Owning Your Success

Republished with the permission of Harlow. (April, 2024 Newsletter)   

Do you downplay your work when someone asks you what you do for a living? “Oh, I write… I post on social media… I work in advertising.”

While statements like this might be factual, they don’t quite capture the scope of being a small business owner. Many of us don’t fully own that title. Instead of focusing on our impact, we focus on the tasks we complete each day.

To illustrate this, I posted on Twitter (@SamanthaAnderl) and asked all my freelance and self-employed pals how they describe what they do to others. Most of them over-simplified. Very few actually referred to themselves as small business owners or entrepreneurs. And almost no one mentioned all of the work it takes to run a business.

As small business owners, I think it’s time we own the title. You don’t just write social posts — you run a marketing business that you’ve built from scratch. And that business supports your lifestyle, which is a massive feat. You’ve chosen the challenging path of self-employment, and that should be celebrated. So should you.

Many of us downplay our success and the incredible amount of work it took to realize it. We minimize the creativity, drive, skill, and expertise that got us to where we are today.

Why do we do that? To make others feel comfortable? Out of fear of appearing arrogant? Because we don’t believe our success deserves to be celebrated?

No more of that! When you share your accomplishments, you give others permission to do the same.

Getting into a business owner mindset

I’ve long admired Ashley Cummings, a freelancer and business owner in our community. She owns her time, travels often, and makes great money as a freelancer. The other day, she posted on Twitter and asked:

“This year, I’ve operated a killer business, grown a newsletter, lived in Greece and Mexico, traveled to Costa Rica and Turkey, and world schooled my kids and (naughty) dog.

Do we care? Is this fun?”

I answered with a resounding YES. WE CARE. What a beautiful thing to build. It’s not just about the business. It’s about the flexible, authentic, and liberated lifestyle that business supports. The more we hear stories like this, the more practical a dream it becomes for us too. I want to hear about Ashley’s successes, and yours, everywhere and often.

I’m not surprised at what Ashley has accomplished, because I’ve been following her journey for years. And guess what? She shares her successes. It’s a great reminder to lead with joy. If you want to read more about how Ashley does it, check out our interview, where she shares her take on how to get into a business owner mindset.

On a personal note, I remember when we first wrote an article about our own consulting business, we had a number of discussions about whether or not we should include a revenue number. We wondered if mentioning exact figures would make people feel isolated. Would it feel like bragging?

But the reality is, we built that business. It was hard, and it took a lot of work, but we did it. There’s no reason we shouldn’t own what we accomplished, especially since we’re trying to help others learn from our first-hand experiences.

Even with that mindset, it was a tough decision. It brought up anxiety over how we’d be received. And I think small business owners tend to face similar anxieties on the reg when they consider sharing their wins.

There’s a tendency to see peers as competitors, envious and resentful of your success, instead of people on a shared journey who can uplift you as you uplift them. The more we lean into the latter mindset, the more camaraderie we see and feel. And that attitude shift goes a long way in cultivating a reciprocal community and a business owner mindset.

Keep in mind, success looks different for everyone. To some it means hitting a revenue number, for others it’s about a lifestyle, for many it’s living comfortably while taking care of themselves, their health and family. Whatever success is to you, own it.

Creating the foundation

Part of feeling like a “true” business owner is creating the foundation for your business to flourish. So many of us are operating out of multiple apps, feeling scattered. But when you adopt new systems that help you streamline your processes and upgrade your day-to-day, it’s like putting on your entrepreneur glasses. Everything starts to look different.

On that note, if you’re looking for a better way to manage your freelance business, we’re offering a crazy deal on Harlow right now. You can access our all-in-one freelance platform for an entire year for only $10/month! Use code HARLOW10 when purchasing the solo plan to lock in the offer.

Own your success. You’re building something really cool. I’m sure of it. You’re doing it (mostly) on your own. You mustered up the courage to leave the traditional path behind, and to bet on yourself.

Next time someone asks you what you do for a living, say it loudly, say it proudly: “I work for myself.” “I own a small business,” “I’m an entrepreneur.” It’s like a mantra. The more you say it, the truer it feels, and the truer it becomes. And you deserve to feel true in what you do.

Cheers, Samantha & Andrea


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