure of my place and purpose. I was comparing myself to the social media highlight reel of others and feeling lost and left behind. I knew I needed to figure out new income streams, new opportunities, new ways of expression because I began to feel like I was losing my voice, like what I said didn’t matter anymore. I came close to throwing in the towel. And again, this was PRE-covid 19.
Here’s what helped me through all of it. Time, perspective, an incredible therapist, and a gratitude journal. Not necessarily in that order. Let me explain.
2018 was rough. My father-in-law had cancer that was increasingly worsening. My mother had to have heart surgery, that left her weakened and took her an incredibly long time to recover from. Then in March of 2019, my father-in-law passed away. Dealing with family struggles, illness, loss, and grief can strip your life down to the brass tacks. I lost my voice, I lost my mojo, I lost faith, I lost confidence in my abilities and importance. I didn’t know how to be Afrobella for a little while there.
I would talk to friends and they’d give what they saw as helpful advice: you should do this! You should try that! Look at what so-and-so’s doing, try what they’re up to – everyone’s doing it! I got so much advice, but at my core I didn’t know what I was going to do.
I started out 2020 with fibroid surgery in January. My world went into shutdown on January 29th, when I went to the hospital. My recovery took me basically right into March when things changed for the rest of the world. There were times – especially earlier this year – when I didn’t know how I was going to stay afloat. By May of 2020, I was feeling a lot of despair about my career. I knew I had to pivot, but I felt like a scared kid standing on the diving board. 2020 made me jump.
In June, I went back to the world of writing for other publications and started producing a whole lotta articles. Now I have a diverse array of sites I contribute to, beyond my own. By July, I launched my copywriting business, and by August I had a steady stream of clients. How did I figure it out? Let me break it down.
Write the Vision
Writing came to my rescue. Journaling helped me to identify my areas of struggle, and the dreams that still felt like possibilities. Writing regular lists of the things I was grateful for helped to shift my perspective. Literally writing out the things I was grateful for without caveat or comparison, helped reframe my point of view on my future possibilities.
If you are a small business owner or any kind of entrepreneur and you feel yourself struggling like I did, I recommend a business journal, and a gratitude journal. Take the time to write out your feelings, it helps you to face them. In the business journal, write out your struggles and areas of concern. Plan out ways to deal with the issues you’re facing. Be honest about how you feel. Our small businesses are a life-raft not just financially, but emotionally and in terms of our energy. Creating something new can help to keep you going, sustaining it can be a challenge. Be honest with yourself throughout the process.
Be Thankful for What You’ve Got
My gratitude journal is a space of relentless positivity, where I write out manifestations, uplifting affirmations, big dreams, and tips on staying afloat in times of challenge. It helps me to look forward to the future of my business and it also makes appreciate the present. No matter what, there are small things to be grateful for. Flexibility of schedule, the empowerment being a business owner can bring, the ability to provide for your family or community. Being an entrepreneur comes with struggles, but there is always something there that you should be thankful for as you work to keep your dream alive. And you know what? Sometimes, even the mishaps and mistakes can have a way of making murky issues plain, so you know how to respond better to issues like those in the future. Which brings me to my next point.
Never a Failure, Always a Lesson
I mentioned mishaps and mistakes – I’ve made plenty of both along the way. I’ve come to a place where I’m even grateful for the failures. I have learned so much from the opportunities that didn’t happen for me, or that I struggled to complete. Or failed to complete!
I am thankful for the opportunities I have had; I have done things so far outside of my comfort zone. I’ve gone places that I couldn’t have imagined. I am thankful for my ability to rise to the occasion despite my own self-doubt. I am thankful to be here in a time when technology can make our dreams come true, but I’m thankful that I started early enough to have a steep learning curve. That has stood me in excellent stead.
If you’re struggling to find the joy in your work, or you feel like you’re flailing, try writing it all out. Look at your accomplishments. Delight in your dreams. This is the time to dig into your inner well of gratitude and find reasons to be proud of the work you do. Then tap into your resourceful side, and envision ways you can pivot your business to fit today’s needs, to serve your current community, or to fill the voids you see in the world so you can earn what you need to thrive. Not just survive, thrive. That is the goal.
Everything You Need Is Out There
Sometimes I try to imagine what I would have done if I was born a decade or two earlier. What would I have grown up to be before the internet was a thing? Some kind of writer, to be sure. But now we’re in such an incredible time, where all of the tools exist to help you create the things you just fantasize about. I’m happy I’m doing my thing now instead of a time where I would have had fewer resources to create. I have the internet, incredible apps where I can design and edit images, and physical tools at hand to improve my organization and professionalism for my home office and more.
If you’re looking for additional support as you create materials for your new business (or existing business!), I encourage you to check out Brother’s Creative Center. It’s a resource that the company has for printable home and business templates, including invoice templates, business cards and more. And it’s FREE! I’m considering using this to make some posters and printable images for Afrobella for 2021.
Tap into Your Gifts
Be thankful for your ingenuity, flexibility, creativity, and resilience. 2020 is almost over. We made it through! I am thankful for my small business and for yours. We are the backbone of this country and the economy. We are helping to rebuild America, just by continuing to work, create, make, and do.
Speaking of gifts, it may be just a little thing, but buying your business a holiday gift may be a nice pick-me-up and push in the right direction if you feel stuck. If you read my last post in this series, you saw the kinds of items that helped some amazing entrepreneurs get their start. I’d say you should check out the Brother Holiday Gift Guides if you’re looking for the best gifts for the entrepreneur in your life, they’ve collated items for a variety of small business needs. Right now I’m learning all of the fantastic capabilities of my new Brother P-touch CUBE XP label maker – I can do anything from print labels that include images to QR codes for lanyards at conferences. It’s incredible! Another great idea could be a sewing machine for beginners. That would be one of my best gift suggestions for sure – just to have a new creative outlet, and possibly become a helpful, small investment to try new things in your business.
Over the course of being Afrobella, I have learned so much. And in everything you do, it is important to feel joy, pride, and satisfaction. So many of us who are entrepreneurs get caught up in an endless hustle of late nights and early mornings to meet our goals. Take some time to step back and look at your accomplishments instead of your things-to-do list. When you start your next business day, start out by thinking of the things that make you grateful to begin your daily tasks. That attitude of gratitude can be the key to longevity in your entrepreneurship.
On January 12, 2021, Brother in partnership with Main Street America will open applications for small business grant offerings. The application will be open to small business owners nationwide who have felt the effects of COVID-19 on business this year. Several winners will be selected and awarded grants starting between $5,000 – $10,000 each.
This small business series is sponsored by Brother, but all opinions are my own.