I know you've heard it before: find your "why." It's advice that you'll hear over and over if you read and listen to other small business owners. And it's not bad advice - it just isn't always as easy as people make it out to be.
Why You Need a "Why"
Your "why" is the big idea behind your business - it's the reason you're putting so much work it, the motivation you need to keep going when it might be easier to go back to being an employee, the force that guides what you decide to pursue and who you decide to work with. Your "why" is the thing that keeps you coming back to your business even when it's hard and you want to give up. I t also helps you relate to other people - they want to know why you're pouring so much effort and passion into something and they want to be a part of it.
Your "why" is big. It's more than the type of people you serve or the products that you offer or the problem that you solve. For some, it's the ability to have flexible hours that allow them to put their family first. For others, it's helping people see their potential. Maybe for you, "why" is that you want to experience life instead of letting it pass you by. For me, "why" is to run a business in a way that is led by God and fueled by my faith.
All of these "whys" are valid and they all have something in common - they're flexible. If my "why" is to have a faith-fueled business, then it doesn't matter if I offer branding or crochet patterns. I can still follow my "why" even in different business models and ways of working. It may mean that sometimes I work really hard, putting in long hours and hustling and that at other times, I am still and in a time of relaxation. My "why" is the driving force behind what I do every day.
Finding my "why"
My journey to "why" has been a long one and I've encountered some roadblocks along the way. When I started working as a freelancer in March of 2015, I had just left a stable job to join my husband in his new career six hours away from where I had grown up. I had been searching for and applying to graphic design jobs all over the Richmond area in the hope that I would have a new job ready to go when I moved. At the same time, I was feeling guilty that I was no longer pursuing a career in architecture, which was my college major.
Even though I had no job in our new city, I turned in my notice and started the process of preparing my co-workers to take over a lot of the responsibilities that I had in the small business I worked for. Every day I dreaded going to work - I was ready to move on to the next chapter of my life and join my husband in Richmond. At the end of February 2015, I finally packed up the last of my things and made the drive to my new apartment with no idea how I was going to make an income.
As I started freelancing and learning about running a small business, I got caught up in the training and webinars promising fast results and big incomes. While I didn't actually buy many of these programs or courses, I did feel like a failure because my brand new business wasn't an overnight success. I struggled to find where I fit in an online world full of designers - some with a lot more experience than me. I constantly felt like a failure because I wasn't able to bring in "the big bucks" and I couldn't understand why God has brought me to this place and this business if I wasn't successful.
Over time, after lots of prayer and long talks with my husband, God started revealing the big things He wanted to do in my life and business - if only I would let go so that He could move. One thing became very clear: I wanted to run my business the right way, the way God would want me to. I had seen too many business owners who didn't value their employees and who focused on profits above all else. I knew that I didn't want to be that type of business - I wanted to focus on my clients, to give them my best and go above and beyond what others were offering because it was the right thing to do. I also knew that I couldn't run a business and blog online and hide my faith - it didn't fit with who I am. This lead to the decision that I would be open about my faith and how it affects my business, even if it turned some people away.
I Want to run a business in a way that is led by God and fueled by my faith.
Finding my "why" wasn't easy. I tried all the exercises and listened to all the advice, but it wasn't until I really sat down in the silence and thought about what was driving my business, that I finally found it.
And it still isn't easy today. Even now that I know my "why," I still struggle at times to make it the center of my business. I'm still tempted to take the easy way out or follow what everyone else is doing. I want my business to be a success - as I'm sure you do - so at times it seems like the best thing to do is exactly what the successful people in my industry are doing. But because I know my "why," I know that those things won't serve me. I have to find my own path, embrace my own journey, and be open to what God has next for me, even if that doesn't look like I expect.
Lemon and the Sea is a brand and website design company located in Richmond, VA. I specialize in making the branding process personal. I work with creative women who have a heart to serve others grow their businesses so they can focus on what's most important - family. I work closely with small businesses to help them dig into what makes them unique, share their vision, and build a business that genuinely represents who they are.