A few weeks ago, I got to give a talk to a design class at my university. It felt a little funny for me to be talking to those students, sharing about how I started Wayfarer and offering advice because it was just a little over a year ago that I was sitting in that classroom, taking notes as some other freelancer spoke to us about the same things.
So I’ve been reflecting a lot on my transition from student to business owner, which all happened in a matter of weeks right after my graduation (along with a wedding and moving to Australia, but that’s a totally different story which you can read a little about here). It hasn’t always been easy, but goodness, it’s been a beautiful process.
To honor this crazy chapter of my life, I wanted to write a letter to my younger self, the version of me that had just graduated from college and knew freelancing was calling my name, but stubbornly didn’t want to admit it. The Abbey that felt unexperienced, unworthy, and scared out of her mind. If I had been able to read this then, to have someone honestly tell me that they had been there, that it was ok for me to feel the way I felt, and that I was going to get through it, it would have given me so much more courage in my first few months in starting Wayfarer. I hope it gives someone else a little comfort.
Dear young entrepreneur,
I’m with you. I’ve been where you are. It’s a funny place to be because you’re doing exactly what you want to do and what you’re terrified to do at the same time. You’ve dreamed about going out on your own for a long time and admired those you have done it before you, but now you’re realizing just how low starting from the bottom feels. Your hands are empty, you don’t have much to show yet and you’re worried that everyone can see it.
I know you feel unprepared, unworthy and unqualified. But know this – although starting a business feels like this huge, difficult, nearly impossible thing, it’s not as hard as you think it is. Don’t get me wrong, it will be difficult at times! You’ll have moments where you question yourself and wonder why you ever thought you could pull this off. But the deeper truth is that you are capable of so so much more than you know. You will do things in your first year that you didn’t think you would accomplish in the next 5 years. You’ll get to work on projects that make you come alive and your heart will know a fullness like never before because you did it yourself. You’ll surprise yourself again and again until you don’t have to fake confidence anymore, you’ll know it.
YOU WILL DO THINGS IN YOUR FIRST YEAR THAT YOU DIDN’T THINK YOU WOULD ACCOMPLISH IN THE NEXT 5 YEARS. YOU’LL GET TO WORK ON PROJECTS THAT MAKE YOU COME ALIVE AND YOUR HEART WILL KNOW A FULLNESS LIKE NEVER BEFORE BECAUSE YOU DID IT YOURSELF. YOU’LL SURPRISE YOURSELF AGAIN AND AGAIN UNTIL YOU DON’T HAVE TO FAKE CONFIDENCE ANYMORE, YOU’LL KNOW IT.
I’ll be honest, it won’t all be easy. There will be moments when you’ve made mistakes and you cry at your computer, asking yourself why you ever thought you could pull this off. You might think about quitting. You might even hate your work sometimes. Like, really hate it. All of these feelings are completely ok. No business owner has loved their job the entire time. But during those crappy moments, know that it will pass, the project that is exhausting you will end, much better days will come, and there will always be others going through the exact same thing that you can find comfort and community in.
And when you feel lost, don’t be afraid to ask for help. There are so many who have gone before you that regret not asking for more help when they started. Because of this, they are eager to help and guide you in any way that they can. Don’t worry about not being welcomed or accepted because you’re still new at this. We have all been you at some point and for that, you belong.
There will be slow seasons where you struggle to find work, but embrace it because one day you’ll find yourself overbooked with clients and you’ll give anything to have one of those slow days again. No matter how much work you do or don’t have, know that it is a gift. You’re fully booked and working on exciting projects? That’s a gift. You don’t have any work lined up and spend your days on personal projects or learning new things for yourself? That’s a gift too. Any form of positive effort that you put towards this dream will create ripples and bring something new to you.
NO MATTER HOW MUCH WORK YOU DO OR DON’T HAVE, KNOW THAT IT IS A GIFT. YOU’RE FULLY BOOKED AND WORKING ON EXCITING PROJECTS? THAT’S A GIFT. YOU DON’T HAVE ANY WORK LINED UP AND SPEND YOUR DAYS ON PERSONAL PROJECTS OR LEARNING NEW THINGS FOR YOURSELF? THAT’S A GIFT TOO.
Your first year or two will be exciting, frustrating and wonderful all at the same time. You will see things in yourself that you didn’t know where there – strength, courage, grace – and you will find a greater love and appreciation for yourself through it. You’ll also notice some of your flaws, but that’s something to be welcomed because it’s how you will grow. Embrace the way you adapt and learn throughout this time in your life. Remember that you’re becoming a truer version of yourself in creating something that is your own. You’re exactly where you need to be. You’re uniquely qualified to make this journey look however you want it to. You’re doing fine. You’re going to do beautiful, lovely, fulfilling things and I’m so excited for you.