Up until about 3 years ago I would say that I had more of a hobby than a business...
I've been "self-employed" since 1999, working online for many years as an Online Business Manager for my clients and doing a few other things here and there. And then a couple of years ago I decided that it was time to branch out in a bigger way... I wanted to help other people become Online Business Managers.
I remember the moment where I made the decision to write my book. I was very clear that it was a turning point for me. If I was going to write this book and start truly helping others become Online Business Managers then I was going to need to actually "create a business." There was no turning back.
Sounds funny to say, but even though I'd been self-employed for many years, up to that point I didn't actually feel like I owned a business for the simple fact that I never looked at myself as a business owner. I was just doing something I loved, working for some great clients and enjoying the freedom that came alongside having choice in my work. It really felt like more of a hobby - something I was doing for fun but didn't have any big vision or purpose behind it.
I wasn't taking my business seriously, or rather I wasn't taking MYSELF seriously as a business owner. So things were essentially flat lined - not bad, not great, just good.
I quite honestly got to the point where I was bored. I needed to either step it up or shut things down (and, I'm sorry, but going back to corporate and wearing pantyhose just wasn't an option for me).
For me, stepping it up meant embracing the fact that I own a business.
So, what makes something a business rather than a hobby?
I certainly don't claim to be the expert here, but here are a few of the things that have made the difference for me:
- Why are you in business? Is it just for you, or are you looking to make a bigger impact? For the longest time my business was just about me. I wanted to work from home so I could have freedom/flexibility in my day for me and my family. And this served me for many years. However, once my girls got a bit older and the family stuff settled down, I started to get the itch to make a bigger impact via my work - and my business became bigger than just me.
- Have you invested in a coach or mentor to help you get clear on strategies to build your business? Or are you just winging it as you go? Until I hired and started working with my own coach last year I never saw the possibilities of what my business could be. I'm a FIRM believer that if you truly want to make an impact on the world you need to have a coach to help you here - help you define your business, set goals, keep you accountable, kick your butt when needed.
- Do you have the right business structures in place? This one is a BIGGIE, and something that my friend Alexis Martin Neely illustrates beautifully in her LIFT Manifesto (which I strongly suggest you read). If you're in business, you need to get the proper structures in place. That means taking care of the legal, insurance, financial and tax side of things. These are the tasks that many of us dislike and/or try to ignore. Yet if we aren't careful they could truly make or break our businesses.
- Are you willing to hire the help you need? Or are you trying to learn and do everything yourself? I know many folks who try to save money and do everything themselves. That's impossible if you want to grow a business. Not only will you run out of time (especially as your business grows), but you'll not be able to do a good job with everything... and your business will suffer for it. You need to be willing to invest in getting the right team in place.
- What do you call yourself? For the longest time I told people I was self-employed... and then a couple of years ago I started saying that I owned a business. At first it felt kinda funny, almost like it didn't fit? But I knew I wanted to be that person - someone who owned a business. And now I am.
What else do you think makes something a business instead of a hobby? What has your journey been like? Curious for your thoughts on this...
Tina Forsyth is a leading authority on building virtual teams to help businesses thrive. As the author of Becoming an Online Business Manager and founder of the International Association of Online Business Managers she specializes in maximizing business growth potential through online growth strategies. Having built and managed 7 six-figure businesses since 2002, Tina knows firsthand how to implement a strong business foundation and the team to support it. Through her Online Business Manager Training & Certification she is teaching this process to other virtual support professionals who want to play a bigger game and become OBMs for their clients.
Take the 'Am I Ready to Become (or Hire) an Online Business Manager' Quiz at www.OnlineBusinessManager.com.