We’re back with Rachel’s fourth post in her brilliant series about setting up her own business. I have to say, I think this might be my favourite post so far – it’s very easy to talk about the positive side of following your dreams, but here Rachel has been very honest about the tough sides of running your own business, whether that’s financially, personally, or just the levels of stress.
My posts before now have (hopefully!) shown how much I love what I do and I don’t regret a single bit of it – I’m so thankful that my business is thriving and long may that continue. But for this to be a balanced and honest account, I feel that I need to go into a bit more detail about some of the harder aspects of setting up the boutique and the lifestyle it has given me. These are of course my own very personal thoughts and might not apply to everyone. But I want this series to be totally upfront and perhaps show the more human side to starting up a business – I don’t have anything to hide! OK, here goes…
Essentially, I can never let go – I feel like I have to keep control of absolutely everything because it’s my name above the door, it’s my reputation, my blood, sweat, tears and money that have been poured into it. I appreciate that a lot of this pressure comes from myself because I care so much about what I’m doing – but that level of responsibility is often really hard to get my head around.
Thank goodness I have a fabulous boy who makes sure I get the work / life balance thing. He makes sure that we get a bit of time together – even if it’s just walking the dogs and cooking a meal and he’s great at making sure I look after me too. I love talking! But after talking for 8 hours a day in appointments I am totally, utterly exhausted – on those days, Jon will come and meet me at the boutique after work with the pooches and we’ll walk the long way home via the seafront so I can gather my thoughts and ‘finish’ work for the day before going home for the evening.
One constant worry is an unanswerable question – what if brides change their mind and don’t want small, boutiquey, individual dresses any more? What if everyone suddenly decides they want the big names or nothing? I don’t think this will happen any time soon, and I know there will always be brides who will want something that little bit different, but knowing that still doesn’t stop those occasional ‘what if’ moments.
Sometimes it’s been difficult for friends to understand why I can’t just say ‘no’ to an appointment or lock the boutique up for a weekend so I can go away with them. Some have even stopped asking me now. But this is my business, my life – and I love it. I think people get confused between being driven and being self-absorbed. I am most definitely driven and I won’t apologise for that, and I fully believe that the friends who support and understand this are the friends we need in our lives, not those that make us feel guilty for loving our jobs.
This is quite difficult to say, but I honestly think some people don’t want me to succeed in this adventure – there are the unspoken words that one day I’ll realise I can’t do it and return to Stage Management. It gets to me when I can see that people don’t have the faith in my ability – but with the next breath I can feel the fire rising in me to prove them all wrong. I know, trust and believe that I can and will do this. I know what my brides want. I know that brides need to be given the opportunity to be who they are, not what a magazine tells them they ‘should’ be. OK, I don’t have a degree to sell wedding dresses, there is no qualification to be had - but I have a personality and an honest opinion, and after years of experience of dealing with the most challenging directors in the UK, you can throw me into the most testing situation and I will cope, all with a smile on my face. Just hand me the wine afterwards!
I’m never saying never to return back to Stage Management – it was my first love. But only I will make that decision when or even if I want to go back, and that decision won’t be down to the success or failure of the Boutique. I have drive, determination and devotion and I will create my own future – I am, after all, my father’s daughter!
A friend gave me a little present once that said ‘live the life you’ve imagined’. I couldn’t put it any better myself. I really believe that we are in charge of our own decisions, our own destinies – it’s not anyone else’s responsibility but ours. It’s this thought that keeps me going through the hard times and reminds me that there’s nothing else I would rather be doing right now. To all of you AOWers who are thinking of starting up your own business or going freelance, then I say, do it, absolutely do it, do it now! It is the best decision I have ever made, but I want to be honest and tell you that it is bloody hard work and we as individuals are our own biggest critics – but I’ve learnt that actually that is a positive thing, because we will always have the drive and motivation to achieve our goals – and what’s the point of dreaming about them if you’re not going to make them a reality?