Confidence Can Be Found In Unexpected Places

Confidence Can Be Found In Unexpected Places

A few weeks ago (as I write this, rather than as you read it), we had to file our taxes. Everyone dreads tax time, of course. Who wants to discover they owe the government money? Even if you’re getting a return, tax time is a stressful mix of gathering all the relevant information and hoping the math works out in your favor.

For me, tax time is an unavoidable reminder that I have yet to hit my financial goals. I’m proud of the work I do and the novels I produce. I’m ecstatic that I can share them with the world via reputable distributors without having to pay an arm and a leg and without having to beg book stores to carry a self-published book (a stigma which is slowly disappearing, but still lingers). Tax time requires me to present a slip of paper denoting my failure to reach my sales goals to the delightful woman who does our taxes (because they’ve simply grown too complicated for me to do myself).

Every year I download my tax documents from Amazon and Smashwords and gulp at the idea of handing them to my accountant. This year, I was proudly able to announce that I’ve already out-earned my income from last year. (Actually, I’ve probably out-earned my income since I started this year, which is awesome.) I reassured myself this proof of growth would be sufficient to hold off the comments I expected. Because, truthfully, every year I expect our delightful accountant to look me in the eyes and ask me what I think I’m doing when I earn such a pitiful amount. When are you going to give up this whole charade? I expect her to ask. When are you going to admit this is pointless?

Every year I think of what I’ll say in response to those statements. I’ll argue that I’m still learning how to market, I told myself last year. I’ll talk about my third book coming out. Surely a completed series will sell better? This year, at least, I could state with confidence that my sales numbers were increasing. Yet I felt that familiar tinge of doubt, that familiar mocking sensation in the back of my head when it came time to hand over my royalty statements.

“I’ve already done better this year!” I announced timidly, without even being prompted, as she opened the first document.

“Good for you!” she replied – and it wasn’t fake. It wasn’t the patronizing tone I expected. There’s no reason to flinch here. The sentiment is genuine. She’s proud of me for being able to say that.

In fact, my accountant has never made comments about the amount of money I make from my writing. I suppose if she did, we might not be willing to go back. But I don’t think that’s why she doesn’t say what I expect her to say. I joke about the sum that gets recorded on my tax returns. I make self-depreciating comments about what probably won’t happen in the future. And do you know what my accountant says?

“It’s okay. You’re just getting started.”

Three years into the journey doesn’t feel like the start of the road to me. Two years ago, sure! A year ago I tried to believe I could still claim I was just starting out. But three years feels, to me, like I should be established.

But this year, it hit me; this woman sees people struggle to start businesses all the time. Many of her clients are probably small business owners. How many people has she watched struggle to surmount the initial hurdles of making money with their passion projects? Many of these people probably invest, and lose, a lot more money than I do. I am fortunate that I know enough talented and generous individuals to keep my budget low. She has probably seen a lot of people claw their way up the ladder from stress over finances to success.

And this woman has our financial future all planned out. Each year she tells us a little more. “When you’re ready for kids,” she tells me, “we’ll talk about how you can pay into EI (that’s employment insurance) for maternity leave. Most people don’t realize self-employed people can do that (in Canada, at least).” And, indeed, I didn’t. She tells me she’ll have a list of receipts for me to keep when I start making money, things I’ll be able to claim on my taxes. We’ve talked about my home office and how the claim for it is calculated. She tells us to let her know if we ever want to buy another house because it will change how we file our taxes.

And I realize, she says these things because she believes they are going to happen. She’s not saying if you ever find yourself successful… she is saying when you get there, here’s what we’ll do. This woman I barely know, who I spend forty minutes with once a year (usually stressing out over how the government is making our lives miserable this time) believes in me, believes that I am going to be successful. Even when I don’t. This is a woman who knows the business of starting a business way more than I do. If she can say with confidence, you’ll get there, perhaps I should be listening.

It won’t always quiet the voices of doubt, but it certainly offers me a boost.

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