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Make it Work: Is starting a business right for you?


Chances are pretty good that you’ve dreamed about starting your own business at some point in your life. Running your own show is attractive in so many ways, especially for us creative types. Maybe you want more control over how you spend your time; maybe you need more creative fulfillment in your career; maybe you see a huge gap in what’s out there, and you think you could fill it.

All three of those were true for me. When I decided to start Colette Patterns, I was working in what I thought would be my dream job. After I finished graduate school, I’d been hired by the company I most wanted to work for, a high-profile silicon valley company with a mission I believed in and a reputation for treating its employees very well. Not only that, I was doing work that had the potential to really help people in their day-to-day lives. It was great, and I learned a ton.

But after a few years, I realized that it wasn’t meeting all of my needs. I spent hours every day commuting. Most of my time at work was spent in meetings or writing reports. Worst of all for me, I felt like a lot of my talents were going to waste in the hustle and bustle of a large corporation. So I decided to try something else, something completely different.

Maybe you’re in a similar situation. My main impetus was the belief that life is too short to waste my time and abilities. I knew instinctively that I could do better and make myself happier, and that’s what I set out to do.

That said, you should probably take a good look at your motivations before investing too much, and think hard about the downsides to working for yourself. There are some obvious, practical challenges that probably spring to mind immediately. For example, you might wonder if you can make enough money to live on. Or if you’re in the US, you might have to think about buying your own health insurance. But there are other pitfalls you may not consider when painting a picture of your new venture. Here are some of the questions you might ask yourself (many of which I never thought about before starting this whole crazy small business thing):

  • Are you able to manage heaps of small, mundane tasks?
  • Can you deal effectively with incompetent or dishonest people that might crop up? If not, do you have someone who can help you? (I’ve had some doozies and I’m not very good at yelling at people, but luckily I have someone to help me manage hairy situations)
  • Will thinking about work all the time be too taxing for you? Do you have ways you can cope with that?
  • Are you willing to sometimes work long hours?
  • Can you deal with feedback in a constructive, fair way?
  • Are you excited enough about your business idea that you can imagine working on it every day for years to come?

None of this is meant to discourage you. I honestly think that if you’re interested in starting your own business, it’s something you should try at least once. Personally, it’s made me enormously happy, and I know it has that potential for a lot of people.

And if you’re not ready to make the commitment yet, don’t fret! That may mean that you just give yourself more time to plot and scheme, or it could mean you start with an ultra-small side project and don’t focus immediately on making it bigger. There’s no need to jump into it until you’re ready. Don’t pressure yourself.

With a passion for your business comes a big sense of responsibility, and that can be a lot to deal with. It’s great to be in control of every aspect, but it can also be tough. Later, I’ll write about some concrete strategies I have for dealing with that.

In the meantime: welcome to your own crazy adventure, it will be fun and you will learn more than you ever have. To paraphrase a friend of ours who works for himself, “I’m working harder than I ever have in my life, and I’m loving every minute of it.”

{image above: vintage sheet music by finsbry}

Sarai Mitnick


Sarai started Colette back in 2009. She believes the primary role of a business should be to help people. She loves good books, sewing with wool, her charming cats, working in her garden, and eating salsa.


Katherine @ ZipZapKap

January 26, 2010 #

I think holding down a ‘regular job’ is usually far easier than running your own show. People dreaming about captaining their own ship tend to imagine themselves as the CEO and forget that they will also be the cleaner and the intern and the data entry clerk, at least in the beginning.

But there are few things as satisfying as seeing the direct results of your labour. It’s a level of fulfillment that is hard to get from an 8-to-5. I work a 40 hour regular job and run a business on the side, so I get the best of both worlds. I’d like to get the best of three worlds – with the third consisting wholly of sleep…

…lots and lots of sleep. ; )

Adelaide B

January 26, 2010 #

This is very very cool. Thank you so much!


January 27, 2010 #

This is already a very interesting series – looking forward to future posts!

The Cupcake Goddess

January 27, 2010 #

Oh I’m so excited about this series! Thank you so much! You are such a superstar to me and I love reading about your inspirations and design process. Thrilled you’ll be sharing what its like behind the scenes!


January 27, 2010 #

I have recently (Oct 09) started my own business. I am also working full time and have just graduated college here in Florida. It is still in its infency, being as technically it had not reached “busniess” status are far as income for taxes are concerned.

I love it. I was working 30 hours a week on it, but can happily say that I am in the black as far as finances are concerned and made it into the black only a week after opening shop! (we have very very very low overhead). I feel lucky that the state of florida has a lot of help offered to female small business owners and need to start looking into the tax help!

Thank you so much for this series, I look forward to it as a new small business owner with a LOT to learn. We are in the ‘off’ season so it is slow going and the time to learn!!

Thanks again! we are The Gameday Girls! with an Etsy shop under TheGamedayGirls and a twitter account under Gamedaygirls