TL;DR: Traveling the world, making tens of thousands of dollars a month, only working two hours a day—some social media influencers would have you convinced running your own business is paradise with very little work.

It’s Mental Health Awareness Month, which means Instagram feeds full of:

  • Inspirational posts about breaking the stigma and overcoming struggles
  • Emotional stories about mental health challenges (and triumphs)
  • Unsolicited advice about how to cope with burnout, stress, and life’s ups and downs

And while I’m all about celebrating wins and sharing vulnerabilities, one month isn’t enough. Especially when you consider the other 334 days of the year when a lot of social media influencers portray a flawless life that they make seem so attainable.

laptop on a table at a european cafe

Just work harder. Build better connections. Post consistently, and you too can make five figures a month, travel the world, don designer bags, and live that #richlife. But what a good majority of social media influencers don’t realize is this:

Their portrayal of a not-so-easily attainable life creates unrealistic expectations. It makes people question why they’re not as successful when they’re trying just as hard. It fills them with self-doubt and harms their emotional well-being.

The fact is that they make us feel like we can have the same life they do—a glamorous life—with very little work. We can’t. Not without putting in serious work.

So, today, I’m exploring the non-social media influencer reality of running your own business and freelancing full-time. Because I promise, it’s not all traveling the world, sharing videos, and raking in cash.

Running your own business is hard AF

stressed woman

I love what I do. Truly. But it’s not easy.

It’s exhausting. Worth it, but exhausting. Instead of one responsibility like at a 9-5, you’re in charge of everything. You find clients or customers. You do the marketing. You run social media. You do the admin work. You do the actual work that pays (the client work).

There’s a reason I’ve built up a caffeine tolerance. Yes, I’m tired. Yes, I need espresso to get everything done. But I wouldn’t trade it for the world!

Freelancing or starting up your consulting business is stressful. You’re constantly grinding to find new clients and keep yourself afloat. You work your ass off to build a solid brand and reputation. And you’re always doing client work, overdelivering every time to validate you are worth every penny your client spends on you (really, you’re worth it!).

On top of that, you’re doing all the boring business stuff to make sure you pay proper taxes, keep track of your expenses, have the right contracts, and so on.

It’s about sacrifice. Again, it’s all worth it to do what you love, but I have had to give up a lot to build my business:

  • Time with friends and family
  • Sleep
  • A predictable salary and benefits
  • The comfort that comes from a cushy salary and repeat work

Running your business, freelancing full-time, or working a side gig is about hard work, discipline, and balance. It looks different for everyone. But I can assure you, unless you already have high-paying, consistent clients, here’s what it doesn’t look like:

Traversing the world, spending two or three hours a day working, sipping endlessly on European coffee at a cute flowered-covered cafe. I wish it did. But that’s the danger in watching your favorite influencers post their reels and selfies, talking about how little they work to live such a luxe lifestyle.

Social media is not reality

social media influencer

Social media is not reality. And when we treat it as if it were, our mental health suffers. We start comparing ourselves to people we know nothing about and feel like failures when we don’t achieve the success they have. We fill up with imposter syndrome and feelings of not being good enough. Sometimes, we even fall into depressions and want to give up altogether because there’s no way we could ever be successful.

But remember, social media is only what people want to portray. No one wants to show themselves working well into the night, crying from high stress, or reviewing their finances to see if their earnings will cover the bills this month. Even though influencers may work long hours, if we don’t see it, it’s easy to question how they’re so successful while we’re struggling.

Being a small business owner who’s just starting out isn’t glamorous. Don’t let the filtered life influencers trick you into thinking you’re a failure or you can have it all without putting in all the work.

Instead, find people who can empathize with your struggles. People who can listen to you when you need to vent, advise you when you want help, or encourage you when you’re about to give up. We’re all in this together… even during the very real, not glamorous moments.