I launched a WordPress-based business sometime around 2013. Starting a business is a goal for a lot of people, but it was never something I intentionally set out to do. I was in university at the time and blogging about books — just doing something I loved. But then I had an idea for a WordPress plugin that would make book bloggers’ lives easier. Although I did decide to sell it instead of releasing it for free, making a lot of money was never my goal. I thought maybe I’d make $500 overall if I was lucky. But three months in I’d already made nearly $1500 and those numbers would only continue to climb.
By the time I graduated university, this little business of mine was already fully paying my bills. I went straight from graduation to running a full time business. Over the next few years, I sold pre-made plugins, built custom plugins, launched custom websites for authors and bloggers, dipped into the managed WordPress hosting space, and created WordPress e-courses. Objectively, business was great.
But by 2016, I was waking up every morning and thinking, “What the hell am I doing?”
The more my business grew, the more I was afraid it was about to crash and burn.
The more I diversified, the less confident I felt about what I was doing.
Above everything, I was tired.
Turns out, I’m not a businesswoman
I was tired of selling, of marketing, of advertising, of promoting. I was tired of asking myself “will this sell?” before I started a new project. I missed creating just for the sheer fun and joy of it, which was how my very first plugin even came to be. I just wanted to build cool things and quietly release them into the wild. I love to create but I don’t love to sell.
Perhaps I could have hired people to help me with the aspects of my business I didn’t enjoy, but although business was going well for a one person show, I didn’t feel like it was going well enough to hire more people and confidently feel like I could pay their salary every month. And the thought of having that responsibility just brought me even more anxiety.
I felt stuck and, honestly, ashamed of how I felt about my business. Was I being ungrateful?
I had this incredible thing going for me — I was paying all my bills, working flexible hours (and from home!), and calling all the shots. This is what other people aspire to have, and I had it! I was embarrassed to admit that maybe I didn’t like it anymore. I didn’t want to be in charge. I didn’t want to have the entire success or failure of a business resting on my shoulders.
I remember looking through job listings trying to imagine myself doing something else — anything else. But another problem I had was that running my own business straight out of school had spoiled me. I didn’t want to be in charge, but I also still wanted to work from home. I still wanted flexible hours. I didn’t want to sacrifice my 3pm gym session. I still wanted a certain degree of freedom in what I did each day. I wanted all the benefits of running my own business, without any of the downsides I had come to dread.
A well timed opportunity
In late 2016, sheer luck and good timing brought me to Sandhills Development. I was offered a job at a company that could amazingly check every box on my dream list. I could work from home, set my own hours, have a weird schedule, still make the gym at 3pm, and most importantly: my job would just be one thing. I could focus on building really cool stuff, and nothing else. I wouldn’t have to think about marketing or sales or profit.
It’s been over four years since then and I’m now the lead developer for Easy Digital Downloads — the plugin I originally used to sell my first product. So I think things are going pretty well! My old business does still exist, but in a very low key way. I still work on and maintain the products out of love and passion for them, but with zero pressure to actually make sales or be successful.
The biggest difference is the boundaries I’ve been able to create in my life.
When running my own business, I didn’t work all day long, but I did tend to think about work all the time. Growth was always on my mind because making that happen was purely up to me. I was putting so much pressure on myself to do well, that I couldn’t stop thinking about it. But now, work goes away as soon as I decide I’m done for the day. I don’t think about it after hours. There’s comfort in the fact that although I care about the company, it’s not my company, and the success — or failure — of the company isn’t purely up to me; if something does go wrong when I’m gone, there’s someone else capable of handling it.
What works for someone else may not work for you
Some people would consider it a downgrade to go from business owner to employee, but it was absolutely the right move for me. Running your own business is often glamorized, but not everyone is cut out to wear all the hats that a one-person business requires, and not everyone has the drive to grow a business into something larger. And that’s okay. At the time, it was immensely hard for me to admit that out loud because I thought it would make me a failure.
There is no “one size fits all” dream job and I learned that being the owner of a company is not mine. If what you’re doing now isn’t working then there’s absolutely no shame in bowing out, even if you’re currently living someone else’s dream.