Finding Validation

I love being a business owner.

I love that I have the flexibility to create my own hours, work around my husband’s schedule, spend time with my kids during the day, and take on the kind of work that makes me happy. I can photograph what I want. I can work with the brands that I choose. I don’t have to answer to anyone but myself. If my boss is giving me a hard time, I can just take the day off. If I want to go on vacation, I go. I don’t have to request time off or put in a request for leave like my husband does.

But

Being a business owner comes with its downfalls. It comes with a price sometimes.

And lately, I’ve been struggling with one of the harder aspects of owning my own business:

Finding Validation.

With owning my own business things like promotions and awards don’t come around.

There’s no advancing. No promotions. No pay raise. There’s no recognition when you bust your butt and work an 80 hour week.

No one notices the days that you don’t sleep (or eat for that matter) so you can finish a project. No one gets excited when you crack the piece of html code or CSS configuring that’s been hanging you up for three days.

It’s a lonely and somewhat isolating thing this being my own boss.

Not to mention, most people on the outside don’t even acknowledge my work. Or the fact that I even own a business. And of those that do, most of them don’t even take me seriously. The majority of our family has no clue what I do. They seem to just assume I’m home with my kids all day twirling my thumbs. The amount of time and energy that I pour into my work just doesn’t register. Like it doesn’t exist. Like the fact that I own a business is just a facade.

Guest-House-3

“Oh you design blogs. Isn’t that what these moms who stay home sit around and write? Blogs about how to parent?”

“Oh, you aren’t shooting photos professionally for people? You’re just another mom with a camera, right?”

I stopped telling people a long time ago that I designed blogs. Because the reaction was always the same. Mock interest and then that sliver of apprehension that followed. That apprehension that since I designed “blogs” that my job isn’t to be taken seriously. Just another mom who needed something to do during the day while she was home with her kids.

No degree behind my name. No office to drive off to or serve as a representation of the work that I do. I never realized that having an office…an actual physical space outside of your home, away from your children…gave such merit. That it somehow legitimized your work.

I’ve had a hard time feeling validated in my job. I love what I do. I love my clients. And most of my clients are mothers with children of my own, so they appreciate the work that I do and the schedule in which I do it on. I love the projects that I create. That I get to bring someones vision to life and breath creativity into their goals.

But when I crawl in bed at night, there’s still that part of me that wishes that there was more credit given to small business owners. Especially to small business owners who don’t have a handful of employees. Who don’t have offices outside of their home. Who work because they love what they do and the people they work with…

in spite of the days when they feel like their work just doesn’t matter.

Let me add, that I do receive a great deal of validation and feel very much appreciated when my clients leave wonderful testimonials or rave reviews about their experience. Please know that I’m not at all talking about how my clients make me feel here. More of an “how the outside world makes me feel” kind of thing…

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  1. says

    {{hugs}}

    I don’t do quite the same work as you — but, as a blogger, I understand. I hem and haw when people ask what I do — I do legitimate work and bring legitimate money to our family… but I get tired of explaining things or being made to feel like a grifter. And, it is hard being self-employed — especially in a virtual world — because there aren’t any accolades or certificates given out for our work.

    Sorry. :(
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  2. says

    Great article! You couldn’t have gotten it more right. I constantly feel like that too (with my field). Even though I’m not a mom, and I’m not able to stay at home (yet), I know exactly how you feel. But now, I feel validated every time I make a blog post, page, or learn about a plug-in. It’s those little successes that keep me going. I have my eyes on a bigger prize. : )

  3. says

    I get this. I absolutely do. In a way, it’s my own fault. I don’t give myself enough credit, I don’t talk myself up. I don’t show enough confidence in my business for others to validate me.

    But you, Courtney, you do great work. I wish that the people outside of your clientele, can just dive in online to see the beautiful work you’ve created, and read all the wonderful testimonials (including mine!) of what you do.

  4. Ellen says

    Chiming in to say I completely understand! Part of it is compounded, I think, when I have to explain the value/worth of what I do to someone who has never thought of this as a “career” before. It’s so frustrating. I say keep talking about what you do — clearly, loudly — it’s important. And how could anyone not look at your beautiful site and all the work poured into it and think you do “nothing” beyond be at home with your kids?

  5. says

    You make a really good point about those who don’t REALLY understand what you do and how much time and energy you put into it. I am glad you feel validation in other ways, but I wish you could feel it all the way around. And I will say that I think your work is wonderful! xo
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  6. says

    Courtney, I’ve never read your blog before, but just happened upon it tonight. I am a graphic designer too, and I also mainly design blogs. Let me just say that I know exactly where you are coming from :) A few weeks ago I was talking to my sister-in-law and she was asking me about what I do. After I was done telling her about it, she said in a very doubtful voice, “And so people actually pay you for that?”. I just had to smile and say yes.

    So I want you to know that your work is 100% validated by me and although it may not feel like it, many many others as well :) Keep working hard to make the internet a prettier place.

    We should start a support group for this ;)
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  7. Amanda W. says

    Oh yes, I truly understand that feeling. Honestly, I really think people have that reaction no matter what if they don’t REALLY understand what you do. For instance, when I was working (before I got pregnant of course) my hubby’s family would ask me what I did for a living. Keep in mind that I was in the IT field, computer information security to be more specific. Whenever I told them what I did at my job or even tried to explain things in a less “techy” manner, I would typically just get a blank stare or a surprised look followed by a polite, “Oh, wow”. Then the conversation would typically shift to my hubby’s job, a police officer. Aha! Something much more easily understood and recognized! I was typically left feeling somewhat hurt and devalued simply because of the misunderstanding. Like my work was somehow inferior to my husband’s even though I worked extremely hard to get where I was in the IT field, with earning two certifications and a degree within a few years.

    What I’m trying to say is this: who cares what people think? As long as you love what you do and you can bring home some bacon while you do it, that is all that matters. You are one blessed lady :)