I’m 28, and I only know that because I have to count backwards from how old my husband is. I can easily tell you how old he is, but sometime after I turned 21, my age intentionally or unintentionally slips my mind. It’s only when someone asks me or I have to write it down that I realize… wait, I’m not 22 anymore?! And then I think about how long I’ve worked my butt off post-college to grow this business of mine.
I think about the many opportunities, clients and industry relationships that have come my way over the years. About the highs (like when I secured a contributorship with Huffington Post Weddings) to the lows (like when some business tax advice went sideways). And suddenly, the 9 years of being in business for myself makes my age make sense.
These days, I have a lot more highs than lows. Thank goodness for that! You know how the saying your 30s are much better than your 20s?
Trust me, your next 5 years in business are far better than your first. Here are four reasons why your first 5 years in business are like being in your 20s:
1. You find your business identity.
The social media comparison game in business is like the post-college identity crisis you may have had.
You want to do what all your friends are doing to remain “cool” and “in the loop”, so you wrap yourself up in what your competitors and industry peers are doing. And then, you end up doing and saying things that aren’t “you”.
At some point in your first 5 years of business, you’ll get sick of playing keep up. You’ll find your voice and your identity in order to best serve your brand, clients, and also yourself.
2. You find out who your friends (and ideal clients) are.
There’s so much to be said about finding your creative community. You know, your business besties who continue to encourage, support and cheer you on!
Unfortunately, the creative and/or wedding industry can be clicky at times. You’ve likely been burned by a couple vendor friends you once worked with or you were excited to meet someone you looked up to in the industry, only to find out they’re not that great of a person in real life.
But in the spirit of #CommunityOverCompetition, it’s now easier than ever to find your tribe and say goodbye to the haters.
You also find out who your ideal clients are! In the beginning stages of your business, you might have taken on everyone and anyone (I did!) just to book yourself and enhance your portfolio. There’s nothing wrong with this at all. Keep doing you!
But once you discover who you work best with and the type of client that meshes with your company’s goals + vision—you’ll find yourself saying no to opportunities you used to jump at in order to be able to say yes to better-fit clients.
3. You start to think about work/life balance.
I’ve been blessed with the opportunity to understand the importance of work/life balance from the beginning. My last college internship—turned first job out of college—was working with a PR firm that specialized in PR for staffing firms (among other things). One of our clients was a flexible staffing firm who helped place moms juggling little ones with their work schedules. Even though I didn’t have kids at the time, I so valued the beliefs of this company and the idea of work/life balance. So, when I saw my friends working jobs where they were the first ones in and the last ones to leave, my heart hurt for them.
In your 20s, work/life balance might have meant finishing off your day at happy hour then having a couple hours at home to relax before waking up and doing it all over again.
Now, work/life balance likely has a whole new meaning. Don’t get me wrong, I know there are seasons in your business you have to hustle hard and work beyond the hours of 9 to 5. There are time where you can’t get anything done beyond checking your email once in the morning and once at night. And that’s ok! You will ultimately reach a point where your priorities start to change—whether it’s because you have a family, get married, or just because you love your work so much that you don’t want to burn yourself out—that you set some new boundaries.
4. You know your tolerance.
I don’t know about you, but when I experienced the rare hangover post-girls night or a wedding with an open bar, it was enough to make me swear off those extra drinks.
But in life and business, we want to get to a point where it’s not during the aftereffect where we realize our limits.
You begin to realize your limits upfront. You’re clear on them and you don’t waiver.
No longer does it take one too many drinks, or in this case, one too many red flags in business to know your tolerance. Tolerance for whatever – being taken advantage of by clients, working your butt off to not have much to show for it, passive aggressive comments from supposed industry friends, and so much more.
If you’re in your first five years of business and you’re still trying to figure out your tolerance, know this season will pass.
You’re on your way to becoming the bad ass boss babe you’re meant to be. Crushing goals, raising the bar for your field of expertise and lifting others up along the way.