I think the hardest lesson I had to learn when I ventured into self-employment was that it would take so much time to build my business up. You can put all of your time and effort into growing your company, but you're still one person, and you shouldn't get frustrated if you don't see immediate (successful) results.
I remember attending industry-specific conferences and workshops at the beginning of my freelance career, and hearing about other people's successes, and I'll admit: I was jealous. I wanted to be in the driver's seat like they were, making solid money, having lots of creative freedom, and enjoying the "good life" of working from home, whether that meant at a desk or in the backyard.
However, in the meantime, I was in the thick of taking on smaller jobs for less money (to stay afloat as well as build up my professional portfolio). I was finding myself agreeing to do tasks with current clients that weren't necessarily in my arsenal of specialties (much like those who have to make coffee for their bosses or walk their dogs or run personal errands for them). And I was working really hard, and really long hours.
But today, almost a decade in, I can pretty much say with confidence (um, humble confidence) that I'm there. I now work with just a handful of clients, however I have titles connected to each of these "jobs" and get industry-standard remuneration for my work. And my schedule is still mostly flexible enough that if I work ahead, I can take a "gardening" day when I know the weather is going to especially nice.
And I'm here, at this place in my self-employment, because I genuinely just kept my nose to the grindstone, I was tenacious (borderline annoying because I was following up constantly on pitches and other queries that people may have thought they could ignore), and I didn't give up.
If you find yourself plugging away at building up a business and are getting a bit frustrated with the lengthy process, remember the cheesy-but-true adage that Rome wasn't built in a day. While we all have this insatiable hunger for immediate results, creating a successful company entails lots of legwork.
But when you reach those certain pinnacles of success, it makes the climb all the more worth it.
Jennifer Cox is a regular Suburban columnist and blogger, and writes for daily newspapers as well as national magazines. She's a social media guru, a Suzy Homemaker wannabe, and the mother of a 3-year-old son.