About one year ago I have decided to do some bubble-hopping. Bubble-hopping as of trying to at least for a while leave my social bubble of the scientific community and trying to enter the social bubble of the startup community.
I guess I don’t have to tell you that it challenged all I thought I knew about business. Actually, it was a real eye-opener. In this post I wanted to share with you some of the main changes in the way I think about business and entrepreneurship now that I myself have tried to build something from scratch.
Taking the leap
Starting your own business is scary. It’s actually super scary. Maybe it becomes less scary over the time or if that’s the only thing you have ever done. But coming from being an employee to becoming self-employed is a massive step. Experiencing this fear first-hand I have developed a DEEP RESPECT and admiration for anyone who decides to take the leap and start from scratch. Even more if that someone invests his/her own money into the business, taking the risk and believing it will pay off. And even more if that someone comes from somewhere else than Sweden.
I deeply admire for example Rowan Drury from Gram, the guys from The Mandioka Company or the people who have renovated and opened a new beautiful café Zeituna where café Mondo used to be in Lund. Never before have I considered how much courage does it take to start your own business. Now whenever I walk down a busy street in Malmö, seeing all these tiny shops and cafés I realize that this world is full of really brave people.
Why does it cost so much?
If there is something that starting my own business made me really understand it’s why things cost what they cost. Especially when it comes to the cost of people’s labor. When I first entered the business bubble I was absolutely shocked to learn about a freelancer who takes 1000kr per hour. Without VAT! I was perplexed. Now I know, however, that that person will have to give half of that amount to the state on taxes and fees. Now I know that this person will have to do so many other things that aren’t directly paid – like book-keeping, like marketing, like building a personal brand, like networking, like contact with clients – all that just to land a couple of paid hours. (And now I also know that it can be much much more than 1000kr/h.)
When I think about my salary from my employment at Lund University it’s like a whole different kind of money. I cannot imagine how many years would it take to be able to get a salary like that every month, without any fluctuations, without any worry. Starting my own company really taught me to appreciate my salary and acknowledge the power and stability of big institutions.
Pat my shoulder and I’ll pat yours
I always knew that a lot one can find on social media is fake. We try to show only the best side of ourselves and sometimes even more. We only post the one sunny beach photo, but we don’t mention that the rest of the week it was raining like hell, we got into a fight with our partner and our luggage was lost on the way home.
I knew all this. What I didn’t know or realize is how people are consciously branding themselves on social media. Just to be clear – I have nothing against personal branding! It’s super important for all who want to profile themselves as experts on something and I do it too. I just wanted to mention that it adds another thin layer of fakeness I wasn’t aware existed before. And now I’m part of it. Let me give you some imaginary examples:
- I just gave a talk in the public library. And now I’m posting the picture of myself in front of the audience to Facebook. And I write “Thanks to everybody who came to listen to my talk!” What I really mean is not to thank the people who came, it’s to show the rest of the world that I gave a talk and that I’m awesome. (I’m going to do this in a couple of weeks, check my Facebook.)
- My friend who came to my talk replies in a comment “Thanks for a fantastic talk, you are so awesome!”. Well I hope she really thinks I’m awesome but this comment actually has a different purpose than telling me that. She actually helps me to get my post more visible and add some extra credibility. Since she commented on my post, the Facebook algorithm is going to show this to more people. She also wants her audience to see that she is active, she goes to talks, she meets people, she is awesome too.
- In a Facebook group for female entrepreneurs supporting each other I would write. “Thanks to this amazing community! I have really learned so much from you, bla bla ba, your stories have inspired me so much that now I have finally launched my company xxx.” This is a post that is designed to get likes (because it’s emotional) while subtly promoting my business (which I of course don’t forget to tag).
I guess I knew about these practices even before. But now that I myself try to make myself visible I notice it EVERYWHERE. Facebook and LinkedIn are full of people patting their own shoulders, massaging each other’s egos, helping each other being visible for the rest. This happens through writing posts where what they write doesn’t match the purpose of the post. And I am guilty too for one simple reason: it works. However, now after I stared my own business I’m much more careful with drawing conclusions out of whatever I see on social media. I always think: “What’s the real purpose of this post or comment?”
Have you experienced what I have? It would be nice to hear that I’m not alone in this! How have your mindset, thinking and opinions changed since you started your own business? Please let me know, I’d be so curious to hear!