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slow-growthPreviously I mentioned that I reflect on my business and life twice a year – in January and August.

During my last reflection, I felt a little down on myself because my business has grown very slowly. I’m finally reaching a lot of my goals, but over the past few years, I watched other writers come in and zoom past me.

I pondered this a while before bringing it up to my husband (otherwise known as my voice of reason). He pointed out that one of my favorite things about the writer’s life has always been the flexibility.

You can see your dreams come into reality as fast or as slow as you want. Some people choose to quit their jobs, live on their savings, and make six figures in the first year. It’s a risk, some might say a gamble, but it can be done.

Others, like me, are afraid, cautious, or timid. They prefer to build their business slowly. Even excruciatingly slow at times. Michael Masterson talks about this concept in his book The Reluctant Entrepreneur: Turning Dreams into Profits (Agora Series).

In the introduction, he tells the story of Mary Kay and how she built her business the hard way. She quit her job with Stanley Home Products and invested all of her savings into a “crazy” idea. The odds were against her, and she had to overcome many obstacles to succeed …

In 2011, Mary Kay Cosmetics was the sixth-largest direct selling company in the world, with net sales of $2.9 billion. But the story could have been much different …

As Masterson points out, stories – like Mary Kay’s – are inspiring, but they also mislead us.

“They perpetuate the myth that to become hugely successful you must be willing to risk everything,” says Masterson.

When I started my first business, I didn’t have Masterson’s wisdom. I became a Mary Kay Consultant in college and went “all in.” I didn’t have a savings account, so I used my credit card to buy inventory, business cards, tote bags, cotton balls, and a million other supplies I never needed.

The next three years weren’t easy, and in the times when I really struggled, I turned to The Mary Kay Way: Timeless Principles from America’s Greatest Woman Entrepreneur to inspire me. I reminded myself of all the things she had to overcome. I comforted myself by saying, “If she could do it, so can you!”

Finally, I decided I wasn’t cut out for that type of business, and I sold my inventory and pretty much broke even. Luckily!

While I believe the things I learned from Mary Kay about sales and marketing helped me build a foundation for my copywriting business, a lot of business owners aren’t so lucky.

Today, I know you don’t have to risk everything – and you certainly don’t have to max out a credit card to start a successful business.

Thanks to AWAI and Masterson’s approach, when I decided to become a freelance copywriter, my path was much different. I didn’t have to quit my job or invest my savings.

Instead, I did it the “reluctant entrepreneur” way. I built my business on the side, on weekends and evenings. Growing it slowly, without risking my life savings or full-time job. And you can do it too.

No matter where you are on the path to the writer’s life, freelance freedom, or business stardom, it’s okay. You can set your own goals based on your circumstances.

Fast risk or slow growth? The choice is yours. Don’t let anyone else make it for you.

I personally chose to build my business very slowly the first several years. I had a job I liked, and while I wanted my own business, that wasn’t enough of a reason for me to take a risk.

Instead, I took small actions every day to build my business while keeping a full-time job. Some days, I just had enough mental energy to send one email or outline one article. But the small daily actions finally added up to a successful freelance business.

For more about The Reluctant Entrepreneur, check out this article: “Four Life-Changing Lessons from ‘The Reluctant Entrepreneur.’

I’d like to leave you with one more thing to think about from The Reluctant Entrepreneur: “Most successful entrepreneurs got to the top by taking a very conservative approach.”

Which approach are you taking? Join the discussion below.