The 9 dirty truths experts won’t tell you about starting your own business


Hello gorgeous.

I want you to know something. Yes, starting your own business is wonderful. You wake up when you want, work from where you want and never have to sit through a boring-ass ‘weekly planning meeting’ EVER AGAIN. Rocking.

However. This freedom does not come on a platter. You don’t wake up one and go ‘oh I seem to have stumbled on the perfect life. Ho ho. Tea and toast, Jeeves’.

(Because that’s totally what my mornings look like. Ahem)

So let’s take a down-and-dirty look at what really goes on in a fledgling business. This isn’t a negative article, it’s just the less sexy bits that get left out of the ‘how I made it stories’. I think you deserve to know it all so today I’m sharing these 9 truths with you.

The below is your psychic ball to know what’s up ahead so you can be ready to ride through this messy, beautiful journey and make your free range life happen. FOR REAL.

Let’s get to it:


1. The business you start with won’t be the one you end up with.

The first version of your idea will be wrong. People won’t want it, or you won’t want to do it. More than likely:

Your first website won’t be your last

Neither will your first brand name

And that’s a good thing.

Your business is a living creature, not a statue. Until you’re in the field it’s hard to know what it’s really like to live with, and when you get there you’ll soon learn what you need to change. Sometimes the answer is ‘almost everything’.

So don’t spend too much on that first logo.


2. You will want to quit

More than once you will think you have made a huge mistake even starting this.

You will think you were crazy for even contemplating that you could run a business.

You’ll think you’re an imposter.

That’s when you know you’re on to something good.


3. Your family and friends won’t get it

Start your business and more than likely:

Aunt Maude will think you made a mistake.

Your buddy Sam won’t hold back letting you know how many businesses fail.

Others in your life will be ‘supportive’ but never actually understand what you do.

Many will miss the days they could put you into a box and say “she’s a lawyer”.

At least some of your friendship groups will change.

Honey let’s get real here. What is more important: your happiness every day, or someone else’s mild discomfort at introducing you at weddings? Sticking with the friends who count or the ones who only empathise because you both hate what you do? Following the beige army’s footsteps or living your real life? (you only get the one, you know)

Isn’t escaping from a box that doesn’t fit precisely the reason you are here?


4. There’s no such thing as an overnight success

You will work your butt off to get your first 10 clients. They will be the hardest ones to get.

You might look at a successful person in your field and say “I want what they have… but without doing the graft that let them achieve that”. They will look back at you and say “good luck, and if you find that easy button let us know”.

What counts is DOING (smartly). You can learn all the strategies in the world but unless you DO them they are worth nothing.

The overnight successes out there?

I admit it, they were ‘made overnight’: over many, many nights of late toil. With coffee and the company of streetlights.

They wanted to quit, they thought they made a mistake but they kept going and going until one day someone said “hey you’re an overnight success, I wish I could be as lucky as you!” (you can be, by the way. Just do the above.)


5. Your number of Twitter followers doesn’t count

There are a lot of things you can buy to look like  a business: you can rent an office, get good business cards, have a nice website made up by a hot designer, and yes you can even ‘buy’ Twitter followers and Facebook fans.

There might be good reasons for you to do all of these things. I’m not judging. However. None of these are enough on their own. You can easily sit in your office with nice cards, 10,000 followers and a cutting edge website… with no clients and no money. A business ‘shell’ is not a business.

It is one thing to build something that looks like a business. It is another to build that moment of magic where people love what you do, get it, and hand you money to do it some more.

Know the difference.


6. No one owes you a paycheque

I once heard someone say “no one is buying my ebook. I wrote it and created a website but no one is buying. I put so much time and effort into it already, I shouldn’t have to put any more into promoting it!”

Yes, you should. You are not an employee.

No one owes you a paycheque. No one owes you their money. No one owes you their attention.

It’s up to you to make your offer worth their attention, worth their money and worth a paycheque.

Showing up to work is not enough.

The value you bring is not just the content or the service. A huge whack of your value is presenting what you offer so GET IT. Don’t set yourself up to be ignored as one of the shouting hordes, but create an environment so people WANT what you have on the table. Desperately. Enough to pay for it, now.

Learning how to sell is 50% of the journey (so don’t waste all your start up time on creating a product you have no idea how to communicate and waiting for a  paycheque). Instead, live in your clients’ heads. Learn how to show them the value of what you do so that they want it, really want it, and pay to prove it too.


7. It’s not all cocktail parties and CEO moments. 

In the early days you will do it all. Forget the glamour of ‘having your own business’. For the first few months that just means “I sweep the floors, as well as meet the clients”.

Later you can (and should) outsource the parts you don’t love. But if you outsource something before you understand it, you’ll find it slide to a halt all too soon.

The only way to understand something? Do it yourself, first time round. Keep notes on how you did it and the mistakes you made and what you learnt. Then pass it on. Of course, by then you’ll be taking control and acting like a free range human.

You will also be handy with a broom.


8. Your dream life does not come with your dream business

You’re not doing this just to ‘be an entrepreneur’ (you’d be reading another blog if you were).

You’re doing this for a reason: to build a life that you love. To spend time with the people and places that mean something to you. You have a vision of what you want to contribute to the world, of doing something that makes you come alive every day, and your business is your vehicle to get it.

Never lose sight of that. That groundwork, knowing what you’re in this for, is crucial.

If you just ‘build a business’ without considering ‘you’, then you’ll end up in a cage of your own making. This time there will be no boss to blame.

Getting free is a conscious decision, not a gift that comes with self employment or a job title.

More important than just “I have a business” is sticking true to what you want and crafting each element of your business to suit you and your life.

That takes guts.

You’re not building a business, you’re creating a life. And that, my dear, starts with you.


9. You wouldn’t give this up for the world

Once you get into the free range life, you’ll know two things

1) the above is true and

2) you wouldn’t give this up for the world.

The payoff of being your own boss is bigger than a paycheque.

I read some research recently showing that self employed humans are happier than employed humans, and it clicked instantly.

When you are self employed, you get validated every time someone likes you enough to hand over money and buy from you (when did you ever feel that praised by your boss?).You get to do every part of the business you want to (see that chicken logo at the top? I drew him, cause I wanted to). And you get to be YOU every day.

It’s like becoming a grown up for the first time.

You’ll get addicted to this life. And that’s when you know you’ve made it.


10. You get to make your own rules.

Hey you’re a free range human! Want to include 10 points when the article asks for 9? Do it. Like this 🙂

Seriously. I want you to know this honey: the hardest part is understanding, truly understanding, that you make up your own rules. And then grasping that opportunity with both hands.

With no boss to hold you back, and no boss to blame, it’s down to you to make magic happen on your own terms.

To me that is the most wonderful thing in the world.

Like the idea of making your own rules?

Join the free range tribe by dropping your name below... and discover a 'real world' where dreaming isn't banned and where your personality isn't something to leave at the door

  • Sarada

    Really great article Marianne! So apt for me right now, as I’m in the “what the hell am I doing right now??!!” phase, but it’s gradually coming together. Also, a ‘friend’ emailed a job advert to me the other day, in case I decided to ‘get a proper job’. Her words. Ha!

  • Great article. 

  • Very insightful. I have lived / experienced each of your points and they are dead-on. Like how you balanced the “tough love” with the benefits. Having worked in both large companies and for myself, I have found that the grass is not “greener” on either side. It’s all about what kind of grass you want to eat the most.

  • Thanks Sarada! I know you’ll keep free range 🙂

  • Thanks Tom, appreciated. That’s a brilliant metaphor (especially given the free-range theme!). 

  • Thanks Daniel, glad you like the ideas here

  • 11. You WILL sometimes work so hard you’ll forget to take a shower. Just make sure you have one before you leave the house!

  • Anonymous

    Nice article and straight to the point. There is certainly nothing wrong with knowing the common truths as it brings awareness to allow super positive action for real results 😉 

    I love the section about Twitter. Having thousands of twitter followers does not mean that you are running a successful business. I think that people are fooled into believing that pursuing the numbers is all that counts when in fact a true business is formed through its foundations of helping others and giving accessible services which people want to pay for. Certainly success can be determined by the paycheque, but so doe building a business which you know people desire, want and need to resolve their pains. Facebook friends and Twitter followers are only figures if it is not attracting targeted customers to the business.

  • gx

    hi marianne
    I think I was the one moaning about noone buying my amazing e-book….:) hee hee!! but I am still pretty buzzed I set up a website, wrote one and figured out how to buy it. But being a typical ENFP/scanner I didn’t realise I wanted to play, not spend time making money. So I played a lot more and discovered some amazing things but now I am ready to make my projects make money. thanks for your tips and now prepared to do the hard graft PR/marketing wrk….I thought as a star I would enjoy it, I really don’t! xx enjoying your posts

  • Dan Stratton

    Thanks for the inspiration, Marianne. Found you through Barbara Winter on facebook. Will spend my vacation later this week reading up and planning. I have been wanting the escape for some time. Just chicken. Golden handcuffs are the hardest to break. Keep the advice coming, please. I have a feeling I am going to need it. 

    Dan Stratton

  • Maria Lua

    Love this article Marianne! 

  • Gautham

    Its really wonderful…

  • Jenny

    Love this article – am currently still sweeping and planning on investing in some great coffee  🙂 Remembering you’re creating a life not just a business really stuck – need to get back in touch with that! 

  • Ursula Dietz

    Great article!

  • thank you!

  • Tjjupp

    It’s a shame kids aren’t taught this stuff in schools, it would better prepare them for the real world in stead of a world of don’t & Can’t do. Being a Free Range Human makes me smile. : ) x

  • I agree! The word needs to be spread 🙂

  • Tjjupp

    already speading Marianne…… x


    Ah, that’s great, made my day that and it’s only 8am!

  • Emerald

    I love this Marianne! I have been seeking this lifestyle for a couple years now and tried and failed. I am now one step closer to my dream life! I really needed to read this!! You have given me the inspiration to try again! In moments of “wanting to give up” I have to remember that it is doable as long as I keep trying! Cheers to a free-range-lifestyle!

  • Visage

    I agree with Tjjupp! Kids and parents should be taught this stuff in school. I am so glad I found your blog, Marianne. Almost 2 years ago I started a business (serviced-based) and I am now at a point where my cashflow isn’t great, and I have *almost* given up, trying to justify that getting back to the 9-5 is going to be better because of the security, ability to save, yada yada…but somehow something in my gutt keeps on telling me NOOO don’t do it!

    So I don’t – but now I am thinking, so what now? I’m at a point where I am not sure I enjoy my ‘business’ – but the words you said in this article hit home: “It’s a VEHICLE to create the life I want.” Hopefully if I just keep on thinking of that, I will get more inspiration.

    With lots of appreciation…x

  • Steven Sparling

    Marianne, this is brilliant – thanks for sharing. Am about 2 years into my process and it takes real determination to keep going. This is a good reminder that the true path (as opposed to the path of those trying to sell you something!) is slow and involves a lot of graft. On to the next step!

  • Marianne, thank you! It is a great reminder:)

    I always wanted to work as a freelance/ consultant, literally free range. I set up everything nicely, started getting an income. My problem was to be brave enough to quit my job..

    and then I came across your book. After reading the first 20 pages, I handed in my notice:)


  • Stu

    The past two posts Marianne are bang on the money with where I am right now. I have been listing ideas, searching daily for my passion, walking out of the study in a huff only to walk back in ten minutes later, sit down, stare aimlessly at the screen, imprint a red mark shaped like my hand into my cheek, and then repeat. I was about to throw in the towel and retreat to the sheets for another sleepless night whilst the overwhelming pressure of not knowing what to focus on pounds against my conscious brain. I’m going back to basics….design the life…create that life…and then show up to work with the minerals each day to ensure it happens no matter what the consequences are early on. This goes against my current routine of taking a wild guess in the dark at what kind of business I should start work on, each and every day. I read your book last year, but with a messy break up and house move, I forgot all about the message your book promotes. Its coming back off the shelf tomorrow, I’m starting over, this time with a clear head. Thanks for relieving some self induced stress. I will sleep tonight 🙂

  • Looking at the comments the article seems to be 2 years old already, still it is so timely accurate 😉 Thanks Marianne!

  • Shawn Cookson

    Great article Marianne! You definitely help fill up my Motivation Tank. Can’t wait to dig into your book this weekend.

  • Cheers! The myth of the overnight sensation is the biggest lie of all 😉 Hard, hard work and baby steps are key … as long as you’re having some fun doing it!!

  • alexandra chirila

    When you said ‘You’ll think you’re an imposter’ this is what I’ve been feeling the last couple of days. And then yesterday I had some customers and I received my validation. The entire article fits my current state perfectly and no matter how much I read about trading 9-5 with starting my own business, reality is totally different. It’s like a roller coaster.

  • Faye Page

    That is a great article, so accurate, I love it!

  • Ajay_Solanki_87

    Wow, awesome stuff and very useful to me so thanks for sharing with us sir.

    Have a nice day. – Jobs EYE

  • minalk85

    nice post,very interesting and helpfull! – Tax Finance Info.

  • Thanks for this Marianne! I think number 6 is the most important, since starting to sell my art I have had to learn quickly about sales techniques and ways to market my art. I am wanting to sell direct to the buyer so I am not wanting to go through galleries at the moment. It is very hard work but it is definitely worth it when someone buys something I have made!

  • Rene

    Wow. # 6 really woke me up. No one owes you a paycheque. That one has got me thinking. Thank you very much.

  • So fantastic and I adore your blog name! I love being a “Free Range Human,” but it certainly has it’s challenges! I think it is very important to stay flexible. Like you said the business you start with is not the one you end up with. Sometimes we put so much time and passion into a project that it is hard to change when it is not working. Being willing to adjust along the way is so important.

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