Running my own business gives me more control over my future, my potential earnings and my working life!
How it all started
My first plunge into entrepreneurship began in January 2011, after receiving the dreaded redundancy letter as an unwanted Christmas gift. After the initial shock and worry, I decided to re-frame my situation to a more positive one. Rather than telling people I was unemployed or ‘between jobs’, I initially became self-employed as a consultant and shortly after setup a business. I had been working on supporting entrepreneurs and business start-ups and realised that many of skills and experience could be transferred, along with my contacts.
Starting out in business can be lonely and intimidating; even if, like me, theoretically you know what you should be doing. You’re moving into a world where the buck stops with you and your skills really must stand up to the test and work for you.
Up to this point I was used to working in teams and managing people. Now I had no one to bounce ideas off or offer support, which took time to get used to. It certainly can be lonely when you’re sitting at your kitchen table at midnight wondering whether your latest idea will sell or trying to figure out which P&L template is the easiest to use.
My first step was to network like crazy! I arranged meetings with old contacts and took on a pro-bono project to keep me busy and start building my client portfolio. It was hard work. At times, I found it difficult to remain motivated and focused. However, within a couple of months, I’d bought in my first contract and secured free desk space in a busy office for myself and an ex-colleague in the same situation. It felt good to be back in an office environment – and this time, on my terms.
I love running my own business because it gives me more control over my future, my potential earnings and my working life. If any of you are thinking about it, here are some are some of my top tips:
1. Be flexible
Especially in the first few months. Your great idea hasn’t yet been tried and tested, so accept that clients may want something slightly different and adjust. Furthermore you need to be resilient, as you’ll have to deal with knock backs and disappointments without taking it personally.
2. Research your market place
Think about your prospective customers: who are they and where are they? Can you do some market research with this audience? Use social media, local networking events or go out and ask questions on the street or door to door.
3. Reach out to other people
Early in the business, we won a big contract that gave me lots of sleepless nights and self-doubt. I really relied on other entrepreneurs and business professionals in my network as mentors and sounding boards. For me, it’s crucial to have people to talk to who understand what you’re going through. They may have different types of businesses or be at different stages, but they know what it’s like to be in your position. They will have faced tricky situations like waiting for clients to pay invoices before you can pay staff, let alone yourself. You need people who will remind you why you’re doing this.
4. Build your social capital
Make sure you join relevant and useful local business networks, online business forums and industry sector networks. Talk to everyone you know in the world of business and work to build up your social capital.
5. Develop a client base as quickly as possible
This is more relevant if you are running a service-based business. Offer to do some pieces of work for free, at a reduced rate or in return for much needed advice, services, referrals and recommendations.
6. Seek out a professional
Don’t expect to be able to do everything yourself, especially if it really isn’t your skillset. A good accountant can be worth their weight in gold! You might also consider a bookkeeper, business coach or mentor to guide you through certain aspects of the business.
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