You Can Be Your Business’s ‘Why’

It's okay if YOU are your business's 'why'. It's okay if the reason you're in business is "I'm good at this and I want to get paid for it."

When you decide to go into business for yourself, within five minutes* a smart and well-intentioned person will appear at your coffee shop and hand you this book.

They’ll probably fall all over themselves telling you how it changed their business life, made sales and marketing dreamy easy and how you really need to readitalreadyokay?

If you’re not familiar with Start with Why, it’s a lovely, well-written business book that suggests businesses and leaders are more successful when their reason for being in business is inspiring. Those who are able to inspire will create a following of people – supporters, voters, customers, workers – who act for the good of the whole not because they have to, but because they want to.

We’re more likely support people/leaders/business who have high-minded, meme-worthy mission statements and ‘manifestos.’ (Holstee, I’m looking at you.)

So it follows that we self-employed types believe we should have an equally inspiring reason for being in business.

“I want to help women stand in their truth and re-connect with their innate wisdom.”
“I want to help entrepreneurs end the overwhelm and overcommitment.”
“I want to help busy moms find ways to be healthy and active so they can give their best to their kids and partners.”

And for the last, oh, ever I’ve been doing my best to come up with my own professional “why.”

If we met at a networking event** and you asked me why I’m a lifestyle blogger and ghostwriter I’d say something like:
“I want to help busy entrepreneurs free up time and space to do the work that lights them up.”
“I want to create a space where people can share their stories and connect with each other.”
“I want to help people to live adventurous, intentional, creative lives of their own design.”

While those are partially true, here’s the whole truth:

I want to be self-employed because I like taking six weeks off to road trip around America.
I want to be self-employed because I want my income (rather than my employer’s income) to reflect my hard work and creativity.
I want to be self-employed because I want to go to a matinee on a rainy Tuesday afternoon if I damn well feel like it.

(but none of that looks very good on a poster.)

And for a long time, I felt really guilty about this. Was every other self-employed creative completely selfless? Was everyone else trying to save the world through copywriting and business coaching? Didn’t anybody else want to earn more money and take longer vacations?

And then I watched this periscope and Hilary Rushford gave voice to my deepest, darkest secret. 

You can be your business's 'why' Click To Tweet

You can become a copywriter because writing comes easily to you and you like it. You can become a life coach because you give great advice and your family moves around a lot so you need a location-independent career. You can become a wedding photographer because you have a good eye, you already know how to use a DSLR, and your friend needs a second shooter.

These are all totally valid reasons to go into business.

Of course, (of course!) you should do work you enjoy! Obviously, you should be proud of the work that you put into the world. It’s very, very nice to have a larger plan or vision for what you’re creating.

But if you’re looking for permission – this is it. 

This is your permission to pursue something because you want to make more money. Or because you want a career that works with your kids’ schedules. Or because you’re good at it and it comes easily to you.

When you like what you’re doing and the life you’re living, it’ll come through in your work.
And that’s enough.

Do you feel like you need to have a high-minded, world-saving ‘why’ behind your work? And if you have one – what is it?

* sliiiiight exaggeration but also not really
** which we wouldn’t because I hate networking events

photo by joe beck // cc

Welcome to Yes & Yes!

Want to spend your time, money, and energy on purpose? I'll show you how.

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  1. Anouska

    Yes! For the longest time I’ve been struggling with coming up with a “Why” that would inspire and connect with potential clients.

    Really? I just love webdesign & coding and anything related to it, and want to be self-employed because I want to travel for however long I like. Also:
    “I want to be self-employed because I want my income (rather than my employer’s income) to reflect my hard work and creativity.” TRUE!
    “I want to be self-employed because I want to go to a matinee on a rainy Tuesday afternoon if I damn well feel like it.” TRUE!

    Yet, I still feel I need the “Why” that will connect with potential clients.
    I love webdesign & coding, which makes me want to always learn new things about it, but I know everyone has their own passion, talents & skills. Things THEY want to always learn more about and would probably keep doing no matter what. It was only earlier this week that I decided on this:
    I want to help entrepreneurs with their websites, so they can focus on doing what they love.

    • sarahvon

      Yes! I think it’s good to have a client-centered reason for being in business but it’s totally, totally okay if the ‘real’ reason you’re doing it is because you want a better, nicer, more laidback day-to-day life!

  2. Kit

    HAHHAHAHA – I ENJOY your posts, Sarah #HUGS

    As for your post, I wonder why selfish desires are belittled by our society. It is MANDATORY for all of us to take care of our needs, without which we can never take care of others.

    Being selfish is okay. Having selfish motivations is okay.

    What is NOT okay is being SELF-ABSORBED or SELF_CENTERED!

    I know, for sure, that my words will never start some classic revolution. BUT I can make those 3 readers happy, while having some pocket money for extra lattes 😛


    • Deirdre

      Kitto- spot on response to a spot on post! Taking care of you or fulfilling your needs (aka “selfish motivation”) IS ok despite how often it is reinforced (to women in particular) that it isn’t… but being self-centered is much different.

  3. Kit

    I want to write because I LOVE words – I am not very talented nor am I creative AT ALL! But I am persistent and passionate about WORDS – so I solve 4 crossword puzzles a day, spend 30 minutes perusing some Word books, admire the works of others (and seethe with envy 😛 )

    LOL – none of my hobbies make money, but they make me happy! 😛

    That said, I better start asking for money from my clients – I am so bad at it. Care to write a post about how to negotiate without feeling like a complete JACK-ARSE? 😛

    Thank youuuuuuuuuu

    • Julia

      Your hobbies that make you happy also make you YOU. Those are creative outlets! The ways in which we care for ourselves, what turns us on, are forms of self expression. That’s what I write about, how creativity is part of all of us: a part that needs attention. Keep being your crossword-ing self!

  4. Julia

    I am my own high-minded mission statement. I write at Om Plus Om about creativity and (addiction) recovery. I do it to teach others what I have been taught because I am good at it + helping others helps me. It has taken me a long time to get real with myself, and allow myself to put down those words. But by creating a safe place for people to learn about self compassion and self expression, I am saving myself from self doubt and a stalled-out life.

  5. Ardith

    Taking care of ourselves as much as we are able is about the best way to contribute to society at large. It means we are less of burden all around. It also hopefully means we are more content and in turn contributing to a healthier environment. After owning a residential property management company, I have personally encountered far too many people happy with and feeling entitled to financial support provided by everyone else. So three cheers to intrepid entrepreneurs everywhere.

  6. Stacey Trock

    I’m self-employed because I want to travel with my husband when he goes to a conference somewhere cool. And not work for the month we go to Australia each year to visit family. And to be flexible to stay home with my daughter. And to not ask someone for permission (aka a boss) to go to a dentist appointment. And when I’m sick, I REALLY don’t want to call someone and tell them I’m not coming in.
    I love yarn, but I could be a crochet designer, knitting designer, author, blogger, teacher, graphic designer, life coach, personal trainer, travel writer, real estate mogul… I’m pretty flexible 🙂
    I just want to be self-employed!
    You’re totally right. For so long, I felt a little guilty. Folks would say, ‘so, you mean you’re not passionate about crochet?’ Well… I am. But I’m more passionate about running a business for myself.
    And that’s okay 🙂

  7. Kat

    I think rather than a grand reason why, for people to connect with your business you just need a unique point of view/personality that comes across in your communications. I love this explanation:

  8. Dewane Mutunga

    I love this! Totally appreciate your perspective.

    My views are similar but slightly different. I believe we should have and internal and external “why.” Our internal “why” should bring us satisfaction, fulfillment and whatever else we want. Our external “why” should be around giving; helping others and contributing to something greater than us.

    Thanks for sharing!

  9. Fay

    Someone finally wrote a blog post about this. EPIC.

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