Leah Hynes, shares her experience from when she left her successful 10-year career in Public Relations and community engagement in 2013 to launch The Connection Effect.
Leah is a Co-Founder and Chief Inspiration Officer at The Connection Effect, – a movement that is driven to put the human back in connection, and the aliveness and energy back into online and in-person communities.
“I want to share with you 6 things I wish I knew way back when I first decided to take the plunge into self-employment. Life lessons, if you will, from my entrepreneurial journey so far.
“And if you take nothing else from this sharing, I hope that you will agree with me that you are already doing a freaking amazing job!” says Leah Hynes.
1. Slow down to speed up
If I have one regret about my entrepreneurial journey, it’s that I wish I had stayed in my day job until I had at least started to earn an income that could continue to cover our basic expenses.
From day one I hit the ground with the background pressure of ‘make some money and quick!’ which was not at all helpful!
I also left a job that was actually pretty good with people I enjoyed working with and at which I could have easily stuck it out. In hindsight my actions were irresponsible and put my family (and business) under pressure that was ultimately not necessary.
I had an itch about living my passion and at a moment’s notice decided to scratch it! I had bought into the overnight success myth.
My advice: If you can slow down and lengthen out the transition phase from your current job to the new venture (unless your current situation is completely untenable) then it not only helps you make course corrections with the space and perspective to do so, it also allows everyone else around you to adjust — whether that’s just to the idea of you building a business/leaving your day job or to change spending habits/cut expenses.
Slow down now to speed up your potential success later.
2. Passion cannot exist inside of financial stress
When I quit my job with zero safety net and little clue of what this business venture would actually look like, it meant that we could no longer afford to rent our apartment and decided to move into my mother-in-law’s basement with our then 3 year old son. I vividly recall sitting in that basement in front of my computer, staring at the screen and feeling particularly exhausted.
I wasn’t working out, meditating or taking many breaks in-between daycare pick ups because I felt I had no right to relax. After all I was the one who had put my family in this predicament in the first place and so my passion business became this thing that I had to defend and justify — making promises to my husband that any day now I’d be making money and our bank account would be thriving again.
My advice: If you are under financial pressure (and the pressure point will be different for everyone) then it gets pretty hard to enjoy your passion business, as it was for me at times. So what’s the point? If you are stressed ‘living your passion’ you might as well be stressed back at your day job earning a salary. Protect your passion and creativity at all costs, even if it means you dabble on the side for the first few years. Don’t let your passions be tainted or die because they can’t carry the weight of the financial burden, hustle and expectations. What you have to offer the world is too precious.
3. Build a safety net and then don’t touch it!
I hear a lot of people talk about how they built up a safety net before taking the plunge, which is great in theory but then that safety net gets slowly eaten into as their income dives and they dip into that fund to cover expenses. Don’t quit your job and then just watch your safety net dwindle away. The purpose of a safety net is that it remains in place, not that it slowly falls apart leaving you exposed.
My advice: As someone who never even had a safety net (I know…), let alone protected it, I may not be one to talk, nonetheless, my advice is to build up a safety net of 6–8 months of expenses and then start to dabble and experiment and see if anyone is actually prepared to pay you for what you are creating. If you start to think to yourself ‘I’m going to have to dip into my safety net’ then consider that a red flag that you need to generate income some other way while you figure out this entrepreneurial thing.
4. It’s ok for your passion to remain a side project
For the past four years I fell into the trap of very black and white thinking: either it’s my passion OR a day job. But in reality it doesn’t have to be that way. It’s very possible, and it’s my recommendation, that your passion remains a side project (at least for the first 3–5 years). I certainly got caught up in the whole ‘live off your passion’ sexiness and read story after story of people who had ‘made it’ and thought that it was only right that my passion also be my full-time gig.
But I have since come to realize that:
- It’s ok for my passions to remain just that and that I personally experience the full joy of the things I love when financial pressure is absent
- a 9–5 day job is the best option for me personally to earn a competitive salary which in turn allows me to experience more joy partaking in my passionate work on the side (because the financial pressure is off)
- a day job can actually be something that I enjoy and enables me to contribute to the world, just in a different format, and
- I can actually earn more as a whole by working a 9–5 while transitioning my passions into a sidehustle business thereby allowing me to enjoy what I love without the financial expectations and sales goals.
My advice: Give yourself permission to enjoy your passion project as a sidehustle for the first 3–5 years, then reassess based on data and feedback you have gathered along the way to decide if the project has legs as a full-time business venture.
5. You must be prepared to sell and hustle
If you do decide that you would like your passion business to earn income, the one thing I wish I had of known was that one of the top skills you must have or learn is sales.
I initially wanted to do all the comfortable stuff: build a website, write content, create social media accounts ect. But I slowly realized that none of that stuff was the 80/20 that would actually propel the business forward financially. I had to sell what we were offering (oh lord!).If you aren’t prepared to have sales conversations, to market yourself, to have prospecting meetings etc, then what you are creating won’t be seen by those who might need it and ulimtately buy it.
Any by the way, no matter how financially successful your products or services become, there is no summit where you are suddenly exempt from selling or hustling. In fact, some of the most successful entrepreneurs are also some of the fiercest and highly converting sales people I know.
My advice: No matter how amazing your creation, be prepared for the fact that it won’t sell itself. That’s your #1 job now and forever — to sell.
6. Dumb luck accounts for a much larger proportion of success than you probably realize
I seriously have no idea what the formula for success is in entrepreneurship and I’ve taken my fair share of courses! I have no idea how some people are able to sustain themselves financially off their passion business while others with equally as good businesses do not.
I’ve had opportunities and exposure many in my space dream of, like speaking in front of crowds of 1,000+ ideal potential clients and a regular writing spot on a popular personal development blog read by 250K+ subscribers.
And yet still I wasn’t able to come even close to replacing my old salary of four years ago. There could be a multitude of reasons why, but it does leave me to believe that dumb luck must be a factor and perhaps accounts for more of the success than we realize.
There are countless entrepreneurs who have phenomenal ideas, solid foundations, intentions, and natural gifts but who never ‘make it’ because they never experienced enough dumb luck along the way.
And dumb luck unfortunately can’t be fabricated or strategized (lord knows I’ve tried!). You just have to be at the right place at the right time — kind of like that beautiful girl that gets discovered in the mall and becomes a supermodel. Someone has to share your project to an influencer, or you get featured on a prominent platform with a ready-made audience, or perhaps you get invited to deliver a keynote speech or accepted to give a TED talk etc.
My advice: Cut yourself some slack and know that dumb luck may or may not intersect with this particular journey of yours. Let it go, keep showing up, and just enjoy the ride as best you can.
Don’t ‘Go hard or go home’; instead ‘Slow down and sustain’
Despite all of the challenges we entrepreneurs face as we strive to do what we love and despite how exhausting it can be, it’s clear to me that taking this path is simply the best kind of education anyone can ask for.
And not just that, entrepreneurship is the only way we are going to find solutions to some of the world’s biggest challenges right now.
We entrepreneurs cannot afford to become exhausted and burnt out.
You are too important. We are too important. Your ideas are too important.
Now more than ever the world needs your unique contribution, it needs your ideas, your alternate thinking and your ability to maintain the pace to bring that contribution, idea and thinking into reality.
I know who you are, courageous entrepreneur. You are doing an amazing job.
This article originally appeared in Lean’s Medium Page.