What does hard work look like, anyway?

It’s 3am. The only light in the house is the one emitting from my MacBook Pro. My family has been asleep for at least 5 hours. They peek in; to ask me my mother’s infamous question, “Nia, what is on the computer that you’re up until 3 or 4 in the morning?”

I worked a 10-hour day at my 9 to 5 today. My day job just went from pretty chill to incredibly demanding. My to-do list for yesterday is still incomplete. There are blog posts to write, emails to send, leads to follow up on, and plans to detail and put into action.

In this moment, I feel defeated. I feel like giving up and going to bed and getting some much-needed sleep. I find myself in tears because I feel alone. No one understands what it takes to grow an online business. For those of us who sleep, breath, and live this, we get it. For everyone else, we’ve chosen this path unnecessarily. Every now and then, I see it in my mom’s eyes: “It’s not too late to go to law school, Nia.”

Is this really what hard work looks and feels like?

Everyone is hustling, working hard and having an amazing time doing so according to their Instagram feeds. But, for me, hard work isn’t glamorous or fun. I often find myself questioning if it’s really supposed to be this hard.

The coaches are telling us what to do to monetize our blogs, to consistently create content, but they all do it in really polished settings, perfect makeup, great graphics and great lighting.

In these moments, you can’t imagine that any of the people you admire sitting up at in the wee hours of the morning getting work done. Their lives are way too perfectly scheduled and systematic for that. They’re all working smarter not harder.

This isn’t a critique. It’s simply an appeal for more of us in this creative struggle to share what hard work really looks like. So the next time one of us is sitting up at 3 a.m. ready to give up, we’ll remember we’re not in this alone. Here is what hard work looks like to me:

1. Sleep deprivation

Sleep is not a priority when there is work to be done. Trying to build an online business means that you can work 24/7. Even if the Internet does shut down, there is always something you can be doing to push your business forward.

I’ve begun to use automating and building systems to help my business to run like a well-oiled machine, but it takes time to get it all in place. Hopefully, things will get squared away soon, but in the meantime, I am sleep deprived. If you’re sleep deprived, you’re not alone.

2. Exhaustion

Chasing goals, managing three or four projects, working to pay the bills, can be exhausting. I’m no stranger to hard work, but that also means I’ve been tired for a really long time. If you’ve learned to operate through exhaustion you’re not alone.

3. Missed Meals

If you don’t have time to sleep you probably won’t have time to get all the daily meals. This causes much anxiety and guilt because not only are you supposed to build a successful business while working a 9 to 5, you’re also supposed to be maintaining a healthy lifestyle. If you’re feeling guilty because you’re not taking care of yourself, join the club.

4. Strained relationships

Sometimes it seems like you can never spend quality time with everyone you love. You’re always on the phone trying to engage with your community. To your friends and family you’re just being rude. This results in you always apologizing and begging for forgiveness. They never truly understand the struggle. If your relationships are strained, you’re not alone.

5. Constant Struggle

There is no better way to describe hard work than a struggle. There are good days and bad days. There are ebbs and flows. There is joy and utter sadness. There are days when you feel invincible and others when all you feel is self-pity. The struggle is definitely real! If you’re struggling to take your business to where you want it, you are not alone.

It’s not as easy as so many people make it look. We’re all only presenting the most polished versions of ourselves, but it’s those unpolished moments at three in the morning where the magic happen.

That is where the hard work lies.

What does hard work look like for you?