Ever think having a business requires you to be a certain type of person?
A born leader and action-taker who’s got their sh*t together and a fire in their belly to change the world?
I did too. That’s why my business, Talking Shrimp, could only have happened by accident. Otherwise, I never would have ventured to start it. In my mind, at least, I was never meant to have a business.
Here are 11 reasons why.
No. 1: I didn’t see myself as an “entrepreneur.”
In my mind, years ago, an entrepreneur was an innovator, an industry disruptor — someone with an epic vision for a world-changing app, or line of tummy-tucking shapewear, or hard cider. Someone who wanted to ring the opening bell on the trading floor. I was none of those things.
I had no “Big Thing” I wanted to build. When my business started, I was a TV-promo copywriter scripting tune-in spots and sales tapes for networks and production companies. Putting up my first website, my intention was purely to get more of these clients. I started saying “I have a copywriting business” instead of “I’m a freelancer,” because the former makes a better impression. But I didn’t see it as starting a business.
Businesses were for people with a “business plan,” a thing on oversized sheets of paper they unrolled from a tube and leaned over with a group of investors wearing reading glasses. Maybe I’m confusing “business” with “construction site.” To be honest, this mental picture does include hard hats. That’s just how alien — and, also, masculine — it was to me.
No. 2: I’m not a “born leader.”
I joke that I don’t even like telling people where to sit at a dinner party. It’s true.
I’ve never wanted to be a camp counselor, or the one at the rally with a megaphone. I’ve never said the words, “My group, let’s go!” or wanted to be the CEO presenting a pie chart and then getting the crowd to stand up and chant the company name at the corporate offsite. I didn’t discover I actually can lead — and quite effectively, if I do say so myself — until I began running writing retreats in Italy, and later started my group business- and copywriting- mentorship program/ business mastermind, Shrimp Club. It’s a huge success, now going into its fifth round. Years ago, though, one thought that kept me from even considering a business was, “Don’t you have to be that person who always takes the lead?”
And that leads me to…
No. 3: I never wanted to be a boss.
Even if I’m my own boss, I’m not a girlboss, lady boss, boss bitch, boss babe, or even plain ol’ The Boss — not at heart, anyway. Like my fellow “unemployable” people who can’t stay within the lines, run ideas up the flagpole, or show up at 9am, I was largely terrible at working for a boss and always preferred working on my own terms. Unlike many of them, though, I didn’t fantasize about being the boss. I don’t long to be in charge of people.
Other business owners in my circle always seem to be reading books on leadership, hiring, and creating company culture. None of those endeavors appealed to me. Luckily, I discovered I didn’t have to be a boss or hire a team to have a successful company. It’s lucky, because of number four:
No. 4: I hate hiring.
Thank goodness someone recommended my business manager, Sandra, in a Facebook post at just the right moment. What a stroke of good fortune, because I probably never would have gone out actively looking for someone to help me in my business. I can’t even hire competent people to grout my bathroom.
Apparently, not wanting to hire a big team is not okay, not if you want to be a true success. I just watched a video of an “Instagram growth guru” yelling that, if your business dream doesn’t require hiring a big team of people to help you execute, “you are NOT dreaming big enough.” Guilty. Big dreams are great, but what’s wrong with smaller ones?
Which brings me to:
No. 5: I didn’t have a “big dream” or “mission.”
Most business owners claim they started with a mission of changing the world, one ____ (life, lawyer, loan, pair of socks, greeting card, meatball) at a time. While I enjoy helping people, I’m not like that. You’re not supposed to say this, but my mission, dream, goal, fire under my butt, has always been to make great money doing something I love.
No. 6: I’m not a “go-getter.”
Gathering from their stories of starting in the mailroom and working their way to the top, successful business owners tend to be “go-getters,” also known as “self-starters”: naturals at taking on tasks, going the extra mile, anticipating the boss’s needs, always taking initiative.
Meanwhile, in one of my first jobs out of college, an internship at a magazine, the managing editor took me to lunch and informed me, “You know you can take initiative.” Having to be reminded to take initiative is the very definition of lacking initiative.
The final chapter of my forthcoming book, “Tough Titties,” is ironically called “Company Woman.” It’s about how I ended up having a business, and the title is ironic because, as the book shows, I was far from a “company” type. I’m neither the kind who rises through the ranks in a company, nor the kind you’d expect to start and run a company, much less a successful one.
And by that token…
No. 7: I’m lazy.
Sure, I’m always out walking or going to dance class, and it may look like I’m a hard worker. I like exercise, at least in those forms. And I will write for hours on end without once looking up or checking social media, when it’s something I want to write. That’s because I’m not lazy about things I want to do, only about things I don’t. And if you think that’s everyone, allow me to defend my laziness:
Many people I know are great at doing things they don’t feel like doing. Paperwork. Cleaning chores. Homework assignments. When I think about those tasks, I just want to lie down. Luckily, I’ve managed to design what I call a “no homework career.”
On the upside, unlike colleagues who find their self-worth in how busy they are and how much they do, I feel no guilt about resting, or about blank space on my calendar. That blank space is what I crave most.
No. 8: I’m a massive procrastinator.
Let’s call it a “marinator.” I tend to marinate on an idea for weeks, months, even years. All my most successful colleagues, meanwhile, seem to be fast action takers. My best, most lucrative business ventures have come about from fighting my nature and “slapping sh*t up,” as I like to call it.
So I’ve got that person in me. She just doesn’t emerge from the binge-watching rabbit hole as often as I’d like.
No. 9: I hate looking at numbers.
Correction: I love refreshing sales numbers, especially when they’re going well. But balancing a profit and loss statement (P&L)? Not my jam. I still don’t do that, though I’m sure it would serve me to do so and I’d probably increase my profit margins.
No. 10: I don’t have an “inner voice.”
Ever notice how all those success stories start with the person hearing “a whisper,” or “that still, small voice inside” that told them what to create? I’m here to say, if you’ve never channeled ideas from above or heard ideas as if some divine voice spoke them right into your ear, you’re not alone. Nor are you alone if you’ve always been jealous of those people who do hear a voice.
No. 11: I do things wrong.
Some people are great at following the blueprint. Step 1, Step 2, Step 3, Success. I’m envious of them.
They do what’s been proven to work, and it does (well, sometimes). For better or worse, I’ve always gone my own way, whether it’s breaking grammar rules to be more conversational in my emails and copywriting (which served me well), or refusing to have a morning meditation routine (which I could probably use).
And yet…I did it anyway.
Despite (and maybe because of) all these shortcomings, I’ve managed to have a business for 13 years and counting — one that’s earned upwards of a million dollars per year in recent years. Not bad for a lazy, unemployable, small-dreaming procrastinator who doesn’t want to be the boss!
If you dream of making a living on your own terms but think you don’t have what it takes to have a business, take a note from my story, take action — even if it’s small — and give it a shot anyway.
Sometimes, “all wrong” is the key to getting it right.