Working for yourself is very different from working for someone else. One of the big differences is how you recognize and measure success. In a “normal” job, people get promotions, raises, pats on the back from a boss. When you’re your own boss, these things don’t happen.
Or do they?
If you’re looking for conventional signs of success in entrepreneurship, you’re setting yourself up for disappointment. Most of them aren’t coming. That’s why you need to learn to identify and appreciate those more elusive signs of success. Most of them don’t announce themselves, and some of them come about incrementally.
Watch carefully for these signs as you embark on your entrepreneurial journeys. If you’re not paying close enough attention, you might miss them.
You are in Business
This may sound like an easy one, but it isn’t. There are a lot of people out there doing amazing things, but comparatively few of them find success doing those things independently. Why is this? Most of the time it’s simply fear, and justifiably so. Going into business for yourself is a big step. If you’ve taken that step, that alone deserves a pat on the back. So, good for you! Keep going.
Look at the Things
If you’ve been working for a while, odds are good that your portfolio has expanded. That’s success. Of course, maybe you look back at your old material and hate it because your skills have improved. That’s also success.
I talked about having good gear in an earlier blog. If you look around your office, shop, studio, wherever you work, you probably have better gear than you used to have, or maybe your space has expanded. These too are signs of success.
You Made More Money Than Last Year
It’s hard to argue with simple math. This one of the few measurable signs of success available to entrepreneurs. Maybe you’re not going out and buying jetpacks yet, but if you made more money this year than last year, recognize that fact. Celebrate it. Maybe don’t go out and buy a jetpack yet, but a little extra bacon on your hamburger once in a while feels good.
Time Management Becomes Difficult
I don’t like when people act like they’re busier than they actually are. Don’t you? That’s why I hate when I have to put off meetings or schedule work far in advance. It wasn’t until recently that I came to appreciate the positive side of this. I remember the early days when I would find myself sitting around with nothing to do. I don’t ever want to go back to that. Busyness is definitely the lesser of the two evils.
People are Coming to You
I always like meeting people, but I’ve never been all that good at selling. I think many entrepreneurs have similar problems. We’re good at the thing we do, but we’re not always good at the thing that lets us continue to do the thing that we do. In the last few years, I’ve found that people are coming to me far more often than I’m coming to them. I think this has to be the sign of success that I’ve appreciated the most. The beginning of a business can be very frustrating. When business gets slow, you find yourself second-guessing yourself; wondering if you missed a step. Word of mouth is still the best (and cheapest!) form of advertising. If you’re good at what you do, and people feel comfortable working with you, eventually you will gain a reputation, and that reputation can go a long way.
People Know Your Business Before They Know You
I have a very unusual and recognizable logo, so maybe I’m cheating here a bit, but it felt really good the first time someone I had just met said they recognized my logo.
A similar sign is when I meet people that are familiar with my work. Again, sort of cheating since I work in the media.
“You’re the Expert”
There’s a bit of ambivalence about this one for me. I don’t like to think of myself as an expert because it sounds like I’m done learning. No matter what you do, there’s always room for improvement, and there’s always something to learn. However, I’m perfectly fine with someone else considering me an expert.
When I was much younger I had a hard time getting certain people to take me seriously. When you have something of value to offer and certain people can’t see it, it’s extremely frustrating. Of course, it’s not always age either. It often takes time to build a relationship with a client and to engender trust in them.
I can think of a few clients that were skeptical of me at first. I would make suggestions and they would hesitate to take them. It’s so satisfying when you’ve finally built that trust; that moment when you make a suggestion and they say, “Sure. You are the expert.” (I’m very grateful to say that’s an actual quote from a recent email.)
You know you’re good at what you do, otherwise you wouldn’t be doing it, but it’s very gratifying to have someone else recognize it. Often that’s where pride comes from. Pride isn’t the same as arrogance. Arrogance is delusion that comes from insecurity. Pride is a confidence that comes from accomplishment.
If someone calls you an expert, don’t let it go to your head, but take a moment to appreciate it. It’s a simple thing, but a great sign of success. That is, of course, if you’re paying enough attention to recognize it.