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What it's really like to be your own boss

Written by: Elle Lumens (Manager)

My morning doesn't start with coffee. My morning doesn't often start in the morning. Most days I get up around 11 or 12. You're probably feeling a pang of jealousy. Hang in there!

Often I wake up to a cat or 3. I foster, and there might be a few foster fails wandering through our home. For a minute I just pet heads and snuggle little fur balls. I roll over and grab my phone. Twitter? Instagram? Nope, Etsy, eBay, Wix, then social media. What can I handle while I'm still waking up?

“Work 9-to-5, spend a couple of hours with your family, 7 to 2am is plenty of time to do damage.” – Gary Vaynerchuk, chairman of VaynerX

I'm always groggy when I get up because I work until daylight, sometimes 9 AM or so. I look for messages I can answer while I'm gathering up my laptop, phone, and other junk to head downstairs. Once we're current on messages, it's time for kitty care and a round of light house cleaning. The kitties come first, and I try to do a little housework every day so I don't get behind.

Aaaaaaaand since I have several kitties, a few fosters, and a partner who isn't the tidiest, it's likely at least 2 or approaching 3. Partner will be home around 5 or so. I have a couple of hours to work and we'll try to spend some time together. Usually just tv or a movie, but he gets up very early, so he also goes to bed early. On work days, it's all the time we have.

"Success is going from failure to failure without losing your enthusiasm." – Winston Churchill, politician and writer

He'll come in and I'll find a good stopping point, having been too lost in the sauce to realize he was coming in. Usually I use this brief period of work to pack orders, go to the post office, plan social media posts, and other tasks that aren't really involved. The more in depth work is what keeps me up all night!

When my partner goes to bed is when the real work starts. I'll usually take 15-30 minutes to just hang out. I watch a Youtube video, read a quick article or two, just something that's not working for a few minutes. Then I set up camp at the computer. I'm basically in for the night.

When I started managing this thing, my partner had been running it for about a year with minimal help from me. It's not like I didn't know what was going on, I just wasn't doing it. I was working in a traditional job and also running an Etsy store (that I still also run).

“The price of inaction is far greater than the cost of a mistake.” – Meg Whitman, serial entrepreneur and former CEO of eBay and HP

My dear partner is a designer, an artist, the details just aren't what he's about. So a few things had fallen between the cracks. Things like SEO, which is why I stay up all night researching and retagging his awesome designs so people can actually find them.

Search engine optimization sounds so easy to the uninitiated. I know because I was that person. You just post some links on your facebook and people will go to your store right? I guess that worked at some point. This isn't that time. I'm trying to make sure every photo looks perfect. I need a video for every listing. We need an established business presence across multiple social medias, and they need regular postings. Our link DOES need to appear in places, so I do guest blog posts.

“If you really look closely, most overnight successes took a long time.” – Steve Jobs, co–founder and CEO of Apple

Then there's designing new stuff. My partner certainly hasn't stopped all together, but slowed down a lot. So, I learned to design. I also learned to design what's trendy, based on research. Lots and lots and lots of research goes into my job. What's cool? What's about to be in next? What exactly do I call this style of thing I made?

Once I make a new design, there's posting it. Sounds easy. SEO sounded easy too, but posting items for sale online and SEO are pretty similar that way. They each sound like one fairly simple task, but they're each a whole lot of really tedious tasks strung together. A good listing takes a little while. I want as much information about my item in there as possible so if people are sorting their search results, they can find mine easier. Even if you're importing listings across platforms, they take time to reorganize once you import them. Sometimes one item can take me a couple of hours from idea to fully posted on all our sales channels. A really big one with multiple variations might take a night.

“A business that makes nothing but money is a poor business.” – Henry Ford, founder of Ford Motor Company

So I spend my nights fixing old listings and creating new ones. I spend my days in my own private cat cafe, but I have to clean the boxes. That's just the days my partner works though. Days he's off are completely different!

I love my partner, but I do my best work alone. I'm on the spectrum, so it shouldn't be offensive or surprising to anyone who knows me. My partner is off 3 days a week, on those days, I don't get much work done on our stores during the day. What I DO get done is helping him write and edit the trading card game he's working on. I have dozens of pages of story for the game and I've helped with hours of card editing, design, and rules writing. It's definitely his project, but I feel like I'm co-captain! I put in 3 days a week on the game.

So after my 20 hour days and 7 day weeks, why do I do it? It's certainly not the money. I was doing better for that with a 9-5. It's the company. I'm home with my animals all day, or all night, even if I'm working they have a lap to crawl into. I'm here when my partner gets home, and I can help with the things my partner is passionate about instead of being completely burned out and exhausted all the time. Would I say this life is for everyone? Heck no, but it's for me, and my partner, and our fur family, and that's all that matters.